Barefoot Contessa

Food Network Star Exit Interview: Justin Davis

The first order of business – Happy Fourth of July!  Because of the holiday Food Network delayed the exit interview until Tuesday.  I hope that hasn’t sent anyone into DTs.

Other than the occasional guest spot on Iron Chef America or Best Thing I Ever Ate the Food Network had earned a reputation for snubbing new media foodies.  A serious amount of disrespect considering that there are foodie web sites that are actually older than the Food Network.  Most people, given the opportunity, would rather watch Average Betty than Barefoot Contessa.  We’d rather see Chef Unleashed than the abomination that is Extreme Chef.

But that changed a little on August 2, 2008 when Ask Aida premiered.

The Aida in question was Aida Mollenkamp who had previously been the editor of the mega food site CHOW.com.  Last year another food blogger, Aarti Sequeira (AartiPaarti.com, GoodBite.com) competed and won Food Network Star 6.  It isn’t much, but it’s a start.

Justin DavisEnter Justin Davis, one part of the husband-wife food blogging team behind GastronomicDuo.com.  Justin was poised to be the next new media foodie to find stardom on the latest installment of Star.

Justin hardly received any face-time the first two weeks, dominated the screen in week three, became a promising competitor in week four.  But in week five Justin’s run was over.  His elimination was puzzling since Chris had a much worse performance than anyone else on the show, for the second time this season.  But at the same time Justin never really put in a great performance.

Alicia Sanchez voiced displeasure with her experience on the show in a blog post that has since disappeared.  In it she suggested that contestants were not eliminated because of performance but according to script.  She has also voiced her suspicions about whether Chris and Penny were actors who were planted to spice things up.  As it turns out, Penny was an actressLast week Justin Balmes seemed less than joyful over his Star experience as well.

This week I get the feeling that Justin Davis was just relieved to be off the show based on this from his elimination post at Gastronomic Duo, “If Food Network wants Penny’s, Chris’s and Jyll’s, they can have them. I was called the opposite of authentic, I would say the same for the show. ”

Justin mentioned some of the close friends he made on the show even mentioning that when Justin B. was eliminated he actually teared up.  At the same time he clearly was not enamored with all of his fellow contestants saying, “A lot of the other finalists, I felt, were like little children standing in a room yelling Hey, look at me!  Look at me!”  He said inwardly he felt, “I don’t know that I want to play this game.”   “I put myself out there to be judged and to be critiqued.  I can’t be upset about how it turned out,” he admitted clearly upset.

It was obvious both watching the show and talking to him that Justin was not happy being part of Food Network Star.  His performance on the show was easily that of someone who was disengaged.  I think Bobby Flay nailed it when he said, “He dropped out of high school and I feel like now he is dropping out gain.”  Justin himself said, “I learned something about myself; I learned I’m not cut out for reality TV.”  An honest assessment.

Justin was also nice enough to share some of the warmer behind-the-scenes happenings.  He was especially impressed with the approachability of season two winner Guy Fieri saying, “He took the extra time to kind of step away from everything that was happening, which is the competition, and took a minute to talk to everyone as a person not as Guy Fieri.  It was really interesting to see that side of him.  He concluded, “I found him to be a humble and welcoming person.”

How has traffic to Gastronomic Duo been effected by your appearance on Star?

It definitely has seen an upswing.  I feel like we’re a little bit more on the radar.  Especially locally, my local appearances, we’ve seen a lot of really good traffic.  I’d still like to see a lot more obviously.

We’ve been running it for two years and I think the first year and a half was trying to figure out what it was going to be.  We’ve finally got it to the point that it looks good; it feels good. Now we just have to get the video in play.

To date Aida and Aarti are the only two Food Network celebs to get their start on the Internet.  Do you think that the network is missing out by not tapping new media sources for on-air talent?

