Food Network Star Exit Interview: Linkie Marais

There was a return to sanity this week on Food Network Star.  After last week’s tomfoolery from the judges this week was comparatively sane.  Sure it was predictable that someone from Team Giada would get the axe, after all they have to keep those teams even right?  I did not think Linkie would be the one going home.  She was easily the most consistent member of her team.  But at the same time she did not have a great performance in this particular round.

Linkie MaraisLinkie Marais, 28 (North Attleborough, Mass.), moved from South Africa to Mississippi when she was 16, but her interest in baking and decorating cakes started long before then. During high school she worked for a wedding company, where she decorated wedding cakes and catered. She later graduated from college with a degree in culinary arts and worked as a pastry chef and cake artist. Linkie moved to Boston, where she worked for a high-profile baking company and was part of a team that decorated up to 80 cakes per week. Her recipes and techniques are influenced by the South African cuisine she grew up with.

Being as you are a baker, what are the chances we will see you competing on a show like Cupcake Wars?

I would love to do Cupcake Wars.  I’m an artist at heart and cake decorating allows me an outlet for my creativity.  It would give me a chance to show off my creative side.  Not just in design but also in flavor.  So, yes, I would be thrilled to compete on Cupcake Wars.

I think you would make a great judge.  Could you see yourself judging a show like Cupcake Wars?

Oh wow!  Yes I would really love that.  I would love to judge other people’s creativity.  I know where the contestants are coming from.  I’ve been in their shoes so I can appreciate what it takes compete in that setting.  I used to compete in pageants and then I went on to judge them.  I think having competed before makes you better equipped to judge.

In what ways has being on Food Network Star changed your life?

So many different ways.  For instance my friends on Facebook went from 600 to over 1,200 like over night.  People recognize me when I go to the store.  Even before the show started I was getting requests for interviews and other opportunities.  It’s really amazing how much it has changed my life.

Who on the show are you still good friends with?

Everyone really.  It was such a great group of people.  I can’t really say I’m closer to one more than the other.  I love all of them so much.  Judson and I used to sing together.  Martie was my roommate.  I talk to Josh, Emily.  Justin encouraged me a lot during the show and I had a great talk with Ippy the other day.  Nikki and I are really goods friends.  Really I love everyone so much.  I’d have to say that I’m still close with all of them.  I just want to give a shout out to all of them; they’ve been great.

What’s your next project?

I would love to do Dancing with the Stars but I don’t know if I see that happening.  I am working on a cookbook and I’m setting up a series of workshops.  I’m going to be teaching cake decorating – beginners and advanced, plus a fondant workshop.  Some will be demonstrations and others will be hands-on.  I find many people learn better when they do it themselves.  We’re looking at workshops in Nashville, New Orleans, Mississippi,  several here in Massachusetts.  When we firm up the dates I’ll post them on the web site.


To keep up with what’s happening with Linkie you can visit her web site HERE.  Be sure to check out all of the Star Season 8 Exit Interviews HERE.

Food Network Delivers Best Quarter in History

1st Quarter Finished Highest-Rated and Most-Watched
Ranked #9 Cable Network

Guy Fieri Food Network StarNEW YORK – March 26, 2012–Food Network delivers its highest-rated, most-watched quarter ever posting a .6 among adults 25-54 (up 20% from 2011) and was watched nightly by an average of 1.3 million total viewers (645k adults 25-54), making it ranked 9th * among ad-supported cable networks for the quarter, up two spots from 2011.  March also culminated as the 7th consecutive month that Food Network has had “highest-ever” individual, monthly delivery.

Food Network’s Sunday night tentpole programming continues to drive the record-breaking success, beginning with Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off posting a 1.3 adult 25-54 rating for the season, having premiered as the #1 show in its timeslot. Returning series, Worst Cooks in America has averaged a 1.1 adult 25-54 rating over its seven-week run, with the upcoming finale to air Sunday, April 1st at 9pm.

Other standout primetime performers include Restaurant: Impossible which averages a .9 adult 25-54 rating and up 68% over year ago timeslot, Chopped (averaging a 1.0 adults 25-54 rating in its regular timeslot), Cupcake Wars (averaging .7 adults 25-54 rating) and newcomers Restaurant Stakeout, which has averaged a .9 rating adults 25-54 since premiering on March 14th and season two of Sweet Genius which premiered March 15th has averaged a .7 adults 25-54 rating, up 17% from season one.

*at time of release according to Nielsen Media Research

Review: Halloween Wars

OK, Food Network has flooded the airwaves with yet another dessert competition, Halloween Wars.  Here’s what they say about it:

The four episode competition series places five teams, comprised of cake decorators, HalloweenWars 300x225 Food Network Haunts October With New Series ‘Halloween Wars’candy makers and pumpkin carvers, working in unison to create the ultimate Halloween themed display. One team is eliminated each week, with the winner taking home $50,000.  Hosted by Justin Willman (magician Justin Kredible who also hosts Cupcake Wars), and including renowned cake decorator Shinmin Li and Hollywood conceptual artist Miles Teves on the judging panel, the competitors must battle it out to prove who is the best, all the while scaring viewers pants off with some of the most amazing horror tales through their cake, candy and pumpkins.

I will say this, the fact that Halloween Wars is a seasonal show centered around a day pseudonymous with sweets makes it better than any other sugar cook-off in history.  In fact, had we not already had nine million dessert contests shoved down our metaphorical throats I might have really enjoyed this.  However, words simply cannot do justice to the exhale of frustration that erupted from me as a judge actually critiqued a cake-monster for not having enough fangs.  Seriously?

If you are a fan of cookie cutter sugar shows enjoy.  I have lost my patience with this kind of programing.  I could handle this lack of creativity from producers if they weren’t all so damned boring.  Dessert oriented shows can be broken down into two categories the good (anything including Duff Goldman) and the wretched (everything else).

Halloween Wars airs Sundays 9/8 Central on the Food Network.  I’ll be watching the NFL game until Iron Chef returns, flipping over to South Park reruns during the commercials of course.  I’m not a barbarian.

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Review: Sweet Genius

Food Network’s newest spin on dessert competitions is called Sweet Genius.  One Food Network fan left a message on the Network’s official Facebook page describing it thusly, “Sweet genius = chopped + iron chef + sugar.”

Sweet GeniusHere’s the Network’s description, “Competition is sweet but by all means intense as four pastry chefs face off each week in unique dessert challenges. Whoever impresses Ron Ben-Israel — the Sweet Genius himself — takes home $10,000.”

Contestants are given some ingredients that belong in dessert and some that don’t.  That’s a tired gimmick and was never a good one.  The twist is that host Ron Ben-Isreal also gives them an “inspiration” like sand.  That’s different – stupid, but different.

As I have pointed out before I’m not a dessert kind of guy.  My idea of the perfect dessert is a second cheeseburger.  If you are a fan of dessert contests you will probably like it.  In essence dessert contests are all the same with the resulting dishes pretty much tasting the same.  Will it be a hit?  It will do well enough.  Desserts contest fans are cultish in their devotion to the genre.  They love their shows and apparently there are enough of them for networks to keep churning out these cookie cutter programs.  Sorry, had to do it.

I didn’t like it.  At all.  Not even a little.  It was better than Cupcake Wars.  Barely.

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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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