As Food Network's resident food historian and overall respected voice of reason, Alton Brown has a lot to say when it comes to finalists vying for the ultimate job — the job that will allow one person to join the roster that he shares with fellow judges Giada and Bobby.
Star Talk: What are you excited about this season? Alton Brown: I haven't participated in as many seasons of Food Network Star as the other judge-mentors. I've only really done three. But based on the seasons that I've done in the past, I'm excited to see if I can find that nugget — that diamond. You're walking down a riverbank, you reach down and you pull up a 10-carat diamond and go, "Hey, look what I found." So you're looking at each one of these finalists and you're hoping that one of them is going to be spectacular — amazing. And it could happen. That's the entire mission.
Star Talk:What is the biggest mistake that finalists constantly make? AB: I'm not sure what it is in American culture that gives everyone the idea that if they simply convince you they want something badly, you'll give it to them. And every year, the first thing they'll start talking about passion. I don't care about your passion. I care about you making me feel passion. Everybody's got passion, everybody loves food, everybody loves people. OK? I don't care. Yet they do it every year. People tell you, "I want this so badly." Yes, good. Now do something to deserve it.
You've already met this year's 12 Food Network Star hopefuls, and just this month Star Talk shared the first exclusive interviewswith each finalist to showcase their goals for the competition and their thoughts on the mentors. Now, just ahead of Sunday's all-new Season 10 premiere, it's time to reveal a look at the contestants before they were competitors, back when each of them was just beginning the road to stardom.
Each now-finalist created a casting video, and these brief clips reveal their cooking styles, histories in the kitchen and culinary passions — and just maybe you'll catch the first glimmers of a future star. Click here to watch all of their casting videos and learn about their pasts plus go-to cuisines.
Earlier this week Giada dished on her fellow judges and behind-the-scenes moments (read the interview here.) Now we're asking Bobby Flay about his time on Star, what it's like to be a judge, what mistakes he's tired of seeing and if he could have survived the show as a contestant.
Star Talk: What are you excited for this season on Star? Bobby Flay: This is the 10th season of Food Network Star, and every season the most-exciting thing to me is meeting the new finalists — people who have a chance to be the next Star on Food Network. So as excited as they are, I'm excited to see who they are just as much.
Star Talk: From the first season until now, what has changed? BF: I feel like every season the finalists get better and savvier than the last. A lot of it has to do with the fact that they get to watch the seasons prior and they become students of the sort. It's definitely a game. It's a game until you actually get the job. That's the way it works. I take my role of a judge very seriously. In a way, we're mentoring people, as well, we're not just saying yes or no. We're trying to give advice, but I want to add somebody to the roster of Food Network who is going to strengthen the network as a whole. I think of it as adding a new player to our team to make it better.
Earlier this month FN Dish introduced each of the Food Network Star finalists, and for the first time, fans learned more about the competitors' culinary points of view (POVs), plus insider details, like their hopes for the contest, thoughts on the mentors and go-to midnight snacks. Much like POVs, cooks' signature dishes often reveal their style in the kitchen — what cuisine type they gravitate toward, which ingredients they're most comfortable with and perhaps even their history in the industry — and for the Season 10 contestants, their most-famed recipe (or the lack thereof) reveals plenty about who they are. Read on below to hear all of the finalists explain their signature plates, then watch their casting videos to learn more about them.
Aryen: I would say miso salmon. A basic soup in Japan is miso soup, so basically miso salmon is a take on that.
Chris: My signature dish is what I love to cook. Since I'm all about presentation, modern cuisine and doing it easy, I have a signature lobster napoleon salad. It basically has some technique of using molecular gastronomy. It's very simple. It tastes delicious, has some flavors that pop. It has texture. It's beautiful to look at, and it's beautiful to eat.
