Food Network Challenge

Food Network Scorches Summer with Heat Seekers

Robert Irvine Returns with Season Two of ‘Restaurant: Impossible’
Plus: 5 New Episodes of ‘Food Network Star’ and 6 Daytime Season Premieres

NEW YORK – June 16, 2011 – Summer‘s heating up on Food Network with two new series, seven new seasons and five premiere episodes of its number one show, Food Network Star. It’s raining men in the series premiere of Heat Seekers as Aarón Sanchez and Roger Mooking take the country by storm in a sizzling search of the nation’s spiciest food beginning Friday, July 22nd at 10pm, and two cacophonous New Jersey sisters get down to baking business in the new series Tough Cookies (WT) premiering Monday, July 11th at 10pm. Summer fun doesn’t stop there as Robert Irvine returns to save the day in season two of Restaurant: Impossible premiering Wednesday, July 6th at 10pm while the suspense builds and contestants dwindle in premiere episodes of Food Network Star on Sundays at 9pm. Things are getting busy “In the Kitchen” with six daytime season premieres, and the action continues with countless premiere episodes of Food Network favorites including Iron Chef America and Food Network Challenge. Join the Food Network conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

·         Premiering Sunday, July 3rd at 9pm –“Diners, Drive-Ins and 4th of July”
In this 90-minute episode, the ten finalists must prove that they can entertain and cook. Guy Fieri explains that each finalist will take part in a taping at Mel’s Drive-In. Then, it’s all fireworks as the contestants put their spin on American classics using MGD 64 as a special ingredient for the Fourth of July All-American Food Festival, and the finalists must take the stage and serve as the live entertainment for the day.
·         Premiering Sunday, July 10th at 9pm –“Food Truck Face Off”
Tyler Florence divides the nine finalists into groups challenging them to create and brand a unique menu for a lunch truck. They must film an advertising spot promoting their truck and then serve mobile meals to viewers they inspired, but contestants have to put their best foot forward as consumers can only visit the truck they liked best.
·         Premiering Sunday, July 17th at 9pm –“Dinner Party for Wolfgang Puck”
In this double elimination episode, Bobby Flay charges the eight finalists to create a signature dish and helps them shine before each finalist demos their dish in front of the selection committee. Later, Bobbyreveals the next challenge where the remaining finalists must host a dinner party for Wolfgang Puck and create a menu with only the ingredients and supplies in the house. HGTV’s Sabrina Soto makes a guest appearance to help the finalists get the house dinner party ready, and Puck arrives with the judges to help decide which six finalists will head to New York City to finish the race to become a Food Network Star.
·         Premiering Sunday, July 24st at 9pm –“Ina Garten and Rachael Ray”
In this episode, the six remaining finalists arrive at Food Network headquarters in New York City and are greeted by Ina Garten and Bobby Flay. She challenges them to create unique cupcakes that best represent their personalities. Next, contestants are floored when Rachael Ray joins them via satellite and informs them they must put on a live demonstration on the Rachael Ray Show. Each finalist puts their twist on a traditional dinner dish hoping to impress the live studio audience and Rachael Ray herself.
·         Premiering Sunday, July 31st at 9pm –“Comedy Roast”
The five finalists begin this action-packed episode scouring the stores of Chelsea Market in New York City searching for the “Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Bobby Flay then directs them to describe how this dishimpacted them. Next, the finalists prepare a signature roast dish that gets roasted by guest star comedians Gilbert Gottfried, Aubrey Plaza, Anthony Anderson, Louie Anderson and Judy Gold.
Tough Cookies (WT):Premieres Monday, July 11th at 10pm
Food Network heads down the shore this summer for the new series Tough Cookies (WT), following sisters Susan Adair and Linda Brand and their loving, squabbling, multi-generational family as they run Crazy Susan’s Cookie Company in Ocean City, N.J. Crazy Susan’s isn’t your average bakery – Susan is a mad genius, cooking up crazy new concoctions every day, and their cookies are as popular as the beach in this town. They have their hands full with lines out the door and phones that never stop ringing – all while baking and managing their employees, who are mostly family members.
Heat Seekers: Premieres Friday, July 22nd at 10pm
