Caption It: Start Your Engines

by in Food Network Star, June 26, 2015

Food Network StarStars, stripes and fireworks — they're all set to be on display this weekend as the finalists leave Food Star Kitchen behind and head outside for a 4th of July cookout. Though of course all of the rivals are seeking individual Stardom, once again they'll be tasked with working closely together as they get grouped into teams on Sunday's brand-new episode. It's up to the teams to not only plate a unified menu but also present it to partygoers and a special guest who's no stranger to cookout fare: Bobby Deen.

Take a look above at the sneak-peek photo from Sunday's episode. What do you think Bobby's up to with those car keys? Is he letting the finalists take a break from challenges and simply test-drive a few vehicles, or will the rivals be forced to navigate their way to the cookout?

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A Star Salvation Preview: Host Alex Shares Must-Have Skills and Reflects on Competition Flashbacks

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, June 25, 2015

Alex GuarnaschelliWhile three Food Network Star finalists have already met their fate at elimination — and another one will do the same this week — all hope is not lost for those competitors, or for the next few to follow in the coming weeks. Beginning this Sunday night, ousted rivals will have the chance to rejoin the competition, but only if they can survive a six-week journey on Star Salvation, a Web-exclusive contest hosted by Jeff Mauro and Alex Guarnaschelli. At the end of boot camp, one rival will have verified his or her worth, and will ultimately return to the on-air competition with the finalists that remain.

Ahead of Sunday's premiere Salvation battle, Star Talk is catching up with Jeff and Alex for the inside details on what they have in store for the contestants, and what it will be like for this dynamic duo to work together as both mentors and judges. Read on below to hear from Alex about how her past competition experiences will influence her judgment on Salvation, then click here to hear from Jeff.

What's it going to be like working with Jeff? What's your professional relationship like?
Alex Guarnaschelli: We are like Starsky and Hutch. We are like Rizzoli and Isles. ... We have a really great relationship because we both use a lot of humor in what we do, and yet we take food super seriously. We know that there's so much at stake for these contestants that we want to be the perfect balance of lighthearted where the contestants are open to learning and hearing from us, and yet also critical enough that they can grow and kind of sculpt themselves, give themselves clarity, fill in the blanks, color in the lines, curate their own personality. That's what Food Network is all about: growing really good flowers. Start with a seed, some dirt, some water, and just keep on going with that sunshine.

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A Star Salvation Preview: Host Jeff Dishes on Working with Alex and the Importance of Calming Nerves

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, June 24, 2015

Jeff MauroWhile three Food Network Star finalists have already met their fate at elimination — and another one will do the same this week — all hope is not lost for those competitors, or for the next few to follow in the coming weeks. Beginning this Sunday night, ousted rivals will have the chance to rejoin the competition, but only if they can survive a six-week journey on Star Salvation, a Web-exclusive contest hosted by Jeff Mauro and Alex Guarnaschelli. At the end of boot camp, one rival will have verified his or her worth, and will ultimately return to the on-air competition with the finalists that remain.

Ahead of Sunday's premiere Salvation battle, Star Talk is catching up with Jeff and Alex for the inside details on what they have in store for the contestants, and what it will be like for this dynamic duo to work together as both mentors and judges. Read on below to hear from Jeff, then click here for an exclusive interview with Alex.

What's it going to be like working with Alex? What's your professional relationship like?
Jeff Mauro: We've done other events before, and I think we've shot some stuff together before. I know she's judged me on Chopped before. So we do have a rapport. We see each other out; we're friendly. But I get her totally — I know what she's all about. I get her gruffness, but her level of comedy is so underappreciated, I think. And I think she's so warm, and you want her to like you, which is an interesting gift. But she does it in such a way where I'm super comfortable around her. So I think my kind of goofy attitude and her kind of faux sternness, it's a nice little straight-talk-silly-man combo.

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From the Competition to Your Kitchen: Food Styling Tips from the Pros

by in Food Network Star, June 24, 2015

From the Competition to Your Kitchen: Food Styling Tips from the ProsThe Food Network Star contest was taken to a new level this week when contestants had to use their food styling and photography skills to win over mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis. Here in Food Network Kitchen, our professional food stylists work behind the scenes to make food beautiful for television, online and print. We know how important the right lighting and composition of a plate can be for a pretty photograph. For those of you who like to #NoFilter, here are some tips from Food Network food stylists Richmond Flores and Susan Vu, and from Heather Ramsdell, director of culinary editorial, who also takes our best in-house photographs!

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New Photos: Go Behind the Scenes of Food Network Star, Season 11

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, June 23, 2015

Food Network StarAn action-packed episode complete with two trendsetting challenges and a duo of special guests judges, Sunny Anderson and Geoffrey Zakarian, this past Sunday's episode saw no shortage of tense moments for the finalists — or slimy, stinky and incendiary flavors, as far as the dinner party dishes were concerned. But no matter the finalists' nerves or the Committee's task of sending home another rival, most on set managed to crack a few smiles between takes. In keeping with the episode's trend of taking photos, Sunny and Geoffrey posed for a quick shot behind the scenes — though it likely wasn't posted on social media.

Keep reading below for more insider snapshots.

