Lessons Learned from Trying to be a Food Network Star (Part 2)

If you read my post from last week, you probably figured out that I didn’t last very long on The Next Food Network Star.

  • By Jess Dang
  • July 15, 2014

In fact, I was unsurprisingly the first one kicked off.

While nobody ever wants to be the first to go, I was relieved to be done. I felt ill entering the studio each day, and in just 7 days of filming, I had dropped 10 lbs. The 24-year-old me was just not cut out for the stress of competing in a reality TV show.

Even though the challenge that sent me home was an absolute disaster, I did learn an important lesson – one that I still use everyday.

In cooking, it’s not just about following the directions. Using your intuition and senses are also key to success. Tweet this

My final challenge required us to cook a recipe selected by the producers from a collection that we had submitted during the audition process. We had 30 minutes of prep, which the culinary team had outlined for us, and then 5 minutes to demo it in front of the cameras, judges, and producers.

They chose my mom’s Asian Bolognese – one of my childhood favorites – but for some reason, my prep list did not include pre-cooking a “swap-out” of my ground meat. (“Swap-out” in food TV speak is the finished lasagna that’s already cooked in the oven that replaces the uncooked lasagna that has just gone in.)

However, I thought the directions were the directions. I didn’t question them and just followed what they had outlined.

As the countdown started for my five minute demo, I already felt defeated. There was absolutely no way I could finish cooking ground meat in under five minutes. In that moment, I wish I had followed my gut instead of the instructions on my prep sheet.

So for almost five minutes, I demoed how to not cook meat in front of three cameras and a crew of food and TV professionals. Even though I did it with a lot of enthusiasm, talking about my family, my history with this dish, how long they – the viewer – should cook the meat for (more than five minutes, for sure!), I knew I was doomed at the end.

And then in the last minute of my demo, I had to plate my uncooked dish, and ask the judges not to taste it because, well, I didn’t want to be known as that contestant who gave Rachel Ray and Bobby Flay salmonella.

So, unsurprisingly I got the boot. I walked away from the challenge incredibly embarrassed but my mistake also taught me that recipes, prep sheets are only guides. I needed to also remember to trust and use my own judgment when cooking.

In cooking, it’s not always just about following the directions. Using your intuition and senses are also key to success.

To help you develop your intuition, we recently revamped our 5 Simple Cooking Secrets Guide that I used to start each of my cooking lessons with. None of it is rocket science, but they’re basic steps that are just left out of recipes and can elevate your cooking. Click here to get the guide emailed to you:

Free Download

5 Cooking Secrets Every Home Cook Should Know

Discover our 5 cooking secrets that will take you from a recipe follower to a real cook.

To discovering your cooking intuition!

Always your kitchen cheerleader,

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