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Food Network Star Exit Interview: Chris Nirschel

The future of both Penny Davidi and Chris Nirschel may be a bit uncertain at the moment but one thing is for sure; they will not soon be forgotten.  For reasons Chris Nirschelboth good and bad each left their permanent marks on Food Network Star.  Hopefully they will be able to parlay their notoriety into full and rich lives.

I tried to watch Chris’ official Food Network exit interview but the sound goes wonky just when he begins to speak and never recovers.  What is audible on the clip is Bobby Flay summing up Chris’ cooking on Star, “I think you need more experience cooking on the line so you can learn a lot more.”  And who can forget Flay’s response to Chris’ arguing the point, “You want to bring up the lobster dish with the cream cheese again?  I don’t think so.”

No doubt those words were hard to take after all Chris is the executive chef at Café Napoli in New York City and to be told that you need to go back to being a line cook must have hurt.  Especially when it comes from one of the most accomplished chefs in the city, a guy who had already amassed a restaurant empire by the time he was Nirschel’s age.  But Bobby has a point.

Café Napoli has a pedestrian 2.4 star rating (on a 1 to 5 scale) from 70+ reviews at Yelp.  It is located in Little Italy where it is oft described by the locals as a “tourist trap.”  A quick glance at the rating breakdown shows that it has received more one star ratings (the lowest) than any other with the overwhelming number of reviewers rating it three stars or less.

Chris did not make himself available for the conference call because of a scheduling conflict so I was not able to probe the rumor that he had also tried out for MTV’s The Real World.  However he was able to briefly answer a few e-mail questions by way of an intermediary.

Looking back what is your favorite memory from the show?

I have a brother and best friend for life in Vic and there were so many great memories on competing on the series with him.

What experience on the show has had the most profound effect on you? 

I was humbled and sometimes defeated but I am convinced what doesn’t break you makes you strong so Food Network Star has made me who I am and who I will become.

What’s your next project?

Confidential, but you will see me soon!

 

Be sure to read Penny Davidi’s exit interview HERE.

 

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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 Star Exit Interview: Penny Davidi

The future of both Penny Davidi and Chris Nirschel may be a bit uncertain at the moment but one thing is for sure; they will not soon be forgotten.  For reasons Penny Davidi Food Network Starboth good and bad each left their permanent marks on Food Network Star.  Hopefully they will be able to parlay their notoriety into full and rich lives.

Chris was not able to make the conference call today but should be answering questions via e-mail later this week.  Penny on the other hand was there.  She is undoubtedly aware of how she appeared on the show be it from her own actions, the manipulations of editing or a combination of the two so you have to give her credit for doing this interview.

This weekend there was an Internet rumor that broke quoting a leaked source saying Penny had won.  Many were ready to believe what proved to be a hoax after previous Food Network shenanigans.  Most notably season four where the network itself actually did leak the outcome revealing that a contestant that was only still in the competition because the judges changed the rules to save him from elimination had in fact won the contest.  Although the winning show remains but a footnote on the network’s line-up the stunt proved to be a ratings boon.

Penny interpenetrated the rumor as validation that viewers wanted her to win saying, “that there is an indication of what people want, what the network needs and what the people want to see.”  She went on to allege that the network has ignored Middle Eastern cuisine saying that she could have brought, “a whole new viewership, a whole new set of spices, tastes and flavors that the network has never seen.”  It is likely that Cat Cora, Mario Batali, Rocco DiSpirito, Michael Symon and the rest of the network talents who’s cuisines are firmly centered in the flavors of the Mediterranean would disagree with her.

Penny never seemed to comprehend that the goal of the show was to find the person that people would most like to watch.  Though her head games and schemes may have helped eliminate some people thus leaving less competition the reality is that it made her appear very, very unlikable.  However, one constant for Penny throughout the show was her food.  Week in and week out she produced when it came to making great food.  Anyone who cooks like that can always make use of her talents.

After speaking with Penny it is obvious that she firmly believes she was the victim of the FNS drama not the perpetrator of it saying that if she had it to do over again she wouldn’t let, “other contestants get to me.  I would really keep my eye on the prize and not let them try to throw me off my game.  I would just try to stay more focused on the competition and less on the drama.”  However she did not address her comments from the first episode about disliking Alicia Sanchez the first time she saw her or her proclamation from that same sound bite about trying to get Alicia eliminated as quickly as possible.   About those who remain in the mix she said, “there’s some amazing talent that’s still in the competition, obviously one that I don’t really care for but the rest of them are super awesome.”

At the same time she realizes that in reality TV there always has to be a villain, “Right off the bat the producers thought that I have a strong personality, a strong character and a background that would be intimidating to some of the other finalists and I’m kind of flattered that they thought I could take the heat.”  She also clarified that, “I can’t blame it all on the editing or the network all I can say is that it was a competition.

