One-on-One with the Latest Food Network Star Finalist to Go Home
It's the nature of the Food Network Star beast that even though no matter how badly finalists want to achieve their dreams of stardom, ultimately only one can win the coveted title, and with that, 11 finalists will be going home. Every week Star Talk will bring you the first exclusive interview with the most-recently eliminated finalist. From thoughts on mentors' critiques to reflections on past challenges and hopes for the future, be sure to check back every Sunday night for the latest one-on-one chat. We're about to break down the ins and outs of tonight's new episode and reveal who went home, so if you've yet to watch the show, read no further until then.
In celebration of the upcoming 4th of July holiday, there were even more stars on set than usual this weekend as the finalists broke out their best patriotic party fare for a red, white and blue cookout. While they were set to prepare classic summertime eats, in true Food Network Star fashion, the challenge didn't stop there. Not only were the rivals to present their dishes in a live on-stage demo, but they also were forced to endure an unexpected ingredient swap.
A few finalists benefited from being gifted their rivals' ingredients — Jay, for example, took advantage of what were previously Dom's meaty rib eyes — but a few struggled with the surprise, including Rosa, who took on the challenge of preparing a vegetarian dish after inheriting portobello mushrooms. She'd been insecure about her culinary decisions all morning, and being forced to make do with portobellos didn't help. Fortunately for her, she delivered a firework of a presentation, earning high marks on what Bobby had deemed "The Dials of Doom." But it was her portobello sandwich that ultimately fell flat. Once again after tasting her dish, the mentors were left questioning her kitchen chops, and this time she met her fate at elimination.
Read on below to hear from Rosa in an exclusive exit interview, and learn all about her favorite behind-the-scenes moments with her fellow finalists.
Rosa Graziano: Relief, sadness and a heightened sense of insecurity
RG: A sense of relief that I don’t have to do another crazy game-show-style challenge! I was really starting to have anxiety around doing the timed challenges. I love cooking, I love food and I love being creative in the kitchen — playing music, enjoying wine, cooking with friends. The timed competitive cooking thing is really not my style. The moment I felt like I was not having fun and enjoying the actual process of cooking, tasting, plating and being creative in the kitchen was when I knew I needed to check in with myself. I come from a certain “let it marinate” tradition, waking up on Sunday mornings to the intoxicating smells of a beautiful Sunday sauce that has already been cooking for hours, prepared by my amazing Italian mom. Food has always been a full, rich, passionate experience for me, and to rush or force something that didn’t feel natural was starting to become frustrating. With that being said, I had a total blast and feel so thankful to have been able to be a part of such a great experience.
RG: No, not at all! Once I heard about the grocery store food-shopping swap, I knew that I was in trouble. I totally knew I wasn’t going to be able to redeem myself in the kitchen, so I made the most of the day and tried to just have fun. I’m so happy that the day was filled with sweet guests and kids to serve. Engaging and being silly with people truly brings me such joy. I love being with people and getting to know them and their stories. Making people feel like they are a part of something and creating true personal experiences for the guests comes very naturally to me.
RG: The phrase “We question your food authority.” It still gives me the shakes. With that being said, I do deeply appreciate all the positive feedback and kind words about my personality and charisma.
RG: The amount of silly moments that went on behind the scenes is beyond comprehension. I mean, you could only imagine the instant bond you create with your fellow cast members during such a short period of time, in such an extraordinary setting. The amount of laughing-till-it-hurt moments we all shared will be forever imprinted in my head and heart.
RG: I wasn’t intimated by Giada, Bobby or any other special guest, because they are people just like me, but cooking for them paralyzed me. I would cringe every time I had to serve these amazing talents in the kitchen. I mean, these are the people who have set a certain kind of bar or standard in cooking and cuisine. Trust me when I tell you it was beyond humbling and intimidating.
RG: Chef Alex Guarnaschelli was just so freaking solid, with real charm and wit. She was good at offering tough love to us all. I just appreciated her strength and ability to deliver advice in a real down-to-earth way. She also busts chops, which I like because I sense she has a real perspective on life and things. I will say this about the mentors and all of the special guests: They were pretty much always right on point. They were all very honest, sometimes brutally honest, which is a big blow to the ego, but it was all really valuable info and advice to help us be better versions of ourselves.
RG: I guess very early on I realized that many of my fellow cast members were professionally trained chefs that had an amazing sense of food authority and plating skill that was beyond even my Italian mom’s cooking talent or skills. So I kind of had an, “OK, Rosa, you gotta make the most of this” attitude. The mentors were really encouraging during the process and tried to remind me to just do me and do what I know and not to try and be something I’m not, which was pretty cool.
RG: I really hope and pray that my zest for life and love for people translates to the fans as they watch. I truly mean it when I say I didn’t do this show because I want to take something from Food Network; what I really wanted was to bring something special to Food Network. I would love to bring and share a certain feeling, tone that I was raised with by my crazy, loving, fun, big Italian family. I only hope everything I say or do makes people laugh and offers you an experience that leaves you with some food for thought!
RG: I really could see a certain kind of food show with all the finalists, which is what is so exciting about this season of Food Network Star.
Keep coming back to Star Talk for the latest on the Food Network Star competition.