I think that there’s a huge food blogging community out there and I have found them to be, for the most part, really supportive.  People want to start this online discussion about food and I think that food bloggers have a lot to say.  Do I think that they are totally missing out?  I don’t know.  I wouldn’t deter any food blogger from trying to go on the show.

On your blog post yesterday you alluded to “big things” on the horizon.  Can you give us a hint as to what you have in the works?

I’m lining up doing a small online series; it’s just going to be a quick four episodes.  Get it up and get it out there and try to market myself.  I think we’ll find some really fun special guests.  I think it’ll be an interesting thing.  I want it to be an expansion of my blog.  It’s my half of the blog.

I’m all about seducing women with food.  I think that if I can teach men to cook a lady something that they’re going to love I feel like they’re going to have a much better chance at getting a second date.  I’m going to do a little video series on that and see what the response is.

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Be sure to stop by each Monday for my exclusive mourning after exit interviews with each exiled foodie (HERE). This year I have also added the WTVC (WannabeTVchef) Food Network Star Polls – six categories for contestants who best embody the spirit of former Food Network Star competitors. Be sure to check them out HERE. Click HERE to get all the news, gossip and snark on Food Network Star season 7.

Food Network May 2011 Highlights

Press Release from Food Network:

Food Network Crowns Cake Cavalier on ‘Last Cake Standing’ Season Finale and Names BBQ King in New Series ‘Best In Smoke’
Season Premieres: Paula’s Best Dishes, Guy’s Big Bite, Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, Chopped
On-Air and Online “In the Kitchen” Theme Weekend: Mother’s Day

NEW YORK – April 21, 2011 – This May, Food Network smokes out the Guy Fiericompetition with a series premiere, a season finale, four new seasons, a Mother’s Day theme weekend and countless new episodes of hit shows. Viewers get a tasty primetime package on Sunday, May 8th from 9-11pm with the Last Cake Standing season finale at 9pm and the Best In Smoke series premiere at 10pm – it’s a lineup not to be missed. New episodes of fan favorite daytime shows honor mothers around the world with the Mother’s Day theme weekend on Saturday, May 7th from 7am-2pm and Sunday May 8th from 7am-12pm with complementary ideas and recipes at www.foodnetwork.com/mom. Food Network fans will also enjoy four season premieres: Paula’s Best Dishes (April 30th), Guy’s Big Bite (May 1st), Chopped(May 3rd) and Diners, Drive Ins and Dives (May 9th). Join the Food Network conversation on Facebook and Twitter.
FEATURED FINALE
Last Cake Standing: Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 9pm –“$100,000 Cakes”
After five grueling weeks pitting talented pastry chefs against each other in intense cake battles with crazy twists, the final cake designers are ready to create an unforgettable wedding cake for an engaged couple. The cakes must be inspired by one of the themed wedding rooms at the world famous Little White Wedding Chapel. Just as the competitors think that they are have completed their final task, one more awaits: make a cake that tells the story of their one hundred thousand dollar dream. At the end of this marathon competition, one winning cake designer receives $100,000 and bragging rights because they have the Last Cake Standing.
SERIES PREMIERE
Best In Smoke: Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 10pm
Hailing from cities across the United States, six of the best barbecue masters meet in New York to face off for a $50,000 grand prize and the right to claim the title of Best In Smoke. Hosted by Bryan Caswell (season three contestant on The Next Iron Chef), this competition tests the competitors’ endurance and skill as they take on multiple challenges in a day with limited resources and cook for vastly different audiences. From barbecue desserts to single bite hors d’oeuvres, no food is off limits. Contestants show off their personal style and quick wit throughout the competition, but a final mad dash to three separate venues around Manhattan and Brooklyn will determine which competitor will be awarded the coveted title of Best In Smoke.