For chefs Aarón Sanchez and Roger Mooking, Heat Seekers is a tongue-testing odyssey to discover the most delicious and dangerous spicy food in the country—and figure out why it’s so much fun to eat. This season Aarón and Roger travel to Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Santa Fe, Chicago, Seattle, Charleston and Los Angeles in search of outrageously spicy creations. In each city, they discover the secrets of everything from broiled crawfish and buffalo frog legs to fiery ribs and seafood ceviche, and then subject themselves to a test of who can handle the heat. What results is either tears of laughter or tears of pain, but usually, it’s both.
Restaurant: Impossible: Season 2 premieres Wednesday, July 6th at 10pm
·         Premiering Wednesday, July 6th at 10pm –“Dodge City”
Robert heads to Harrisburg, Pa., to save Dodge City, a Wild West themed restaurant. Robert challenges the staff to create an original dish, and the design team races against the clock to finish the restaurant’s new look before the grand opening.
·         Premiering Wednesday, July 13th at 10pm –“La Stanza”
At La Stanza in Philadelphia, Robert finds an old-world Italian restaurant being run by the owner’s daughter and on the brink of failure. He jumps into action brightening up the dining room and updating the menu while also training an inexperienced manager.
·         Premiering Wednesday, July 20th at 10pm – “Sweet Tea”
Robert travels to Chapin, S.C., in attempt to save Sweet Pea by improving the freshness of the food, quality of service and restaurant décor. With just minutes until opening, Robert puts the staff through a grueling boot camp to shake the bad service in a last attempt to save this restaurant from complete failure.
·         Premiering Wednesday, July 27th at 10pm – “Country Fare”
Robert’s mission is clear when he arrives at Country Fare in Stafford, Va., a neighborhood diner with inedible food and a repulsive kitchen. After teaching the staff basic cooking skills, he focuses on a much-needed design overhaul.
Aarti Party: Season 3 premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 9am – “Summertime and the Cookin’ Is Easy”
Down Home with the Neelys: Season 10 premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 11:30am – “Food Spell”
Secrets of a Restaurant Chef: Season 8 premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 12pm – “The Secret to Lobster Rolls”
Barefoot Contessa: Season 5 premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 1pm – “Summertime Easy”
Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d’Arabian: Season 5 premieres Sunday, July 3rd at 9am – “Italian Inspiration”
Cooking for Real: Season 10 premieres Saturday, July 9th at 10am – “Taking My Lumps”
Sunny’s All-American Celebration: Premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 10am
Sunny Anderson shows us that behind every great soldier is a good meal. It’s a very special personal and patriotic journey for Sunny as she travels to Ft. Bragg, N.C. and Fort Lee, Va. to look back on her time in the military, celebrate men and women in uniform, reconnect with her active duty family members, and show viewers why food is often the glue that holds military families together.
Pull out a checkered tablecloth, fire up the grill and look no further for perfect all-American recipes at Food Network fans get party-perfect recipes like Guy’s 4th of July Cocktail, Alton’s Fried Chicken and a new favorite, Flag Cake, from Ina Garten.
In addition to the above new series, seasons and specials, Food Network premieres all new episodes of:
Food Network Challenge: Premieres Sunday, July 3rd at 8pm – “Star Wars Cakes”
Food Network Challenge: Premieres Sunday, July 17th at 8pm – “Chocolate Myths”
Food Network Challenge: Premiering Sunday, July 24th at 8pm – “Smurf Cakes”
Iron Chef America: Premieres Sunday, July 24th at 10pm – “Flay vs. Christensen”
Iron Chef America: Premiering Sunday, July 31st at 10pm – “Symon vs. Johnson”
Daytime: 5 Ingredient Fix, 30 Minute Meals, Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction, Giada At Home, Guy’s Big Bite, Mexican Made Easy, Paula’s Best Dishes, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee
Primetime: Chopped, Cupcake Wars, Extreme Chef, Meat & Potatoes, Outrageous Food, The Best Thing I Ever Ate

Food Network Star 7 EP1

Ready, get set, cook!

Alicia Sanchez Next Food Network StarFifteen Wannabe TV Chefs are vying for the golden ring, six episodes of their dream show.  A gaggle of chefleberities, drama as far as the eye can see (some genuine and some contrived, but drama just the same) can only mean one thing – it’s time for another season of The Next Food Network Star (NFNS).   Bobby Flay is back as are Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson and they are joined by several culinary stars from the Network led by Giada De Laurentiis.

Giada is no longer acting as mentor to the contestants but rather she is joining the judges table.  Giada is a perfect example of the evolution of a Food Network Star.  If you saw the first season of Everyday Italian you would assume she got the gig because of her looks.  Granted she was fun to look at but laborious to watch.  Now she is a complete star.

