The Next Food Network Star fifth season begins June 7, and its celebrity chef host — Bobby Flay himself — shares insight into what it takes to become The Next Food Network Star.
Bobby Flay’s favorite dish
SheKnows: Big hit show returning for its premiere June 7, The Next Food Network Star! Anything you can dish? Sorry, bad pun.
Bobby Flay: Yes, absolutely [laughs]. First — these people have very good cooking chops. I think the contestants are really the best group of cooks that we’ve had so far in five seasons. I’m looking forward to Barefoot Contessa — she’s sort of elusive; she doesn’t do a lot of public appearances. She does her own thing. I got a chance to work with her. All the finalists loved meeting her and being in her cooking barn. That’s going to be something for people to see. We actually go to Miami in the series — obviously a beautiful setting. There are some crazy grilling challenges. I think it’ll be a really exciting season.
SheKnows: What do you look for in a contestant on The Next Food Network Star?
Bobby Flay: Because I’m the chef on the panel, I’m always protecting the food. It’s the Food Network — it’s about entertainment — (but we can’t) forget the food. There’s three things: The contestant needs to be able to cook with authority. (He) needs to be a good teacher and to be able to inspire. And if they have those two things, he needs to be entertaining, too. He has to be able to hold the viewer. All three of those things are the recipe for success.
SheKnows: Some of the challenges during the past four seasons of The Next Food Network Star have been downright brutal. Where do they come from? Do you ever think the show went too far?
Bobby Flay: Sometimes I consult on some of the challenges — I come up with ideas for challenges. Basically, it’s done by the Food Network and the production company, although sometimes I put my two cents in. I do think that sometimes they’re hard. But, that’s what this is about. If everybody was perfect in every challenge, there’d be nothing to watch. Basically, the idea is to take people out of their element a little bit to see how they do under pressure. It’s not just about acing the challenge. It’s more about [handling pressure] when there’s an issue — like there is on TV every day. So, I think that sometimes, yes, the challenges are difficult. But, they’re difficult for a reason.
Flay’s secret to TV chef success
SheKnows: How do you think the role of the chef has changed over the years in the era of the celebrity chef?
Bobby Flay: The chef on television has a lot of roles. In lots of ways, chefs on television are becoming role models for adults and children. From an adult standpoint, it’s about getting people to eat better and more nutritiously. Also, tons of kids watch Food Network. I cannot tell you how many — it’s amazing. I think that it’s one more profession for kids to look up to. We do have a responsibility to be a role model.
SheKnows: Best challenge on the show this year?
Bobby Flay: The first thing that comes to mind is a challenge in Miami. It’s outdoors, near the water. It’s a grilling challenge, and there’s all these different kinds of fish. Basically, they had to come up with a dish that would actually go on the menu of a restaurant. What they came up with [was incredibly creative] and it was great to see that people have finesse with something like fish, which can be really difficult to use.
From family cook to Star?
SheKnows: Can someone who simply cooks as mom or dad for the family become The Next Food Network Star? How about this year?
Bobby Flay: I would say that [all the contestants] have good food chops. They’re pretty experienced when it comes to cooking. It’s anywhere from somebody who’s a home cook, cooking for her family — like Melissa from Texas — or this guy named Michael from New York. (He’s) worked in some top New York restaurants. Then there’s a guy outside of Washington who I challenged in a throwdown. And there’s a woman named Katie who I really like a lot.
SheKnows: Do you think it’s important to have classical cooking training to win?
Bobby Flay: It all depends on how far you want to go. I’ve been cooking for a long time. I started when I was 17; I’m 44 now. My practical everyday experience helps me on television. It helps me speak about it. I’m never reaching — it’s what I live. As a judge, I am looking for someone who has a good repertoire. I want them to have 600 shows of information in them. I want them to become an important part of the Food Network roster. If you’re not classically trained, it puts you at a disadvantage if you haven’t taken the steps to make yourself a better cook and a more knowledgeable one. The more experience you have, the better (shot) you have at longevity.