Exclusive: Giada Looks Back on a Groundbreaking Season and Dishes on Dom's Return

Hear from Giada as she reflects on mentoring Dom and notes his impressive transformation.
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Selection Committee Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis, during deliberation, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 11.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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

"My proudest moment would be Dom coming back from Star Salvation. I think that for the first time in all of these years, I actually feel like Bobby and I actually mentored somebody, like truly mentored them," said Giada De Laurentiis, one half of the powerhouse mentoring duo that she makes up with Bobby Flay. Star Talk caught up with Giada on the set of Food Network Star, just moments after Dom Tesoriero, previously ousted in Week 8, rejoined the competition. She told us about how, with solid mentoring, he was ultimately able to find his way into the top three and what his strengths were following that transformation.

"When he first got here, he wasn't sure this was really for him — and I actually wasn't sure what the heck he was doing here. He just seemed so uncomfortable. He just could not handle looking at us, talking to us," Giada recalled, remembering Dom's earliest struggles with the camera. "I just thought, 'Do you know what you signed up for?'" But all of that changed after some intense feedback, both during his journey on Star Salvation and from Giada and Bobby. "Little by little, I feel that our support and our honest feedback helped peel him back a little bit and gain trust in the fact that he could actually do this and help [him] to go on a self-discovery," said Giada. "A real journey where he has become … really confident. He's a great cook — he always was — but not confident in his own self."

Thinking about Dom's shocking transformation, Giada explained, "I think one of his greatest strengths is his ability to surprise you. And I think that's what I like so much about him. You see this guy from Staten Island [and] you expect a certain type of food." She notes, though, that when it comes to the food he's created, it's not what many may have had in mind: "He gives you 5-star, gourmet, unbelievably phenomenal food. Simple, but unbelievably delicious food that has nothing to do with Staten Island. And I think it is such a surprise from him."

While Dom surely left his mark on the mentors and fans alike, Giada notes that he's not alone in this strength. "We have a couple of other finalists that are very similar to that. I think it's the surprise element in him and that undeniable sweetheart charm that engages an audience," she says.

Watch Dom's journey on Star Salvation, then tune in to the finale of Food Network Star on Sunday at 9|8c.

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