Orchid Paulmeier

7 Questions with Vic “Vegas” Moea

Vic Vegas

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

A little over a year ago few people outside of Sin City had ever heard of Vic Moea.  The big, bald, inked chef went from being the scary dude to a genuine momma’s boy in just a few weeks.  Though he narrowly missed being the newest Food Network Star, that title went to good friend Jeff Mauro, that doesn’t mean Vic’s moment in the spotlight is over.

Vic, along with fellow FNS 7 alums Penny Borsuk Davidi, Chris Nirschel and Justin Balmes will be going head-to-head once again only this time it’s for charity.  All four will be competing on the star-studded Chopped All Stars which starts this Sunday in a round that pits four Iron Chefs against each other.  The Starsters will be competing in round three where Vic will be representing St. Jude Children’s Ranch.

These days Vic has been splitting his time between Las Vegas and in Hollywood shooting a handful of pilots.  All this he does while raising three kids and satisfying the public’s requests for his time.  As you can see Vic is a busy man but he was not too busy to answer 7 Questions

1. When did you decide that you could make food your career?

I decided that I could make food my career when I was 19 years old and I found out I was going to have a son and I had to get a job as a dish washer so that’s what I pretty much started out as.  As time went on and I got into it more and I started learning my way around it my memory came back of me cooking with the family and growing up into it.  I knew there was something special about all of this.

2. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

Back then we really only had, like, Emeril. That’s really the one that stood out the most.  The chefs that really influenced me the most really weren’t chefs.  It was my mother and grandmother.  If you notice my style ain’t a reflection of anybody else’s but my mother and my grandmother.  It evolved into the Vic-thing from the Betty and Antoinette-thing.

3. How was your experience on Food Network Star?

You know, I got called for Hell’s Kitchen and Food Network Star at the same time but I had wanted Food Network Star.  It took me five years to get on that show, bro, five years.  Every time I didn’t make it I thought it was the end of the world.  But it wasn’t supposed to happen then because it wouldn’t happen the way it’s happened now.

Dude, being on that show was the scariest thing ever and it was crazy.  Crazy, crazy, crazy, bro.  You think you’re ready to go.  You think you’re great so you go on and it brings you to your knees.  It really brings the best out in you because now it’s so comfortable, so cozy and the confidence is there.  But you do it, you experience it and you get your head handed to you.  You get twelve weeks of schooling and training with the best.

Just a true blessing that whole experience.  It changes your whole life.  I didn’t realize how many people watch that show.  Oh boy.  And now I’ve got Chopped All Stars coming up.  You have to be a Wannabe TV Chef to do what we do.

4. How did the Food Network celebrities you met on the show stand up to your preconceived notions?

Vic and GuyI got to meet my idols.  Susie (Fogelson) is a lovely woman.  She’s an amazing, amazing woman and such a darling.  Dude, Alton is the mad scientist.  He’s hilarious, bro, he’s twisted.  He’s twisted in a good way.  That’s the real deal right there.  Alton is phenomenal and I hear Alton is going to be playing a major role in this upcoming season of Food Network Star.

And I got to know Guy.  He invited me to his Road Show when he was in Arizona.  He called me and said “Come on down.”  So I drove down with a buddy.  That’s another great guy, another cool dude.  Ted Allen – good man!  And Scott Conant, I love that guy.  He’s such a perfect judge.

Flay.  Flay was great.  People ask me, “Is Bobby a jerk?  He seems like a jerk.”  How could he be a jerk?  How many people want to know that guy?  So he’s got to be a little choosy so I guess you gotta earn his respect.  He’s not a jerk, he’s tough, dude.  If you can win him over by being yourself that’s when you and Flay are gonna be tight forever.  Me and Mr. Flay are very close.

Emeril, you gotta understand, a lot of TV people don’t really cook but that guy, man.  I’m going to have to say, not taking anything away from anyone else, but by far one of the most talented cooks I’ve ever met in my life. I’m a chili pro now because of him.

5. Which of your fellow cast members do you still keep up with?

Ah, Jyll, the most underrated person on Food Network Star.  She’s awesome, dude.  She needs to keep going.  I got to know her so well, teaming up with her so much.  That by far was my best female friend on the show.  Jyll is awesome, dude.  Orchid, she’s such a doll, dude.  Oh my God I love her.  And Whitney is amazing.  Whitney Chen is fabulous.  I love Whitney Chen.

