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.
Addie Gundry was eliminated in the latest episode, and the thing about her exit is that she knew just what the mentors wanted to see from her — she just couldn't deliver. Since Week 1 they've been asking her to seem like rehearsed in her presentation, to have more fun and to appear more excited about the task at hand; she even received a special mentoring session with Bobby and Giada, and Bobby told her, "I want to see you really having a good time at what you're doing, because sometimes I think you tighten up." Ultimately, though, after too many lackluster performances, including a final Star Challenge that saw her seemingly only halfway engaged, she was sent home in an emotional elimination.
We caught up with Addie, and she dished on why she was "shocked" to be leaving the competition. Read on below for an exclusive one-on-one interview.
What three words are going through your mind? How do you feel?
Addie Gundry: I am shocked.
So, you didn’t anticipate you'd be going home tonight?
AG: Not really. During elimination feedback, two other contestants seemed to have worse feedback then me. Mine wasn’t perfect, but I was sort of like, "Oh, well this person — that’s worse than mine." So, I was surprised, because I heard everyone else’s feedback, and it was so surprising to hear that I didn’t seem excited or passionate, because it's a sad thing to be told about something you’re really excited about.
Do you stand by your skewers and your presentation at the summer party? Do you think there’s something they missed or didn’t understand about it?
AG: They loved the idea of the skewer; it was a way of doing the low-country boil as a party thing, so I totally stand by that, and I think that was something they liked. ... And for presentation, what I was working on was when I would present I would sound too rehearsed or "present-y" and polished on that side. And so, I was trying to be more casual and relaxed. When they came over, I felt like, "Oh, I did a better job at being more relaxed and casual, just having a conversation." But I think it came off not excited. So, I was trying to find that middle ground and went too far, I guess. I don’t know. I get it, but I was surprised. I think I was surprised and stand by what I did, because again, two other people were in a pretty bad position as well, so it really seemed like they just decided who they were going to give a second chance to, and I just wasn’t that person.
How would you explain what this whole experience is really like?
AG: Oh boy. This whole experience, it’s one of the craziest things in the entire world. ... It’s this rollercoaster. It’s the like the craziest job interview. I don’t know. It’s weird.
What one piece of mentor feedback will you always remember and keep with you?
AG: I won a challenge where I got to actually talk to Bobby and Giada, and one thing I was trying to figure out was — I know my POV, but do I need to always talk about it? Is it always something where every time I talk, do I drill to death my POV, or do people start to understand what it is and I don’t have to talk about it? She said, no matter what she’s cooking or what she’s doing, she always will link it back to being Italian. That doesn’t mean she has to make Italian food. She could be making Chinese noodles and a Chinese dish, but she will then find a way to say, "Actually, the reason Chinese use noodles is because they borrowed it from the Italians." So, that sort of helped to put back — I can cook and do anything as long as it ties back in.
What was the best piece of advice they gave you?
AG: Bobby told me to just have fun. He told me to be more like Daniel Boulud, which was confusing. I used to work with Daniel Boulud, and he’s a really serious guy, obviously an accomplished chef, but when he comes in the kitchen, he’s really fun. So he’s like, "You need to find the line — you’re serious about your food, you’re an accomplished cook, but you also need to just have a good time."
What were your most-favorite and least-favorite challenges?
AG: I think my most favorite was the Beauty and the Beast one, because it was fun to decorate and go to that store with my buddy Trace. That was really fun. That just encompassed what I love to do: It was decorating as well as the afternoon tea. And then, obviously, it was nice because I won. Least favorite? I think that experimental dinner was a little challenging. I had the jungle, which [for] someone who had the beach, it's like okay, cool, you make seafood on the beach. It’s pretty straightforward. But I was in a freaking rainforest with panthers making a dish. Didn’t work out very well for me.
Which element of this whole experience were you least expecting?
AG: I guess the bonding between us. I feel like we all, after being here for a month or so — I can’t believe how well we know each other. And it feels like this weird club we’re in.
