Bob Tuschman is general manager/SVP of Food Network. He previously served as senior vice president, programming and production for Food Network, heading up all programming aspects for the network. He was instrumental in discovering, developing and producing many of the network's biggest stars including Rachael Ray, Giada De Laurentiis and Guy Fieri, and led the network to record viewership levels.
I had a chance to speak with Bob Tuschman on June 14, 2011 about being a judge on Food Network Star.
What do you think of this season so far?
I'm enjoying this year's episodes. The season always is driven by the cast and I think that this cast, without a doubt, is the most accomplished one in terms of cooking skills, in terms of focused points of view in terms of personalities, and in terms of camera skills. It's the highest level of any cast we've ever had. The challenges are tougher. I think the feedback is tougher because they can take it. They came in strong and we think we can get them up to a higher level of performance. I really enjoy that. I also like having Giada as part of the selection committee. There's nobody who can understand what they need more than someone who has lived being a Food Network Star every day for years and years. I think Giada has an incredibly warm and engaging way of talking to the contestants. I love that the selection committee this year has two executives, myself and Susie, and two chefs with Bobby and Giada. This lets the contestants get what I hope and think is the most useful feedback for becoming a Food Network Star.
As the season progresses and you get a feel for who the contestants are and how they cook, do you start to get a sense of who's going to make it to the end?
You would think I would after all this time, but I am constantly surprised from week to week. One of the reasons I like doing this show, and one of the reasons I think it is interesting to views, is that even though I pick out favorites I have never stopped being surprised by what sorts of things trip them up in terms of their internal struggles and in terms of the challenges. I am always surprised by people who start out the show at the very back of the pack and emerged through sheer force of will and their ability to listen to notes better to others, and to never stop improving themselves. People who often end up winning, who obviously have the skills we need, are often the ones who continue to grow with time.
How difficult is it not to get attached to a certain contestant early on and favor them?
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Very. I will tell you that having four selection committee members keeps you honest because we are talking very honestly always among ourselves about what the pluses and minuses are of each contestant. You see it when we do the deliberation at the end of the show. That is very real, there is nothing scripted and it is just our honest opinions. We often come at it from a very different point of view. Even though I may get personally attached to people I am rooting for, I think I am pretty clear-eyed about where their deficiencies are and their strengths. Bobby, Giada, Susie and I all keep each other honest about each persons pluses and minuses and I think that is the importance of the committee.