Take Food Network, add hopeful chefs, stir
Seattle Times staff reporter
Food Network casting callNetwork representatives will remain in Seattle through Friday to meet with prospects. E-mail them at email@example.com or visit www.foodnetwork.com for more information. Applicants have until Oct. 12 to send in a three-minute audition tape explaining why he/she should be Food Network's newest star.
Two common beliefs bound together a microcosm of the Puget Sound's culinary community Tuesday morning.
One: They prefer the original "Iron Chef" to "Iron Chef America."
Two: They belong on the already wildly popular Food Network, whose often-mesmerizing cooking shows have launched careers and become standard viewing in many an American living room.
Several dozen would-be celebrity chefs answered the cable channel's Seattle casting call, one of five nationwide, for the fourth season of the reality show "The Next Food Network Star." (An air date has yet to be set.)
Contestants vie for the grand prize — their own regular Food Network show — while struggling with tricks of the trade, like charming an audience while avoiding having a recipe go up in smoke. The cooking show of the most recent winner — San Diego caterer and mother of two Amy Finley — debuts next month.
To this end, hopefuls who gathered in a downtown hotel filled out lengthy questionnaires, sharing their cooking philosophies and answering the perennial "What food would you be and why?"
Salt was a popular response. "It's a well-rounded ingredient," explained Eric Hellner, executive chef at Union Square Grill.
After a brief interview, some were asked to return today or Friday for on-camera interviews.
Seattle, says casting director Jennifer Sullivan, is an up-and-coming food city, a place where the network might find something new and different.
Father/son cooking duo David and Chris Kong of Green Lake restaurant Perché No Pasta & Vino hope they fit the bill. They arrived bearing evidence of their kitchen prowess and teamwork: magazine spreads, awards, photos from Chris' cooking competitions.
Food Network, says Chris Kong, 21, could use more shows with a focus on simple cooking. The Western Washington University business student regularly shares his knowledge with friends, surprised they aren't sure how to cook something as basic as an omelet, or that they don't realize girls like desserts that involve chocolate and raspberries.
Dan Thiessen, chef/owner of Bellevue's 0/8 Seafood Grill, says he'd highlight technique over recipes, to better equip viewers for a lifetime of cooking. He and many other chefs said they turned out in part to represent the region's growing food culture. Washington now boasts more than 500 wineries. Local cheese, chocolate, beer, bakeries and restaurants are winning greater national recognition. Folks around the country now correlate Seattle with salmon, not just coffee.
Others would be just as happy with a bigger platform from which to share their passion for food.
With his rich, booming voice and easy smile, tugboat cook Dana Gumataotao radiates that star quality you've come to expect on a cooking show. And no wonder, since he hosted his own cooking show in Hawaii.
Killing time at the hotel bar, he swapped life stories with Lien Titus, a Shoreline homemaker with a buoyant laugh who wants to bring more fun to the network, which she watches religiously.
"I get mad when the Food Network goes off at 3 a.m.," Titus joked. "It's like, what else am I going to watch?"
Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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