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.

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“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.

Caption It: What’s So Funny, Guys?

by in Food Network Star, June 10, 2011
Your Caption Here

Chefs Anne Burrell and Scott Conant guest judge (along with Pat and Gina Neely!) on the upcoming episode of Star and prove it’s not all work and no play on the set. Don’t let them fool you, though. This week’s challenges — one of which goes down in Chef Conant's restaurant kitchen at Scarpetta in Beverly Hills — are jam-packed with dramatic and emotional twists and turns.

Before you tune in to watch all the events unfold this Sunday at 9pm/8c, we’re challenging you, Star fans, to write your best captions (tastefully appropriate, please) for their LOL-worthy moment in the comments below.

Been There, Done That: 10 Tips From Melissa

by in Behind the Scenes, Recap, June 9, 2011

Melissa d'Arabian

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 2. As a Star veteran watching from her couch at home, Melissa shares her insider's take on what went down each week.

I feel a bond to each of the finalists, so I’m offering a little BTDT (been-there-done-that) insight, hoping to give the very advice (wisdom?) that I would have loved my first day on set.

10. Expect to cook. Immediately.
Anytime after the flight attendant tells you to put away your electronic devices is probably fair game. Wear something comfortable (or at least safe) for racing around in a crowded kitchen. Yes, I’m looking at you, Penny. And be practical: With 10 episodes to shoot and three outfits per episode (count them), you’ve got a logistical challenge on your hands. You cannot afford to allocate space to anything that can’t be reasonably worn in the kitchen.

9. 45 is the new 20.
Forty-five minutes sounds like an eternity to cook one dish, right? And it is — at home. Forget what you think you know about time. Forty-five minutes is nothing.

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Man on the Street

by in Food Network Star, June 8, 2011

Star Finalists

I’m a fan of Food Network Star and reality TV in general. And, I write this blog post as just that – as a Star viewer sitting at home in my pajamas watching this new season unfold. For in-depth analysis and behind-the-scenes Star news, you’ll want to watch the web-exclusive videos, read the other blogs or peruse on-set photos available at FoodNetwork.com/Star. For the rest of you who enjoy silly observations and baseless information, I’m your guy – you and I will get along beautifully.

So, I just watched the season premiere and here are several of my standout observations. After you read mine, please share yours.

1. We have major tattoos going on this season. Howie, Justin and Vic all have sleeves. Vic is an overachiever and even has ink on his neck. I respect tatted people. An inked person is saying to the world: “Hey world, I’m decisive and committed. I’ve made this lifelong decision and I am good with it.” As a person who will change his shirt five times before settling on that day’s attire, I admire this kind of stick-to-itiveness. Because of their tenacious spirit, I believe the inked finalists will go far in this competition. Now, you may be thinking, “Um, hello – Howie was just eliminated.” Well, the only explanation I can come up with for that is his tattoos must be henna and removable (like Madonna’s).

2. Alicia cries an awful lot, which is very irritating. Do you think she plans on turning the water works on every show? Personally, I could do without it. When the judges noted her way of speaking, she seemed to really take that criticism hard. Why, though? She’s from Missouri and lives in New York – has no one ever made mention of her accent before this show? Speak slower and more clearly – that’s all they want. Use your accent to your advantage. Paula Deen’s accent certainly hasn’t hurt her career.

3. Penny. I liked her. Reading through the comments left on Bob Tuschman’s recent blog post, I see that she has irked many of you. Some are calling her downright “mean.” I don’t see that. Actually, I find her refreshing. I like people who are upfront and direct. People who say one thing to your face and another behind your back are the ones who are trouble. Penny lays it all out for you. You know exactly where she stands. She wants to win this thing. I say, “Go, Penny.”

4. I hope Orchid is reading this. Hi, Orchid. You’re my favorite finalist. I want to hug and squeeze you and put you in my shirt pocket. You can cook, you’re sweet and the camera loves you. I think I may, too. Are you single?

There are plenty of other topics to cover, but I’d like for you to jump in. Need some help? Mull these over. Why does Jyll spell her name with a “y"? Don’t you find that suspicious? Doesn’t Jeff remind you of someone famous? Is it Vince Vaughan, perhaps? And finally, Juba. He made me very nervous (in an embarrassing way). I actually pulled a blanket over my head so I couldn’t watch him. Did he make you tense?

