Caption It: Goofing Around

by in Behind the Scenes, June 24, 2011
Your Caption Here

On the next episode of Star, headband-clad Jeff and usually stoic Justin B. share a lighthearted moment on the set of Cougar Town — where their next Star Challenge goes down. What's going on here? Are the guys trying to impress Paula or Courteney Cox with an interesting form of martial arts?

Before you tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c to watch what happens next, we’re challenging you, Star fans, to write your best captions (tastefully appropriate, please) for this silly moment in the comments below.

Melissa’s Insight: Four Rules for Finalists

by in Food Network Star, Recap, June 23, 2011
Vic Vegas
Melissa's advice: Take a cue from Vic and sell the heck out of your food.

Melissa d'Arabian won Star season 5 and has been loving her Food Network adventure ever since. Her show, Ten Dollar Dinners, premieres its fifth season on July 3. As a Star veteran watching from her couch at home, Melissa shares her insider's take on what went down each week.

Next week, Melissa is live-chatting on Facebook on Monday afternoon! Join in at 1pm EST with your questions and comments.

Week three: I’m getting to know the finalists, and I’m emotionally invested. I crack up when Jeff talks about his mojo-in-sweat theory; I cringe at Chris “making the ice cream … oh yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh”; I brace for impact when Alicia announces that the “only thing” she is worried about is her cupcake recipe (uh oh); and I want to hang out with Susie over coffee and tell her how much I love her sleek hairdo. I have some early favorites: Jyll and Orchid. And I am dying to jump through the screen and tell Whitney and Justin B. to get out of their own way; this competition might be theirs to lose if they could only find a way to bring their genuine selves, however imperfect, to the audience.

This week’s BTDT insights for the finalists:

You eat with your ears first, not your eyes.
Make it sound good. What you name your dish counts, and how you talk about your food matters since your audience cannot taste it. A corollary: Don’t be a walking apology for a dish. Serve it and own it completely. Or leave it in the kitchen — there is no in-between. And a tip: Never, ever use the word “just” to describe food to Bobby Flay. It will drive him bananas, trust me. Justin B. starts off calling the orange fennel ice cream “just an anglaise base,” and Whitney is similarly tepid in her description of a brownie (although in all fairness, she was right — it was indeed “just” a brownie, which is not a good thing at all). Take a cue from Vic: He sells the heck out of his tequila lime cream puff with his culinary authority, no pitch needed.

Read more

Star Commentary: Bake or Be Baked

by in Food Network Star, June 22, 2011
A Tear-Free Moment

On Sunday’s episode of Star, Alicia Sanchez, a former bakery owner, was sent packing as the fourth finalist eliminated. Despite her proclamation that she is “good at cakes,” Bobby Flay told her that the cupcake pop on which she took the lead for her team was “under-baked” and that the guests were “spitting it out.”

Although you all couldn’t taste those pops for yourselves, many commenters on Food Network's Facebook page and our Star blog seemed to be in agreement with the judges’ decision to let go of Alicia. Some of you noted that she looked “way out of her element” and that her “kitchen hysteria and meltdowns were getting old.” And others simply asked “how the heck could she not remember a cupcake recipe when she owned a cupcake shop?”

A few viewers, however, were a bit more sympathetic toward Alicia and suggested that “if Alicia was not in front of the camera she would [have] been OK.” Another commenter went so far as to blame Penny for Alicia’s meltdowns, writing that Penny “was awful to Alicia, bringing her to tears right away.”

Hear from Alicia herself in her Exit Interview and let us know what you thought of her run on Star. Was it her time to leave, or do you think she could have improved with a little more time? Join the conversation on Facebook and at Star Talk, and tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c to see who goes home next.  

Who’s your favorite finalist so far? Cast your Fan Vote up to 10 times per day.

Listen to Duff: Dudes Can Bake, Too!

by in Behind the Scenes, June 21, 2011

 Duff and Robert

"Not only can dudes bake," says the Ace of Cakes himself, Duff Goldman, "it's cool to bake!"

Jyll's strategy for the dessert duel was to avoid the guys, and ultimately it backfired when her all-girl team — "Duff's Angels" — was bested by the boys (and Penny) of Team Robert. Check out this video for Duff's behind-the-scenes commentary.

