From the Network's Point of View: Bob Tuschman on Searching for Stardom
Much like Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis, Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson are no strangers to the inner workings of Food Network Star. These Food Network executives know well what to look for as they discern glimmers of Star power among the hopefuls, and each year it's up to them to sit with the mentors on the Selection Committee and represent the network as it recruits its newest personality. Just in time for next weekend's Season 11 premiere, on Sunday, June 7 at 9|8c, Star Talk chatted with both Bob and Susie to learn more about what their roles at Food Network look like beyond the Selection Committee and get their takes on what skills contestants ought to have before beginning this ultimate job interview.
Read on below to get the dish from Bob and hear how the series has evolved since its earliest days, then click here to read an exclusive interview with Susie.
Bob Tuschman: I'm the general manager of the network, and my main responsibility is overseeing the development, production and scheduling of all of our programming. I have an incredibly talented team of about 25 people who come up with ideas for shows, work with production companies and oversee every aspect of show production for Food Network to make sure that every show we do is up to the promise that we'll want to give our viewers. I also have another team that works strategically to schedule those shows in a way that ensures the most viewers can see the kind of programs they want to see when they want to see them. I'm lucky to say that I really get to be the conductor of an extremely talented orchestra that's ultimately responsible for creating everything that you see on our air.
BT: There's so much I love about this part of my job; it's one of the most-exciting and most-fun things I do all year. Part of the fun is watching Bobby and Giada, who are such seasoned pros and know so much about what it takes to be a Food Network Star because they live it every day. To watch them mentor and develop these finalists ... it's something only they can do. I can give advice from an executive standpoint, but I haven't lived this, but Bobby and Giada have, so I love watching them at work. That really is exciting to me. And what I love most about my job in general is nurturing talent, and that happens on both sides of the camera. I get to nurture people who are creating the shows for us, and I get to nurture shows from when they're little germs of ideas until they are developed into full-blown series on our air. And I also get to develop talent that I see a spark of promise in; I get to fan those flames until they turn into a bright star for us. On Food Network Star, I get to do it in a very concentrated way, in an 11-week period.
BT: Probably the most-important thing they need is something that you can't learn, which is a spark of stardom; it's something that we screen for when we're doing casting for the show. It's so hard to define what it is, but it's the person who, when he or she walks into a room, is someone you can't take your eyes off of. There's something about the energy that comes through their eyes and their face, their passion and their excitement; it just excites you to watch them. That's something that they're born with, but they also need to be incredibly verbal, because a lot of what we do is describe food, since you can't taste food as you're watching television — they need to be able to bring food to life. They have to have authority, an expertise in food, whether they've been trained formally at culinary school or they've learned that knowledge on their own. They have to be commanding to our viewers who know an awful lot about food. And lastly, they have to be able to interact well with others because so much of what we do is with others; food is such a social, celebratory medium that almost every one of our programs involves the Star being surrounded by a lot of other people they have to interact with and help bring to life.
BT: When we first started the season, the first season was almost experimental. We did it in our Studio B, which is about the size of your closet at home. It was with Gordon Elliot, who was both an on-camera personality and a behind-the-scenes producer for us, Susie Fogelson and myself; this was before Bobby or Giada got involved with the show. It was done in such a small way; I'm not sure we ever left that studio. The challenges were most cooking challenges. I think now it looks very quaint and tiny compared to the huge production we have now for Food Network Star. Now there are hundreds of members of production, we shoot throughout California, and the finalists are out in the field and doing huge challenges for big audiences. It's so exciting now, and it tests them in a more creative and interesting way than we used to be able to.
Get set for the season premiere of Food Network Star on Sunday, June 7 at 9|8c.