The 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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This 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.
It'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.
It'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.
When 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.
Sabotage. Evilicious. Cutthroat. All of these words describe Food Network's popular show Cutthroat Kitchen, where host Alton Brown auctions off one crazy antic after another every Sunday night. In the most-recent episode of Food Network Star, however, Alton's world of mini kitchens and missing ingredients was dished out to the remaining finalists. Bobby was on hand to taste the final plates, and so was Cutthroat Kitchen judge Jet Tila. In pure Cutthroat style, the judges had no prior knowledge of the sabotages that led the competitors' final dishes.
Star Talk caught up with Jet on the set of Star in between heats to break down the difference of the competitions and talk about Alton's evil side. Read on for the interview.
No one knows how to judge a Cutthroat Kitchen-style challenge like you. How did the two competitions differ?
Jet Tile: The worlds have collided on this episode. They differ in that we're judging them specifically on food on Cutthroat Kitchen, and here, I've got to see to their delivery and personality, which is a really refreshing change for me. It's a lot of fun, but it's very different.
Last week the camera shy Luca was sent to battle it out in Star Salvation. Kenny and Chris were up the creek without a plated dish — and they were assuredly nervous about the next challenge. Will Lenny hold tight to his reins or ride off in to the sunset? Read on, Star fans.
If you haven't seen this show, stop reading right now and click one of the many banners to the left or right that will take you to the hottest (and most-evilicious) program on Food Network. Watch it now.
I'm so glad CTK wasn't invented during my season of Star. The concept is terrifying to me. Not only am I a bad gambler, but I'm also a bit OCD. Sure, I can make some creative dishes, but not having the right tool, protein or appendage for the job would irk the heck out of me. The claws will come out, but when the claws come out, they sometimes get stuck on curtains or shag carpet.
Star has seen many themed challenges over the seasons, including takes on Chopped, Burger Bash and even Thanksgiving Live. But for the first time in Star history, finalists faced off in a round of Cutthroat Kitchen-inspired competition. Alton brought all of his antics and even Cutthroat judge Jet Tila made a special appearance.
If you haven't yet watched the episode, don't read any further. Star Talk is about to break down the ins and outs of the episode and reveal who was sent home.
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.
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?