Episode 3 brought the contestants back to the set of Star, but this time they were tasked to cook in Food Star Kitchen. Cooking in a kitchen that isn't your own can be a tough mission. Where are the gadgets? What's in the pantry? Take a tour of the Food Network Star set below, set in sunny California at The Culver Studios in Culver City.
It's no secret that the finalists face a mountain of pressures week after week, cooking against the clock in all-or-nothing challenges, strutting their stuff for a crew of cameras and enduring hours-long evaluations that ultimately determine their futures. But what about the mentors, Alton, Bobby and Giada? They, too, grapple with a series of Star stresses, as it is, after all, up to them to narrow down the crop of contestants before you, the fans, choose your next star. The burden is on them to find each competitor's strengths and weaknesses, and give them the tools they need to show off the former and improve the latter, all while maintaining the distance and fairness of a judge. Alton, Bobby and Giada handle the job differently depending on the day, but for each of them, when the work becomes particularly trying, sometimes all that's left to do is laugh.
Take a look at the sneak-peek photo above from Sunday's all-new episode: Alton, Giada and Bobby have gathered at evaluation, and it seems that for Giada, the moment is simply too much to bear. She's face-first on the table while Alton offers a well-meaning giggle and Bobby displays a look of apparent confusion. Do you think they've just endured a particularly difficult elimination, or have they taken a brief break from deliberation to relax among friends?
This season, Alton, Bobby and Giada are playing two roles: mentors and judges. When they're not sharing their expert advice with the remaining contestants during challenges, they're making the tough decisions — who stays and who goes each week. While they work together as a team to make these verdicts, each judge has his and her own personality and point of view that will help shape these decisions.
During Season 8 of Star, viewers saw even more of their characters come out as Alton, Giada and Bobby had to compete against each other for the first time. Both Bobby and Alton have admitted that while Giada is sweet, she loves to win and is a serious competitor. Bobby certainly has the cooking chops, and as Chad said earlier this season, "Alton knows just a little bit more about everything than you do." So that leads Star Talk to ask fans this question: Who's your favorite Star judge? Vote in the poll.
As Sunday afternoons turn to evenings and the hours until the next episode of Food Network Star tick away, how do you settle in to watch the latest premiere? No matter who you're with or where you're watching from, you surely have on hand a spread of eats and drinks to last you through the episode, right? Here at Star Talk, we want to see what you're munching on. Every Wednesday, check back for a themed menu to get you ready for the episode ahead, and on Sunday nights, snap photos of your spread and share them with @FoodNetwork via Twitter and Instagram using #FoodNetworkStar.
On Sunday, the remaining finalists will leave the comfort of the Star Kitchen and get their first tastes of Hollywood by starring in big-screen movies shown at a luxury cinema. For the first time, they'll work in teams to create trailers that promote themed menus. Even though they're at the theater, the Selection Committee may expect more from the finalists than fresh-popped popcorn. But for fans watching the episode unfold from the couch at home, a bucket of the hot, buttered stuff is the ultimate snack when it comes to movie-paired munchies.
Try Food Network Magazine's Theater-Style Buttered Popcorn to re-create the concession stand classic. The key to this recipe is clarifying the butter — accomplished by melting it and letting it rest until it separates into three layers — as it will offer a decadent flavor without making the popcorn soggy.
No one may know the pressures of reality cooking competitions better than Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. She's a force in Kitchen Stadium and arguably one of the most-straightforward Chopped judges at the table. Beyond competitions, she's a chef who has been wowing patrons for years at her restaurants. Simply said: Alex knows her stuff and can probably describe it better than anyone else.
This past Sunday, Alex joined Alton and Bobby at the judges' table for a special Chopped-themed episode of Star. Star Talk recently caught up with Alex and asked her about her time on the show, including her reaction on Danushka's infamous "bored" comment.
Your face was priceless when Danushka revealed her "boredom" during the challenge. What was your initial reaction to hearing that? Was that a Chopped first for you?
AG: Standing on the middle of the subway at rush hour, waking up late for a final exam or frying an egg for the queen of England would be less stressful than that kitchen. I think boredom is a curious reaction. I also think if you know you're bored, and cooking is such a demanding profession, it might not be a good fit.
