"Honesty, Tough Love and True Advice" — Bobby Shares What He Can Offer the Food Network Star Finalists

Hear from Food Network Star mentor Bobby Flay about what it takes to succeed in the competition as he offers been-there-done-that advice for the finalists.
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Hosts Bobby Flay and Giada de Laurentiis in deliberation for the Star Challenge, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Eddy Chen, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Just like his fellow Food Network Star mentor Giada De Laurentiis, Bobby Flay is the very kind of Star the finalists are hoping to become. When Season 13 kicks off on Sunday, June 4 (mark your calendars for a 9|8c premiere), an all-new crop of competitors will be looking to him for the kind of been-there-done-that advice and guidance that only he can offer, a mix of "honesty, tough love and true advice," he told us recently. To him, the secret to success in this contest, which essentially acts as an 11-week job interview for one of the most-coveted positions in the culinary industry, is simple. "They should avoid trying to be anybody else that’s already on the network," explained Bobby, who stressed the importance of individuality when it comes to leaving a positive impression on both him and Giada.

Read on below for to get more of Bobby's take on what's ahead on Food Network Star this season, plus his thoughts on his own evolution on TV and beyond.

You've said before that you tend to demand excellence in cooking more so than on camera. Why is that skill set especially important?

Bobby Flay: I always use this opportunity to find somebody who’s going to add something to the true flavor of the network. And by that, I mean what the food tastes like and what it looks like.

Over the years we've seen more and more of the Star challenges shift toward digital. Do you think the demands of a Food Network Star in the digital space are different than those on TV, and do your judging criteria change as you evaluate the finalists knowing they'll likely have to play a role on both TV and online?

BF: My criteria don’t change because, to me, it’s all content. It doesn’t matter where it airs. Doesn’t matter whether it airs on traditional television or on digital platforms. The one common denominator is that they all need content for them to be successful. And the content has to be good. And to me the Food Network’s brand is authenticity, genuine, creative — it has to be something that gives information to people about what’s available for them to cook and what’s available for them to eat at every level.

There are many Southern cooks in the cast this year, more than ever before. How do you recommend they stand out among the crowd and make themselves memorable for you and Giada?

BF: They shouldn’t worry about the other people. You have to stick to what you are and what you do. And if you’re really good at it, it will shine. Once you start playing defense, then you’re never going to show your best food.

What have you learned from all the years of doing this show, in terms of the struggles finalists endure and the mistakes they make along the way?

BF: What happens is people think this is a game. In their minds, they have a strategy. So a lot of times, they feel like if they can get through the first couple of weeks, then they’ll just hover in the middle somewhere. But I don’t let them do that. If you’re hiding in the middle, and you’re just cruising, I call you out.

The lights, the cameras, the challenges — this experience is a lot for the finalists to take in. Any tips for how they can combat nerves and relax a bit?

BF: I think nerves are a good thing. I get nervous every time the camera goes on. And if that ever changes, I’m going to quit because once I lose that edge of nerves, it’s going take something away from my performance. So I think people should understand that nerves are a good thing, and that’s ok, and to utilize that nervous energy for a positive.

What’s the greatest advice or skillset that you specifically can offer on the finalists?

BF: Honesty, tough love and true advice that will be useful in their life and in their business.

What are a few dos and don’ts for succeeding in this competition?

BF: I think they should avoid trying to be anybody else that’s already on the network. That’s a really common mistake. They want to be the next Giada, they want to be the next Guy Fieri or the next Rachael or whatever. We're looking for the next person, and I think it’s really important to listen to what Giada and I have to say, because we’ve been through it. And we’ve been through it not only as hosts of the show, but we’ve been through it as talent on the network. We’ve made lots of mistakes but have had some success. Often people’s egos get in the way, and they get upset when we tell them they did something incorrectly or that they could do something better. And really, the best way to look at it is, "Wow, I’m getting free advice from these people who have made a career out of this." And so the smart people are using it to their advantage.

Speaking of mistakes, if you see the finalists making the same missteps that you may have made in your early days, are you more likely to forgive them?

BF: I know they’re all going to make mistakes; it’s how they bounce back from them and how they evolve from them [that matters]. Very often there’s going to be somebody who’s going to be the most polished walking in here. Most times, that person feels that they’re so polished in the beginning that they don’t evolve over the time. And usually they get cut because there are people who are not as polished as them initially but were able to step up their game as time went on.

How do you see yourself having grown over the years to get to where you are today?

BF: I’ve matured as a person. I’ve matured as a cook. I’ve matured as a television personality. To me, part of my success is being able to evolve with the world and the times. And so I always do it through food, because that’s the thing I really know how to do well — if anything, it's cook. Obviously I am in the restaurant business, so I pay attention to a lot of trends and what people are interested in eating and exploring in food, and then I utilize that and use it as a platform on my TV shows.

Tune in to the premiere of Food Network Star on Sunday, June 4 at 9|8c.

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