Well, that’s a rap folks. The summer … or rather, the year … of Food Network Star has come to a close, and it will very well be one of the greatest stories I tell my grandchildren when my curls have aged silver. I’m wiser for it, too, even without a streak of grey.
My elimination felt like the hardest entry to write, but penning the swell of emotion that comes with this end is like grasping for words in an undiscovered language. Few in this world have experienced the physical and psychological journey that is Food Network Star (or, reality competition), and I’m grateful for the friendship of those that have. You know who you are. With my many musings, conversations and expressions on and off the camera, it has always been my intention to share my experience with everyone in my orbit. Thank you for listening and (up)lifting when it felt like one day I was getting married and the next day I was at war. Of course, the contradicting joy and sting of competition is not as profound as marriage or war, but they carve memories that won’t soon be forgotten. As with any milestone, there is always transition … an archway to the other side.
On August 10th, 2012, I married Bobby in a tightly bound circle of family. That’s right, August 10th has become a pivotal day in the life of this lil’ human being trying to make her modest stamp on Earth. On August 11th, 2012 – today – we celebrated in ecstasy with our community from around the world, on a slice of farm paradise in my Connecticut hometown. Two years later, as a very different chapter ends and the outline of the next is just scribbled, the same moral carries my story. As Coley put it so aptly, the “things that really matter” are the people. My husband is at the helm.
On my Food Network Star application, I had to answer a question to the tune of “what is your biggest personality weakness.” In truth, it’s also my greatest asset: I’m one of those delirious optimists that operate with the belief that human nature is G-O-O-D. I’m inclined to trust and give people the benefit of the doubt – an A+ without having to earn it. While I’ve been the victim of my own convictions more than once, my life has always fared better for having built it on relationships. Real ones.
When I walked through the doors of Food Network Star I had the foolish suspicion that I wouldn’t be able to trust a soul. My friend Coley trumped all expectations. She was my first ally, and never waivered in her support. Finding a best friend on this show was truly the greatest outcome. Coley is a star. By the start of the first red carpet challenge, we had all agreed to make our own version of “ants on a log,” just to screw with TV. Now that’s solidarity. But one person protested, and the collaborative spirit turned to dust. Our friendships were salvaged, but the competition got underway.
As an identical twin and a lifelong athlete, I’m no stranger to competition, but I felt grateful that I had an empowered sisterhood on my cast. Sarah reminded me to throw my arms up to the sky and feel like a star when I was on the bottom. (The much-acclaimed superwoman pose). Loreal waved a blend of essential oils beneath my nose when I could no longer stand the anxiety of picking favorites under scrutiny. We both like to get weird. Aryen awakened the performer in me, the girl who was forever making plays and singing songs with my siblings. Donna taught me to smile through tears; crying is not always a repercussion of tragedy.
And there were the boys too. The brothers. The cowboy who lent a hand climbing down from the Buicks, strummed his guitar and had me join in the chorus. Congratulations Lenny! Reuben who is my little and older brother at once, steadfast in his loyalty with the Latin flair I so deeply love. Chris, the “husband” of the ladies: responsible, attentive and assertive. Christopher Lynch: a real, real friend who I will eat and celebrate with till the cows come home. Kenny, the kindred playmate I can always count on to bushwhack with me behind Firelight’s trails and then serve me a wedge of homemade pie. Luca, endlessly charming, genuine and honest. Congratulations to you tesoro.
Of course there was banter and tension. It’s inevitable when adults go to summer camp. But the bonds of sharing a season on Food Network Star outweigh any lasting wounds. At least in my Book. That’s just how I roll.
The people that matter most are also surrounding each and every one of us. For tradition, and also because I wouldn’t have it any other way, I watched the grand finale with my husband, my best friends and my incredible community at Ithaca’s Movie Theater. Through this journey I’ve picked up another sensational friend, the Executive Director of Cinemapolis, Brett Bossard. I walked through the aisles pouring Southern Tier IPA and Sheldrake Wine to celebrate “the end-beginning.” The daughter of my friend and award-winning portmaker, Frederic Bouche, asked me when she could buy my cookbook so she could make all my recipes. She will run her father’s winery one day. The future is promising, and as Steve Jobs said, there is only one way forward – we connect the dots when we look back.
I’m on my way to spend a week with my mamma, my sisters and brother, our partners and spouses, and my baby nephew. I’m going on vacation, and when I come back, it will be with a renewed sense of energy, spirit and gratitude for what will forever be my summer – my chapter – of Food Network Star, and the seed of new adventures to come.
As always, enjoy these extra tidbits!