·         Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 10pm –“Best Bite in BBQ” (*Note special time)
Host Bryan Caswell kicks off the competition by challenging the six teams to create their best “single bite” for the judges. Once the clock starts, it’s an all-out scramble to the meat truck, and the competitor who cooks up the best “single bite” wins immunity from elimination and joins the judging panel for the next round. Then, the competitors devise the ideal BBQ hors d’oeuvre for an upscale art gallery opening. The fate of the finalists hangs on the opinions of the gallery guests who decide which competitor is safe from elimination.
·         Premieres Sunday, May 15th at 9pm – “Unorthodox BBQ and Birthday Party”
The competitors must create a BBQ-inspired salad and dessert from pre-determined ingredients, so only their skill will separate them from the pack. After two hours of cooking, the judges’ favorite gets a special advantage going into the next competition. For round two, the competitors have three hours to whip up an appetizing BBQ snack for a children’s birthday party, but the twist is no burgers or hot dogs allowed. At the party, each kid picks their favorite dish to decide who will be safe from elimination.
·         Premieres Sunday, May 22nd at 9pm –“Vendor Wars”
The four remaining competitors take it to the streets, operating vendor carts and serving up hot BBQ to tourists. For this challenge, their assistants are off the hook, so competitors pair up and work together in teams. At the park, the tourists purchase their choice BBQ dishes with tickets. The team with the most tickets wins and will participate in the final judging of the other team, while the competitor with the least tickets will say goodbye.
·         Premieres Sunday, May 29th at 9pm – “Season Finale”
The final challenge tests the limits of the remaining competitors’ culinary knowledge, as well as their stamina, by having them cater three different events in one day. Each location will showcase a different element of the New York lifestyle including ballparks, Broadway and bars. Each finalist must feature brisket in at least one of their meals, which can take up to twelve hours to cook. After catering three distinct events, the most well-rounded pit master is named “Best In Smoke.”
SEASON PREMIERES

·         Paula’s Best Dishes: Saturday, April 30th at 11am ET/PT – “Fantastic Fiesta”
·         Guy’s Big Bite: Sunday, May 1st at 10:30am ET/PT – “Guy’s Lean Green Chili Machine”
·         Chopped: Tuesday, May 3rd at 10pm ET/PT – “The Icing On The Steak”
·         Diners, Drive Ins and Dives: Monday, May 9th at 9pm ET/PT – “Bar Food And Bon Bons”
FOOD NETWORK “IN THE KITCHEN” THEME WEEKEND

“Mother’s Day” (Saturday, May 7th from 7am-2pm and Sunday, May 8th from 7am-12pm)

Whether it’s a special breakfast in bed or a brunch with friends, Food Network chefs share their favorite family recipes for Mother’s Day. Food Network offers up premiere and encore episodes of daytime favorites designed to help moms stay out of the kitchen and let their loved ones treat her to a day of delicious dishes. Online at www.foodnetwork.com/mom, Food Network serves up recipes for crustless quiche and gives viewers a look at photos of fan-favorite chefs and their moms.
·         Big Daddy’s House: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 9am – “It’s All About: Classics”
Big Daddy is bringing back the classics with a fit-for-a-king meal including a Shrimp Fra Diablo Appetizer, Chicken Francaise, Red Sangria and White Sangria.
·         Mexican Made Easy: PremieresSaturday, May 7th at 9:30am –“Mami’s Day Brunch Party”
Marcela serves up the perfect Mother’s Day menu with a Fruit Bowl with Mex-Granola, Chicken Enchiladas, Chorizo Hash Browns and Pecan and Caramel Candies.

·         5 Ingredient Fix: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 10:30am – “Breakfast in Bed For Mama”
Claire makes a special brunch for her mom including Chocolate Hazelnut Stuffed French Toast, Turkey Fennel Sausage Patties, Mint Lemon Syrup, Granola Topping and Hot Vanilla Malted.

