A Star Returns: Melissa Previews Sunday's New Episode As a Guest Judge

Hear from Melissa as she previews her upcoming appearance on Food Network Star on Sunday.
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Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

For the remaining 11 finalists vying for StardomGuy Fieri, Melissa d'Arabian and Jeff Mauro are proof that it is indeed possible to graduate from the group of Star hopefuls to the ranks of superstardom on television. On Sunday's all-new episode, the competitors will receive the shock of a lifetime when they see one of these been-there-done-that survivors return to Food Star Kitchen. Melissa, the Season 5 winner, will enter the arena not as a hopeful, of course, but as a guest judge and Committee member who's all too aware of what the rivals are experiencing on their journey to Star glory.

Star Talk caught up with Melissa recently to get the dish on her upcoming appearance, and she spoke of her feelings for the finalists. "I feel nervous for them because I know how nervous I was. And I know how much you want it," she explained. Keep reading below to hear more from Melissa in an exclusive interview, then tune in on Sunday to see what she thinks of the Season 11 contestants.

Will you judge the competitors differently having been in the competition before?

Melissa d'Arabian: Absolutely! I think that it should be a requirement that before you can judge anybody else cooking under these circumstances, that you do it once or twice, because it’s hard, and there’s a lot of stuff that’s at play.

Do you sympathize with what the finalists are going through, or do you believe that if you survived it, then they can too?

MdA: I really feel for them. I feel nervous for them because I know how nervous I was. And I know how much you want it. I remember that moment of anticipation where the guest walks out and you’re waiting to see who it is and if you relate, and what you think, you know. It’s all as clear as day to me. I remember that emotional feeling. I remember it all. And, yeah, I get it. I feel very much. I feel very deeply for these contestants — very much.

What's it like to work with Bobby and Giada as a peer and not as a Star hopeful?

MdA: I love it. Giada was one of the first female stars that I met, because she was an invited judge on the very first challenge I ever did in Food Network Star, which at the time was the Sweet Sixteen Party for Food Network. Giada and Bobby were both people that I watched as a fan before I came to Food Network Star, and so I remember that meeting them was a surreal moment. I almost had a hard time reconciling the Bobby and Giada fan that I kind of was before I came here with knowing them as people, because they are both really hard workers. I admire both of them for their cooking skills, for sure, and also their professional integrity. These are hardworking people who don’t phone it in. ... Bobby really became my first mentor in this business, not only through Star, but really in the years to follow. So it’s certainly special, and it’s something I’m looking forward to.

What's one of the best pieces of advice you received when you were first starting out in the industry?

MdA: I got this advice early on: Know the difference between something that can be fixed after you win versus something that really will never change. Somebody can get better at the skill set of being in food TV and being in the public eye, but there’s some fundamentals that really can never change, and I think that having gone through that process [of the competition], it really makes me sensitive to the things like: What could a year of experience fix? And what really would never change? And how will it be fixable? The truth of the matter is that I bet a lot of these finalists, or at least looking back at my year, a lot of these finalists are stressed or hung up on stuff that honestly can be fixed later. They’re not really aware of the fact that there’s stuff that they can’t fix and they can’t change.

What would your one piece of advice be to them?

MdA: Trust that you’re enough. Trust that your human experience and who you are really is enough. And get in touch with what you bring that no one else does. And make it genuine. Make it real. Because here’s the thing: If you win based on something that you thought was just a really good idea, that you thought that you could sell, not only is it not going to be perceived well if you’re trying to think of what the judges want, but it’s also going to be hard to sustain, and it would be very exhausting to win based on something that’s not genuine.

What about what not to do to succeed on this show?

MdA: I think that what does not work is trying too hard to be funny. You know, funny is sort of like the people-skills thing. This is a job interview in my opinion, so you should always be true. So trying to be funny, I think, does not work and it’s a huge turnoff, I think.

Don't miss Sunday's all-new episode of Food Network Star at 9|8c.

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