Star-a-Day: Matthew Grunwald

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

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 Arizona's Matthew Grunwald.

Matthew, 22 (Scottsdale, Ariz.), is the youngest finalist, but don’t let his age and exuberance fool you; he’s got the experience of a chef twice his age. He began working in professional kitchens at 16 and became a food writer by 17. Matthew eats, sleeps and breathes food, and is dedicated to bringing today’s online food trends and social-media experience to the masses.

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

Matthew Grunwald: Millennial, social media-driven, youthful cuisine

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

MG: To sit down with Chef Flay and just have him teach me everything he knows about Southwestern cuisine, and also I would love to talk to him about running restaurants from a business perspective and how he manages all that.

From Miss Giada, I would say a lesson in the biz. A lesson on TV chops. I would love to sit down with her and kind of pick her brain.

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

MG: The celebration of life through food. My life is food. It's in my DNA. It's how I identify. Cooking is my identity and society. My Food Network show? My Food Network show is Food News Today, a social media-driven, pop culture, food news-based show — a universal hub for viewers to plug in and learn about food and share content and retweet and repost it, and send in their thoughts. And what my goal is, is to be able to give out a hashtag every single episode, a themed episode with a hashtag, so that there can be live interaction. The formatting of the show would change every single time. It would still have its heart as a fast-paced Colbert-Report-meets-Food-Network feel to it.

How did you prepare for this competition?

MG: Preparing for this competition has been training since Day One. I've been cooking on live television since I was 9 years old, since 16 consistently. I've branded myself in Arizona as a young culinary authority on television, but on the other hand of that, I've been working in restaurants since I was 16, so fine dining Asian, fine dining Italian, Southwestern, mom and pop. I started as a prep cook.

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

MG: I don't think about losing. I go into every situation visualizing a win and how I will manifest that. Losing is really kind of not in my makeup.

What's your greatest strength in the kitchen?
MG: Quick on my feet
What is the strangest thing we'd find in your refrigerator right now?

MG: I work in a really high-end restaurant as a cook, so I'm around unique ingredients all day, so it wouldn't really be an oddity to me, but, however, if you were to walk in to my fridge or pantry ... I think there is some homemade Sriracha in there. It's very easy. It's just Fresnos, garlic, ginger, a little bit of rice wine vinegar, some sugar. You puree it up and then you let it reduce down a little bit.

What do you consider to be your signature dish?

MG: It's constantly changing, because I feel that there has to be an emotion behind the dish you're cooking; it can't be something forced. So I would say that my signature dish, at the moment, would probably be an udon miso broth with coriander salmon and then a carrot and bean sprout salad on top. ... Usually my signature dish is something revolving in the realm of either Asian cuisine or Southwestern.

What was the first dish you perfected?
MG: Homemade pasta
What dish or ingredient will we never catch you eating?

MG: Scientifically, it's been proven that if you try something seven times, you become acquainted to it and you develop a palate for it. As someone that celebrates cooking, I think it's wrong to neglect a certain ingredient until I really learned to appreciate it, so I'm going to say none.

What's your favorite late-night snack?

MG: Hummus and pita chips, 'cause it's healthy and it fills you up. And it's salty and it's really good.

What is one must-have dish at your last supper?

MG: If the roof was to cave in now and they were going to give me something right now, I would say roasted Brussels sprouts that are, like, coated in gochujang, which is like a fermented red chile paste that's, like, sweet and spicy, with bacon and an over-easy egg on top.

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

MG: I genuinely want to see them cooking. Food is the essence of life. It goes so deep within each person. That sounds so corny. But it's also because it's the only thing I know how to talk about. People will be talking about real-world problems, and I'll be like, "This is really good hollandaise I made." But to see people cooking and cooking with their families, 'cause it's me, Mom and Sis, and that's something I want to convey. Family meal doesn't have to be with Mom, Dad, four kids and the dog. It's with family and friends and strangers and people you work with. It's like the breaking bread.

Rapid fire: Think fast!
Ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise? Ketchup
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate
Bagels or doughnuts? Bagels
Cream cheese or butter? Cream cheese
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Burgers or hot dogs? Hot dogs
French fries or onion rings? Onion rings
White meat or dark? Dark
Cake or pie? Pie
Beer or wine? Glass of water
French toast or pancakes? Pancakes

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Don't miss the premiere of Food Network Star on Sunday, June 7 at 9|8c.

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Star-a-Day: Matthew Grunwald

Get to know Matthew Grunwald, a finalist on Food Network Star, Season 13.