Last year I was confident before the first episode that Aarti would win.  I knew Aarti from her work with Good Bite, I had seen how warm and natural she was on camera.  I also knew that Bob Tuschman really wanted a show of Indian cuisine on the network.  All she had to do was not screw up and she was a shoe in.  The fact that Herb and Tom made it as close as they did at the end is a testament to just how good both were.  But as seasons four and five showed us, if the finals are close, need will decide the winner.  The last three winners,  at least in part, were decided by demographics.  They plugged holes in the FN line-up.

This year I’m not so confident.  Based solely on the audition videos, Jyll Everman is my early favorite but anyone can win.  Whitney Chen looks like an another favorite because of both her resemblance to Rachael Ray as does Howie Drummond because of his experience in the media.  “Vegas” has been on a few episodes of Food Network Challenge and although I can’t quite figure out what demographic he satisfies apparently someone at Chelsea Market likes him.

This year I have added the WTVC (WannabeTVchef) Next Food Network Star Polls – six categories for contestants who best embody the spirit of former NFNS competitors.  Be sure to check them out HERE.

The first challenge was breakfast to show your POV.  The second was some what I thought was a stupid tag-team promo thing that honestly left me feeling a little bored.  It produces drama so I guess that was the point but it wasn’t cooking.  When everything was said and done I got it.  Here’s something else I get – 2 hours is brutally long.

After one episode here are my thoughts on each contestant:

Alichia Sanchez – She’s got to work on a TV voice.  Needs a lot of help.  And Alton gave it to her.  Penny bashed on her and the judges asked about her accent.  Once he talked to her, gave her direction she came on strong.  But her thin skin may still be a trap in the future.

Chris Nirschel – He has a LOT of confidence doesn’t he?  He damned well better cure cancer in the next few weeks.  Blew the first cooking challenge and the presentation.  Second challenge was not much better.  Should be safe but only because others were worse.

Howie Drummond – A natural at communicating.  I’ll be anxious to see what kind of chops he has.  Not good for the 7 Questions alum on the first challenge.  The second challenge didn’t go well either at first but he finally nailed the promo.  Then needed help getting his dish done.  Doesn’t look good for Howie.

Jeff Mauro – Good food knowledge but he’s going to have to work on communicated with a little more energy.  Funny guy.  Good energy.  Food remains a question mark.

Juba Kali – New Orleans is one of the best cities in the world to have a meal so it’s shocking that Juba is the first NFNSter to hail from the Crescent City.  After the first challenge he may be the last.  The second didn’t help.  So likable but so weak on camera.  If he survives he has some huge upside.  So far, the best pure cook on the show.

Justin Balmes – Scoring with the chicks at the disco is not the same as competing on NFNS.  That may be a hard lesson for Justin.  He had some serious trouble in the second challenge but the first went alright.  He knows his stuff and he can absolutely cook.

Justin Davis – Another person that needs to work on communication.  There’s only room for one Ben Stein at the Food Network and Ina has that all locked up.  Not very memorable yet.  He’ll need to improve.

Jyll Everman – Attractive and likeable.  Jyll seems to have two of the big three.  Only thing left is can she cook?  Did well on the first challenge.  Second challenge got stressed but wasn’t’ bad.

Katy Clark – The love child of Heba Mesa and Melissa D’Arabian?  That much energy cannot be healthy.  You know what else can’t be healthy?  A cooking show.  FN has tried them but the reality is no one wants to watch food TV and see someone cooking brown rice and tofu.  No one.  Not being a likeable personality doesn’t help.

Mary Beth Albright – She knows a lot of famous chefs including Art Smith who seems to be a fan of hers.  Lot to be said for clout.  She’s a critic now in the position of being critiqued.  How she handles that may be the difference in how well she does.  Bombed first challenge.  Second was a little better.

Orchid Paulmeier – A BBQ cook from South Carolina.  Job one – work on your knife skills.  Won the first challenge with great food and personality.  I like her as a dark horse.  She’s so warm on camera and a better cook than she gives herself credit for.  Does that sound familiar, Aarti?

Penny Davidi – She is one hot lady.  Really, really hot.  Don’t believe me?  Then ask her.  Early love-to-hate candidate.  Then again, she is fun to look at.  No, not really.  She’s a psycho!  She sabotaged and terrorized Alichia for no reason the entire episode.  Please, Penny, forget the head games and venom; just cook and be likeable.  If you are a student of body language pay attention to Giada when she tells Penny she is safe.  Her head tips back so that she is looking down her nose at Penny and then her eyes look down – her body language expressed contempt.  I love me some micro-expressions.

