We're just days away from Sunday's Food Network Star, Season 12 premiere (at 9|8c), and while it's likely too late for the finalists to make drastic improvements to their culinary chops and suddenly master the art of talking on camera, it wouldn't hurt them to come into the competition with some helpful tips in mind. That's where current Food Network stars come in. Guy Fieri, Rachael Ray, Geoffrey Zakarian and, of course, the mentors, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis — these icons and others have seen their share of competitions, and many have competed in them as well, so they know just what it takes to succeed. Read on below to hear the expert tips and industry know-how they have for the contestants.
Picture this: Multiple cameras are mere inches from your face. You're learning your way around an unfamiliar kitchen. Your dreams are riding on the success of your next move. Oh, and two of the biggest names of the food world are watching your every move. Nervous yet? So are many Food Network Star finalists as they endure these everyday competition pressures. But it turns out even Bobby Flay, an Iron Chef and one of the two mentors overseeing the finalists this year, feels those anxieties when he's working.
Penny had but one goal this week: "I want to see Matthew crash and burn today," she said simply. And thanks to the Star Challenge advantage she earned after winning the Mentor Challenge, she was well on her way to realizing that goal. She had the privilege of assigning each of her competitors their allotted cooking times, and it came as no surprise to Matthew that she saddled him with the least amount of time to make his diner dish, just 30 quick minutes, while she enjoyed a full 45 minutes.
As Matthew was watching from the sidelines waiting for his time to start, he was quick to notice that the very person who sabotaged him was well on her way to making severe missteps in her own dish of liver and onions. "I look over at Penny's liver, and it is already a train wreck," he explained of Penny's prep work with a sly grin. "Liver has a very metallic flavor to it, and to get that iron flavor out, the first thing you have to do is soak it," he said, explaining a crucial process that she did not follow. "It's going to be so gross." And it turned out, Penny's finished liver did include that dreaded metallic taste, just as Matthew predicted — and the judges were indeed able to discern it.
Can you imagine trying to become the next Food Network Star? It takes me straight back to my own cooking competition experiences. (Hello, Chopped All-Stars. Hello, The Next Iron Chef. Hello, The Next Iron Chef again.) And I relive those moments in the shower most mornings: I am standing in a row of super-talented people, not really breathing, heart pounding away, enduring a judge’s stare and praying no one tells me to go home. Ever wanted to melt into the floor?
For this year's 12 Food Network Star finalists, this competition is square one: It's the beginning of a brand-new journey and the start of what has the potential to be a life-changing career. There's no telling what could await them if they possess the bright light of Star power, a la their mentors, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis, and other famed faces on Food Network. But in the meantime, the competitors have but one goal: learn everything. Learn how to command an audience, how to cook against the clock, how to accept criticism and move forward, and how to handle rejection. They must learn what it takes to succeed on TV.
Let's be honest. The stress of Comeback Kitchen is real and likely all-consuming for the competitors. After all, finalists have just three weeks to prove themselves worthy of a second shot at Stardom — and one of those weeks is already behind them. The remaining six rivals have just two weeks left to demonstrate their growth, prove their culinary prowess on the plate, and convince mentors Tyler Florence and Valerie Bertinelli to choose them for the ranks of Food Network Star, Season 12. So when they finish a challenge — no matter the outcome — there's indeed reason to celebrate.
After 11 weeks of camera challenges, timed cooking tasks and seemingly unending competition pressure, one finalist will be shining the brightest — and Food Network's newest Star will be crowned. It's then that the winner will be part of the Food Network family, ready to begin the job of a lifetime. Recently Star Talk caught up with current Food Network chefs, the very people who occupy the job all 12 finalists are vying for, to find out what it's like to live and work as a Food Network star. "Expect to work incredibly hard, much harder than you've ever worked in your life," Duff Goldman, a premier pastry chef and a co-host of Kids Baking Championship, advises the future winner. Bobby Flay, too, is quick to note that the role is, above all else, "a job, and it's not just this glamorous moment."
When Food Network Star kicks off next week, all eyes will be on the finalists as they begin the long road toward the coveted crown. But to lead the hopefuls on their journeys and give them the feedback they'll need to grow, mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis must utilize their combined decades of experience to offer the finalists insider tips for bettering their performances. After all, with a hefty handful of shows between them, they're qualified to offer the finalists insider tips and been-there-done-that advice for bettering their performances. It's true no one else knows quite what it takes to succeed at Food Network stardom quite like this powerhouse.
When a Food Network Star winner graduates from the 11-week competition and earns the crown of victory, you can be sure he or she is equipped with not only the charm and charisma to capture a TV audience, but also the culinary chops to wow you with must-try recipes. That's why these dishes from the likes of Eddie Jackson, Justin Warner, Melissa d'Arabian and Guy Fieri are ones you can trust. Check out their back-pocket picks — including a hearty macaroni and cheese, a weeknight-friendly chicken dinner and a craveable chocolate pudding — to complete your recipe repertoire with a mix of sweet, savory, satisfying, healthy and decadent staples.
Act naturally, command your culinary point of view, demonstrate complete mastery in the kitchen and make the camera your friend. After 11 seasons of Food Network Star, we know that having and demonstrating these essential abilities will go a long way toward impressing Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis. But how about the things that finalists ought not to do? We checked in with both mentors, plus a whole roster of Food Network chefs, and it turns out that their advice is pretty straightforward. "I think what they should not do is over-rehearse," Giada told Star Talk. For Bobby, authenticity reigns supreme. "They need to be who they are and not try to be somebody who is already on the network," he revealed.