Howie, by far, one of the most amazing dudes I ever met.  He’s become like a brother to me.  Me and Howie, we talk all the time.  I’ve flown down to Denver and hung out with him.  We went to the first Monday Night Football game together.  I freakin’ love Howie.  He was the first one off the show and he’s going to be one of the biggest stars out there.  Isn’t that killer, dude?

Yeah, and Crazy Chris is going balistic right now.  He’s on VH1 Celebrity Couples Rehab with Angelina from the Jersey Shore.  That’s perfect you know what I mean?  I was making jokes like the second week we were in the house.  I looked at Chris and said, “So, when this is over who are you going to be dating from the Jersey Shore?”  I said that two weeks into filming Food Network Star.  I gotta stop wishing for things, man, a little Vic-tradamus going on here.  He can be my little brother for life.

And Susie (Jimenez).  She’s completely sweet.  She’s a little firecracker.  I’ve got nothing bad to say about nobody.  I liked everyone and everybody was awesome to me.  People have said to me, “Vic, you look so distressed every time someone got eliminated” and I’m like, “Dude, I made friends with everybody.”  We bonded so well, half the time we forgot it was a competition show.

6. How was competing on FNS different from competing on Chopped: All Stars?

Vic Vegas MoeaFor one the time frame (twelve weeks versus one day).  On FNS we were isolated from the whole outside world.  Everything was stripped of us, couldn’t talk to our family often.  I’d say we were in jail but in jail you get to use the phone.  But Food Network Star prepared us to go on Chopped and have a blast.  When you see us on Chopped no one is trippin’ we’re just like, “Yeah!”  And (Chopped) is the crazy show that scares the crap out of everyone.

Food Network Star is a combination of personality and skills.  Chopped is about skills.  Chopped is not a personality show.  Did we bring any personalities to the show?  Hmm, I don’t know. [laughs]  But Justin Balmes may have gotten ixnay’d from Food Network Star early but now this is about cooking ability and that guy is Iron Chef status.  And I’m like, “Oh my God I’m facing Justin B?  Holy crap!”

When I found out the line-up I was like alright, Chris.  Anything is possible because Chris has been a chef now in Little Italy for quite a few months and Penny didn’t go home because she didn’t cook good.  She didn’t have one bad meal.  And you have Justin Balmes who’s pretty much like an encyclopedia and very talented.  He could be trapped on an island with wild life and he’s going to survive cuz he knows how to utilize the whole animal.  Let’s show everybody out there who knows how to cook.

It was awesome hanging out with Penny and Justin and Chris again.  Cuz Penny she’s good people, man.  She really is a good person.  She just played the heel.  That’s OK because at the end of the day when she goes home with her family she’s a loving mother, she’s a caring friend.

7. What’s next for Vic Moea?

I am making it happen.  Some much stuff.  More than you even know is going to be jumping off in the next year.  I go non-stop, man.  I used Food Network Star as a lesson.  I used it as the tune-up for where I really want to be. I got it all out of my system and it was like ba-bing.  Now, let’s do this.  I teamed up with US Foods; I’m now their corporate executive chef for Las Vegas.  They’re totally cool with me going down to Los Angeles to shoot the pilots and the presentations for the three or four show ideas that have been brewed up for me.

For a couple of months after the show (Food Network Star) we weren’t allowed to talk to anybody.  But almost every production company wanted to meet me. So I was talking to Mark Burnett Productions to Big Dog Productions to 123 Productions, everybody.  And a lot of people were scripting up shows about me just in case my future didn’t continue with Food Network as well as the Momma’s Boy show being scripted.  There’s other people – Travel, A&E, Spike TV, Bravo.  Just wait.  It’s amazing, dude, what’s going to be taking place.  But no more competing, now it’s host time.

As a kid I literally wanted to be a WWE wrestler.  At heart I am a WWE wrestler.  I don’t want to be a full time wrestler; I just want to be in Wrestlemania one day.  And actually, Stu, it’s being worked on.  You never know.  I could be wrestling Guy Fieri on Wrestlemania.

Revamped “Food Network Star” Begins Taping 8th Season

Food Network is giving its most successful series a total makeover.  This season Food Network Star will greatly resemble other reality cooking shows like Worst Cooks in America and Rachael vs Guy: Celebrity Cook-off with established cheflebrities taking on mentoring rolls over three teams of wannabe TV chefs none of whom are named Stuart Reb Donald.  I know.  What’s the point of even having the show, right?