·         Paula’s Best Dishes: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 11am – “Breakin’ For Breakfast”
Jamie and Bobby Deen are in the kitchen today cooking up a delicious breakfast feast for their mom including Easy Blueberry Skillet Cake, Cream Cheese and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast with Strawberry Syrup, Fruit Salad with Cream Cheese Pecan Topping and a Piña Colada Smoothie.
·         Down Home with the Neelys: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 11:30am – “Let’s Hear It For The Moms!”
Pat and Gina cook up Quiche Tartlets, Sweet Potato Hash, Watermelon Salad and Flowers for Mom Cocktail for Gina’s mom and their dear friend Brenda.
·         Secrets of a Restaurant Chef: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 12pm – “The Secret To Beef Bourguignonne”
Chef Anne Burrell breaks out French recipe tricks for her favorite Beef Bourguignon and Palmiers cookies.
·         Dessert First: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 12:30pm – “Blue Ribbon Pies”
Anne Thornton’s mom, Maureen, joins her to make Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie; Mama Thornton’s Peach
Pie; and Almond, Pear and Cherry Pocket Pies.
·         Giada at Home: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 1:30pm – “Celebrating Mom”
Giada De Laurentiis invites her mother Veronica and sister Eloisa over for an outdoor Mother’s Day luncheon with Crispy Chicken with Rosemary-Lemon Salt; Sun-dred Tomato, Olive and Lemon Pasta; and Espresso and Chocolate Jellies.

·         Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day: Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 9am – “Make A Double Batch”
Rachael cooks up Double-Batch Classic Bolognese; Beer-Braised Chicken Thighs; Lamb And Rice Stuffed Peppers; Sausage, Kale And Lentil Soup; and Roasted Tomato and Roasted Garlic Puttanesca.

·         Hungry Girl: Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 10am – “Comfortably Yum”
Lisa whips up a HG version of a fan’s macaroni & cheese recipe as well as ‘Cue the Pulled Pork and PB n’ Chocolate Bread Pudding Bonanza.
·         Guy’s Big Bite: Sunday, May 8th at 10:30am – “Mama Fieri’s Sunday Roast”
Guy Fieri gets the stamp of approval from special guest, Mom Fieri, with his Family Style Pot Roast, Acme Buttered and Figs in a Blanket.
·         Cooking for Real: Sunday, May 8th at 11am – “Fish And Grits”
Sunny Anderson cooks up traditional southern fare including Catfish Nuggets, Creamy Cheesy Grits, and Simple Blueberry Apple Pie.

FEATURED NIGHTS AND MARATHONS
“Grilling Week” Kickoff(Sunday May 29th from 8-11pm)
Food Network’s grilling season officially kicks off with the Best In Smoke finale at 9pm followed by Iron Chef America “Battle Hot Dog” featuring Iron Chef Michael Symon vs. Cooking Channel’s host of Everyday Exotic, Roger Mooking at 10pm.
Bobby Flay’s Memorial Day Marathon (Monday, May 30th from 10am-4pm)
Food Network serves up a day full of outdoor fun and tasty recipes with back-to-back episodes of Grill It! with Bobby Flay and Throwdown with Bobby Flay. From specialty hot dogs and award-winning hamburgers to spicy competitions and fiery rematches, Bobby takes on all facets of grilling to get viewers ready to “throw down” at their own Memorial Day celebrations.
FOOD NETWORK NEW EPISODES
Food Network premieres all-new episodes of Iron Chef America, Food Network Challenge, and 17 additional primetime and daytime shows.

Daytime: 5 Ingredient Fix, 30 Minute Meals, Barefoot Contessa, Big Daddy’s House, Dessert First, Down Home with the Neelys, Mexican Made Easy, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee
Primetime: 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, Chopped, Good Eats, Kid in a Candy Store, Meat and Potatoes, Outrageous Food, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Unwrapped

Ina Garten – The Heartless Contessa?

