Photo: Food Network
As The Next Food Network Star winds down its sixth season, we here at Slashfood are taking the time to chat with the final contestants about their experience on the show.
Click through for our interview.
This week's exiled star was the young, highly skilled Brad Sorenson. From the onset, Brad's boyish charms and good looks made him a stand out, yet when the cameras started rolling, his nerves often got the best of him. He was tense and serious, when the Food Network aims for fun and educational. But as the season progressed, Brad started to come around, and won a challenge just two weeks ago, It was a little too late, however. Last night, the judges let Brad go, not because of anything he did per se, but more because the other four competitors had better camera skills.
Slashfood spoke with Brad about creating a TV concept, presenting in front of Bobby Flay and behind-the-scenes advice he received from some of the show's other stars.
How's the day after? Did you get any sad texts?
BS: There's been a lot of different responses since the episode aired. My family has been sending condolences, I got some angry fans on the Facebook, but mostly it's been positive. People were sad to see me go and I definitely appreciate it.
But they shouldn't commit violent acts on your behalf, I suppose.
BS: We'll put a disclaimer out there that we do not appreciate rioting in the streets.
What made you try out in the first place?
BS: To be honest, my Mom. I'd just moved down to Texas and I was looking for a job on Craigslist. I was talking to her on the phone at the time and I said "hey, I saw this posting for an audition for The Next Food Network Star." My mom said "oh my god, I love that show, you should give it a try." I'd never really thought of doing something like that but my mom can be a very convincing person. I'm glad she was. I auditioned and everything kind of worked out perfect. That happened about a year ago and now here I am.
Historically in the show, and this season as well, contestants have struggled with the "Point of View" -- does that hinder your cooking at all, if you're thinking about that too much?
BS: In my case, I think I put more pressure on my food for certain. I'd been working real hard to be a professional chef -- I've basically dedicated the last 8 or 9 years to cooking and I wanted to share that, given this great opportunity. What ended up happening, I'm 25 years old and I'm standing in front of Wolfgang Puck and Bobby Flay, telling them I'm a pro. My food has to back it up. For the most part, I was happy with what I cooked. But when you have a bad day in the kitchen and then have to stand in front of Bobby Flay and say "I'm a pro," that's a little bit of pressure.
Bobby Flay, he's no joke.
BS: He cares. He cares about the level of food on the Food Network. He's so tied in and if you want to cook, you have to impress him. I think he liked what I did, but I'm still young, I'm still learning.
How hard is it to create a concept?
BS: Going in, I thought I had a pretty solid concept. I was really happy with the "pro" angle. I just didn't stick out well enough, but when I'm saying that, there's such a high level of expectations. The whole experience was very humbling. I felt like I was a pro chef but I'm learning how to be a better pro chef. And that's more relatable and interesting to people -- the journey, not the final result. It's a shame, it seems like right when I figured that out, it was a little bit too late for me.
Behind the scenes, did you have discussions about how to get the camera work down?
BS: We had a good level of support within the group. Aarti had been doing her food blog and often would pull me aside and offer advice. It was trial by fire -- trying to get better at something while you're in the mix. We definitely we had coaching amongst the cast members. It was still difficult, every time.
What was the hardest challenge for you?
BS: From an actual production standpoint, the Grammy party. The logistics were a little difficult. Aarti and I, for as well as we worked together, I don't think we planned as well as we should have. I made a couple of key, bad decisions and it kind of set us back. I just remember doing that one having to spring up and down two flights of steps, trying to make sure everything was right and we were putting out good food. If that was a catering event that I did, I'd walk away kicking myself in the butt for not being better prepared.
What was the best advice Giada gave you?
BS: She's very genuine and looked at me and said "Brad, we all know you can cook. Stop putting pressure on yourself, it's bringing you down. It's not the pressure of the camera anymore, it's not the pressure of the cooking, it's the pressure of pushing yourself too hard." It's not all about the food, it's the combination. She was reassuring me that I no longer had to prove that I had to cook, I just had to prove that I could be relatable in front of the camera.
People watched you try to do this, and I think that's what they found endearing in a way that you never could have planned for. It captures people trying really hard for a job.
BS: That's really correct; the best thing about the whole situation is that the episodes I did well, the episodes I struggled, I was moved each time. I was really happy I stuck true to myself, whether it was going well or going poorly. And I think people can connect with that. It was hard to watch myself struggle on TV, but it made it a little compelling.
Where in Austin are you cooking these days?
BS: I work in a restaurant called Asti Trattoria. It's in the Hyde Park area of Austin. It's homemade Italian food, everything from scratch, a little more on the rustic side. We're very involved in the local farms and the community. That's what drew me to the place. When I had my restaurant in Ohio, we were very ingredient based, sourcing as many things from as close as possible. I'm line cooking. That's what I wanted to do. I was finally at a point when I could do that. I've been a chef for the last 5 years, I've had to worry about my labor costs, my food costs. I kind of got away from cooking, but I got this chance to do some line cooking and I jumped at it.