We are at the halfway point for Episode 7 of Food Network Star!I am so excited to have made it to this point. This episode was designed to showcase our presentation skills under the pressure of the media. We were to make one signature recipe that would tell the media who we were in one bite. After a short on-camera presentation about us and our recipe, we were to talk to elite members of the Hollywood press and food blogosphere: Ed Levine from the hugely popular Serious Eats, Christina McLarty from Entertainment Tonight, and Jess Cagle and Jill Bernstein from Entertainment Weekly.

Bob and Susie along with Ed Levine, Christina McLarty, Jess Cagle, and Jill Bernstein

There are three big twists this episode: 1-This challenge and all others going forward are individual challenges. 2-We are cooking and presenting without our mentors. 3-We finally get to cook in the Food Network studios at Chelsea Market.

It feels pretty surreal to walk into Chelsea Market with the realization you are actually going to BE in a Food Network show. I've been there several times and even got to watch an episode of Ultimate Recipe Showdown a few years ago so it was beyond surreal for me.

The recipe was to be a signature bite... one that would tell the panel who we are and what we are all about in one bite. I felt like nothing said "party" like ice cream and cake so I decided to bake my favorite Chocolate Soufflé Cake and spin a simple vanilla bean ice cream. What is a party without cake and ice cream, right? Well, I had to punt and execute my Plan B when there was no ice cream spinner in the kitchen AND the cups I had to bake in were not able to go in the oven. Ugggh! I knew the ingredients I had were also the ingredients for a little more complex dessert that I love to make, Chocolate Roulage. With just minutes before the timer started, I decided to make it instead but knew I had to work fast.

We had an hour. The cake only takes about 17 minutes to bake however, it needs to cool 30 minutes before you spread the cream and roll it up. That is 37 minutes. I only had one hour total. Ideally, I also like to put it in the freezer for a bit before serving so it slices better. No time for such luxuries on this day:) Thank goodness for my sweet friend and teammate Justin Warner. He saw me struggling to slice and plate and pitched in to help. He's awesome!

Justin helps me garnish by adding some raspberries!




The judges gave thumbs up for both my recipe and my presentation. Get my recipe for Chocolate Roulage...

Watch the full episode... Justin and I win this challenge. Sadly, our Team Alton teammate Emily does not fare as well.




This week on Food Network Star, our challenge was to elevate typical food court food. Each team was given a typical food court favorite: Team Giada had Mexican. Team Bobby got American Deli. Team Alton got Italian. Whew. While some may have thought we got the easy one this time, preparing beloved Italian food for a huge crowd of New Yorkers, some of Italian heritage, was not that simple a task. We decided to call our kiosk "Littler Italy" a little bite of Italy and a spin on the icon New York neighborhood.

Me & Justin frying up some deliciousness at Littler Italy

Actually, Team Giada had it the easiest. Martita's family owns a chain of Mexican restaurants and Yvan is from South America so they know Mexican food and flavors. Instead of a typical American deli, Team Bobby decided to do seafood American style and called their kiosk American Sandbar, which I thought was very creative and really showcased their love of seafood.

Justin fries all kinds of things at his restaurant Do or Dine in this uber-light batter so he decided to do a Fritto Misto- a mixed fry with veggies, etc. It was lovely and a crowd fav. I loved that he put lemon juice in a spray bottle. Get the recipe...

Emily decided to take her Retro Rad concept to the pannini press and made some grilled Fontina, apple, lemon, and thyme dessert sandwiches. Get the recipe...

I made a version of Arancini- Italian Rice Balls- which were deep fried and served with my homemade marinara. Get the recipe...

All of these were so fantastic... and our team worked really well together. Team Alton wins the challenge this week... watch the full episode on video!





Food Network Star Episode 5 Recap: TV Time with Guy Fieri

This week on Food Network Star, Guy Fieri made a guest appearance. The challenge was a camera and cooking challenge...all on TV with no takes or practice. Similar to a morning show TV segment, each team was given an occasion and told to create a menu for it. We were to present the menu and our dish on camera to Guy. Team Alton got Halloween. Team Bobby got Cooking for Kids and Team Giada got Game Day.

Photo: Food Network

Since I know parties, and I've done tons of morning show tv, I wasn't worried when I first heard the challenge. After the menu planning session with Alton, I was a bit more concerned. Once again, I offered many different options for the menu and was shot down on each one.... Roasted Butternut Squash Soup is a favorite of ours at Halloween... perfect color, nice and warm plus I can give it a little zip with some cayenne to give it a pop. But when I proposed the soup, I got a no from Alton Brown. I also got a no for 3 or 4 other ideas. In the end, I pitched Diablo Chicken Wings... which got a thumbs up but I was told I could not fry them since Justin was frying. Uggh... baked chicken wings are a bit risky. They can become rubbery if you don't let them get really carmelized and crispy. Plus, if you don't eat them right away, when they sit, they can become soggy. I just hoped I could pull it off. Get the recipe...

Photo: Food Network

I knew the Diablo sauce was a good one. Made from pepper jelly as a base, everyone always loves it. Since you start with pepper jelly, you can ramp up the heat with Sirracha, cayenne, Tabasco or a mix of other spices and peppers. But when we went to the store, there was no pepper jelly. Uggh. I had to make up a similar taste from scratch.

Emily was canning applesauce to give as a party favor. Judson was making a healthy veggie chili, and Justin, in typically wacky Justin fashion, was making fried fish bones. Fried fish bones... "potato chips from the sea" as he called them.

