Thursday, June 4
Why did you decide to apply to be on The Next Food Network Star?
So many of my girlfriends wanted to know how I made yogurt at home without any special equipment (one of my secret weapons: our hot Texas garage!) that I decided to make a little video to email them. Well, this happened about the same time the Food Network was accepting videos for The Next Food Network Star on its website – great timing!
Who are your chef / TV cooking star idols?
I love that Food Network has a great variety of different stars, but the one star that I've waited in line in the rain for hours to meet (with a newly-potty-trained toddler!) at a book signing was Bobby Flay. So you can imagine how in awe I was that first day in the Food Network kitchen when he walked in.
What does it take to be a great Food Network star?
The Next Food Network Star needs to be a fantastic cook, needs to be able to connect with a sizeable audience and needs to pass along information that is more universal than just the episode's specific menu. Many people, myself included, will watch a cooking show not necessarily to get an exact recipe, but because first, they want to spend time with the host, and second, they hope to learn something...a technique, a flavor combination, a nice tip....that they can apply in their own lives. If it's just about a recipe, well frankly there are faster ways to get a recipe than spending thirty minutes in front of your TV.
Did you feel prepared for the types of challenges you endured on the show? Anything in particular you struggled with?
As the only home cook in the final 10, I definitely struggled with cooking in an industrial-sized kitchen. My first day, I was blown away. A restaurant kitchen is very different from my own. Of course, they do contain similar equipment; I just had to look past the differences in scale.
The need to have a clearly defined culinary point of view is brought up again and again by the judges. What's yours and how is it different from what we've seen before?
I am all about home cooking at its finest. I completely get that those who don't know me might define me purely as a stay-at-home mom or a soccer mom (who could blame them...I turned my convertible in for a mini-van three years ago!). I understand that need we all have to label as a means of social shorthand, but I changed my first diaper four years ago. I went to grad school, and spent years in a high-pressured career, so when I say "home cooking," I also mean working an 80-hour week and getting home to cook for family or having my friends over. There's a lot of Carrie Bradshaw in me.
You were judged by lots of Food Network stars over the course of the show. Which star(s) were you most excited to meet and why?
Bobby Flay (see question 2). I love him as a chef....my husband took me to NYC to one of his restaurants for my 40th birthday last year, but I also admire him tremendously as a businessman.
Apart from winning this competition, what goals do you have for the future?
I live life day to day. So, goal for tomorrow: find my second daughter Charlotte's pink ballet slippers so she won't be the only one wearing the wrong color for her spring ballet recital (don't want to embarrass her in front of her preschool peers). Goal for this weekend: Google "6th anniversary" so I know if it's paper or gold or whatever for our anniversary on Saturday. Then end up getting my husband something practical at Home Depot instead. Goal for this summer: lose the last few pounds of baby weight from the twins (before they turn TWO this August...that's still baby weight, right?)
I like your honesty, Melissa. Good luck on the show!