What did you think about Jyll's "strategic" picking of teams?

Week 3 – Done.

by in Food Network Star, June 20, 2011
Duff Goldman and Robert Irvine
Duff Goldman and Robert Irvine

We’re moving along at amazing speeds, aren’t we? Hard to believe that four finalists have already been sent packing. Isn’t the show getting better and better with every episode? My Sundays are complete when I have Star to watch. Let’s get this party started, shall we?

So, last night had Team Robert fighting it out with “Duff’s Angels.” Had I put money on a team to win, I would have most definitely bet on Duff’s. I was surprised that Robert’s guys (and Penny) pulled it off.

Team Robert

Chris may be the “little brother of the group,” but little brothers can be annoying.

Jeff’s performance wasn’t memorable. Thankfully, he wore a headband this week (that should please Giada).

Justin B.’s presentation was boring. It took him six hours to make popcorn? Now, Bob said the popcorn was amazing – but, seriously, popcorn?

Justin D.’s food was apparently good, but his presentation needed more polish. He says he has a big personality – but where is it? Anyone who wears a bow tie must have a personality somewhere!

Vic’s cream puff looked great and sophisticated. His “Vegas in Mama’s Cooking” POV is moving things in the right direction.

Penny’s food was beautiful – truly Middle East on a spoon. As you all know, though, she is still coming off as very unlikable. Penny, what are we going to do with you?

Duff’s Angels

Jyll’s food may be wonderful. Her presentation may be wonderful. However, she needed to step up and be a leader – and she didn’t. She’s still not resonating with me. You?

Mary Beth: She has a great sense of humor, but her light was a little dim last night. Get back in the game, Mary Beth! I have confidence in you.

Orchid continues to be my girl. She’s always having fun and is completely natural.

Susie: Her dish looked as bad as it apparently tasted. Her personality was great, though.

Whitney’s performance is getting predictable. I’m not excited by her.

And then there’s Alicia. Oh, Alicia. Her manic behavior got the best of her, and the judges had to send her home. Plus, she is a baker. She should have excelled in that challenge, but instead she failed miserably.

What’s your take? Oh, and vote in the Fan Fave poll – right now, Jeff is in the lead.

On to week 4!

Caption It: What’s Up, Duff?

by in Food Network Star, June 17, 2011
Your Caption Here

On the upcoming episode of Star, cake master Duff Goldman stops by to guest judge alongside Dinner Impossible chef Robert Irvine. Here, Duff visits the kitchen and checks in with Orchid during a lighthearted moment of challenge prep. Will his presence throw her off track or be just the encouragement she and her fellow finalists need to finish strong?

Before you tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c to watch what happens next, we’re challenging you, Star fans, to write your best captions (tastefully appropriate, please) for this star-struck moment in the comments below.

Melissa’s Words of Wisdom: Play Nice

by in Food Network Star, June 16, 2011

Food Network Star finalist Penny Davidi

Melissa d'Arabian won Star season 5 and has been loving her Food Network adventure ever since. Her show, Ten Dollar Dinners, premieres its fifth season on July 3. As a Star veteran watching from her couch at home, Melissa shares her insider's take on what went down each week.

Week two is when I remember unpacking (literally and figuratively) during my season. I settled into the routine, and my place in the competition. This week, Susie embraces her Mexican heritage, Alicia is positively delightful with her truffle story, Mary Beth shows her warm personality and Penny takes a break from telling us she’s sexy. (Side note: There are some things in life I believe you should never announce about yourself; never tell others you are funny; never call yourself a “people person” in an interview. Show, don’t tell.)

Anyway, I like Penny’s new Middle Eastern mama angle and she wins the camera challenge. I settle into my couch, hopeful that this is a fresh start for a finalist who, I’ll be honest, didn’t impress me in episode one.

Hopes dashed.

Read more

“Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, Penny’s Coming for Ya”

by in Food Network Star, June 15, 2011
The Middle Eastern Mama

Finalist Chris Nirschel warns his fellow Star constants in this video that they better be prepared for Middle Eastern mama Penny Davidi. In one of the most buzzed-about moments of the second episode, Penny strategically placed Orchid Paulmeier, an early frontrunner and favorite of the judges, on the all-male team of Justin B., Vic and Chris. In that group, "she's gonna fail," Penny told the cameras unapologetically.