I never understood the hullabaloo Food Network threw over Robert Irvine slightly fudging on his resume.  After all none of what he listed was false just exaggerated; still he was suspended.  JAG was pulled from the finale of NFNS 4 for the same thing although his “exaggerations” were a bit more exaggerated.  Worst Cooks in America host Beau MacMilan had a minor traffic violation that resulted in his job being pulled, ironically he was replaced by Irvine.

On the grand scheme of things these are not serious infractions.  Not in the least but it does make one wonder how Food Network and parent company Scripps Networks will handle the recent actions of Barefoot Contessa hostess Ina Garten.  After all, punching up your resume or rolling through a stop sign are nothing compared to telling a dying child you’re too busy to meet them.

Apparently that is exactly what Garten did.  On March 25th TMZ and about three dozen other media sources reported that she repeatedly snubbed the dying wish of a terminal Leukemia victim.  Here’s an excerpt from TMZ’s report:

… a little boy named Enzo was approached by the (Make-A-Wish) organization after he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia three years ago.

Enzo told Make-A-Wish … he really wanted to cook with the “Barefoot Contessa” host because he would often watch the show with his mother while resting in bed.

M.A.W. approached Garten with the wish last year … but at the time, she was unable to meet with Enzo due to a book tour.  The organization urged Enzo to pick another wish, but he told them he wanted to wait until she becomes available.

We’re told the organization went back to Ina this year … but her team responded with a “definite no” … once again, citing scheduling conflicts.

A member of Enzo’s family says the 6-year-old is heartbroken … and asked parents, “Why doesn’t she want to meet me?”

Now I have acknowledged that I think Garten’s food and creativity are quite good but I’ve also gone on record as not being a fan of the Barefoot Contessa program.  To me it is one of the most boring cooking shows around.  I am not alone in my belief that if Ina Garten were not Martha Stewart’s best friend no one would know who she was.  She damned sure wouldn’t have a nationally televised cooking show.  That being said, she does score exceptionally well in one demographic – well-to-do housewives from the Hamptons.

However, I don’t see that trend remaining after telling a dying child they aren’t important enough to meet her.  It sounds like someone is taking their “Contessa” title a little too seriously doesn’t it?  It would appear Garten thinks she is something more than just another well-to-do housewife from the Hamptons.

I might could swallow the “scheduling conflicts” excuse but who has a year worth of scheduling conflicts?  I’ll tell who wouldn’t – Bobby Flay.  Flay is an actual chef who runs nearly a dozen restaurants from Vegas to Nassau, owns a production company, makes countless personal appearances and stars in four TV series.  That certainly demands more time than just shooting one TV show from your home and doing the occasional book signing but I’m willing to bet that had Make-A-Wish called Flay would have been on the next flight out.

Since the story has hit the public spotlight, Garten has miraculously found a little time in her busy stay-at-home schedule to honor Enzo with her presence.  For his part Enzo says he no longer cares to spend his last few days on earth cooking scones with her royal highness.  His new last wish is to go swimming with dolphins.  Good for him.

I cannot help but contrast Garten’s callousness with what I witnessed firsthand in tiny Dauphin Island, Alabama.  Dauphin Island is a resort town of 1300 people on the Gulf of Mexico that has two industries – tourism and fishing.  Both of those were eliminated a year ago when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill struck.  Both BP and the White House have essentially Contessa’d the Gulf Coast but Good Eats host Alton Brown managed to spend an entire weekend of his time helping the Island rebound from an ecological, economic and bureaucratic nightmare.

Now if saying you cooked an entire meal for the Royals when it was only dessert results in one year of TV exile and saying you were stationed on the Afghan-front when you were actually stationed at a support facility miles from the action means you don’t ever get a cooking show at all then anything short of Food Network pulling all affiliation with Garten is unacceptable.  She’ll be okay, she still has her pal Martha Stewart to prop her “career” up.  I understand that celebrities cannot honor every single request for their time but when a dying six-year-old says that their last wish is to spend a few minutes cooking with you how do you say “no” and still sleep at night?

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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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