Chatterbox: Our Mr. T Gets His Groove On (A.K.A. the Episode 3 Chat)

by in Community, Recap, June 20, 2010

It's been an all-star Sunday: Bob Tuschman dazzled millions (overstatement is only slight) of chatting fans from Chelsea Market, our wee Mission Control, crackers and cheese complimentary. On the double big screens in the Boardroom and on single big screens in living rooms everywhere, there was bigger-than-life Guy Fieri guest-judging on Star--he was off-the-hook tough. The spectacle included a very long multitalentedish Tilt-a-Whirl dance down a very long red carpet. And then there was a handful (footful?) of drama between Serena and Brianna. Yes, a trip to a hospital was involved. Oh, and by the way how do you feel about glass with your slaw?

Bob answered burning questions: What are the  most important star qualities? Where do you most like to travel? Exactly how tall is Susie? But Bob also couldn't help but jump into the fray as duets were, um, challenging in the challenge and solos way went off-key, too. Happily, there were, well, sexy moments logging as highlights. Just catching up with your DVR? Follow along with the chat play-by-play below. Saw the action? Enjoy it again, with commentary. To call it entertaining would be an understatement.

Grab all of tonight's recipes and tell us what you cook and how it turns out. Then vote -- up to ten times every day -- for your favorite finalist.

Star Cooking: From Sweet to Savory to My Stove

by in Food Network Star, Recipes, June 17, 2010
Aaarti's Scallion Blini with Chicken in Tandoori BBQ Sauce
Aarti Sequeira's Scallion Blini with Chicken in Tandoori BBQ Sauce

Seriously, who doesn't love carnivals? You've got rides galore, great people-watching and of course, that deep-fried, candy-coated carnival food. Okay, after this week's episode of Star, maybe a few of our contestants aren't big fans -- poor Doreen!

When Ace of Cakes Duff Goldman, along with special guest-star Zoltar, asked the contestants to turn iconic carnival sweets into a savory party bite, I was intrigued -- anyone who can improve on funnel cake is someone I'd want to eat dinner with.

Aarti conquered her self-doubt (and the fact that she's never had a funnel cake!) and came out on top, and I couldn't wait to try her winning dish: Scallion Blini with Chicken in Tandoori BBQ Sauce. Would I be able to "taste the love" in the recipe? Well…

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Movin’ On Up …?

by in Behind the Scenes, Judges, June 16, 2010

So it seems a tad early to me, but Giada thinks the Star action has already reached a point where the "real contenders" are about to cut loose from the "don’t-quite-cut-its." Here's the catch: It may not be who you’d expect. Check out her philosophy on the concept of finalist potential ....

See If You Agree

What Would Bobby Do? Watch Instant Re-Flays

by in Judges, June 15, 2010

WWBD? It’s easier to be behind the camera than in front of it. And armchair quarterbacking a demo is more fun than doing one: I would’ve, he could’ve, she should’ve.

Even Bobby Flay knows the lens is a tough judge. So he's sharing his tips this season, making over finalists' recipes. This week, Bobby is pierside in Santa Monica, dishing out uncommonly sensible advice: Tom's fish taco churros could've benefited from citrus--yes, Grant, I too would be happy to discus Tom's  'do. Then Bobby takes on Paul's dish; he could've kicked it with a savory dish truly inspired by caramel corn (hint: focus, Paul, honey).

See what might have been

Keepin’ It Real: Episode 2

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, Judges, Recap, June 14, 2010

Alrighty! Let me dig in on some of my standout moments – and then I want to hear yours!

NFNS6_Dzintra-Kneading-Dough_s3x4_tzI must admit, I was expecting (and hoping for) a little Dzintra Drama. From the comments I’ve read, she has clearly rubbed some of you the wrong way, but as I explained last week, I enjoy her! If there was a Team Dzintra t-shirt, I would buy it. As a matter of fact, I’m going to make one and wear it around the office.

