Star-a-Day: Trace Barnett

Get to know Trace Barnett, a finalist competing on Food Network Star, Season 13.

Photo by: Eddy Chen

Eddy Chen

It was just last week that we here at Star Talk broke the news about the upcoming season of Food Network Star, which kicks off on Sunday, June 4 at 9|8c. Among a crop of talented hopefuls judge-mentors extraordinaire Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis will search for that one contender who has the coveted combo of culinary chops and on-camera charm. Each of the 12 finalists comes to the Star stage with unique personalities and kitchen experiences, and in the coming days, we'll introduce you to all of them. Today we'd like you to meet Trace Barnett.

Known for his Southern twist on deliciously quick and easy recipes, Trace, 27, holds a degree in food and nutrition from the University of Alabama. Working as an event planner, Trace handles everything from intimate dinners for two to exuberant weddings for hundreds. Trace is also the founder of a culinary and lifestyle blog, and he teaches online cooking classes. Trace’s mission is to make cooking and entertaining accessible to the masses.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence.

Trace Barnett: My culinary point of view is budget-friendly, schedule-conscious and very consistent with Southern fare, but in a lighter, fresher way.

Which part of this contest — the cooking or the camera work — intimidates you the most? Please explain.

TB: I think I have the camera thing down. I make regular appearances back home — typically five to eight a month — and it’s all live TV, so I can fit a lot of stuff in a short amount of time. But I think going head-to-head with other culinary professionals is a huge part of the competition that makes me a little nervous.

What would you most like to learn from Bobby and Giada, be it something in the kitchen or on camera?

TB: I would love to see their culinary point of view more and how they handle themselves on set and in the kitchen. How they’re cranking out their dishes and how they appear before the camera.

Win or lose, what do you want to take away from this experience?

TB: I would like to take away being in a highly competitive competition on such a huge national scale to see what goes into this huge production, and test myself and see where it goes.

What do you think is the most-valuable thing you could teach a Food Network viewer?

TB: I think I could teach a Food Network viewer how to live a beautiful and well-balanced life. I think it’s more than a wonderful, high-quality dish; it’s the whole lifestyle worth living. It’s not only the dish you put on the table. I could teach that viewer a delicious recipe and then teach them how to refinish that same table that they put it on.

How did you prepare for this competition?

TB: I prepared in being myself, and I wanted to come in and stay true to my aesthetic and the direction that I’ve been going in at home. I pulled together some of my favorite go-to recipes that I can throw in here and there, and studied up on some unexpected stuff that might be thrown my way.

What does the term "Food Network Star" represent to you?

TB: I think a Food Network Star is someone who has a lot to say and a lot to teach. I think it’s an expert in their field and beyond, and someone that can teach a magnitude of people on a national level.

What's your greatest strength in the kitchen?

TB: I think one of my greatest strengths in the kitchen is I’m very creative. I can pull a dish out of a tattered hat at any point in time, and I think I’m highspeed and fast, and I don’t take myself too seriously.

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

TB: Poke salad. It's actually a weed that made its way onto Appalachian tables. It’s very old. If you cook it the wrong way, it could be toxic. It’s very weird to me, but I’m just playing around with it to see how these old, Southern dishes can be implemented into daily life.

Let's say it's a regular Tuesday night and you're at home. What are you having for dinner?

TB: It depends if I’m working on something for my website or my blog, and usually if I am, I’ve been shooting recipes or testing recipes, and that varies [by the] season or holiday too. But typically ... I made a roasted tomato bisque last week which was fabulous.

What dish or ingredient will you simply not eat?

TB: I’m not a huge fan of fried foods at all, which is unusual being from the South. Fried is not my thing.

What do you consider to be your signature dish?

TB: A signature dish for me would be something that goes a long way that’s versatile. One of my favorite things to do is a slow-roasted pork shoulder. You can throw that in a slow cooker. It has a sugary bourbon sauce so it’s tangy and sweet. It’s perfect thrown in a rosemary corn muffin, and then later in the week, you can make Brunswick stew with it.

What's your favorite guilty pleasure food?

TB: My favorite guilty pleasure food would have to be cupcakes. I love cupcakes.

What's one dish you have to have at your last supper?

TB: I know this sounds so 1950s-Leave-It-to-Beaver, but I love a good meatloaf. And I would like a really good side. I like mashed sweet potatoes with brandy in them. That’s so good.

What do you want to say about yourself to fans watching at home?

TB: I want them to know that I live the exact same life that I want to portray to them. I’m on a budget myself, and time is short, so if they want to throw fabulous parties and entertain and host and have the most-fabulous dishes, but they want to do it on their own terms and their own way, then I’m their go-to guy.

What's the first dish aspiring cooks should master?

TB: I think you should know how to make a good biscuit. That can go brunch, it can go dinner, you can make break pudding. Savory, sweet, anything you want you can do with a biscuit. And there’s tips and some tricks there when you’re folding over the dough that I think you really need to know.

Mark your calendar for the premiere of Food Network Star on Sunday, June 4 at 9|8c.

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