From a Food Network Press Release:

Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis Joined by Alton Brown as Series Regular

NEW YORK – January 23, 2012Food Network Star returns to New York City as production begins on the eighth season of the long-running hit series, scheduled to premiere on May 13th, 2012.  The revised format brings returning favorites Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis from behind the judges table to square off with new regular Alton Brown in a three-way team competition to find the next Food Network Star.  Bobby, Giada and Alton, all television producers in addition to being culinary superstars, lead the charge to find and develop the new talent with each hand-selecting a team of five finalists, who they will produce and mentor through the ‘Star’ experience to find one winner who possesses personality and culinary chops.   In another fresh twist to the series, the viewing audience will vote before the finale to determine who will receive the ultimate prize: their own Food Network show, to be produced by their ‘Star’ team leader.

In the new format, each episode will begin with a team “Star Challenge” and the two losing teams must then send a member to the bottom two.  During the “Producer’s Challenge,” the bottom two contestants each shoot a segment with their ‘Star’ producer to be presented to the selection committee in the “pitch room.”  Returning judges Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson decide who stays and who goes, along with a roster of guest judges scheduled to join.

READ MORE HERE

Food Network StarLast year’s season of Star set new precedents in seediness with contestants who never really stood a chance of winning but were clearly chosen just to create drama.  It made the show uncomfortable to watch and by far the worst season in the history of the series.  Perhaps that is what has lead to the total overhaul in format.

At the same time, there were bright spots in last year’s cast like the graceful and charming Jyll Everman, the bubbly Orchid Paulmeier and Whitney Chen who proved equally deft in the kitchen and on camera.  Eventual winner Jeff Mauro’s show debuted to great ratings and then disappeared but don’t fret, season two of The Sandwich King is currently in production.

Currently only three of the previous winning FNS shows are still on the air.  Here’s a quick review of the first seven FNS winners:

  1. Party Time with the Hearty Boys got six episodes then was canceled.  Was brought back for 13 episodes and then canceled again.
  2. Guy’s Big Bite is still in production after 120 plus episodes.
  3. The Gourmet Next Door got six episodes then was canceled.  Reportedly Food Network offered host Amy Finley 13 more episodes but she declined and moved to another country.
  4. Big Daddy’s House despite atrocious ratings lasted five seasons before being canned this past fall.
  5. Ten Dollar Dinners has to date produced more than 30 episodes over four seasons.  New episodes continue to air on Sundays while older episodes joined the M-F daytime line-up last September.  The move to the daily line-up is a strong sign that Food Network plans to many more episodes of Ten Dollar Dinners.
  6. Aarti’s Party produced 28 episodes over three seasons.  The ratings were pretty good but Food Network has moved it to the Cooking Channel in re-runs only.  Aarti has a new show in the works with season five winner Melissa D’Arabian.
  7. The Sandwich King premiered to great reviews and a second season is currently in production.

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WTVC Exclusive: Food Network Star Winner Jeff Mauro

Food Network Star 7castSome ten weeks ago the nation watched footage of 15 wannabe TV chefs meeting on the steps of world famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood and each of us thought the same thing, which one is it?  Well, two and a half months later the mystery is solved, Jeff Mauro is the latest winner of Food Network Star.

Throughout the competition Jeff’s warm personality and quick wit were his calling card.  It was a gift that he rallied into a winning performance.  His POV, the Sandwich King is one that is long over due.  There are few things in life better than a well made sandwich.  This may be the perfect vehicle for Jeff’s particular skill set but will a show about sandwiches go over?

That’s exactly what Steve Cavendish of the Chicago Tribune asked Jeff just a few weeks ago.  His response?  “A lot of people’s sandwiches these days come from fast food chains,” Mauro said. “It’s bad meat. It’s bad bread. It’s questionable vegetables. Why not bring this stuff home and teach you the fundamentals? How to braise. How to roast. Fry. Grill. All while having a between-two-hands delicious meal.”

So just what do we know about Jeff Mauro?  This is what the Food Network site has to say, “After pursuing a career as a comedian in Los Angeles, Jeff switched gears to spend time doing what he loves most: cooking. His down-to-earth personality coupled with his comic relief make a great combo in the kitchen.”

Mauro’s stardom is no overnight success story.  He’s been working towards this goal for seven years.  That’s when he pulled up stakes and headed to LA to try and forge a new cooking show in his own image.  He attended the Hollywood Kitchen Academy (which is now Le Cordon Bleu) and even came dangerously close to achieving his TV show after meetings with Spike, MTV and Comedy Central.  But every time it looked like the door was opening it would close in his face.

