Star-a-Day: Michelle Karam

Get to know Michelle, a finalist on Food Network Star, Season 11.

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

Eddy Chen, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

There are traditional job interviews, which are surely daunting, then there's Food Network Star: an intense 11-week journey that requires nothing short of flawless technique in the kitchen and a downright sparkly personality on camera. Beginning June 7 at 9|8c, 12 all-new rivals will put their dreams on the line as they endure mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis' lofty challenges, all in the hopes of scoring the most-sought-after culinary career: Food Network host. Star Talk is bringing you the first look at each of the finalists in exclusive, candid interviews, and today we're introducing California's Michelle Karam.

Michelle, 39 (Santa Barbara, Calif.), is a master multitasker who does it all: She is a mom of three kids under 10 years old, as well as being a website owner, radio host and private chef. Inspired by her Mediterranean roots and her husband’s Latin heritage, she loves fusing the two cultures together for unexpected flavor combinations. As a busy mom, Michelle knows that the pantry often dictates what’s for dinner — so she wants to dive in and teach families how to use what they have to make a delicious, fresh meal.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence — if you can.

Michelle Karam: Full of love, family friendly, fresh and tasty

If you could ask Bobby and Giada to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?

MK: I think I would ask Bobby how he is able to be so successful with his recipes — he does it with such ease — and learn how to present recipes that way. And I would love to ask Giada how she manages to just smile and look perfect and friendly and approachable. Those two pack a punch.

What one thing do you really want to convey to the mentors about you, your food or your would-be Food Network show?

MK: I want them to know that I want to do a show that truly is filled with all of my personality. All of my love, but all of the good Armenian recipes that I grew up eating combined with all of the Latin flair that I get from my husband's side of the family. I want them to know that I've got all of this ethnicity, but love, and I want to put it out there. I want them to know that I'm totally genuine about where I'm coming from.

Win or lose, what's something you want to take away from this contest?

MK: This is the most fun I've ever had. This is bananas crazy. Who gets to say that they do this? This is like once in a lifetime. I want to be able to look back on this moment in a year, five years, 10 years and be like, this was it and I will never be able to replicate this. I am absorbing and taking away every single minute.

What's your greatest strength in the kitchen?

MK: My speed. I'm pretty fast about things. If I know the lay of the land in a kitchen, I can knock things out. I'm pretty good. I've got three kids, so I have to be pretty fast, pretty efficient about things.

What is the strangest thing we'd find in your refrigerator right now?

MK: Quince paste. If I'm serving a cheese platter, I bust out the quince paste with some Marcona almonds. Maybe with some Manchego cheese and put it on top. It's pretty darn good.

What was the first dish you perfected?
MK: I have truly perfected my Peruvian fish stew.
What dish or ingredient will we never catch you eating?

MK: Cilantro. I don't eat it, but I will prepare foods with it. I do not discriminate against it — just don't serve it to me.

What's your favorite late-night snack?

MK: I love popcorn with tagine. Or I do sliced red apples with tagine. I put tagine on everything.

What is one must-have dish at your last supper?
MK: My grandmother's stuffed grape leaves recipe
What do you want to say about yourself to fans watching at home?

MK: I'm a mom and I'm just a regular girl. This is way harder than it looks. This makes you step outside of your comfort zone, and you put yourself out there and you hope that everybody will like you and love your culinary point of view and not be too harshly judgmental. Because at the end of the day, what I really want to do is put myself out there so that I can share all the love, all the heart, everything I feel like is a passion that I put on the table for my family; I genuinely want to bring that to everywhere.

Rapid fire: Think fast!
Ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise? Ketchup
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate
Bagels or doughnuts? Bagels
Cream cheese or butter? Butter
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Burgers or hot dogs? Burgers
French fries or onion rings? Funyuns rings
White meat or dark? Dark meat
Cake or pie? Cake
Beer or wine? Tequila
French toast or pancakes? French toast

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