7 Questions with Tom Pizzica

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

In the history of Next Food Network Star few people have captured America’s heart like NFNS 6 runner-up Tom Pizzicia. Tom’s down-on-his-luck story was brightened by his genuinely jovial attitude.  In case you don’t recall Tom was unemployed when filming began, another victim of this never-ending recession.  Something about his Teddy Bear lovableness resonated with NFNS viewers like no one in the show’s past.

Also in the history of NFNS no one has ever prepared a dish as bad as the “bacon steak” Tom made as the centerpiece of his Iron Chef challenge.  A dish so bad that Food Network VP Bob Tuschman officially proclaimed it the worst recipe in the history of the show.  You would think with that kind of praise he would have surely been bounced early in the series but the reality is he dang near won, a tribute to his resilience.

I recently spoke with Pizzica’s friend and fellow NFNS runner-up Herb Mesa who spoke well of his pal mentioning, “. . . what I loved about Tom, Tom’s creativity.  Tom would swing for the fences.  When his food was on it was amazing. . .”

Luckily, the Food Network has discovered that just because someone does not win the competition doesn’t mean their viewers have washed their hands of them.  Aaron McCargo Jr. won NFNS 4 and the series that comes with it but contestants Adam Gertler and Kelsey Nixon have their own shows as well. The same is true for NFNS 5 runner-up Jeffrey Saad.  The same appears to be true for NFNS 6 as Aarti got her series by virtue of being the winner but Mesa and Tom are still both part of the FN family.  Herb writes a blog for the Food Network web site and Tom is set to host Outrageous Foods.

Tom Pizzica is also set to answer 7 Question:

1.  How old were you when you first started to cook?

Tom Pizzica of Outrageous FoodI think I may have cooked up my own placenta!  But really I remember being about six or so and helping my mother with the occasional dinner parties she would throw and I remember being about seven and cooking up my first solo batch of fried eggs and toast while my mother was away on business and my step father was asleep in the bedroom. I immediately was hooked because it was such a great sense of freedom.

2. You’re working on a new show for the network entitled “Outrageous Food.”  How does it differ from the special that Aaron McCargo Jr. hosted last spring?
It’s actually going to be the exact same show with a different host. The special was done to whet the appetite of viewers and to see how well it would do, I guess it did well because they gave us 8 episodes. It’s produced by Page Productions who are the same masterminds behind the networks #1 show Diners Drive-ins and Dives so I know I’m in good hands.

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?
I think my favorite is Jaques Pepin as far as the “famous” chefs go but for the most part its the talented unsung heroes that whipped my butt and taught me how to be a good cook that are the celebrity chefs and not some dudes that wrote 17 books that I’ve never met.

4. When you look back at the last year or so of your life what goes through your mind?
The scene from “Old School” where Will Ferrell’s character busts out that incredible argument at the debate and then goes “what happened?! I blacked out.”

5. How many times a week does someone ask you about “bacon steak?”
Oh the bacon steak…how I love thee. I get hit up on facebook all the time about it. I love it. It’s been perfected at home via my trusty pressure cooker. I actually want to hit up the Executive producer of “Next Food Network Star” and see if I can make a guest judge appearance where the challenge is to make the best bacon dish. I love that I took the title from Gertler for having the single worst dish in Food Star history! It’s all fun.

6. You and Brad Sorenson both strike me as pranksters. Were there any practical jokes that the cameras didn’t catch?
We were all too tired for shenanigans like that. Ya know that tired where things cease to be funny and become annoying. We did do a lot of jovial trash talking to each other that wasn’t shown however.

7. After “Outrageous Food” premieres what’s next for Big Chef?
Hopefully 15 more seasons of Outrageous Food! But I’ve been on the road so much that the immediate future after the premiere is hanging with my new wife and close friends, a lot of couch surfing and catching up on “Jersey Shore”!!!

Fellow food blogger and 7 Questions alum, Hagan Blount worked with Tom on the set of Outrageous Foods so check out his blog of the scene.  Sneak Peek Sunday, October 31, at 10p/9c; Show Premiere Friday, November 5, at 10p/9c

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less
Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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