“You know what?  There are so many viewers out there that not only love me but love to hate me and they’re the ones who kept tuning in week after week after week after week.  And I know that where ever I go those same eyes will be following me where ever I go.  As much as they hate me they just love to hate me.  As long as it’s there for the ratings I’m happy to bring it.”

Looking back what is your favorite memory from the show?

My favorite memory on the show was winning the dessert challenge after being set up by the girls’ team, uhm, to fail and knowing that I really don’t have a dessert background but being able to take the knowledge of what I have and make something so decadent to be called something that could be served at a five star restaurant, something the judges couldn’t get enough of and actually win that challenge after being set up to lose was the highlight for me.

What experience on the show has had the most profound effect on you?

It doesn’t matter what race or religion you are America is ready for you to cross those lines, to cross those boundaries, to push the envelope.  For me I felt like I was the ambassador for Middle Eastern food and to be able to bring that world to this and to be able to show people that the Middle Eastern world isn’t what it looks like and it has these warm flavor and I know the personality came off bad but I also know that people understand that this was a competition, and this was a TV show, a reality TV show and despite everything else I made for good television and I was entertaining but the flavors of the Middle East and the warmth of the Middle East and you know for me to be able to bring that was probably the most profound thing.

Your food throughout was consistantly outstanding, is there a cookbook in your future?

Oh, absolutely, cookbooks, a product line of you know, I love to cook with savory marmalades,  and I make all my own savory marmalades so product lines, spices, a restaurant, a whole new restaurant concept in the works and actually I was offered a great part in a film that I’ve accepted and that starts filming in August and I’m really excited about that.

 

Alright folks.  There you have it.  There’s a comment section at the bottom.  Let’s hear what you’ve got to say.  Be sure to read Chris Nirschel’s exit interview HERE.

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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 Star Exit Interview: Orchid Paulmeier

Well, we are finally at the halfway point on Food Network Star.  We’ve seen a lot of talented people go home but none more beloved than Orchid Paulmeier, Mama Orchid to her friends.  Orchid’s warm smile and bubbly personality will be missed.  Also to be missed is the calming effect she had on Chris.  When they worked together it was fun.

Orchid Paulmeier Food Network StarOrchid is the chef/owner of One Hot Mama’s American Grille in Hilton Head, SC which features her one-of-kind take on Carolina BBQ.  Her innovative approach has made One Hot Mama’s one of the most popular eateries in Hilton Head.  With dishes like Chocolate BBQ Baby Back Ribs and Pulled Chicken Nachos it’s easy to see why.  But the real secret to the restaurant’s success is Orchid.

As we all saw on the show, Orchid is a walking, talking breath of fresh air.  She provided a nice repose from the reign of insanity on this season’s show.  I for one will miss her and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.  She is a perfect example of Ronald Reagan’s notion of America being the shining city on the hill.

And Orchid is not content to sit still.  She acknowledges the exposure that the show has given her and she is ready to take the ball and run with it.  Orchid said that Guy Fieri gave all of the contestants some advice, It’s up to you to do whatever is going to happen for the next year.  She has pledged to keep going for it by employing the connections she has made, “I’m going to keep putting myself out there until they put me on a show.”

Who on the show are you still good friends with?

I’m still good friends with Jyll.  I’m also friends with Susie and Vic and I actually talk a lot.  And actually Chris Nirschel [laughs].  We actually Facebook back and forth a lot which is crazy.  I’ve really been able to keep in touch.  Alicia and I are still good friends, Justin B.  I probably talk to at least one person from the show once a day whether its via texting or Facebooking.  I’ve really been able to stay friends with lots of people.

How has your appearance on Star effected business at One Hot Mama’s?

Oh my gosh, to say doubled is probably a low ball.  It’s been crazy.  I think the main thing is we’ve created probably like 20 new jobs just since June 5th.  It’s just been so busy.  It’s just great for our area to be able to put more jobs out there and just getting these people a great experience.  It’s been huge, huge.

What did you learn about yourself by competing on Star?

I learned that my family and the support of my friends has been such a huge factor in my success to this day.  And when it was kind of like, taking away from me you know because we were on our own, I realized, “Wow, I really need that support system.”  By that week five I was really missing home.

I have three kids.  My husband and I were high school sweethearts so we’ve been in each other’s lives for a long time.  It really effected me and I couldn’t believe it.  I thought I was a lot stronger than this, that I can do this on my own and I found out that I really need my family’s support around me.  I think given an opportunity in another setting where I could have my family around I could just. . . the sky’s the limit.  And I think that’s where I’m at now.  I think the future is what I’m going to make of it.

It seems a shame to be in LA and not get to visit some of the great eateries in town.  Were cast members allowed to eat out?

We weren’t unfortunately.  Not while we were filming.  Once we got eliminated then we got to go out.

Which place was your favorite?

One of our favorite places the we went to was A Frame, it’s the gentleman who did the Kogi Taco Trucks.  Which I thought was so fitting after being eliminated because of a taco truck.  I thought I gotta try this.  A Frame in Culver City was absolutely fantastic.

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

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 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.

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

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 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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