Between the addition of celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis as a mentor and the move to Los Angeles, The Next Food Network Star has big changes for its sixth season.
Top 6 food challenges
So what can we expect for the two-hour premiere (Sunday at 9/8c) and the new season? Who better to give us a taste of what's to come than host and judge Bobby Flay. Find out what the culinary master has to say about the "savvy" new batch of hopefuls, what he finds is the most common mistake made by contestants, and what his first on-camera cooking demonstration was like back on Regis and Kathie Lee.
TVGuide.com: What does the addition of Giada and move to Los Angeles add to the new season?
Bobby Flay: We're using Giada as a mentor figure, where she talks about her experiences being a host on a network, and that's one more element we didn't have before. Also, the Los Angeles piece has been really fun because it sort of has a Hollywood feel. And because the weather is always nice out there, we were able to utilize a lot of places in the Southern California area for challenges and events.
TVGuide.com: How's the new batch of contestants?
Flay: Very diversified as far as cuisine, and incredibly savvy. As the seasons go on, the contestants are becoming more and more savvy because they're students of the network. It's not that they would know what kind of challenges they are going to get, but they have a sense of what skills are important to make it, and I think they spend a bunch of time practicing that before they get there.
TVGuide.com: Well, one thing they can never seem to prepare for is being in front of the camera.
Flay: It's very hard. You have to do it a lot to really get comfortable with it. It's one of those things where you really have to have a commanding presence and authoritative voice. And you're cooking and talking to the camera at the same time. It's not that easy. I think what the camera also does is show very quickly how versed they are in cooking. If they're comfortable holding up a lemon and talking about it for 20 minutes in front a camera, then I know they have a lot of experience.
TVGuide.com: Do you remember you first time in front of the camera?
Flay: Yeah, it was on Regis and Kathie Lee. I remember having very little energy because I was so nervous. I didn't smile. I think I had to make a potato salad because it was summer, and I just remember thinking how good Regis was because he kept the segment going. You just have to continue to do it and make the mistakes just so you can get better at if over time. It takes awhile. I think it really takes years. The hardest thing to do is be yourself on television.
TVGuide.com: What's one mistake contestants seem to make over and over again?
Flay: Trying to be somebody who they are not. The most common mistake is they create a television personality or a gimmick to be on television, and I think it's just a bad idea.
TVGuide.com: When you're judging, do you put more weight on the food or the contestant's star quality?
Flay: Obviously I consider myself the protector of the food there, but I keep reminding them that it is the Food Network and if you want to be on television, there's plenty of other networks to go to. We're looking for authority figures. I take judging very seriously on that show. I want to add somebody great to the team. I really feel like Food Network is my home and I really want to strengthen it.