0137548_Giada-With-A-Smirk_s4x3_tzIn the first challenge, Giada told the finalists that if they couldn’t “cook and talk at the same time,” that they didn’t need to be in the competition. This is where I would make my exit. Think about it – some of the tasks you do (and do well), can you clearly explain what you are actually doing while you’re working on that task? I’m talking out loud now as I type this and all I can come up with to explain my action is, “Writing. Typing.”

Poor Aarti was called out on the “dead air” she left while on camera. I felt badly for her. You know she just wanted to hide behind her hair flower. And Serena? She was criticized for speaking waaaay too fast. Sure, I couldn’t understand a word she said, but really, isn’t having too much to say and speaking super fast to get it all out better than silence?

0137547_Duff-Goldman-With-Hand-Up_s4x3_tzDuff was a guest in this episode and introduced the second challenge. Who doesn’t love this man? Am I the only who thinks Duff’s cakes shouldn’t be eaten, but preserved? They are true pieces of art – they shouldn’t be cut into like savages! Hmm – I’ll save this topic for another day.

NF0602_Feature-Aarti_s4x3_tzThe Santa Monica Pier Challenge was CRAZY! The finalists had to create a savory party plate inspired by carnival food. Can you even imagine? Aarti’s inspiration was funnel cake – and she had never even eaten one before (which is just a travesty – someone get this girl a funnel cake, ASAP)!

NFNS6_Brianna_s4x3_tzBrianna seemed to shut down a bit in this competition. I think she was overly tired. You know how it is when you’re exhausted – you reach that point where you’re simply DONE. Brianna needed a nap to put that pep back in her step. If Bob and Susie had only provided her with an air mattress out there on the pier, she would have been fine.

NFNS6_Doreen_s3x4_tzElimination time. As you saw, Doreen was the second finalist to depart the show. I did understand the judges’ decision to send her home. Giada had said earlier in the show that her facial expressions “made her not want to watch.” Well, that’s clearly not good. But in her defense, in the pier challenge, Doreen was given a “Root Beer Float” to inspire her savory dish. Merciful days, a Root. Beer. Float? My facial expression would have been far from cute, too. So long, Doreen. I’ll miss you.

NF0602-BTS14_Tom_s4x3_tzThat’s my take, what’s yours? Any standout moments for you? Oh, I’m thinking of devoting an entire blog entry to nothing but Tom’s hair. Thoughts?

Chatterbox: Live Chat Archive, Episode 2

by in Behind the Scenes, Community, June 13, 2010

Take two. Second episode, another hopeful's dreams, dashed (no spoilers until you check out the transcript). The top ten remain. Quite the dramatic evening here at Food Network. Duff was in the house--or on the pier in Santa Monica, as it happens--and had the Finalists cooking up savory dishes inspired by the sweetest of carnival foods. Sweet, or not so much. Cotton candy for dinner? A candy apple side dish? Waffle cones as a main? Not quite. The fair fare ranged from fantastic to brow-furrowing (Doreen, why are you so mad?) and the Finalists stepped up with confidence. (Aarti, that means you.) Bob, Susie and Bobby all had tough words, and so did fans. Plenty of you wanted to see Dzintra, Paul or Doreen go home--and even all three. Lots of you wanted Aria and Herb to stay. Wishes, granted. Call me Zoltar, just back from the carnival. In coming weeks, we'll have special guests joining the chat, so be sure to stop by. You never know if you'll catch a star, ready to share secrets. Meantime, vote for your favorite finalist and get every recipe (plus Instant Re-Flays, Bobby's makeovers of Finalists' dishes). Plus, check out the Episode 2 video gallery and check back here throughout the week to hear from Bob, Susie and Giada with their spin on all the action.