Susie Jimenez – Oh my.  A lot of work needs to be done here. . . and that’s just with walking.  A living puzzle.  First challenge was a bomb.  Her second round was better.  Her ceviche killed but now she can’t do that dish again.  One ceviche per season.

Vic “Vegas” Moea – Hmm.  Maybe I spoke too quickly about Penny being the favorite for love-to-hate contestant.  Nope I didn’t.  Vic is quite likeable.  Didn’t finish first dish.  Not a good sign,  great presentation though.  He is a classic example of don’t judge a book by its cover.  He reminds me a bit of season 6’s Herb Mesa – the gentle giant.  He didn’t finish his food again on the second challenge but this time is was because there was a last second accident.  But I am starting to like him.

Whitney Chen – Ah!  She’s just so adorable.  Her resemblance to Rachael is uncanny isn’t it?  She may be the most polished cook in this contest.  Good energy and her Chinese ancestry could help her fill a vacancy the network has had since it parted ways with Ming Tsai (has it really been a decade since Ming’s Quest?).


“In it to Win it” type quotes – 1.

Number of people crying – 3.

Number of WTF moments – I lost count -Justin blowing his promo all four times and every bit of bile that came out of Penny’s mouth.

Who should win based on what we’ve seen so far: Whitney or Orchid.

Who will win based on what we’ve seen in the past: Whitney or Orchid

Winner(s) first week: 1st challenge: Orchid.  2nd challenge: Team: Juba, Orchid and Jeff.

Top Tweets:

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The finalist who will be going home is . . .

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Howie.  Check out my exit interview with each departed Wannabe TV Chef HERE.

7 Questions with “Dr. BBQ” Ray Lampe

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

Spring is just around the corner so it’ll soon be time to fire up the grill.  Barbecue is one of those uniquely American dishes that vary from region to region. In the Carolinas BBQ means slow smoking a whole hog and sauce of made of vinegar and little else. In Memphis it’s about spare ribs with a dry rub – sauce is optional. Kansas City is famous for all cuts of meat and a sauce that is thick, sweet and sassy. Texas BBQ revolves around beef brisket and sauce of any kind is frowned upon. Most of the rest of the country enjoys some combination of these with the occasional local spin like the white BBQ sauce of Alabama, San Francisco’s SFQ Sauce with dark chocolate and coffee or New Orleans’ BBQ shrimp which are actually sautéed in butter having virtually nothing in common with what most folks call BBQ.

With so much diversity it would be nice if there was one “go to” resource for all things barbecue. Someone to whom the masses could rely on to help, enter Ray Lampe aka Dr. BBQ.  A native of Chicago, Lampe now makes his home in the Mecca of barbecue, the Deep South, specifically Lakeland, FL.

Dr. BBQ’s trademark snow colored goatee and flame covered bowling shirts have made him an icon of the nation’s barbecue aficionadi. After securing a reputation as a talented BBQ cook-off contestant, Ray has now established himself as well seasoned judge both on the national circuits and on televised spectacles for the Food Network.

Recently I spoke with Dr. BBQ and he was courteous enough to answer 7 Questions:

Where did the name “Dr. BBQ” originate?

Ray LampeI was living in Chicago and started cooking in BBQ contests.  It was starting to become an obsessive hobby and I’d bought a new van to carry my stuff around.  Illinois had started allowing us to have vanity plates about the time I got the new van so I figured I’d better get some kind of BBQ plate.  I listed three options to choose from and I honestly don’t even remember what they were.  They sent me the Dr. BBQ plate and I put it on my van.  I really didn’t know I was creating a brand.

When did you start doing the BBQ thing on a professional level?

Mike Royko, the old (Chicago) Tribune columnist for many years, decided to have this rib cook-off at Grant Park right there where the ball fields are.  We had a rib cook-off there in 1982.  It actually continued on through to 1990.  I knew I cooked pretty well but I wasn’t a BBQ cook really but a friend of mine signed us up for it just to go down there and party.  I decided if we were going to go I might as well learn how to cook some ribs.  That was the start of it all.

When did you hit the national circuit?