“It was like, ‘it’s happening!’ And then L.A. was like, ‘Nope. It’s not happening. I’m Los Angeles, I win every time, you lose,'” he told Cavendish.  Frustrated Mauro headed back to the Windy City where he became the private chef at a Chicago corporate headquarters of a large mortgage company.  Three years later he sent an audition tape to Food Network Star.

“Jeff has the perfect mixture of strong culinary chops, a breakout personality, and boundless food passion – a true triple threat we value in our stars,” said Bob Tuschman, General Manager and Senior Vice President, Programming and Production, Food Network. “Jeff’s humor, warmth and smart ideas to make sandwiches into satisfying meals make him a perfect addition to join the Food Network family.”

After struggling in the beginning of the competition Jeff put it all together on episode five, the Fourth of July episode.  He says, ” I pretty much maxed out my abilities and personality and it went over well.  I felt like I can be big and huge but I don’t think I ever want to go bigger than this.”

Jeff credits Guy Fieri with pulling him aside and giving him great advice, “He was the only judge who was like I want to talk to you privately.”  Fieri just told him matter-of-factly how to handle different situations and gave, “very sincere advice.  Not only on camera.  Off camera he was kind of like a buddy.  That was helpful because there’s a separation between the the finalists and judges.  They are proven and we are proving.”

Since Star wrapped in early June Jeff says he’s been living dual lives.  One working his old job in Chicago and the other doing covert assignments as a celebrity chef.  “Going to the Atlantic City Food & Wine Festival out there.  Going to shoot my show which was obviously top secret.  Shooting the finale which was top secret.  Going and doing all of these things, in my mind, very large things then coming home and making a hundred point sandwiches.”

Jeff plans to stay in Chicago where he can spend time with his family, “My goal is to stay here always.  That’s the beauty of it; I can go shoot a show every three or four weeks and not have to uproot my entire existence to New York or LA.”  He then added, “And eventually shoot here when I’ve got a little clout, a little bargaining power.”

Jeff Mauro Food Network Star

How closely does Sandwich King resemble the show you conceived seven years ago during your time in LA?

Chef Jeff and Ali?  Very different; that was more of a party-based barbecue show where we would go to barbecues and record the hijinks, the people.  I wanted to provide a younger, I don’t know a more irreverent, party-based ride to cooking on TV

As fun as that was it doesn’t have any legs.  So it’s really different.  I’m still myself.  I might not be ripping from a bottle of Jack any more but it’s still me minus my other half, Ali and minus the party and all that.

Can you describe the elements of the perfect sandwich?

Well handled fresh bread.  Not just a loaf of French bread that you get at the bakery that’s pretty.  That’s taking that and taking it to the next level with buttering and griddling to temperature.  You want to start with that.  You want to make sure when you take your bites out from top to bottom there’s not a lot of resistance.  If there is resistance it’s good resistance like crunch or a great chew or crispness.  You know it’s all about paying attention to not only flavors but textures; I think that’s often overlooked in a sandwich.

 

My predictions – Susie gets a show on the Cooking Channel, Vic on Food Network. Whitney becomes a judge on Iron Chef/Chopped.  The Sandwich King premieres this Sunday at 11:30AM on the Food Network and the King’s reign will like be a long one.

Drop back by the site tomorrow and check it out as another new Food Network star, Roger Mooking (Everyday Exotic on the Cooking Channel, Heat Seekers on the Food Network) answers 7 Questions.

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WTVC Food Network Star Fan Poll Results

We know that Jeff Mauro won the only poll that counts but that doesn’t mean we still can’t have a little meaningless fun.  Here are the results of the Wannabe TV Chef Fan Polls.

The Debbie Lee – contestant you love to hate.
Penny With Jylls HusbandPenny Davidi 56.87%
Chris Nirschel 13.25%
No one else was close.

The Lisa Garza – most improved from day one.
Vic Moea 40.1%
Jeff Mauro 8.32%
No one else was close.

The Kelsey Nixon – should’ve won but got cheated.
Whitney Chen 38.78%
Orchid Paulmeier 25.03%
No one else was close.

The Nathan Lyon – didn’t win but will be a star regardless.
Whitney Chen 29.85%
Orchid Paulmeier 22.39%
Jyll Everman 11.94%
Vic “Vegas” Moea 11.94%

The Serena Palumbo – reminds you of a current star.
Whitney Chen 51.56%
Orchid Paulmeier 17.19%
Vic “Vegas” Moea 15.63%

Be sure to my interview with the newest Food Network Star, Jeff Mauro HERE.

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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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