On Facebook and our Star blog, you all certainly had opinions about Penny’s approach to the game Sunday night. While some of you noted Penny’s need "to fight for what she wants" in this fierce contest and her right to have "used the advantage that [Camera Challenge] win gave her," others simply couldn’t stomach her "meanness" and "anything-to-win personality." Your comments on her tactics prove that many of you are frustrated with Penny’s "bitterness and immaturity," but also that some fans are "almost starting to like Penny," as "she has a culinary point of view that is different, she can learn … and she's smart."

So, what do you think? Is Penny’s "in it to win it" approach her key to Food Network Stardom, or will it only add tension to the group? Join the conversation on Facebook and at Star Talk, and tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c to watch the next round of drama unfold.

Who's your favorite finalist so far? Cast your Fan Vote up to 10 times per day.

Judge Spotlight: Giada’s Take

by in Behind the Scenes, June 14, 2011

Giada De Laurentiis

This season is Giada De Laurentiis’ first as a full-time judge on Food Network Star. The Giada at Home star and cookbook author came on board last year as a mentor for the finalists and then moved into a seat on the selection committee with Bob, Bobby and Susie.

Giada was actually discovered by one of her fellow judges almost a decade ago: Back in 2002, Bob Tuschman saw a magazine article about her and her food-loving Italian family and was intrigued. He gave her a call and soon thereafter Giada had her first show, Everyday Italian.

As someone who once feared the camera herself, Giada has a unique perspective on what it takes to be a star. Even though she’s no longer their official mentor, she has some sage advice for the finalists. Check out our behind-the-scenes interview with Giada to hear her best tips for the finalists and which of the hopefuls reminds her most of herself! Do you see similarities, Star fans?

Double Trouble

by in Food Network Star, June 13, 2011
Finalist Justin Davis
Justin D. and his snazzy bow tie.

Were you surprised by last night’s double elimination curve ball? I certainly was. Bob and Susie are tricksters, aren’t they? But, let me tell you: I was not surprised that of all the finalists, Juba and Katy were the two sent packing.

Juba was waaaaay out of his element. I was stunned to see how stunned HE was at his elimination. Really, Juba? How that came as a shock to him I'll never know. As I told you last week, his performances left me very uncomfortable and with a blanket over my head.

And, Katy – look, she wasn’t good on camera. I get that. However, she is someone who puts on a brave face in the midst of adversity. Though her “grin and bear it” attitude came off as impersonal to the judges, I felt for her and understood her. And she fought back tears, which made me really respect her. I’m not a fan of tears on this show. Katy could serve as an example to other finalists (um, Alicia).

OK. Penny. I took heat last week for praising her, but today I admit it: I did not like how she turned on Orchid. How anyone could start a ruckus with that sweet woman is beyond me. Though I still enjoy Penny’s straightforward and honest way of tackling this competition, I didn’t like how she singled out Orchid. But, the thing is, she was very well aware of what Penny was doing. Again, with Penny, there is no question where you stand with her. At least Orchid knew what (who) she should watch out for.

Justin D. wears bow ties and so do I. I like this guy because of that. I know I should probably have more than just his attire to base my opinion on, but that’s all I got and I’m sticking to it. Jyll with a “y” did very well in this episode. But, for some reason, her personality isn’t resonating with me. She’s flying a bit under my radar. And more than anything, that “y” is really starting to bother me. Whitney needs to liven up. I understand that she’s a former engineer and still has that “engineer focus,” but she’s on TV now – and we’re not here to watch paint dry. Warm up a bit, Whit.

Oh, before I forget – Jeff’s sweating into his food. Wow. That made me a bit nauseous. Giada seemed horrified and rightly so. Thankfully, he got it together in the second challenge and I feel certain he won’t be without a headband in the future. Actually, a headband could be part of his shtick.

Finally, I thought Mary Beth was the true star of this episode. The judges’ comments last week really motivated her to bring her best. She was engaging and very funny. Simon Cowell is always talking about talent with the “it factor.” I’m not exactly sure what the “it” is, but in my opinion, she has “it.”

Till next week.