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A Boys vs. Girls Dinner Battle, and Why It’s Not About Being “Thesaurus Rex” — Jeff’s Star Report

by in Food Network Star, Recap, June 22, 2015
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Food Network StarThis week is all about trends, so the finalists' first challenge is to craft a dish that is both delicious and camera ready. Photographing food and food styling are often-overlooked skills that usually require the work of several experienced and talented professionals. Thanks to social media, however, we have all become food stylists and photographers, snapping pics of every malt ball, pretzel rod and airport kiosk sandwich we shove down our gullets. I'm 100 percent guilty of this as well and make no apologies, but oftentimes, the photos do not do the food justice (mine included). Regardless, I love this trend, and it only connects us more to the magic and allure of food. But I digress ...

And they’re off! Emilia is a bat out of hell, Rosa is frying meatballs, Dom is icing his pesto, Eddie is contrasting, and Big Jay is tasting the rainbow. Arnold is not worried one iota because he plates like Picassette (Picasso’s drag queen alter ego). Sandwich man Alex makes that classic mistake of “plopping on the top bun.” I would have halved the sandwich and exposed the colorful interior structure. In my opinion, that makes for a much better sandwich photo.

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One-on-One with the Latest Food Network Star Finalist to Go Home

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, June 21, 2015

Food Network StarIt's the nature of the Food Network Star beast that even though no matter how badly finalists want to achieve their dreams of stardom, ultimately only one can win the coveted title, and with that, 11 finalists will be going home. Every week Star Talk will bring you the first exclusive interview with the most-recently eliminated finalist. From thoughts on mentors' critiques to reflections on past challenges and hopes for the future, be sure to check back every Sunday night for the latest one-on-one chat. We're about to break down the ins and outs of tonight's new episode and reveal who went home, so if you've yet to watch the show, read no further until then.

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Caption It: Right Here, Right Now

by in Food Network Star, June 19, 2015

Food Network StarIt's the nature of the Food Network Star beast for some finalists to leave the competition as quickly as they entered it. After all, there's only a few short weeks between the premiere and the finale, which means that Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis have but a short window of time to not only mentor the hopefuls' budding Star power but also prime them for their would-be job of Food Network Star.

This Sunday's episode marks the third week of the contest, and while the competition was surely fierce in the beginning, it's even steeper now. The time for nerves and self-constraints has ended; to prove their readiness for Stardom, rivals ought to not hold back from here on out, as the mentors will be watching and expecting only excellence.

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From the Chopping Block to the Dinner Party: Geoffrey Zakarian Previews His Star Appearance

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, June 18, 2015

Geoffrey ZakarianWhen it comes to judging chef competitors, few others do it as well — or as frequently — as the Chopped panel, including Geoffrey Zakarian, which means that the remaining 10 rivals are in for a world of surprise when he shows up to judge this Sunday night. From the time constraints to the pressures to please, he's familiar with the issues affecting the finalists, and he's no stranger to doling out constructive criticism in an effort to help them better their performances. Come Sunday, he and Sunny Anderson, one of his fellow co-hosts on The Kitchen, will be on hand to attend a dinner party thrown by the competitors; ultimately Geoffrey, Sunny, and mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis will evaluate who has the Star potential to go the distance in the business.

Recently Star Talk caught up with Geoffrey to find out what he'll be looking for in Star hopefuls this weekend. Read on below for his insider take, and find out what he believes to be one of the best pieces of advice he's ever received.

When you meet them, the finalists will be only three weeks into this journey. What are you hoping to see in them?
Geoffrey Zakarian: Well, I always try to see if they have real fire. How disappointed they get from setbacks — this says a lot.

Giada has said that she focuses on molding finalists' personalities, while Bobby's all about their cooking chops. Do you think one piece of the puzzle is more important in this competition: the camera presence versus the food?
GZ: As a chef, I think food is foremost. But you need to learn to understand the camera and the power it has.

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What Does It Take to Impress Alex Guarnaschelli? The Judge’s First Impressions, Plus Lessons Learned

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, June 17, 2015

From mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis to guest judges Melissa d'Arabian and Alex Guarnaschelli, the competition was brimming with superstardom this weekend as the finalists endured two rounds of challenges: one to turn leftovers into family dinners and another to bake up savory sweets. Alex was on hand during the Star Challenge's baking task, and in true Chopped judge fashion, she doled out constructive criticism to the 11 remaining rivals and ultimately deliberated with Bobby and Giada about who should go home.

Star Talk recently caught up with Alex to get the dish on her experience both in the judge's seat and in the arena as a contestant. Read on below for an exclusive interview, then click the play button above to get her take on the finalists' best baked offerings.

Not only have you judged competitions before, but you've also competed on Chopped All-Stars, The Next Iron Chef and Cutthroat Kitchen, among other shows. Do those experiences affect the way you look at the finalists who are going through this journey for the first time?
Alex Guarnaschelli: Of course. It’s just like being a chef in a restaurant. If you’ve been a busboy and a dishwasher and a cook and a sous chef, then when you’re the chef, you have empathy and understanding of each part that’s played to make something successful. The same is true in a competition show. I’ve competed, I’ve judged, I’ve watched, I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve won, I’ve lost. When someone walks in front of me and starts cooking, I know already how this is going to go.

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