Food Network Star: Episode 2 Tour Bus Challange Recap

Episode 2 of Food Network Star:Tour Bus Challenge was not as daunting as opening a restaurant in 24 hours like we did in Episode 1 but it was not as simple as it may have seemed, either. Down a person with the loss of Cristie the week before, we were certainly considered the underdogs once again this week.


Photo: Food NetworkTHE CHALLENGE

For this week's challenge, each team was given a neighborhood in Manhattan. We were to learn the food, the people, and the culture and teach a bus full of tourists about our neighborhood. We were also given an ingredient from a famous dish from a restaurant in the neighborhood and create our own unique dish with it to serve to our guests. The challenge was to be the most memorable tour guide and serve a dish that embraced the ingredient. TEAM ALTON was given the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which has been a center of Jewish culture in the city for many years.


Having learned a hard lesson from the first challenge, I jumped on the first thing offered up by Alton Brown and said I'd take the pastrami he offered from Katz' Deli. Since I had been to Katz' many years before, I knew a bit about it and felt happy about my choice. I was very happy I did not hesitate this time because the remaining options were pickles, Matzo, and bialys. None of those sounded as good to me as the Pastrami but I was a bit worried about what to do with the meat since it was already cooked. Our food needed to be portable, easy to serve on the tour bus, and we had to be able to keep it hot or cold for quite a while.


The challenge was to be memorable and the guests on the tour bus would vote for their favorite tour guide. Alton suggested we learn not only about the food but the history of the Lower East Side from the legendary restaurants we would visit. I had a wonderful time with Alan and Jake who told me about the history of the restaurant, the area, and what makes their pastrami so famous. Alan was dear and patient, listening to my story about having come to the restaurant years earlier. He walked me through how they make the pastrami but would not tell me the secret way the make the mustard. He did give me the list of ingredients... I used most of them plus some chopped pickles and pickle juice to make the spread for my dish, Puffy Pastrami Party Squares Get the recipe...


Since Giada's team got Little Italy, I wasn't exactly shocked that they won the challenge. However, what was not shown (not sure why not) was that I was voted most memorable tour guide by the guests on the bus. I also got great reviews for my dish!

In the end, Kara from Bobby's team went home after the producer's challenge. Next week's challenge: CHOPPED DESSERTS! The dreaded mystery basket.



EPISODE 1 of Food Network Star!

The first challenge was issued by Robert Irvine was to open our own restaurant in 24 hours to serve 150 diners and the executives from Food Network. Oh boy... here we go!

I made deviled eggs for our Southern-themed restaurant we decided to call Do South. The eggs had southern inspired toppings:

BBQ Beef Brisket with Mom's Coleslaw

Pork Cracklins with Creme Fraiche and Green Tomato Salsa

Fried Chicken Livers with Charred Onion Relish

I got my inspiration from the deviled egg bar I love to do for parties. Here's the how-to on my blog plus the recipe for Southern style deviled eggs.

I am obviously less than thrilled with the comments I got about my food and my presentation from Episode 1 but choose not to dwell on it. I live to cook another day. What did I learn from the experience? Duh- don't make eleven recipes for one dish. Don't make boiled eggs you have to peel for 150 people where there is no running water. Don't make things overly complicated. Simple, delicious food that is easy to make has always been my wheelhouse. I'm going to live there and not think I have to Iron Chef it up because I'm intimidated by some restaurant chefs who certainly should have won this challenge because we opened a restaurant. Don't worry- we're TEAM ALTON. We have some tricks up our sleeves, too. Stay tuned for Episode 2!  



Martie on Food Network Star: Meet the Team

Week one is behind us and I made it through to next week. Here's my two cents on the teams for this year's Food Network Star:


After meeting our mentors and teammates, we finally got to meet the other teams. Bobby Flay's team is rather menacing and tough acting. You can tell they mean business and they are serious about winning. They have attitude and they are trying to be intimidating. We'll see if their game is up to their swagger. Giada's team are all very nice. Ippy the giant Hawaiian is sweet with a lovely smile that lights up the whole room. So does Linkie from Mississippi by way of South Africa. They are a very attractive bunch and friendly enough. They look very pretty and neat in their white chef coats. Ippy looks like some giant Samurai warrior when he dons his headband to cook. Yvan is as nice as he is cute. All of them have training in restaurants or have been to culinary school and they are very attractive... very Giada-esque. 