Christopher: My signature dish — it varies to the guest. I don't think there's any one dish I've ever done that completely defines me as a cook. I think there's many chefs out there that would have a hard time with this too. You don't want to paint yourself into a corner. What my signature dish is in the fall or what's selling the most could be completely different by winter and springtime. I really don’t like to repeat. I like to do something, and I like to change it and move on. Maybe it's just because I'm still pushing the envelope and I'm not really resting on the oldies. Constantly doing new stuff. I don’t like to get stagnant.
Donna: My husband loves my meatloaf. It's really hearty. It's high-quality nutrition. … You feel so good when you eat it. It's like a hug for your digestive tract. … I love it with my smashed sweet potatoes with maple butter. I serve the meatloaf with an onion-and-peach ketchup. And then I do kale with golden raisins and toasted almonds. It's a full plate, but the thing that's important about the food that I make, it's very strategic. Everything that I make is for optimum nutrition.
For 12 hopeful Food Network Star finalists, the journey to potential stardom is just beginning, and the world of food television is likely still endlessly exciting and overwhelmingly daunting at once. As they prepare for the ultimate hands-on interview and attempt to score the sought-after job of Food Network host, they'll need all the guidance and constructive critiques they can manage in order to land among Food Network royalty at the end of the summer.
Because no one is able to speak of the ways to succeed in the business quite like those who already are, superstars Guy Fieri, Damaris Phillips, Geoffrey Zakarian, Sunny Anderson and more A-list chefs came together to offer the Star contestants their key pieces of must-know advice. They spoke of expert tips, like the ability to "understand what your point of view is," according to Scott, and offered tales of insider experience that only industry veterans could share. Browse this photo gallery to hear from these icons and more, and learn their ultimate advice just in time for next month's Season 10 premiere.
Before Season 10 kicks off, the editors of Star Talk wanted to sit down with show's ultimate trio of stars, Giada, Bobby and Alton, to talk about what fans can expect, their favorite elements of the show, as well as what they think of each other. First up, Giada De Laurentiis.
Star Talk: How has the show evolved? Giada De Laurentiis: I think that the finalists have become more savvy. Each time the viewers are able to watch the show, they start to understand what we're looking for. Although, having said that, each time Bobby, Alton and I meet a new group of finalists, they tend to have the same issues. I think they're getting savvier, but they're still missing the point as to what we're looking for. I think they think they're polished, but they're not quite as polished as they need to be. I think people think this job is very, very simple, when actually it's a bit more complicated than they anticipated once they get into it.
Star Talk: What are the most-common mistakes you see in finalists? GDL: I think there are several. One is too polished and media trained. Second, I think that they all come in thinking that they're going to pitch their point of view. They're passionate, so of course they think they should be the next Food Network Star — as if that's enough to get you this job, which we all know it goes way deeper than that. We're looking for charisma. I think the finalists need to feel empowered, show they can be a leader, be an authority and also be a little spontaneous so we never get bored.
No strangers to Food Network, Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis are culinary superstars — and just the kind of icons that the Food Network Star finalists are hoping to become. To achieve such a level of fame both in the kitchen and on television, the contestants will have to prove to Alton, Bobby and Giada that they have the coveted combination of culinary chops and shining personality that the judge-mentors seem to naturally exude. As you prepare to watch what will unfold on the all-new 10th season (premiering Sunday, June 1 at 9|8c), FN Dish is testing you, Star fans, to find out how well you know this year's decision makers. Test your Star smarts with a quiz and answer questions on insider trivia about Alton, Bobby and Giada.
How Well Do You Know the Food Network Star Mentors?
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True or false: Alton knows how to play the guitar.
Which of the following is not the name of one of Bobby's shows on Food Network?
Beat Bobby Flay
Bobby Flay's Barbecue Addiction
Takedown with Bobby Flay
Boy Meets Grill
Before Giada became a Food Network chef, she earned her college degree in which subject?
__________ is not one of the secret ingredients Bobby has worked with on Iron Chef America.
Alton's Good Eats aired for how many seasons?
