ML's Susannah Locketti: I can hardly believe it's been five years since I competed on season one of the "Next Food Network Star." Man how time flies! Season five is premiering Sunday night at 9pm and I can't wait to tune in!
It's always fun watching unsuspecting and stressed out foodies whip up meals on the fly with the odds always working against them! As a mom of two boys I do this everyday and can relate! My favorite judge to watch is Bob Tuschman, FN's cute as a button senior exec who is as brutally honest as Simon Cowell, Tuschman challenges the finalists to improve with tough words of food TV wisdom. Trust me -- I've been there! I had a chance to catch up with Bob on what to expect with Season five and even hounded him on when the network is finally giving me my own show.
SL: How will FN be shaking up the competition this year? What do viewers have to look forward to?
Bob: This is the toughest year ever--we have a higher level of culinary competitor, tougher challenges and even more celebrity chefs making guest appearances to put the finalists through their paces. Ina Garten joins us for the very first time. And a little later in the season, we head down to Miami with some of the last contestants standing.
SL: What was FN looking for with their applicants this year? Do you think you found what you were looking for?
Bob: As always, we're looking for a combination of culinary expertise merged with star charisma and the ability to engage a nation of viewers. And yes, we found quite a few in this season who really impressed us.
SL: What is it like for you when giving such brutally honest feedback to finalists?
Bob: I think the kindest thing you can do for someone is to give them clear, honest feedback on how they can improve. I try to always be respectful, because I am truly in awe of our finalists who are willing to go through all we put them through, and on national television. But I'm sure on occasion when we're all exhausted my criticism can come out somewhat differently than I intended it.
SL: What does the winner receive?
Bob: The winner gets his or her own show on Food Network -- six episodes to start -- plus a feature in Food Network magazine, and an appearance at the New York Wine and Food Festival.
SL: What celeb chefs will be part of this year's competition?
Bob: Celeb chefs appearing this year is a virtual who's who in the food world, including Ina Garten, Giada DeLaurentis, Alton Brown, Rachael Ray, Guy Fieri, Pat and Gina Neeley, John Besh, Anne Burrell, Rick Bayless, Ted Allen, Sunny Anderson, Marcus Samuelsson, Francois Payard, Aaron Mc Cargo, Jr., Morimoto, Alex Guarnaschelli. And of course Bobby Flay returns as host and judge.
SL: Can you give us a sneak preview of some of the challenges?
Bob: Challenges include having to throw a Sweet 16 party for Food Network featuring a dozen of our top stars ... having to throw a budget dinner party for Ina Garten and her friends ... having to perform on the nationally syndicated "Rachael Ray Show" ... and that's just the beginning!
SL: I've had so many people ask me when I'm getting my own FN show. What can I tell them Bob? (tee hee)
Bob: You can tell everyone that I've always been impressed with you!
Awww, gotta love Bob! Tune in to season five of the "Next Food Network Star" Sunday nights at 9 PM beginning tonight!