TEAM ALTON from left: Judson, Cristie, Justin, Me, and EmilyOur team is a team of misfits and oddballs. Alton says that this show is the only way any of us could ever get a show on the Food Network because we're not normal. He's probably right.

I immediately love Justin Warner. What a character. I noticed him (how could you not) at the casting at Alton's studios in Atlanta and we chatted for a moment about his wacky socks and the fact that he flew to Atlanta from New York with a toothbrush, socks, and some underwear in his pocket. He didn't even pack a bag! Awesome! I drove over from Birmingham and had more luggage than he did! Anyway, the sock conversation was a bonding moment. I was so thrilled when he turned up on our team. He's incredibly smart and quick. As an urban rapper-hipster, we're an unlikely friendship but we share a love of music and food. He has not been to culinary school but has worked in restaurants since he was 15. He now owns his own restaurant in Brooklyn called Do or Dine. They serve up crazy great eats like Foie Gras Doughnuts and Deep Fried Deviled Eggs and have a Michelin rating. I had no doubt he'd be here and I'm so glad to see him.

Emily Ellyni s another true character but she's from the 50's, complete with funky retro glasses, some poodle skirts (well, they don't have poodles on them but fluffy like that- you know what I mean) and some little girlie cardigans. She's way too peppy and cute not to like her immediately and she's been to the CIA. Not the intelligence organization, the Culinary Institute of America. Since Justin and I have no culinary school training, it's great to have her on the team. She has also been a culinary instructor and is getting a PhD in hospitality. Where I come from, you don't go to school to get hospitality, you are just born with it, I am nonetheless impressed with Miss Emily from Ohio and her whole retro rad crockpot pressure cooker point of view. Very cool, very smart. What you did not see on the first episode was Emily teaching me how to use a pressure cooker to cook all of that brisket!

Cristie Schoen is peppy, pretty, and really fit. I don't think she eats her food. She is teensy! She's really motivated and has a ton of team spirit. At the time of the show, Cristie was living and working in Los Angeles as an actress and a set caterer. Now, having worked on a couple of movies, I know that is a tough job. Cristie reminds me of what I like best about Southern women: she's smart, stylish, determined, graceful under pressure, and has an accent I really appreciate. While she wasn't on the show long, I still talk to her frequently and hope she can find a way to showcase her passion for healthy eating and living.

Last but not least is Judson Todd Allen. Judson lives in my second city, Chicago and owns a catering company. Judson taught me how to step- something I love to watch... Judson performed with his college frat and is really good at it. Me, not so much. He's also a great singer- hope they show that at some point. Hope they don't show me singing. Judson and I share a love of New Orleans and cooking from that area. His grandparents are from there and he's inspired by them and talks about it frequently on the show. He gave me a huge compliment by asking me to cook his shrimp for the judges for the restaurant challenge! Yes, chef! Cannot wait to hang with Judson in Chicago this summer. I'm going to get him to come help me throw a party for Company 98-- we'll make it a MARTIE Gras party!Judd can make the stuffed shrimp dish he never got to make on the show and I'll make the gumbo!




Martie on Food Network Star Article from

I just love that my friends at posted this article about my journey to finalist on Season 8 of Food Network Star. Read the details about casting, etc. Thank you Anne Cain and!

May 10, 2012

The Next Food Network Star Finalist: Martie Duncan

By Anne Cain

The MyRecipes team is thrilled that one of our contributors, Martie Duncan (Martie Knows Parties), is a finalist on season 8 of Food Network Star.   The show premiers on Sunday, May 13 at 9 pm/8 CST.  I had a chance to chat with Martie last week and get the scoop on the show.

Photo: Courtesy of the Food Network

How did you get selected to be on the show?
Early one Monday, around 1 am, I was on the Food Network website and saw the announcement about casting calls. There weren’t any close to Birmingham, but there was one in Chicago—on Wednesday!  So I got up and drove to Chicago. It was horrible weather driving up – lots of rain and wind and road signs in the air. I had to pull over in Indiana, but eventually got to Chicago and went in and did the audition.  I was one of the last ones to audition and was asked to come for a call-back the next day.  For the call-back, I was supposed to bring some food and figured I would go to a nearby Target for the food, but I needed a kitchen. I ended up seeing a fire station and went in and asked the fire captain if I could use their kitchen.  I worked out a trade – I would cook them lunch if I could use their kitchen.   So I made my dish for the call-back and went back and did the presentation.   It  was an easy dish: One-Pot Shrimp Boil.   After the audition, I went back to the Fire Station to thank them  and they fed me dinner – a Southern  dinner with fried catfish. 