What's the name of the finalist Team Giada brought to the finale of Food Network Star, Season 8?
Bobby has said that __________ and __________ are among his favorite comfort foods.
Burgers, chocolate cake
Biscuits, pumpkin bread pudding
Before Alton started appearing in front of the camera, he once worked in which profession?
True or false: Bobby and Giada once competed on the same team in a special episode of Iron Chef America.
Alton has said that he has a collection of approximately how many bow ties?
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Sarah Penrod, 30, is a born-and-bred Texan who comes from a family of entertainers. She's been performing for her whole life and also has serious culinary chops, as she now owns her own business. This feisty chef has worked with celebrities and athletes, and she always keeps things entertaining in the kitchen. Read on below to hear from Sarah, and learn about her style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.
Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can. Sarah: The concept is that we're all so busy, and we're losing the source of love and joy and passion in our lives, and that's our relationship with our partner. And I want to bring that back to you by teaching you how to do these awesome date nights, and I'm the perfect person to 'cause I've been a private chef to celebrities and professional athletes. I have to do some really cool stuff visually, and I think that I'm the perfect person to do date night 'cause I'm madly in love with my husband.
How did you prepare for the competition? Sarah: I auditioned [for Season 8] and I didn't make it, and I was heartbroken 'cause I've been watching Bobby Flay since I was 10. And it felt like a personal rejection, but I knew it wasn't, and I knew I had major camera issues, so I went and trained with a communications trainer, and I self-produced my own show, called Let's Eat Houston, which is a Web series, and it's also on our Houston public access [which] is pretty huge, and it's pretty significant. ... So I did that, and that is how I prepared to do this. I literally prepared.
Reuben Ruiz, 27, grew up in a traditional Cuban family that owns restaurants, and he started working in kitchens when he was just 10 years old. After struggling with his weight for many years, he now specializes in healthy dishes with a Latin influence, and he's honest, outspoken and high energy with a strong work ethic. Read on below to hear from Reuben, and learn about his style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.
Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can. Reuben: The flavors of Miami — I want to bring those to the limelight. The tropical cuisine of the Caribbean, and Central America and the flavors that we have over there. But also with a healthier perspective on life as well. Most people don't know I've lost a hundred pounds, and I did so naturally. And I've been able to maintain it, more importantly, now for seven years.
What are you most looking forward to in this experience? Reuben: I think more so the critiques that I'm going to get from the judges. I think any critiques help you grow as a person, as an individual as well. And hopefully be able to take that and make my business better as well.
Nicole Gaffney, 29, isn’t just another personal chef — her magnetic personality and innate culinary talent set her apart from the crowd. She grew up cooking with her Sicilian grandparents and comes from a family of commercial fishermen, and her "coastal cuisine" take on food is heavily influenced by her family and growing up in a seaside town. Read on below to hear from Nicole, and learn about her style of cooking and thoughts on the competition.
What are you most looking forward to in this experience? Nicole: Learning. Yeah. I'm really looking forward to learning. Just with the other competitors alone, I think there's so much each of us can take away from the other person — not just in terms of cooking knowledge, because there's a ton of stuff to be learned there, but just about life in general and TV presence. This whole experience — the things that we can take away from the judges and the mentors ... I feel like what I'm going to know when this is all said and done versus what I knew going into it is going to be monumental.
How did you prepare for the competition? Nicole: I definitely tried to hone up on my recipes. I reference recipes all the time. I feel like if I was thrown into a kitchen and had to wing it, I would be alright, but I wanted to really memorize certain things, especially when it comes to baking. I don't know if there's going to be any baking challenges, and that kind of stuff has to be pretty precise. Whether it's a half a teaspoon of baking powder or a teaspoon of baking soda can totally make a difference in what you're baking, so I wanted to make sure that I had some really solid stuff in my head ready to go. I tried to watch some past seasons and listen to some of the critiques that the judges gave.