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Finalists Reveal Their Culinary Mentors (Who Aren’t Bobby and Giada)

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 23, 2015

Food Network Star, Season 11 FinalistsIn just a few short weeks, the Food Network Star finalists will begin the job interview of their lives. And while Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis will decide who among the finalists boasts glimmers of Star power and who ultimately does not make the grade, the judges will also be there as mentors to guide the hopefuls through the competition, teaching and inspiring them along the way. But to reach this place in their careers, and at the precipice of stardom, the hopefuls are bringing with them the wisdom and motivation of other mentors — professional and, often, personal too — who've helped ready them for this very competition.

Read on below as the 12 finalists reflect on their culinary mentors and what they've learned from these influences in years past.

Alex McCoy: Marco Pierre White has been my biggest influence. I had an opportunity to spend a little bit of time with him, and he's just such an amazing person. He's a pure chef, and I think the one thing that I really learned from him that I've taken through my entire career is his respect for ingredients.

Arnold Myint: My parents — both of them. My mother's a chef, and I was raised cooking with her. But my father's the one that cooked for me, so not only do I have the technique and the palate, but I also see the passion and the love behind creating a dish. Something as simple as an egg is memorable to me because of who made it.

Christina Fitzgerald: I have a lot of them. I would not want to say one, because I feel like I would hurt others' feelings because they've all done so much for me. And I'm so close to them, and I'm so grateful for all of the time that they offer up to help me.

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Chefs Speak Out on What Not to Do: Food Network Star Edition

by in Food Network Star, May 22, 2015

Chefs Speak Out on What Not to Do: Food Network Star EditionOften in the Food Network Star competition finalists are told what they need to do to succeed — hone their culinary points of view, master time management, bring bold flavors to their dishes — but it's not often that they learn what pitfalls to avoid on the road to stardom. No one knows these lessons quite like established Food Network stars, and recently Star Talk caught up with mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis, and more of your favorite chefs, for their takes on what each contestant ought to avoid and how to shine as a Star hopeful.

Click here to launch the gallery and to hear from Bobby, Giada, Alex Guarnaschelli, Rachael Ray and other experts for their top tips.

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The Road to Stardom: Watch the Finalists’ Casting Videos

by in Food Network Star, Videos, May 21, 2015

Food Network Star, Season 11 FinalistsOut of countless applicants who vied for a chance at stardom, only 12 worthy contenders were selected to begin the journey of their lives on June 7 (at 9|8c), when they'll report for the ultimate job interview on Food Network Star. Each hopeful comes to the competition with a specialized background; from catering and private chefdom to restaurant experience, they spoke of their culinary backgrounds, their passions both in and out of the kitchen, and their readiness for the prime-time spotlight in all-new casing videos.

Click here to watch these just-released videos to get a glimpse of the contestants and learn all about their personal and professional backgrounds, then check out exclusive interviews with each person for even more fun facts and insider trivia.

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Giada Dishes on Finalists’ Biggest Mistakes and Their Must-Have Traits on Day 1

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 20, 2015

Giada De LaurentiisBeginning this summer, on June 7 at 9|8c, 12 eager Star hopefuls will strut their stuff on food's most-inspiring stage, but of course only one worthy rival will be crowed the victor and Food Network's newest Star at the end of the journey. Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis are back to mentor the finalists through telling challenges, and together they'll work to discern who has the chops both in the kitchen and on camera, and who simply can't cut it. Star Talk recently caught up with Giada, and she dished on what the Star experience is really like for the finalists and what fans should know about the competition. Read on below for her exclusive interview, then check out this insider chat with Bobby.

After mentoring for so many seasons, are you still amazed at the transition that needs to take place in order to find that glimmer of Star power within someone?
Giada De Laurentiis: I'm surprised that somebody actually makes the transition that fast. For Bobby and myself, it took a while to get comfortable. It takes a while to sort of understand yourself on camera and who you are and figure it all out. So I'm always surprised that in this short amount of time, someone can actually make that transition. It's pretty cool. I mean, of course Bobby and I didn't have mentors like what we're doing with them, but I think it's shocking.

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Bobby Reveals the Secret to Star Success and Shares Advice on How Finalists Can Prepare

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 19, 2015

Bobby FlayYou heard it here first: Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay are back to mentor 12 finalists through the ultimate job interview in the hopes of finding a glimmer of stardom within one worthy hopeful. The competition kicks off on June 7 at 9|8c, and in true Star fashion, the mentors have all-new challenges up their sleeves, each designed to showcase competitors' culinary chops and comfort in front of the all-important camera. Star Talk caught up with Bobby to get the dish on what fans can expect this season and to learn his take on what finalists ought to do to succeed in this grueling contest. Read on below for an exclusive interview.

What's the secret to success for a Food Network Star finalist?
Bobby Flay: They need to be who they are and not try to be somebody who is already on the network. A lot of times people try to copy something that we already have. And so I think it's important for them to just be that person, so hopefully they'll become — like, if their name is Tina, for example, now we have Tina, as opposed to the next Rachael Ray.

What do you find most surprising about this competition and what it asks of the finalists?
BF: It always surprises me when they make the same mistakes that they've been watching [other finalists make] for the last 11 years. Because obviously these people get savvier and savvier every year 'cause their homework is to watch Season 1 through 10. And so when they make the same blatant mistakes that other contestants have made, and have been eliminated as a result of those mistakes, that always surprises me. Read more

QUIZ: What’s Your Culinary Point of View?

by in Food Network Star, May 18, 2015

QUIZ: What's Your Culinary Point of View?The key to being a Food Network Star isn't simply being able to show off sharp knife skills. Star power requires a sparkly personality to hook an audience on TV, and with that comes the ability to convey a strong, simply message — aka the all-important culinary POV. Click the "start" button on the quiz below to see if we can guess what stories your food would tell in the kitchen.