So what happened after the call-back?  
After I made the first cut at the casting call, there were lots of phone calls and phone interviews, and I had to send photos and an audition tape.   Then I got called for an audition in Atlanta with Alton Brown.  He told me at that audition that he was picking me for his team. I practically knocked him down when he told me I was on his team.    There was a lot of screaming and jumping involved. Maybe some dancing, I can’t really remember. 

You have not been to culinary school – did you feel intimidated by the other contestants who are chefs?
A little bit.  All the other contestants were in the food industry, mostly chefs or caterers. There was a lot I did not know, but I did my best and learned a lot.

How did your Martie Knows Parties background help you?
Resourcefulness – being in the wedding business, there’s no such thing as “No”.  And there’s no such thing as a do-over.   All of that experience helped me to know who I am, what I want to be, and what I want to show the audience.

Did doing videos for MyRecipes help you with this experience?
Absolutely. Being on the show is 50 percent cooking/50 percent personality , so having some experience doing videos and live presentations helped a lot with the entertainment aspect.  But here there were no unlimited takes like we had at MyRecipes! 

Did you ever get to sleep? 
Not much. This was really a 24-7 kind of thing. The cameras were always going.  There was some down time, but not much. It’s work and not at all for the faint of heart.  You’ve got to have stamina. 

Do you like the different twist this year with the judges having teams that they are coaching?  It’s kind of like The Voice, right? 
I liked this approach. I’ve played sports all my life –and I like being on a team. Plus, I just love competition!  It was great that we didn’t have to figure out everything on our own.  The mentors (coaches) helped identify our weak areas and make suggestions for improvements.  I was over the moon to be on Alton Brown’s team.  He knows the hows and whys of cooking – which is so valuable for this show.  He is so smart and very intimidating. He’s awesome!  I tried to do everything he told me to do.   

Is Giada really as tiny as she looks on TV?
Tinier!  And I had to stand beside her almost every day.  She is no pushover though.  She’s one tough cookie.   I’ve always been a fan of hers, and now I’m a huge fan.

What about Bobby Flay?
I didn’t talk to Bobby Flay much – he was on the other team. But he is very serious, professional, and very intense—the consummate kitchen professional. 

How did the teams get formed?
The mentors picked the people they wanted to be on the team.  I’m sure that there must have been some reasoning behind the choices, but I don’t know any of the details about the team selections.   

Did you get to be friends with any of the other contestants, or is it super competitive?
I made friends for life.  Some I knew better than others – I didn’t interact a lot with members of the other teams.  But our team was very cohesive and there wasn’t too much drama.

Do you get to have makeup and wardrobe people? 
Yeah, but you had to do some yourself.  You showed up with what you thought and they either said “No” or just helped you improve  with some touch ups.  It was hard to keep looking good though, with all that cooking and sweating.  Well, I don’t know about the others, but I was sweating.  They had these timers and you had to get finished on time.  I was running all the time.

What’s been the best part of this whole experience?
I’ve been so lucky in my life and have managed to blunder my way into doing a lot of amazing things. But this ranks up there with one of the top experiences I’ve ever had.  It ‘s given me a chance to find out a lot about myself.  It’s also made me appreciate being from Alabama even more.  People have been so supportive and kind, and I’ve heard from a lot of old friends who are so excited and are pulling for me. 

You really can’t tell me who wins, right?
I don’t even know who wins yet. It hasn’t happened.  Each week someone gets sent home, and then there are three finalists. After it’s narrowed down to the three finalists, America votes for the winners.   

Stay tuned and see what happens . . . .  Sunday, May 13, 9 pm/8 c  on The Food Network.



Food Network Star Sneak Peek Video with Entertainment Weekly! 

Watch Jess Cagle from Entertainment Weekly talk to Food Network Star mentors Giada DeLaurentiis, Bobby Flay, and Alton Brown about the upcoming season. The mentors talk about their teams, winning, and what's at stake for this years finalists! I'm on Team Nerd... Alton Brown's team. Hear what he has to say and watch a clip of the preview party in Los Angeles! Uh, no, I didn't get to go:(