What Does It Take to Impress Alex Guarnaschelli? The Judge's First Impressions, Plus Lessons Learned
Exclusive Interview with Alex 02:40
From mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis to guest judges Melissa d'Arabian and Alex Guarnaschelli, the competition was brimming with superstardom this weekend as the finalists endured two rounds of challenges: one to turn leftovers into family dinners and another to bake up savory sweets. Alex was on hand during the Star Challenge's baking task, and in true Chopped judge fashion, she doled out constructive criticism to the 11 remaining rivals and ultimately deliberated with Bobby and Giada about who should go home.
Star Talk recently caught up with Alex to get the dish on her experience both in the judge's seat and in the arena as a contestant. Read on below for an exclusive interview, then click the play button above to get her take on the finalists' best baked offerings.
Alex Guarnaschelli: Of course. It’s just like being a chef in a restaurant. If you’ve been a busboy and a dishwasher and a cook and a sous chef, then when you’re the chef, you have empathy and understanding of each part that’s played to make something successful. The same is true in a competition show. I’ve competed, I’ve judged, I’ve watched, I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve won, I’ve lost. When someone walks in front of me and starts cooking, I know already how this is going to go.
AG: I would list off things Bobby said to me, which was: Do not be untrue to who you are, ‘cause it shows in your face. Don’t wear an outfit you don’t like just ‘cause someone told you that it’s what you should wear. Don’t cook food that you’re not comfortable with when you’re in front of a camera. Those would be my three big ones, probably.
AG: I think the biggest lesson for me in terms of competition shows is, whenever you go out to compete, there’s always a huge pantry. There’s a huge pantry, and it’s all laid out and it’s always beautiful and it’s very seductive. And I find that when I don’t rely too much, when I don’t fall bait to the beauty of 14 ingredients and then make a dish cluttered with ingredients, and I just stay simple and pick a couple of things I cook a lot, it’s better. But that is harder; that is easier said than done. Like, it’s very seductive, you’re like, “Oh, look at these peaches and plums and fiddlehead ferns and ramps.” And all of a sudden you have a dish that's like a salad on top of a sandwich on top of a fruit platter on top of a fish, and you blow it.
AG: I don’t think Food Network deals in genres in that way. And I think that anybody who's on Food Network Star and understands that Food Network makes stars by planting seeds and growing really nice flowers is going to succeed, so I would say anybody who’s truthfully representing themselves and their cooking and what they’re talking about and sharing is going to hit a home run.