The First Taste of Food Star Kitchen: Finalists' Signature Dishes, Revealed
The finalists are just days away from making their premiere entrances in Food Star Kitchen, and while the dishes they make in this hallowed arena will depend largely on the challenges that mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis dish out, each rival is walking into the competition with a wealth of culinary experience behind them, including time spent perfecting a signature dish. Though many contestants admit to having more than one plate for which they're known, for some a signature dish is all about comfort food and the memories tied to it.
Read on below to hear from all 12 hopefuls as they reveals their signature dishes, then check out their one-on-one interviews to learn even more about them.
Alex McCoy: I would hope that I don't have one signature dish because I like using a lot of different ingredients. I think that if you were to ask the people who come in the restaurant, I'd say that my Thai curries are probably the signature dish. I spent a lot of time in Thailand. I take a lot of care in making sure that all of my Thai curries are homemade.
Arnold Myint: Wow. I have a lot of signature dishes, mainly because I have tons of restaurants that do well. But my favorite dish to cook, I'll say, is a simple roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and peas. There's just something nostalgic about that. It brings that memory back, and everybody has a story. If I cook it for somebody or somebody cooks it for me, I know it's coming from the heart.
Christina Fitzgerald: It depends on which day you catch me on. I have dishes that I like and ones that I've used in competitions. I don't know if there's a specific dish per se.
Dominick Tesoriero: I really love to make agnolotti del plin. It's a Piedmontese classic. I spent a lot of time in Piedmont. ... When I first went to Piedmont, it was the day before Easter, I sit down to eat at a pizzeria and I asked for something typical from here and agnolotti del plin is what came. And I took one bite of it, and I felt like I had never eaten pasta before in my life. It was so amazing, texturally and the depth of flavor. It was so delicious. From that moment on, the way I looked at Italian food had changed.
Eddie Jackson: My signature dish would probably be something along the Caribbean line. I have a Caribbean-themed food truck, so a lot of the food I cook has some type of Caribbean twist to it, whether it's fresh ginger or something like that.
Emilia Cirker: I cook a lot of polenta. I am Italian, so naturally that's part of my repertoire. But I also do it in kind of an American Southern twist with a shrimp and grits, so I do a shrimp and grits with polenta with a spicy Italian sausage. So it's kind of a marriage of the Southern tradition as well as the Italian tradition all in one — two really craveable dishes that honor two different cultures.
Jay Ducote: I have quite a few, but I'll give you the one that I really think is my signature dish because I've won a contest with it, and it's called a blackberry bourbon bone-in Boston butt. I like the alliteration. Essentially it's a pork shoulder that is injected with a mixture of honey, blackberry jam and bourbon, and then rubbed on the outside with Cajun seasoning and brown sugar, and then smoked for 12 hours over Louisiana pecan wood. It was one of the dishes that helped launch my career.
Matthew Grunwald: 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.
Michelle Karam: I wouldn't pinpoint myself as having one signature dish, but I definitely have a signature flair, which is my Mediterranean and Middle Eastern roots. So everything that I cook really — it's got a lot of spice, it's got a lot of flavor. It's fresh. It's zesty.
Rosa Graziano: I make a kick-butt homemade spinach lasagna with the bechamel and the Bolognese. I do the zeppole stand at the San Gennaro Festival — I did thousands of those. And then the arancini.
Rue Rusike: A Mozambican coconut crab curry. When I was in culinary school, a friend of mine was from Mozambique, so she started teaching us all these different Mozambican ingredients, and she made me this coconut broth that she actually cooked with chicken necks. And I took that and I evolved it into a seafood dish that now I cook all the time and I absolutely love.
Sita Lewis: When people call on me to come over with a dish, they call on me, honestly, for my seven-cheese mac and cheese. And I've got breadcrumbs and butter and all kinds of herbs on top of it that give it a really crispy crust. Then when you bite into it, there's all of these different cheese flavors. ... So I don’t use the traditional cheeses that you would find in a soul food mac and cheese, but I would use some Italian cheeses and put that together. And I might even dip some chicken Parmesan into the mac and cheese. I'm talking about tomatoes, fried chicken pieces, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese. It's sinful. But it's good.