Guest Star Spotlight: Impress the Press

by in Behind the Scenes, June 6, 2011
Mario Lopez
The first Star Challenge brought members of the press to the table, including Mario Lopez from Extra.

"One of the most important aspects of a star's life is the press," said tough-guy Vic Vegas, sounding not-so-tough after learning who would be judging the first elimination challenge. "They make you or they break you."

Alton Brown, Hal Rubenstein and Jess Cagle
Alton discusses the promos with media honchos Hal Rubenstein from InStyle (center) and Jess Cagle from Entertainment Weekly (right).

When our finalists entered the dining room of STK to present for their Star Challenge, they faced an intimidating group of diners. Along with the heavy-hitters of the regular judges' panel (Bob, Bobby, Susie and Giada), they stood before Good Eats superstar Alton Brown and three influential members of the press: Mario Lopez from Extra (some finalists might have gotten a little weak in the knees at the thought of presenting to AC Slater), Jess Cagle from Entertainment Weekly and Hal Rubenstein from InStyle.

Check out this exclusive behind-the-scenes video to hear our guest judges' advice for the finalists, plus their favorite comfort foods. It's too bad the Star contenders didn't have this inside scoop before the challenge — they could've won over Jess Cagle with carbs and Mario Lopez with Mexican food.

Check out Bobby's Instant Re-Flay, Giada's Take and more behind-the-scenes videos from the Food Network Star season premiere.

 

 

About Last Night

by in Behind the Scenes, June 6, 2011
Food Network Star Judges My fellow judges agreeing with everything I say.

What did you think? Pretty good premiere, right? Let’s dive right in to the deep end and talk about my impressions of the finalists. Then, I want to hear yours. Let me warn you – I reveal last night’s eliminated finalist in this post. If you don’t want to know who went home, then you shouldn’t read.

Vic. His tattoos make him look tough, but there’s a sweetness to him that jumps off the screen. He’s likable and when Bobby commented that he makes you, “want to know more about him” – well, I couldn’t have said it any better.

Alicia. When we questioned her on her accent, we had no idea that she would take it the way she did. She sounded like a Valley Girl -- I didn’t think saying so was insulting. Were we wrong? And by the way, I was taken completely by surprise by the immense disdain between her and Penny – more to come there, later.

Orchid. Warm, engaging and the camera loves her. Her food was to die for. It may sound cliché, but I can’t wait to see how this orchid blossoms. I know – that was a bit cringe-worthy.

Whitney. I like her confidence. Camera loves her. She has a slight edge to her which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We’ll see how it shakes out.

Jeff. Funny guy. Can be a bit over the top. Warm. Love the sandwich POV – accessible, everybody loves him (if he can bring something new to the game). Sandwich King? We’ll see.

Mary Beth. Food Writer + Former Attorney = Smart. Love that. But can she bring warmth and humor to the screen? Can the food writer be a food star? Jury is way out.

Chris. Loud and a bit “frat boyish.” He has a lot of work to do. Right now, I’m having trouble coming up with something more to say about him. That’s not good.

Susie. She’s a spitfire. Love her personality (and what a story). But I’m confused about by her POV. I need to see more of HER in it.

Katy. Boy am I confused. She wants to be a thousand things. This may work in her life, but not on TV. All those props illustrated the problem. I need a simpler, clearer, stronger POV and persona.

Justin D. Seems nice and smart, but so far hasn’t left a big impression.

The Other Justin. Memorable – for good and bad reasons. Anybody else thinking Avatar? Confident cook. There’s an expert, passionate guy there – but NOT on camera. Flat.

Juba. Such a likeable guy with an interesting POV – until he gets on camera. Like ‘The Other Justin,’ persona is not translating on camera. Lots of work needed here.

Penny. She’s a tough personality, but she cooks great food. I wouldn’t want to get caught in her cross-hairs (Alicia), but I could eat her food all day. Just stop with all that “sexy” talk.

Jyll. Something I really like here. Funny, down to earth, warm. But her promo? Ouch. Teleprompters are evil. I’m withholding judgment because overall I see promise.

Howie. I always feel bad for the first to go. I really thought his success in radio would have translated into an advantage to get him further. Oh well.