Food Network Star Recap - Week 1

Happy Friday, birdies!

Each Friday, I will be blogging about my experience on Food Network Star. You know I love a good adventure. I can't wait to bring you on this journey with me throughout the season. 

"What inspired you to want to do another cooking competition after my wonderful experience on Master Chef?" is a question I get almost daily. To put it simply, I always try to dream big and welcome opportunities to make those dreams a reality. I have always dreamed of sharing the beauty the south has to offer on Food Network. Mississippi is my home and my heart. Mississippi means hospitality, family, friends, adventure and homegrown meals nourishing people on each leg of their journey. Meals are more than just the food. Meals are an invitation to share our hearts and nourish our souls - together. I want to share Mississippi's beautiful story. So, here I am again being vulnerable in front of some of the best chefs in the world with the hopes of having a chance to share my story, dreams & love for healthy food & adventure.

Shortly after opening my first restaurant, the Birdhouse Cafe, I got the news that I had been selected to be a part of Food Network Star's 14th season. I was excited & overcome with joy, but admittedly nervous to leave my baby, the Birdhouse, a month after its opening. After talking with family, friends & my Birdhouse team, it was obvious that this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I packed my bags and hopped on a plane to Orlando to embark on this exciting, new adventure. I can't adequately put into words the feeling of meeting my fellow contestants, Bobby & Giada. The first person I met was Jason. Let me just tell you now - he is one of the most unique, positive and happy people I have ever been around in my life. I sat down next to him in the van. We were both a nervous wreck , but couldn't help but flash smiles to each other when we realized we were both rocking metallic shoes.The first face I saw when I hopped off the van made me double take. Nothing calms nerves like seeing a friendly, familiar face - especially when it's your friend Manny from Masterchef! What a crazy, small world it is!

Our first challenge was to create a minute long promo showcasing who we are & how we will transform our signature dish into a park-friendly food - no utensils allowed. When your signature dish is a duo of roasted & braised beef over sweet potato grits, you know you have your work cut out for you. This dish is my twist on the traditional, southern steak & potatoes. I give it a little kick by incorporating spices & flavors inspired by my travels. I infused snap peas and fennel with a fresh squeezed orange juice infused with star anise and then reduced it for a glaze. In case you didn't know, Vardaman, MS is the sweet potato capital of the world. With an accolade like that, it would be a shame to not incorporate these gems into my dish. I pureed them down and added them to the stone ground grits. My initial thought was to make a grit cake and serve the beef over it but I was running out of time and decided to cube sweet potatoes and make a kabob with the duo of beef, veggies, and the sweet potato. I knew I needed something that was easy for a park guest to eat that sticks to my culinary view point. My veggies & sweet potatoes turned out lovely & the reduction on the top was the perfect icing on the.. well, kabob ;)  I'm definitely known as a risk taker, and I attempted to get the chuck cooked but should have pulled it because it just didn't have enough time to cook properly. Even though it didn't turn out how I would have wanted, I am glad I pushed myself & took the risk, because from our risks and mistakes, we learn. We learn how to be better, but equally important, we learn to believe in ourselves enough to push ourselves to grow. If the worst thing that happens is a mistake that I can learn from, it's worth it. 

Presenting to Giada & Bobby for the first time was huge for me. I'll admit that I was shy on the first episode. Most who watched would say my outgoing personality seemed to be hiding behind my nerves a little. I was more disappointed that I wasn't my outgoing self the first time meeting Bobby & Giada than I was about my steak not having long enough to cook. The bright side is that I got to cook for Bobby & Giada alongside one of the best competitors, Christian! Not only is Christian an amazing chef, he's a family man with a big personality and a heart of gold. It was so fun cooking alongside him and getting to be his unofficial taste tester!. 

In our challenge, if the park guest picked your dish, you were safe. I am so thankful the guest chose mine, so I could compete another week! Tune in Sunday to see the next leg of this exciting journey!

- Chef Katie

Kathleen A Dearman