Food Network Star Exit Interview: Justin Balmes

Four weeks in and we have seen some very talented cooks fall to the way side.  Unfortunately some mediocre cooks are still on the show.  It was a shame to Food Network Star Justin Balmeswatch Justin Balmes leave.  He was one of best pure cooks on the series.  Not just this year but all time.  It’s too bad the camera was not his friend because he had a lot to offer the Food Network audience.

After some fireworks in last week’s exit interview with Alicia Sanchez and her suggestion that poor performances were scripted I couldn’t wait to hear what Justin had to say about his time on Food Network Star.  Incidentally, Alicia has since removed her blog post about her experiences on the show and she was a no show for the live Tweeting where she had promised she would be “tweeting no holes barred for the rest of the competition.”  I guess the legal department gave her a call.

Justin did not make any of the suggestions of scripted outcomes that Alicia did but he was resolute about the food that got him eliminated.  He stated emphatically that he believed his food to be superior to other contestants who were retained, “send me home for my personality or my static camera work fine.  But as far as the food being critiqued that day for that to be my ultimate final straw I personally found to be ridiculous.  Somebody was turning out burnt mac and cheese or bubblegum lamb?  That’s borderline insulting.”  He also stated that other members of the cast and even the production crew were just as stunned as he was that it was him and not someone else going home at show’s end.

Not exactly fireworks but certainly good copy.  He also named his favorites to win it as Whitney “technically speaking” and Jeff “as far as passion and POV and staying true.”  Justin has more to say about all of this on his Facebook page.  It’s a good read.

You’re from Atlanta which is also the home town of Herb Mesa and Brianna Jenkins from last year’s cast.  Did you seek them out before going on the show?

No.  Actually I teach part-time down at Viking, down at the cooking school in Atlanta mid town and I think Brianna had done some work with them back in the day.  I gathered bits and pieces but as far as making any sort of real contact, no I didn’t.

Earlier this month you told the Atlanta Journal Constitution (HERE) that you, “wanted the home cook to really get to know their food.”  Can you explain what you mean?

Of course.  With my original show concept on Food Network Star I wanted to have episodes of my show based solely around single ingredients.  One episode would be just about beef.  It would show different cuts of beef, different cooking techniques, applications, pairings, etc.  Then do another show on different types of fish.  Do another show on vegetables or fruits that are in season.

I basically wanted the home viewer to connect with their food and not necessarily recite recipes and not cook-by-numbers but create their own.  They’re gaining this knowledge and understanding through getting to know their ingredients.

I further developed the concept as the show went on, sadly they did not show that, of sort of turning it into a kind of a micro Dirty Jobs where I would go to a ranch or a farm and work for the day.  You know, centered around whatever specific ingredient was special to that place.  And then from there kind of like a Follow That Food where I would go from there to like a local market and where that food arrived, that sense of community and people getting excited about it.  And then from there bringing it into a kitchen in front of a small studio audience.  Preparing it and really going into the back-story, explaining the hows and whys and what’s special about it.

I feel like with as many shows about “extreme foods” and cakes and sweets and this and that and the other well let’s get people in touch with real food and be socially responsible.  I feel like this show would be very much in line with that philosophy.

I thought you were one of the the best pure cooks on the show this year; is their a cookbook in your future?

Absolutely.  I’ve certainly got some ideas now; I’ve got a plethora of recipes that I could work with.  That’s definitely something that I’m very interested in doing.  Cooking is paramount for me and I also really enjoy writing.  I think that would be a natural combination there and ultimately a win.

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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.

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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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