Friday, June 5
Why did you decide to apply to be on The Next Food Network Star?
I thought it would be an amazing challenge to push myself and see where I stood against others in the culinary arena. I have watched Food Network since college (it was one of the only cable channels we received), and I always thought it would be fantastic to be a part of an organization dedicated to spreading the knowledge of food. I have always been willing to take risks, and although I am a newbie to the culinary world, I couldn't dream of a better way to begin my culinary adventure.
Who are your chef / TV cooking star idols?
Marco Pierre White (who at 28, was the youngest chef ever and first British chef to acquire 3 Michelin stars), Anthony Bourdain, Thomas Keller, Gabrielle Hamilton (who is the chef at Prune in New York... my favorite restaurant), Mario Batali, Paul Kahan, Donald Link, John Besh, Jose Andres, and Ferran Adria. My culinary learning adventures would be complete if I could work with each of these chefs... even if it was only for one day!
What does it take to be a great Food Network star?
To be a great Food Network star, I think you have to be able to reach through the camera and grab the audience and get them excited about food. You have to share yourself completely, not being afraid to show all the pieces of who you are, so you can connect with anyone who is willing to listen. You have to eat, sleep, and breathe food, and you have to be true to yourself.
Did you feel prepared for the types of challenges you endured on the show? Anything in particular you struggled with?
I think the biggest struggle starts from the moment the judges say go... the pressure is on, the cameras are rolling, and everyone is watching. 400 covers on a sunny summer Saturday in Manhattan Beach is tough, but it is nothing like hearing, "Your time starts now!"
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?
My culinary point of view is "California Comfort Food." My cooking style is ingredient driven, trying to use the freshest ingredients while incorporating new techniques to traditional comfort dishes. My point of view is different because I cook for a different audience. I want to reach out to my peers -- those 20 to 30-somethings who eat at random hours, cook dinner for two on a budget, yearn to savor and taste new ingredients, who don't believe there is a "right way to do something", and just love to cook for the sake of cooking.
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?
Wow, so many stars to choose from. Duff Goldman, Alton Brown, Michael Symon, Tyler Florence and Paula Deen... just to name a few.
Apart from winning this competition, what goals do you have for the future?
To continue learning something new about food every day. To continue challenging myself to become a better chef and a more creative chef. To keep studying the power of heat and its effect on food. To open my own restaurants and become a successful restaurateur. And to share my love for food with anyone who wants to come along for the ride.