If you're a kitchen whiz looking to be the next Rachael Ray or Guy Fieri... then The Next Food Network Star is actually not for you. As celeb judge Bobby Flay explains, the biggest mistake that contestants in the competition, which just kicked off Season 3 and airs Sundays at 9 pm/ET, make is "trying to be somebody else, trying to be the next Emeril, the next Giada. We have those people," Flay tells TVGuide.com. "We want you. Be the person you are." Giada De Laurentiis herself, another guest judge, echoes that advice, saying that too often the wannabes "don't allow their true selves to come out, and we know it."
That said, look for "many surprises, and twists and turns" as this season progresses, says Giada, "and "definitely some comeback stories," teases Bobby. The winning recipe, says Flay, is "great personality, confidence, a point of view and a true smile." Do this season's nine remaining finalists boast the right ingredients? TVGuide.com invited each of them to give us food for thought.
Tommy Grella Jr.
Age: 34 Occupation: Financial planner
His recipe for success: "Grella-cize is what it's all about — huge in quantity and quality."
Sizing up his rivals: "Everybody here is the competition. Trust me, each of them is unbelievable."
Fave Food Network fare: "Definitely Alton Brown's Good Eats. He's entertaining, and you learn a lot."
Age: 29 Occupation: Core fusion/yoga instructor
Her recipe for success: "I'm not strictly vegetarian; I guess it's more 'flexitarian.' I specialize in fish- and vegetable-based dishes, but I want to show people that they can enjoy the whole process of cooking, from market to table, without a lot of hassle."
Fave Food Network fare: "I love Nigella Lawson's show. She's so relaxed, and she has the perfect dish for every occasion."
Sizing up her rivals: "I like to say I'm competing against myself. As long as I can get my point across and be myself, that's all I need to do."
29 Occupation: Local cooking-show host
His recipe for success: "My idea is to combine food and music, whether you're down South where you have country and barbecue, or up North on the East Side where you've got oysters on the half-shell and blues and jazz. I want to bring these two things together. [I'd host] a travel-based show, definitely not set in a studio."
Fave Food Network fare: "Good Eats with Alton Brown, because not only is it educational, but it's entertaining. He's brought his background of cinematography into his show, and that gives it an original twist. He's just fun to watch."
Josh Adam Garcia
Age: 25 Occupation: Chef de cuisine
His recipe for success: "I go by 'JAG,' my nickname in the Marine Corps, and I've been cooking since the age of 7. I call my style Latino fusione, taking the Italian word for fusion and fusing it with me and all my experience to create one dish."
Fave Food Network fare: "Iron Chef and Throwdown. I want a piece of that Bobby Flay!"
Age: 33 Occupation: Mom, freelance writer, freelance caterer
Her recipe for success: "I'm all about cooking fast, with a gourmet twist. I was very lucky in that I got to spend a lot of time in France — I did my culinary training there — but I have two kids and I never have a lot of time to cook. So I took those French techniques and developed a way of cooking that's really fast, really simple and uses common ingredients, but maximizes them for flavor."
Fave Food Network fare: "I'm a big Giada De Laurentiis fan. I love Everyday Italian, I have to say. In part that's because it comes on right in the afternoon when my kids are taking a nap."
31 Occupation: Restaurant owner
Her recipe for success: "I'm all about turning your backyard into a bistro. I like taking foods and simplifying them, but making them a bit special. Taking classics and reinventing them."
Fave Food Network fare: "Probably Throwdown with Bobby Flay — I like watching him get beat! Bobby's a great guy, and he cooks the way he cooks, but he does not mind when other people are better than he is. I admire that."
Her biggest liability: "My own fears. I hold myself back sometimes because I wonder, 'Is this going to be good enough?' instead of just going for it. I definitely have knife skills and I don't mind talking to the camera, so my biggest fear is myself."
Age: 36 Occupation: Chef and caterer
His recipe for success: "I'm all about fuss-free and fabulous party food. I want to give the home cook the recipes and know-how to whip together fantastic meals in minutes. For example, my goat-cheese-and-mango-chutney wonton has three ingredients, and folded all together it's done in less than five minutes and tastes so good."
Sizing up his rivals: "I'm worried about Rory. She and I are the total package — great personality and great food. Some people here have great food, but if you're kind of annoying.... I'm not going to say who, exactly!"
Fave Food Network fare: "Other than Next Food Network Star, Michael Chiarello's NapaStyle. He's great, and his style is simple."
Age: 53 Occupation: Food-service management
His recipe for success: "Real food, and doing it right. When I was a little kid, I was the first of, like, 10 grandchildren, and my first memories were sensory. My grandmother would put something in my mouth, and I'd go, 'Ooh,' 'Ahh' or whatever, and ever since then it's been this love affair with food."
Fave Food Network fare: "I like Robert Ervine and Dinner: Impossible. The other stuff is flashy and they travel around the country and that's nice, but when you put someone under the gun and say, 'We open in 20 minutes,' I love that pressure. I've worked with some serious chefs over the years and they take no prisoners. If you're not ready, you're done."
What to watch for: "Expect the unexpected. I'm the senior candidate, so I've got a bit more experience under my belt, but the beauty is that no matter how much I thought about it, I never knew what was going to happen when."
Age: 38 Occupation: Catering-business owner
Her recipe for success: "My motto is, 'Dessert first, that way you always have room.' I go to a lot of celebrity parties [as the wife of former NBA star/Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw], and I see so much over-the-top, incredible stuff. I want to bring that to my audience and show them how to party like a rock star."
Fave Food Network fare: "Alton Brown, Good Eats, because he explains all the stuff I never knew the answers to. He gets into the chemistry, and it's totally educational. He breaks it all down for you."
What to watch for: "Oh, you'll know it when you see it. It's the biggest slipup ever, and it's hilarious. It involves Bobby Flay, I'll leave it at that!"
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