One of the bigger challenges in TV is finding great hosts who viewers will come to love and trust. When a host fizzles, there’s a disappointed audience who may not come back. Scripps Networks has had a remarkable run of finding great talent through its competition shows — in particular Food Network Star, now in the midst of season 7, and HGTV’s Design Star, which just began season 6. Here’s a partial list of competition show winners (and a few finalists), and the shows they’re now hosting:
Food Network Star
- Guy Fieri: season 2 winner – Guy’s Big Bite; Diners, Drive-ins and Dives; and Tailgate Warriors (he’s also hosting NBC’s Minute to Win It, and serving as a TGI Friday’s spokesperson)
- Melissa d’Arabian: season 5 winner – 10 Dollar Dinners with Melissa d’Arabian, and a regular on Food Network Star (and snatched up as a Kellogg’s spokesperson)
- Aarti Sequiera: season 6 winner – Aarti Party
- Aaron McCargo Jr: season 4 winner — Big Daddy’s House
- Kelsey Nixon: season 4 finalist — Cooking Channel’s Kelsey’s Essentials
- Jeffrey Saad: season 5 runner-up — The Spice Smuggler on foodnetwork.com and a host of Cooking Channel’s United Tastes of America
HGTV’s Design Star
- David Bromstad: season 1 winner — Color Splash, HGTV’d appearance, and mentor on Design Star
- Kim Myles: season 2 winner — Myles of Style, $250,000 Challenge, and HGTV’d
- Antonio Ballatore: season 4 winner — The Antonio Treatment
- Emily Henderson: season 5 winner– Secrets From a Stylist
To find out more about how the networks find and develop great hosts, I talked with Bob Tuschman, General Manager/SVP of Food Network. Bob was instrumental in discovering and developing many of the network’s biggest stars and wears two hats by also serving as a judge on Food Network Star.
How do you pick the original 15 competitors?
“This year we screened 3,000 people to find the 15 finalists on Food Network Star. Our producers held open auditions in 10 cities as well as screened thousands of tapes submitted online and through the mail. We view every tape and identify the folks we feel have the most potential. The top 30 finalists are then flown to the Food Network Kitchens in New York City for a grueling day of testing, cooking, interviews and meetings to make sure they have the culinary knowledge, cooking skills and camera abilities necessary to be serious competitors. From these, we choose our top 15.”
Why are competition shows particularly good for discovering talent?
“What makes winning Food Network Star so difficult is that you need a combination of deep culinary authority, outstanding cooking skills and true camera charisma in equal parts. There are countless people who have one or two. But finding all three? That’s one reason why a competition show makes a great venue to find talent. The show functions as an 11-week audition. We get to test all the qualities we’re looking for in talent through a great variety of challenges over a long period of time. You really get a sense if someone truly has the potential to make it in this business for the long haul.”
How is your role as a judge different from your behind-the-camera job at Food Network?
“As an on-camera judge, I’m really aware that to many viewers I become the face of the network. So I’m always conscious of embodying the qualities viewers love about the network: warmth, fun, inclusiveness, respect and curiosity. Also, it gives me respect for how demanding being on-camera is. And, how much better I look with someone devoted full-time to my wardrobe, hair and makeup. A boy can get spoiled!”