Alex Guarnaschelli's Star Report: Competition Flashbacks, Tough Questions and a Finalist Milkshake

By

Can you imagine trying to become the next Food Network Star? It takes me straight back to my own cooking competition experiences. (Hello, Chopped All-Stars. Hello, The Next Iron Chef. Hello, The Next Iron Chef again.) And I relive those moments in the shower most mornings: I am standing in a row of super-talented people, not really breathing, heart pounding away, enduring a judge’s stare and praying no one tells me to go home. Ever wanted to melt into the floor?

The hardest cooking competition? You may think it's Chopped. It certainly is tough to watch Ted Allen stare at you sadly, pause and utter, “You have been Chopped.” I have been chopped more than once. The Next Iron Chef was even harder. I grew up watching Iron Chef and used to curl up at night muttering “Iron Chef — the ONLY title that matters.”

Can you imagine the feeling of serving something less than perfect to the likes of Alton Brown, Geoffrey Zakarian, Simon Majumdar and Donatella Arpaia? Can you say #ToughCrowd? Even that lovable Zakarian, with his perfectly pressed suit and pocket square, gave me a thousand-yard stare while he painstakingly chewed a piece of my overcooked lobster.

NIC4 Episode 2 Chairman's Challenge

So today I find myself in the privileged position of taking these personal life experiences and using them to walk you through this exhilarating season of Food Network Star. Each week in my Star Report posts, we will look at the latest episode through my food-loving, fun-having eyes! We will talk the nitty-gritty. We will talk stats. We will discuss what it means to become a Food Network Star and the process of self-discovery that goes with it. It’s like getting a double ice cream cone and then standing in front of all those toppings, wondering which ones fit your cone. Easy? No. Fun? YES. Thrilling. Exhilarating.

Imagine when one person is left standing at the finish line. Who will it be? It’s like picking your favorite athlete. You're looking at stats. Wondering if they can endure the tests. Believing in another person like you have to believe in yourself. Yeah. That smoke will clear. Sandwiches, small plates and desserts will be eaten.

Mentor-judges Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay will ask the finalists to express themselves. "What is your point of view?” Giada will ask with a twinkle in her eye. “What do you love to cook?” Bobby Flay will nonchalantly ask. They better have the answers. And week after week, we will find them together — you and me together. The cream will rise to the top. The tippy top. The rest will have to be blended into a milkshake. Welcome to Food Network Star.

Tune in to the premiere of Food Network Star on Sunday, May 22 at 9|8c.