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Star-a-Day: Sita Lewis

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 17, 2015

Sita LewisThere are traditional job interviews, which are surely daunting, then there's Food Network Star: an intense 11-week journey that requires nothing short of flawless technique in the kitchen and a downright sparkly personality on camera. Beginning June 7 at 9|8c, 12 all-new rivals will put their dreams on the line as they endure mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis' lofty challenges, all in the hopes of scoring the most-sought-after culinary career: Food Network host. Star Talk is bringing you the first look at each of the finalists in exclusive, candid interviews, and today we're introducing New York's Sita Lewis.

Sita, 47 (New York), is a veteran television producer and culinary instructor, and now it’s her time to be in front of the camera. She has produced countless food segments for daytime television shows and knows just what it takes to succeed. Sita has an African-American and Italian background, and both food cultures come together to form her “Italian Soul” food philosophy, with dishes like sweet potato stuffed shells, and sinfully good soul-food classics like mac 'n' cheese, candied yams and fried chicken.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence — if you can.
Sita Lewis: My culinary point of view is Italian soul; it's Italian flavors mixed with Southern soul flavors all put together.

If you could ask Bobby and Giada to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?
SL: I would ask Bobby how to make the perfect steak on the grill, and Giada, I would ask her how to make the absolute perfect risotto.

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Star-a-Day: Rue Rusike

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 16, 2015

Rue RusikeThere are traditional job interviews, which are surely daunting, then there's Food Network Star: an intense 11-week journey that requires nothing short of flawless technique in the kitchen and a downright sparkly personality on camera. Beginning June 7 at 9|8c, 12 all-new rivals will put their dreams on the line as they endure mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis' lofty challenges, all in the hopes of scoring the most-sought-after culinary career: Food Network host. Star Talk is bringing you the first look at each of the finalists in exclusive, candid interviews, and today we're introducing Brooklyn's Rue Rusike.

Rue, 26 (Brooklyn), is originally from Zimbabwe but has lived all over the globe. She is a private chef who is passionate about southern African cuisine and believes good cooking comes from love, patience and a happy soul. Rue is ready to introduce her favorite dishes and heritage to a bigger audience by taking away some of the mystery and making the cuisine approachable to the everyday home cook.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence — if you can.
Rue Rusike: My culinary POV is southern African with modern French techniques.

If you could ask Bobby and Giada to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?
RR: I would love to learn from Giada how she is so at ease on camera, how she's able to keep the smile and cook the way that she does. She makes it look absolutely flawless. Bobby Flay, I would love to gain his speed with knife skills.

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Star-a-Day: Rosa Graziano

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 15, 2015

Rosa GrazianoThere are traditional job interviews, which are surely daunting, then there's Food Network Star: an intense 11-week journey that requires nothing short of flawless technique in the kitchen and a downright sparkly personality on camera. Beginning June 7 at 9|8c, 12 all-new rivals will put their dreams on the line as they endure mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis' lofty challenges, all in the hopes of scoring the most-sought-after culinary career: Food Network host. Star Talk is bringing you the first look at each of the finalists in exclusive, candid interviews, and today we're introducing California's Rosa Graziano.

Rosa, 38 (Los Angeles), is a first-generation Italian-American who grew up in her family’s deli and catering business in New Jersey and learned to cook at her Neapolitan mother’s side. She eventually moved to Los Angeles and noticed a void in Southern Italian cuisine, so she decided to bring a taste of her mother’s dishes to the West Coast with her own food truck, which she operated for several years. From arancini to zeppoles, Rosa is ready to share her love of Southern Italian food and culture with kitchens across the country.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence — if you can.
Rosa Graziano: Southern Italian foods, Southern Neapolitan foods. First-generation Italian girl. I was raised by the side of my mother. It's not a choice when you're an Italian girl. You just — you just have to do it. So that's how I learned about cooking and food.

If you could ask Bobby and Giada to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?
RG: I want to grill with Bobby. Giada is so delicate; there's something really delicate about her. I'm fascinated because she's such a delicate Italian. To me, when I think of my family — we're Southern Italian — it's a little bit heartier. She's intimidating to me because she's so great at what she does. I would make a pizzelle with Giada. To me, that's a metaphor of who she looks like and what feels like to me.

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Star-a-Day: Michelle Karam

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, May 14, 2015

Michelle KaramThere are traditional job interviews, which are surely daunting, then there's Food Network Star: an intense 11-week journey that requires nothing short of flawless technique in the kitchen and a downright sparkly personality on camera. Beginning June 7 at 9|8c, 12 all-new rivals will put their dreams on the line as they endure mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis' lofty challenges, all in the hopes of scoring the most-sought-after culinary career: Food Network host. Star Talk is bringing you the first look at each of the finalists in exclusive, candid interviews, and today we're introducing California's Michelle Karam.

Michelle, 39 (Santa Barbara, Calif.), is a master multitasker who does it all: She is a mom of three kids under 10 years old, as well as being a website owner, radio host and private chef. Inspired by her Mediterranean roots and her husband’s Latin heritage, she loves fusing the two cultures together for unexpected flavor combinations. As a busy mom, Michelle knows that the pantry often dictates what’s for dinner — so she wants to dive in and teach families how to use what they have to make a delicious, fresh meal.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence — if you can.
Michelle Karam: Full of love, family friendly, fresh and tasty

If you could ask Bobby and Giada to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?
MK: I think I would ask Bobby how he is able to be so successful with his recipes — he does it with such ease — and learn how to present recipes that way. And I would love to ask Giada how she manages to just smile and look perfect and friendly and approachable. Those two pack a punch.

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