Food Network Star: One-on-One with the Latest Finalist to Go Home
The nature of the Food Network Star beast is such that no matter how much mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis have to teach the finalists, their time is limited, which means they're forced to make quick decisions about who has the greatest potential for success. Week after week finalists will fall in a series of eliminations, and following each gut-wrenching exit, we here at Star Talk will bring you insider interviews with the fallen hopefuls.
Fresh off her struggles to make herself heard last week, Suzanne Lossia was set on having "a voice" this week, she said. Though she indeed managed to make the dish she wanted to for the experiential dinner, her challenges didn't end. Unfortunately, the baklava she offered was "completely dry," according to Bobby, and in terms of her presentation, she found herself flustered on camera. Ultimately Suzanne's double whammy of struggles was enough to end her road to Stardom, and she was sent home after just three weeks in the contest.
Read on below to hear from Suzanne following her elimination.
Going back to that moment, what three words described how you were feeling?
Suzanne Lossia: Shocked, sad and hurt. Because they told me that I was unique and I made dishes that none of the other finalists could know. I was completely different than everybody else, and they told me over and over again that I was unique and the flavors are good. I was just in shock that they sent me home. There were other finalists, and I know they’re outspoken and everything, but at the same time, I’m bringing something different.
Do you stand by your baklava? What do you think the judges missed in their evaluations?
SL: The presentation of my last dish I was not happy with. ... Coming from Detroit and being from Detroit, there’s all these Middle Eastern, Chaldean, Arabic stores there. The phyllo dough that we had here wasn’t the ones that we used back in Detroit. ... I grew up making baklava my whole entire life. I asked everybody else here, "Could you guys make baklava?" They’re like, "Oh my god, no." It’s hit or miss with filo dough.
So, you think the filo dough was the root of the problem for your last dish?
SL: The phyllo dough was, yes, because I mean, like I said, I grew up making baklava.
What piece of mentor feedback will you always remember and take with you?
SL: I need to keep it simple. As Giada said, simple is better, and I have a story. People don’t know what Chaldean is, and she did say that simple is better, because you will show it through your dishes, of who you are. But I’ve never kept it simple. Yeah, I can make a crostini and put a little humus on it. That’s when Bobby said to me, "Oh, why don’t you make a crostini?” But I want to show them. It’s not just a crostini that all of us can make every day. It’s not just a chicken or a beef dish — these are foods that everybody has seen. I wanted to show them who we are.
How would you explain to people at home what this competition is really like?
SL: Oh my god. First of all, the whole experience is surreal. I mean, Bobby, Giada, Chef Irvine, Monti Carlo — are you kidding me? I grew up with Food Network. The whole Chaldean community, the whole Middle Eastern culture, it’s all about food and family, and this is right up my alley. For me to be here, I think everyone back home is going to say, “Oh my god.” It’s huge, but they think it’s easy. It’s not easy. It’s hard, and you really need to listen to them.
Which elements of this competition were you least expecting?
SL: It was probably when they put us in groups. I’m a team player. ... The last challenge was not a good experience at all.
Fill in the blanks with your fellow finalists' names.
_____ is the class clown? Cao. She’s funny. She’s different.
_____ is the quietest? Matt. But Matt’s very smart. He knows the game.
_____ is the most daring? I am.
_____ has the best recipes? I don’t know who’s got the best recipes. Everyone’s different.
_____ is going to win this whole thing? I think Matt.
How did you handle the nerves of being here and working with Bobby and Giada and the guest judges?
SL: I was very nervous. Presentation and food are everything. I was shaking. I think I work better when I’m face to face with somebody [rather] than in groups. Very nervous. It’s a surreal experience. Who gets an opportunity and has a voice at the same time? It’s huge.
Which guest or mentor did you learn the most from?
SL: Giada. Her culinary skills. I listen to her when she talks. I admire her. I look up to her. She’s a wonderful, beautiful soul inside and out, and I feel like she’s from the core.
What do you want fans to remember most about you?
SL: I want them to remember that unique is good. Different is good. ... I want the fans to know that it’s not hard to prepare our dishes. It’s easy. It’s simple. People go out to eat all the time to Middle Eastern restaurants. It’s all over the map, and they think it’s hard — no, it’s not. It’s very easy.
Who are you rooting for now?
SL: I’m rooting for myself, really.
What’s next for you? What’re you going home to?
SL: Hopefully one day I'll have my own restaurant. That’s what I want to do. I do cook privately and work in the kitchen. I don’t like managing. I like cooking. I love my life. Like my son says: "Mom, follow your dreams. Believe in yourself." He’s like, "Mom, nobody is like you." ... My cookbook’s almost done. I’m just waiting for all the publicity, because Detroit’s waiting for Suzanne. Nothing stops Detroit. Detroit hustles hard and Suzanne hustles harder.
Tune in to Food Network Star on Sundays at 9|8c.