In 1991 I was looking around for something to replace it (Grant Park cook-off) and I saw a thing in the newspaper they were going to have the first Illinois State BBQ Championship in West Chicago.   It was going to be sanctioned by the KCBS – that was the first Kansas City Barbecue cook-off in Illinois.

If it weren’t for cooking what other career could you see yourself in?

Actually I had a successful family trucking business.  When my father passed away I took over.  By the year 2000 after 25 years trucking had changed and the whole climate had changed.  Things were changing and things weren’t going to be the same anymore.

What lead to the transition from the BBQ circuit to media?

In probably ’04 barbecue was becoming popular and I was one of the guys that had been around the cook-off circuit for a long time and I had the silly beard and the silly haircut and I could speak in public.  Frankly I was really the only guy trying to become a BBQ spokes model so it was kind of an open field.  AndI pushed my way into that and ended up with Big Green Egg.  I started writing an article for Fiery Foods Magazine, Dr. BBQ column.  Dave (DeWitt – Fiery Foods editor) connected me with a publisher and I wrote my first cookbook.  It’s really a story of breaks and doors that opened for me and I just walked right in.  These days I still work for Big Green Egg and I’m starting to write my sixth cookbook.

Of the various regional styles of barbecue do you prefer one over the others?

I wrote a book called Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time Barbecue Road Trip! and I spent a lot of time eating in what are the big four regions of BBQ along with every place in between and what I found was it’s not quite like people think it is.  In Memphis I found that a lot of places serve ribs wet or dry because that’s what’s always written about.  But I did find in Memphis was that almost every BBQ restaurant in Memphis serves with BBQ spaghetti as a side and almost all of them serve smoked bologna topped with Cole slaw as a sandwich.  Now I thought Cole slaw on a sandwich was just a Carolina thing.  I found a lot of that stuff and I thought it was interesting.  Memphis BBQ, I like Memphis BBQ a lot.  I think they ar ahead of the curve using dry rubs.

What’s next for Dr. BBQ?

You know, I don’t try to plan it.  I just try to react and see what’s happening.  You know I really enjoyed doing Tailgate Warriors so maybe there’s a TV show in my future.

Claire Robinson Helps Cooks via Twitter

I found this in my e-mail this morning.  Very cool:

Robinson to Host Tweet Chat to Help at-Home Cooks Make Simple and Super Meals

SAN DIEGO – Aug. 2, 2010 – Food Network chef and “5 Ingredient Fix” host Claire Robinson is partnering with Chicken of the Sea to promote the SuperCook contest and spark creativity in the kitchen with a live chat on Twitter.

Claire Robinson on WannabeTVchef.comThe chat will take place Aug. 5, 2010, at 8 p.m. – 10 p.m. EDT. During the chat, Robinson will offer tips on how to create easy and great-tasting meals. She will also answer cooking-related questions from participants and encourage people to get creative and enter Chicken of the Sea’s SuperCook contest – a search for people who know how to make simple and super meals. Those interested in participating can follow @COSMermaid or follow the hashtag #COSChat on Twitter.

“Creating great-tasting and healthful recipes doesn’t need to be complicated, and it doesn’t need to break the bank,” said Robinson. “That’s what the SuperCook contest is all about. During the chat, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite tidbits that will help any cook make simple and super meals his or her family will love.”

The SuperCook contest encourages home cooks across the country to share their original recipes using any Chicken of the Sea product for a chance to win the grand prize: an appearance on national television, $10,000 cash and be featured on a Chicken of the Sea product package. One first-place winner will receive $3,000 and also be featured on a product package. Second- and third-place winners will receive a $2,500 and $2,000 cash prize, respectively. To enter, visit and submit your recipe by Aug. 15.

Claire Robinson on WannabeTVchef.comEntrants are judged on: recipe creativity; use of Chicken of the Sea product in the recipe; embodiment of Chicken of the Sea’s brand assets of health, nutrition and convenience; and taste and appearance of recipe.

The chat is part of Robinson’s ongoing relationship with Chicken of the Sea to promote the SuperCook contest. Previously, Robinson conducted a nationwide television media tour in which she promoted the contest and offered viewers simple and super recipe ideas. Robinson can also be heard on radio nationwide and seen on the Internet and on various social media platforms promoting the contest.

A seafood category leader, Chicken of the Sea provides a variety of shelf-stable seafood products, including tuna, salmon, crab, shrimp, oysters, clams, mackerel and sardines. The Chicken of the Sea brand and famous Mermaid icon are among the most recognized brands in America.

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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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