One of Food Network Star's most-contentious finalists ever, Danushka Lysek provided plenty of camera-worthy drama in her brief three-week run in the competition. She sparked rivalries among finalists, delivered unapologetic smirks, stares and eye rolls, and she even stupefied the Selection Committee with her seeming indifference to the challenges at hand. "My goal with doing this competition was knowing I'm not like anyone that's on the Food Network," Danushka said after being eliminated, and indeed she proved to be one of a kind.
Click the play button on the video above to watch Danushka's best, most-hilarious reactions during her time on Star and see a mashup of some of her now-notorious faces. Do you think Danushka deserved more time to prove her commitment to the competition, or were the mentors justified in sending her home? Tell Star Talk what you think in the comments section below.
It’s the third week of a live-action job interview. Ten contestants arrive at the Food Star Kitchen. We’re reminded by Danushka very early on that she’s been eligible for elimination for the past two weeks. I smell one of my favorite literary ingredients: foreshadowing.
- Chad’s been smoking (get it?) the competition for the past two weeks, but salsify’s subtle flavor isn’t listed one bit in the big book of baller barbecue, and that’s confirmed as Chad comically mispronounces it.
- Danushka, the challenge is to showcase the bonkers ingredient, not use the dragon fruit as a duffel bag. Do you pay more attention to the filling of the taco or to its shell? If Danushka was a taco, would she have filling at all?
- Russell's arrowhead root has more starch than a French cuff and is about as fun to eat as one, as well. Russell attempts to trick out this plain white T of an ingredient with his seven culinary stains sins.
Someone will get chopped on this Sunday's appropriately themed episode of Star (watch an extended preview here). Like most Star and Chopped endings, it won't be pretty. And it wouldn't be a real Chopped experience without a Chopped judge present — Alex Guarnaschelli, especially. Alex has judging down to a T, not to mention she understands the stress of these competitions, having recently won The Next Iron Chef.
Standing in front of the judges’ table on Chopped is scary for any contestant, especially when he or she is waiting to hear the criticism from the judges. Both Alton and Bobby have admitted they believe Alex is the scariest Chopped judge to face. But what do you think? Vote in Star Talk's poll below.
Chopped fans know that when it comes to doling out blatantly honest criticism and no-nonsense feedback, Alex Guarnaschelli, a longstanding member of the judges' panel, does it best. She has more than 15 years of experience at the table and knows what winning dishes look and taste like, which means that come Sunday night, Food Network Star finalists will have to cook above and beyond Alex's expectations if they want to impress her. She'll join the Selection Committee as a guest judge during the Chopped-style challenge, overseeing the contestants as they attempt to fuse mystery basket ingredients into camera-worthy meals.
While some contestants may indeed prove to her their culinary chops, others will inevitably disappoint — and then some will simply be so shocking that Alex is rendered nearly speechless at the sight of it. Take a sneak-peek look at the snapshot above from Sunday's all-new episode: Bobby can't help but chuckle as Alex looks on in amazement at what's going on in front of her. What do you think has caused her to make such a face?
After watching Damaris Phillips' premiere performance last week, judge-mentor Bobby Flay had but one piece of advice for her: "Don't try to seduce us." It appeared as though she took that instruction to heart, but, unfortunately she let history repeat itself this week during the Burger Bash challenge, and it almost forced her week-two elimination.
Not long into her live cooking demonstration in front of the Selection Committee and an audience of 100 guests, Damaris once again resorted to uncomfortably suggestive body language as she described a key ingredient in her dish. She revealed duck fat to be the must-have addition to her pimento cheese burger, and she accompanied the announcement with a shoulder shake and shimmy that left the audience both grimacing and laughing — "at her," no less, according to Alton Brown.
Damaris realized almost immediately the mistake she'd made, explaining, "When I get nervous, I default to being awkwardly sexy sometimes." Come evaluation, she knew she'd be in for harsh feedback: "My presentation was crap. I went up there and did exactly what the Selection Committee told me not to do." Bobby indeed doled out hard-to-hear criticisms, among them that her demonstration was "a little off-putting," and Damaris was simply unable to hold back tears in front of her peers and the mentors.