Food Network Stars Share Their Greatest Lessons Learned from Being on TV

Food Network chefs look back on their time on-air and reflect on their learnings along the way.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: John Lee ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason Clairy ©Clairy Productions Inc.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: David Lang ©2013,Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Alex Guarnaschelli

I think the biggest lesson for me in terms of competition shows is, whenever you go out to compete, there’s always a huge pantry, and it’s all laid out and beautiful and it’s very seductive. And I find that when I don’t rely too much, when I don’t fall bait to the beauty of 14 ingredients and then make a dish cluttered with ingredients, and I just stay simple and pick a couple of things I cook a lot, it’s better. But that is harder; that is easier said than done. It's very seductive; you’re like, "Oh, look at these peaches and plums and fiddlehead ferns and ramps." And all of a sudden you have a dish that's like a salad on top of a sandwich on top of a fruit platter on top of a fish, and you blow it.

Bobby Flay

To be prepared. I know that I'm better on television when I'm even just a little bit prepared as opposed to not being prepared at all.

Giada De Laurentiis

I think that for me, not being fearful to create my own path, and don't worry so much about following everybody else's footsteps and don't worry so much about what everybody else is doing. And just worry about what you want to do. Do your own thing. Because I think in the beginning you're like: "Well, wait. That person's doing this and this. And maybe I should be doing that and this." Let it go. It's your journey — all your own. Nothing anybody else is doing should concern you. You can be on top of it, but you don't have to worry so much about having to be competing with others in the same business. There's room for everyone.

Guy Fieri

Knowing it is one thing; exercising it is another. You have to own it. You have to own the moment. You have to be aware of everything that you're dealing with, and I don't think you can do that when you first step into the ring — or first step into the scene — because there's so many things that are so foreign to you. But be a great student is the thing that's been my success ... really pay attention. Understand what your team is doing, understanding what the audio team does and what the lighting team does and what the camera guys [do]. What's the director saying? Just really pay attention and be part of it. And the sooner you do that and the sooner that you adapt to that, the better student you are, the better performance, the better job you'll do. And I think that that's what's probably served me the best.

Geoffrey Zakarian

Just stay humble. Every day is a learning experience — I learn on The Kitchen every day. Food is such a wide breadth of information that you just never stop learning, so if you think like that, you're going to have a great time.

Jeff Mauro

Try to have fun and realize it’s a job that can be lost, so be nice to everybody you come across, and show up to work on time. Treat it like a job: Stay late if you have to, hustle and don’t mess around. It's like working in any office or any professional environment in the world; just because we’re personalities on television I don’t think I’m any more important. I'm just as important as any crew member, any cast member, any behind-the-scenes person. You have to be professional, show up on time, know your stuff, be prepared and hustle.

Rachael Ray

I don't really know anything, and I think that's what makes our shows popular. It's a conversation and I like to learn. I think that the most-genuine television is about sharing, and I don't know if I'm any better at it 15, 20 years in than I was when I started. But I try and be curious and dedicated and authentic when I go to work.

Marcela Valladolid

Have the courage to be yourself. It took me a very long time to have a voice and admit out loud that I would not cook that, I would not say that, I would not wear that, I would not support that. Some people are born with it. It took me a long time to get here, a really long time, and the fact of the matter is, if you aren’t afraid to be yourself, you have no competition, because there’s no other you.

Sunny Anderson

Stop trying to figure out what you think Food Network wants and trying to be that. I think a lot of times finalists come in thinking: “The network needs a such and such. I’ll be the such and such!” Just do you. Just be yourself. At the end of the day, the network is going to figure out what they like about you. And then, also, don’t go out of your comfort zone. I know this is a competition, and your goal is to impress the judges, but you don’t have to impress them by trying something different and new when it’s your job on the line — and that’s what this is, a job application in a visual sense. So if you’re going to apply for a job, would you try something new? No, you just stick to what you know.

Tyler Florence

You have to love what you do. You really, really do. You can’t fake it. Even if you feel like … you’re intimidated by it, that’s going to show really quickly. Like, you have to stand up in front of the camera, look down at the mise en place on your station and have stories about everything just because you did it and you lived it and you were there, and to be able to cook gracefully and easily and look in front of the camera and … and gift a great, confident recipe. Because you know the audience, right, and that’s the most important thing — is to really have a great relationship with not the camera lens, but the people behind the camera lens, and it’s really one person at a time.

Marc Murphy

My greatest lesson is I'm trying to raise my children to enjoy life and enjoy every day as the way I do. And I think my lesson would, to them at least, be don't do it unless you're having fun. And I have to tell you, we're always having a good time here — as a chef or as a television personality.

Katie Lee

I think the key to success is to realize that it is a collaboration and that everyone who works on a show like The Kitchen is important. It’s not just about us on television; it’s about our art department, our cameramen, our sound men, our producers. It’s a really talented group of men and women who work on this show, and it’s because of all of them that it’s a success. 

Scott Conant

If you’re not having fun with it, what’s the point? Honestly. You have to enjoy the process, you have to enjoy the team around you, you have to enjoy the people that you’re working with, enjoy the staff and the camera people, and all that kind of stuff. It’s fickle and it’s tough, and you never know if it’s going to happen again. So just be present.

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