We were given a block of time as a team... each one of us had 2 1/2 minutes to talk to Guy and present our dish. Since Emily was canning applesauce for her dish, she needed the most time. We all were to try to shave off some time from our presentation to give her MORE time. Sadly, none of us did. We all went a bit over on time and I went over by more than anyone. I was given a time cue... but what I heard was 30 seconds and perhaps the cue was 3 seconds.

Justin fries fish bones... "potato chips from the sea" Photo: Food Network

After the evaluation, our entire team was sent to the producer's challenge... we had to face off against our other team members and one would be sent home. We had to throw a dart, hit a state, and make a dish representing that state's food. I missed 2 times- meaning my dart went in the ocean and hit the floor before hitting the great state of Pennsylvania. When Alton asked me what I was going to make, I just panicked. I had NO idea. Not one.

The Professor Alton Brown Photo: Food Network

After a false start, I ended up making stuffed mushrooms... after all, have you ever been to a wedding or catered party where they did not have stuffed mushrooms on the menu? I don't eat or cook mushrooms but since PA is the largest grower of mushrooms, I had to come up with something. I decided to make a classic... Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms. Ground beef, 3 different varieties of mushrooms, beef stock, onion, sauerkraut and Philly cream cheese all went into the filling; a golden brown breadcrumb topping finished it off.

Throwing darts... hit a state, make a dish. Photo: Food Network

As I said, I don't eat or cook mushrooms... but the portobello tasted very good and had a nice texture, which has always been my objection to eating mushrooms. It was really good! I might make it again.

For the to-camera presentation, I had to sell this dish (not that easy since I am no fan of mushrooms) and talk about Pennsylvania. I struggled to get the words out... I mean, for the first time in my life, I could NOT talk. In the end, I got it together and when I did, Alton Brown came around the counter and hugged me. It was such a relief. I think he was sweating it almost as much as I was.

Wow. PHOTO: Food Network

In the end, it was down to me (again) or Judson to be eliminated. Since Judson had struggled with his point of view, they sent him home. We hated to see him go just when he was coming to terms with his real point of view. Judson lost over 100 pounds by cooking healthy food by substituting flavor for fat- but he did not want to talk about it in the beginning. I am so proud of him for what he has accomplished. "The Architect of Flavor" will certainly be someone to help America combat our diet struggles. Good luck to Judson Todd Allen, the Architect of Flavor.

Judson presents his Veggie Full of Flavor Chili to Guy Photo: Food Network  

That is the recap for this week... I'm safe for another week and will be competing in a food court makeover! 



Food Network Star Episode 4: Fashion Week Makeovers

This week on Food Network Star, we were asked to take a classic recipe and give it a runway makeover. Dishes like Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Pot Pie, Fish Sticks, and the long forgotten Tuna Noodle Casserole- that's what I got. Tuna Noodle Casserole, seriously? Each of us got a different dish to make over and we were to present the dish on the runway during fashion week.

Team Alton rocked the runway with Justin's crazy fashion spin on Beef Stroganoff which mimicked the square Damier pattern of a Gucci handbag, inspired by the lyrics of a rap song. Emily's Hats off to Ham and her edible ham "fascinator" headwear was a huge hit with the crowd. My own Tuna Noodle Casserole 2.0 was less fashion and more comfort food but was a very dressed up version of the original. Judson had a fancy bird's nest of crispy won tons on top of his dish... and looked so very fashionable with his bowtie on the runway.

Team Alton Wins Fashion Week Challenge PHOTO: Food Network

Team Alton won the challenge and Justin won a $10,000 Discover Card for best interpretation of the challenge.

Here are a few of the recipes from Episode 4: Fashion Week:





Emily's Hats Off to Ham Photo: Food Network

Justin's Stroganoff Damier Photo: Food Network

My Tuna Noodle Casserole 2.0 Photo: Food NetworkJudson's Seafood Pasta Photo: Food Network


Food Network Star Episode 3 Recap: Chopped Desserts Challenge

This week on Food Network Star, we face the mystery basket, the dreaded chopping block and Ted Allen from the network's huge hit show, Chopped. Uggh.


I knew we'd get the Chopped Challenge. I'm sure you watch the show but if you don't, here's the premise: you get a basket with four ingredients in it. None of them seem to go together and believe me, they don't normally. You have to find a way to make the ingredients fit together and "transform" them into something totally different... and to top it off, this challenge is desserts.


Anyone who has followed my blog knows I am an eternal fan of s'mores. I have s'mores all over this blog.... a s'mores bar with toppings, indoor s'mores, s'mores popsicles, stuffed s'mores, you name it, I've tried it stuffed between two graham crackers filled with fluffy toasted marshmallows. Check out some of the ways I've made s'mores over the years. I have not ever made them with MEAT, however. My mystery basket has pancetta in it. Italian bacon. Along with Hershey kisses, kumquats, and graham crackers. Those ingredients just screamed s'mores. I thought about making something more complicated but seriously, that is just not my thing. I like to make simple, delicious recipes that are easy to make for a crowd. They Chopped judges were not impressed. I'd like to say that they did eat every single bite (and crumb) of my dessert with the exception of Alton Brown. Giada commented that she would have made the exact same thing. Alton Brown told me that the flavor was well developed and delicious but that I needed to ramp up the difficulty.

Marc Murphy said I made a dish his kid could have made in 15 minutes. Well, Mr. Murphy... you try unwrapping all an entire bag of Hershey kisses in less than 10 minutes. I'd like to see it. I used to think he was charming. Now, not so much. (Scott Conant is a different story, however) There was some creative editing on this episode... not sure why some things were swept under the rug... things that are usually grounds for the chopping block on the show. I guess we'll never know.

In the end, I had to go to the producer's challenge but Josh went home. I'm so glad this stinking week is over.