I found out I was going to be on Food Network Star about three weeks before I left for shooting. This ended up being the perfect amount of time… long enough that I could get some stuff done, short enough I didn’t drive myself crazy with anticipation.
Since we’re about one week before the June 10 premiere, I thought I'd share what I was doing one week before filming...
What I did:
Crystallize my own cooking -- Now was not the time to reinvent myself as a pizzaiolo or learn how to use liquid nitrogen. I could try on different identities another day -- now I had to double down on my own. Anyone who has seen Food Network Star knows what the best dishes are the most meaningful ones: the dish your grandma taught you rather than the crazy one you learned from a YouTube video. So before leaving, I wrote down all the dishes that have personal meaning to me. I thought having a go-to repertoire would help me stay focused *and* save me valuable time during those super-fast challenges.
Get the facts down -- That being said, I did brush up on some things. Remember, I’m a home cook. Never been to culinary school. Have never sold my food (save a bake sale here and there). And while I’d like to think of myself as very knowledgeable about food, I’ve never had a structure to learn (school) or people to hold me accountable (restaurant staff, paying customers). I also cook with a computer on-hand, so I can look anything up, anytime. Not so on set. So I studied things like: what’s the difference between a salsa verde and a chimichurri? What’s the correct cook temp for chicken? Pork? Lamb? What are the correct ratios for pasta dough? Things like that.
A shopping spree -- Before we left, the Costume Director reached out to us and told us what we needed to bring. Summery clothes, no white, no logos, limited black, no tight patterns, bright, solid colors are best. We needed 17-20 casual cook outfits and 7-8 elimination outfits. Twenty-eight looks! OKAY. So, I have a lot of clothes, but that is a lot. Remember, too, that there are some clothes that you just can’t cook in, like those with bell sleeves or delicate fabrics. And there are some clothes that are totally fine IRL, but don’t work on TV (too sheer, boring, kinda old, etc).
Crash beautification course -- Haircut. Eyebrow wax. Gel mani and pedi. Nightly facials. Daily exfoliation. Teeth whitening. Stop scratching elbows. I did more for this competition than I did for my wedding.
Get my head on right -- As far as I could tell, Food Network Star would be a mental challenge as much as a cooking/on-camera one. So I made sure to boost myself with tools that could relax, center, and empower me. This included packing a yoga mat, stretching strap, and massage balls. I also packed a veritable library of self-improvement books. There’d be no time for cramping or self-doubt. Go go go.
What I did not do:
Change my knife skills -- I don’t hold my knife the correct way, choking up on the handle and pinching the blade. I hold my knife like a home cook, with my pointer finger across the spine of the knife. In a perfect world, I’d have better form, but with just three weeks to get ready, I didn’t bother to change my grip. As long as I cook good food and present it well, that’s all that matters.
Practice timed presentations on camera -- Well, how hard could it be? Turns out pretty hard… I'll let you decide how I fared on this one.
The premiere airs June 10 9|8c on Food Network and then runs for 9 weeks. Can't wait to watch with you!