Exit Interview: A Food Network Star Finalist Tones It Down and Loses Out


With only 11 short weeks to ready finalists before a winner will be chosen, the Food Network Star beast is such that week after week, hopeful competitors will fall, faced with the crushing disappointment of elimination. We'll be bringing you the first exclusive exit interviews with the ousted finalists as they're sent home.

We're about to break down the ins and outs of the latest episode and reveal who went home, so if you've yet to watch the show, read no further until then.

While Rob introduced himself as both "a lunch lady" and "the culinary renegade" in Week 1 of the competition, come this week, his sixth in the contest, he said he wanted to ditch the "wild" side of things and focus solely on the lunch lady. The first challenge had him cooking with kids in mind, as the task was to create art on a plate. Though he succeeded in making a turkey out of a turkey patty and veggies, Giada noted that the turkey was "a little burnt," and Bobby found Rob's presentation to be "a tiny bit awkward."

In what would be his final Star Challenge, he had to pair hummus and cheese calzones — which he surely did with a stellar offering that wowed the judges. The problem for him, however, came from his segment with Rhett and Link, the guys of Good Mythical Morning. "If you can't tell us what we're eating, why do we want to eat it?" Bobby questioned Rob, as the rival hardly mentioned what was on the plate. Ultimately, Rob's inability to talk about his dish was enough to send him home.

Read on below to hear from Rob in a one-on-one interview, learn his thoughts on the mentors' feedback and find out what went on behind the scenes with him and the other finalists.

What three words best describe how you're feeling right now?

Rob Burmeister: Disappointed, confusion and upset

The confusion — where did that come from? What were you thinking?

RB: Well, the confusion part was in the competition itself. I’d listen to the mentors too much, and they said they didn’t want me to be too over the top, which I am in life, so I was trying to really reel it in, and that’s why my presentations were, like, blah, because I was worried too much about not going over the top, and I’m not used to that. So, I was confused. I knew I was going home, 'cause it was my third time, but I was like, but why? I shouldn’t even — you know? And I was going home because I was not me.

Thinking about the food side of things, do you stand by the last dish you cooked?

RB: Yeah, the last dish I cooked was fantastic. The guys on Good Mythical Morning — I got two thumbs up. They loved it, Giada loved it, Bobby loved it. It was my presentation with Good Mythical Morning that I was too laid-back, and I let them talk a lot ... but that comes 'cause I do a podcast, so I was trying not to talk over them and not be rude, so ... I was playing more the interviewer on that than they were. I didn’t, like, stomp on them and say, “Try my food, try my food.” But I let the food do its — you know, the smell, the aroma and all that stuff — do the talking for me.

In your own words, how would you explain to fans at home what this competition is really like?

RB: I’ve done many competitions, and this is the, by far, the hardest one I’ve ever done because it’s long, long days, but I expect that. The competitions that I’ve done in the past, it’s cooking and the interviews and stuff like that, but this is really your on-camera personality that you have to concentrate on, not just — you know, in the other ones I just let it fly, and everyone loves it, 'cause I don’t think about it, and now I’m thinking about it, and that’s what bit me in the butt.

Is there one piece of mentor feedback will you always remember and keep with you?

RB: Yeah. There was one thing Bobby Flay said to me that if I gave him a week alone with him in a studio, he’d make me a superstar, and then I was like, "OK, then why am I here?" ... But then the other, like, the negative thing that they said ... that’ll stick with me is basically they said don’t be a character of yourself, which I’m not, but I took it, like, "Alright, maybe I am over the top." So, then that’s when I kept scaling it down and worrying about what I was going to say and everything.

What were your most favorite and least favorite challenges, and why?

RB: The least favorite, hands down, was the Afternoon Tea. That was horrendous. I mean, I had an allergy attack, and I just wanted to sleep, and that was just so uncomfortable, out of my comfort zone. And the best ones were all the mash-ups 'cause that’s what I do. I love when people just give me a basket of food and say, “Make something,” or "We’re going to put these two crazy things together." That’s my cup of tea — not afternoon tea.

Which element of the competition were you least expecting, be it good or bad?

RB: I guess the one part that I didn’t expect was that I had to bake. I got picked for ... Cold-Hearted Cake, and right then all the blood left me. So, I just went and made a pancake 'cause it is a cake thing, but you know that’ll stick with me.

Fill in the blanks with your fellow finalists' names:

_____ is the class clown. Me, I think. ... All backstage and cooking. But when it came to presentations, you’d never know it.

_____ is the quietest. Quietest of the bunch was Havird

_____ is the most daring. I think that would be me again because ... half of the things I made, I’ve never made before in my life.

_____ has the best recipes. The best recipes I think is Damiano.

_____ is going to win this competition. If it’s not me, I’m hoping that it’s Damiano. I really do, because he deserves it. Been in the country seven years, and he’s really rising to the occasion, and he’s such a genuine, nice guy that I hope he wins if I don’t.

Considering Bobby, Giada and all of the special guests, you've worked with quite a few big names in the culinary industry and beyond. Did you find that to be intimidating, and how did you deal with the nerves?

RB: I really didn’t get nervous. I don’t get starstruck. You know, everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time like me. But I do look up to a lot of people, but it’s not nerves. The only nerve part was when it was like, alright, you have to be someone else, GO! That was the nerves. ... I would never, like, shake and fumble. I would just sit there and almost be outside of my body looking in and saying, “Alright, say this.” But, you know, I’m not really nervous about much.

How would you and your fellow finalists spend your downtime between challenges?

RB: The downtime is really what got me. I mean, it was fun. We all got to know each other, and almost everyone in this competition is alike in a way. We all have done TV, we love to cook, so everyone had stuff in common, but it was funny. I’m teaching Damiano how to speak New York, and he’s teaching me how to speak Italian. I met such great people. Everyone’s funny, you know, Aaron and Yaku — so they’re just great people. But behind the scene just keeping quiet is the hardest part because you have a bunch of chefs — chefs are crazy to begin with to be in the restaurant business. Then you add on that you’re going to be on TV and all that, and to keep 13 people quiet, it’s like little children.

Which special guest or mentor were you most excited to learn from in this contest, and why?

RB: I don’t really know if I learned much from them because they just screwed me up even more, telling me to change or pick one thing. But I enjoyed, actually, Ali Larter and Haylie Duff because they both were like: "It feels like I know you. You remind me of every guy I knew in high school and hung out with and stuff." ... [It] was nice to just make them feel comfortable.

What do you want fans to remember most about you?

RB: I don’t want my fans to remember some of my presentations, but I really want them to remember maybe the first episode. That’s the real me, the "Hey, what’s up? How’re you doing? I’m Rob Burmeister. What’s going on?" ... And that I could cook. I could actually cook, and, you know, with a little time, I think I can kill it as a Food Network Star.

What's next for you? What are you going home to?

RB: Well, I’m going home, and I’m just picking up my dinner party business again. I do Chopped-theme parties where, you know, 16, 20 people, they get teams of four, and they each do mystery baskets. It’s a fun time. ... And then I’m going back to running the school lunch program. I can’t wait to see all the kids.

Keep coming back to Star Talk for the latest on the Food Network Star competition.