Lessons Learned from Trying to be a Food Network Star (Part 1)

At the end of 2005 – when I was 24 – I did something absolutely crazy and unexpected . . .

  • By Jess Dang
  • July 8, 2014

I auditioned for a reality TV show.

Yes – somehow, I got it into my big ol’ twenty-something head that I could be a cooking show host. The fact that I only had a few years of casual cooking experience and still began each meal silently praying that I wouldn’t burn down my kitchen didn’t seem to register as potential red flags.

So without too much hesitation or thought, I joined 8,000 audition tapes for Season 2 of The Next Food Network Star . . . and through what must have been a casting mistake, I was chosen to be one of the 8 finalists.

While I was incredibly excited for the opportunity, my initial reaction was more “Oh sh*t” than “Awesome!” I even asked, “Are you sure you’re not mixing me up with another petite Asian girl?”

Once we determined that there was no identity mix-up, I packed my bags and left my familiar corporate life for a very unfamiliar adventure.

As soon as I met the other 7 finalists – all seasoned cooks, chefs, and restaurateurs – I understood that I was selected to be the guinea pig.

My role: the young corporate kid who would likely go up in flames and produce some laughs.

And while I didn’t go up in flames, I didn’t defy expectations either.

In one of our first challenges, we were asked to dice an onion and fillet a fish under Iron Chef Morimoto’s discriminating eyes, hot studio lights, and the judgment of cameras, producers, and TV execs.

It’s just another day in the kitchen (so I told myself).

Hands sweaty and shaking, I filleted my fish and diced my onion. I looked to Morimoto for approval. Grimacing, he responded: “I would never serve that onion in my restaurant. Look at the bits of peel in it.”

I wanted to pull my chef’s coat over my head and hide from all the cameras and the kitchen for the rest of my life.

Clearly, I didn’t do that because even though the show seriously kicked my butt, I walked out of the experience excited to get back into a normal kitchen – one without cameras and Morimoto (unless he was cooking).

I learned how much I didn’t know and that the best thing I could do to improve my cooking skills was just to continue messing up here and there.

Kitchen mishaps happen to everyone, and hopefully yours will not be seen on national TV. 😉 I hope you never let any cooking mistakes set you back from discovering what a fun and rewarding place the kitchen can become with a bit of practice.

Never let any cooking mistakes set you back from discovering what a fun and rewarding place the kitchen can become. Tweet this.

Have you had any funny kitchen mishaps you want to share? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Next week, find out what I learned from the challenge that sent me packing.

To mess-ups and victories in the kitchen!

Always your kitchen cheerleader,


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