Fill in the blanks with your fellow finalists' names.
_____ is the class clown? Trace.
_____ is the quietest? Blake.
_____ is the most daring? Cao.
_____ has the best recipes? Cory.
_____ is going to win this whole thing? I’m going to win the whole thing.
How did you handle the nerves of being here and working with the mentors?
AG: In the beginning, it was really hard, it was really overwhelming. Then it got a little easier. ... How did I handle the nerves? You kind of don’t have a choice. I will say, though, there are challenges where I felt like you could tell I was nervous, and you’re like "Man, that sucked." And then when the nerves went away, the feeling of that presentation was so much better. Actually, I think the best way to handle the nerves was to not overthink things. So, when we had time to think about what we were going to say, even if it was just standing in line waiting to go next or going to the bathroom. In the beginning, I would plan out — "say this and say that" — and that actually made me more nervous, because I had to remember, so it’s almost easier and less nerve-wracking if you just wing it, which didn’t work out well for me.
Was there an “ah-ha” moment for you when things started to fall into place and you felt like you were getting the hang of things?
AG: Yeah, this week. The Mentor Challenge this week — that was my best one. I felt like, "Okay, I get it." I’m trying not to be too rehearsed but also not too casual. It was like Goldilocks and the soup — too hot, too cold. I was trying to find my middle ground, and that Mentor Challenge I felt like I was getting there. And then the party one I felt was my experiment with going a little more casual. So, I felt like I was finally starting to get what I have to do. That was the hardest thing. In the beginning, I didn’t understand, because they’re like "Oh, you’re really rehearsed." And it was like, "That’s so weird, because I’m not." We have no idea what we’re cooking. We have no idea what we’re presenting, so there’s no way I actually rehearsed this. It was just how I presented and how I articulated my description. It just sounded rehearsed. So, I was finally getting in that groove. I just wasn’t getting it right yet, and then I got eliminated.
What was the most-rewarding part of this experience?
AG: I think everyone, at least me personally, doubts sometimes if you’re good at what you do, and I have things aside from cooking in my career, now that I manage a staff, and I’m writing books, so I do a lot of writing. So, I cook probably two days a week, and it’s become less of what I do. I don’t work in a restaurant anymore. So, I think what’s really cool for me is when we’re given a challenge and you have to use leftovers — go. ... It comes with experience and creativity, but I think it’s a cool validation, and I think that’s a really cool feeling to have when you’re done — if it works out, obviously. If it doesn’t, it’s not cool. But to feel as a chef or someone in a profession, like, "Oh my god, I’m good at this." Obviously we get criticism and I was eliminated, but that is a really rewarding feeling.
What was the most-rewarding moment of this competition for you?
AG: It was really nice when Sandra Lee called me Belle from Beauty and the Beast. That’s a high point. It is cool when Giada’s like, "Your dish was my favorite of the day," and that was the tea sandwiches from Beauty and the Beast. It is fun to hear someone likes you or your food. This week, in the Mentor Challenge, she said it was like a homerun. So, that feels really cool. But I think similar to what I was just talking about, the coolest part is like, "Oh my god, I can’t believe I or we as a team just used canned goods to make a meal in the camp." It’s kind of a cool feeling.
What’s next for you? What’re you going home to?
AG: Going home to my husband and my dog. I'm going back to work right away. I’m publishing my first cookbook. I have a whole series of books coming out. I do a lot of consulting work for restaurants, and I still develop food products on a consulting basis, because I used to work in innovation. I work with a candy company. So, I have a lot of cool stuff going on.
Who’re you rooting for?
AG: I’ll stay rooting for Cory. I think he’s a very talented chef who just needs to get his POV together, and I’m kind of rooting for Matthew, because he’s been here for a ton of years. I feel like he needs the win. He’s been here since he was a small child. I think this is really a big deal for him.
Tune in to Food Network Star on Sundays at 9|8c.