(Real) Judge Empathy

by in Behind the Scenes, June 10, 2010

In every good competition show, there are always key attention-grabbing moments that make you think, “Wow. How awful/awesome/cool that must be for him/her.”  In watching the Star premiere, I actually had this reaction to quite a few things, but one in particular surprised me. As I watched the Selection Committee tell Alexis why things just weren’t working … and explain to the other hanging-by-a-thread finalists why their outlook was not so good, either … I felt about as bad for the judges as I did for the competitors. Weird, right? But then it occurred to me: Despite the fact that the judges (obviously) know it’s a contest and are well aware there can be only one winner, they still have real hope for ALL of these guys. They spend lots of time around them off-camera and, you have to figure, they probably glimpse lots of potential that we never get to see. Check out what Bob says here about DAS, Doreen and Alexis:

Hear Bob's Thoughts

Authentic Indian, Made Modern

by in Food Network Star, Recipes, June 9, 2010
Spiced Chicken
Aarti Sequeira's Roasted Chicken Breasts with Orange, Cardamom and Turmeric

I am lucky to have grown up with a mother who is a fantastic Indian cook. She does not make dishes from recipes; she goes by taste. This makes for a very complicated way to learn the cuisine. The delicate spice combinations typical of Indian cuisine can either meld into a flavorful plate or a hot mess—a heavy hand on any spice can easily throw off the entire dish. I'm hoping this season of The Next Food Network Star will make it easier for home cooks, including me, to feel confident making Indian recipes.

While I was watching the NFNS premiere on Sunday night, I immediately liked Aarti Sequeira. I think it was very clever of her to make a golden traditional lentil dal with a twist of fresh lime as the soup course. She also spiced up chicken breast with cardamom and turmeric. I can't wait to see how she is going to modernize Indian cuisine and integrate it into American classics this season! Will she make Tandoori Chicken with a side of curried mashed potatoes and will she have the confidence in herself to sell it? Tune in to see if she can bring Indian food into your home!

What are your favorite Indian recipes?

—Reena Mehta

Two Things: Elimination & Dzintra Drama

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, Recap, June 8, 2010

NFNS6_Alexis-Brushing-Off-Hands-02_s4x3_leadSomeone had to go – that’s how the show works! And, as you saw Sunday night, Alexis Hernandez was the first to bite the dust. Did you agree with the judges' decision to send him home? He seemed a bit shaky, but honestly, I liked the guy. What's your take?

NFNS6_Dzintra_s4x3_leadThe premiere became a bit dramatic with Dzintra’s eye situation. I like offbeat people – I find them interesting and they keep you on your toes. Dzintra definitely is one of those people! What did you make of her whole eye debacle? The other finalists seemed to think she was being super dramatic. Do you agree? I, mean, I go into a full blown, eye-watering, red-faced tizzy if a small speck of dust gets on my contact. So, perhaps she shouldn’t be judged too harshly?

Tell me what you thought of the premiere!

Star Cooking: A Winning Recipe, at Home

by in Food Network Star, Recipes, June 8, 2010
Stuffed Chicken Breast Recipe
Aria Kagan's Stuffed Chicken Breast with Curry Sauce Over Roasted Potatoes and Cauliflower

As I watch The Next Food Network Star from my couch at home, I’m pretty jealous of Bob, Bobby and Susie—the lucky ones who actually get to taste the food. Well, maybe not so lucky during the very first challenge when, despite the high caliber of talent this season, several of the chicken-and-potato dishes were undercooked. I certainly wasn’t envious of all that raw chicken.

But let’s focus on the good stuff—every week, we’re cooking and blogging the winning Star recipes. Aria’s chicken breast stuffed with a date-walnut-grape mixture wasn’t raw at all—in fact, Bobby pronounced it moist and well-seasoned, and all of the judges seemed to enjoy digging in.

The premiere had not one but three winning dishes, and two of them belonged to Aria. I decided to try out her chicken—I’m always looking for new ways to jazz up a chicken breast. Hers sounded interesting and not super-complicated, perfect for a weeknight dinner.

First step was the side dish of roasted potatoes and cauliflower. I did some quick chopping and tossed the veggies on a sheet pan with a big handful of raisins, olive oil, salt and pepper. My grocery store didn't have any chervil, but I wanted a little green mixed in, so I sliced some scallions and added those.

The potato element of Aria's dish, ready to roast

That went into the oven for 25 minutes, per Aria’s instructions. Meanwhile...

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