Episode 2 Food Network Star
Food Network Star Kitchen, Red Food, Podcasts & Proud Bird
Well, I made it to episode 2! After a grueling episode 1, we made our way across the country to LA to start filming episode 2 at The Culver Studios.
The logo that dreams are made of…
Walking into the Food Network Star kitchen for the first time I see the giant show logo behind Bobby and Giada. It serves as inspiration throughout the set and for me a continuous reminder of the dream I came to achieve. Things just got REAL!
Let’s talk pantry…
As I walk-in, the first thing I see is the pantry. It’s incredibly well stocked and according to Food Network's culinary team, there are more than 36 spices in the Food Network Star pantry. Red pepper flakes, chili powder, and garlic powder were some of the most popular picks. This is heaven for me because I borrow inspiration from spices and herbs and the combinations are endless.
Next, the rows and rows of pots and pans line the shelves of the pantry. I’m obsessed with the colorful Le Creuset pots.
This isn’t your average kitchen…
The kitchen equipment is state of the art with working double ovens, a six-burner stove, a miniature grill top, and expansive workspace, the cooking station in the Food Star Kitchen had everything we need to cook our best dishes.
Now for the show which is always broken into two parts: mentor challenge and a star challenge.
Mentor Challenge: Red Food
This week our challenge: partner with a person that has the same color spatula and create a dish with the same shade. Easy, right? Well yes, for Christian and I as we had the color red. Indians and Italians cuisines have so much red (tomatoes, curry sauces, and chilies) that Poor Manny and Rebekah who got purple! Yikes.
Christian and I immediately gravitated toward these beautiful red Mediterranean shrimp, tomatoes, red bell peppers and saffron to come up with a dish that combines our unique cultures. The shrimp are stunning in color, so a quick few minutes on the grill, and they are good to go. I choose to make a makhani sauce, which is luxurious gravy in Indian cooking that is made with sweet fire roasted bell peppers, perfumed with saffron, thickened with cashews and a touch of Calabrian chili for some heat. This sauce is a perfect base for the grilled shrimp and also has a gorgeous red color. One of the highlights of this episode, which is not shown on TV, is Christian grabbing a large canister of liquid nitrogen to freeze the shrimp heads. Liquid nitrogen is a common tool used in the process of flash freezing due to its extremely low temperatures and cooling properties. In our case we poured liquid nitrogen directly on the shrimp heads to freeze, and, no sooner than the nitrogen hits the pan, it quickly evaporates into the air. Pretty cool science trick, right? One little detail left out of the show is midway into our experiment, Christian's goggles broke, so I jumped in to shield his eyes!
Podcast… two peas in a pod.
Christian and I had a really easy time talking about our cultures, families, and food. To me, there is no other culture that loves food as much as Italians. We both come from huge families that celebrated around food. Those four minutes went by really fast, and I felt great after.
Star Challenge: Destination Proud Bird
After the mentor challenge, Jess and Adam (winners) picked me to be on their team. I felt we had a stellar group dynamic and worked really well together. Of course, we did forget to pass to each other, but I still think we had a blast creating our destination video.
The challenge: visit a historic food hall; pick a food outside your comfort zone and present. Simple enough… Well, for most people. Five stations, five team members.
I choose Bludso's BBQ, which is an LA institution for many reasons. The biggest reason, I grew up in a vegetarian household and secretly tried meat in the school cafeteria, so BBQ seemed way out of my comfort zone. We only had a minute each and handful of takes to get all the pertinent information out in front of dozens of people and cameras. If you think that sounds hard… it was! I really got into my business-mode and tried to cover so many facts about Bludso’s that I forgot to enjoy the moment on camera. I have a tendency to really focus on hitting all the points of the challenge and often forget the most important things – smiling and having fun!
Elimination was grueling this time around as we all watched each other’s videos and heard pretty harsh critique. I was pleasantly surprised at how well everyone did despite the pressure cooker environment. Well, I heard Bobby and Giada, and duly noted in their comment to have fun. Our team is safe despite my not so stellar performance. On to week 3!
Easy Makhani Sauce Recipe
3 cups roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 red pepper
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon garma masala
¼ cup cashews
Preheat your broiler. Place your pepper on a baking sheet and cook it under the broiler until all sides are charred, turning with tongs as needed. Charring adds so much flavor! You can also do this on an open flame. Transfer pepper to a mesh sieve set over a blender jar or food processor work bowl to cool until you’re able to handle it, about 15 minutes. Remove the seeds and chop the pepper into small cubes.
In a sauté pan, heat over medium-high heat and add cumin and stir until fragment. Add onions and garlic and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add tomatoes, chopped red pepper, and garma masala, cover to cook approximately 10 minutes. Season with kosher salt.
Place tomato and onion mixture into a blender with cashews and puree on high speed until smooth. Use as a base for vegetables, chicken or fish.