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Next Food Network Star Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is an Interview with with Serena Palumbo on July 26, 2010 about the Food Network show Food Network Star.

Question:
If you were given another chance on the show, what would you do differently?

Serena Palumbo:
I would've not panicked when I was in a camera challenge. I have my own series of webisodes called Cooking in Manhattan, and in that piece, the stage manager is my husband - so it's a very relaxed environment. And even in other circumstances it was very relaxed. I was involved in a project called Cook for Women's Daily; it was a couple of people in my kitchen, much more relaxed. So I think I would have relaxed a little more before camera challenges. I think the very fast speech was more due to nerves than to anything else. In real life, I don't think I speak as fast as on the show. And if you see my webisodes on YouTube, you'll notice that I don't speak that fast at the end of the day.

Question:
There was some tension between you and Brianna. How did that affect you in this competition?

Serena Palumbo:
As a person that has worked in corporate America for quite some time, I try not to have personal influences on the way I perform. I try to segregate, as far as the issues go, to separate the issues from my environment. When I was on set, when I was in the different venues carrying out our challenges - I was in my element. I wasn't thinking about, 'Oh I'm going to upset her?' That was not my purpose. My purpose was to consistently perform at my best and I didn't really care if someone else didn't like me.

Question:
What's next for you?

Serena Palumbo:
What's next? Obviously my day job is being a lawyer. I've had a couple of events that I've organized over the weekend. One was in Westport, Massachusetts two weeks ago, one was a cooking demonstration here in New York City at Bloomingdale's. So there's going to be a lot more of that coming way, possibly something with one of the initiatives behind the American Institute of Wine & Food. Then more cooking in Manhattan! I'm sharpening my tools for one day, presenting myself again in front of Bob & Susie. And Bobby.

Question:
Looking back now, do you think singing during the camera challenge was a good idea?

Serena Palumbo:
Bad idea. Baaaaaad Idea. See, the reason why I wanted to do something, we were told by the judges for that particular camera challenge, we should impress them and do something at Week 7, that made us memorable. So I thought, the most I can do is make them think they are really in an Italian trattoria. And in Italian trattorias, you have a couple of people with guitars, singing. I wanted to convey the idea that they were in an Italian trattoria, southern Italian, and that there was someone singing. Sometimes you take risks and they pay off, and sometimes they don't.

Question:
How is the show different from what you expected before you got on it?

Serena Palumbo:
I was not surprised that the show was so challenging, I knew that it would be a lot of work. Before coming to the show I read interviews with previous finalists, and it always looked like it would've been a lot of work. It was more of a context board, and cooking in certain circumstances is like a context board. It was very physically engaging, to the point where, when I went back to New York, my husband asked me how I lost so much weight. Maybe I should do it again - and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Question:
During your time on the show, what was the most fun for you?

Serena Palumbo:
I would have to say, and this will probably amaze you, the contact with people whenever we had an event. People would come to our booth and talk to us, especially at the Santa Monica Pier, and the lunch trucks challenge. It was just fantastic to have people coming to you and asking for suggestions. I thought the contact with people was really amazing. What's next for me is public appearances, and I had one at Bloomingdale's on Saturday. The best part I think, was the contact with people that were there. I was cooking and they were asking questions, I appreciated it a lot. I love the warmth of people that come and talk to you. I think I'm going to keep at it.

Question:
How do you feel that being on the show benefited you?

Serena Palumbo:
As a person, I have to say that when I applied for the show and went to the audition, it was a situation where I wanted to prove to myself that I could change my life the way I wanted it to be, and could make my life a bit more interesting. Having a day job in corporate America, and most importantly being a lawyer, is very challenging, but after many years of doing the same thing you get bored. So I wanted to prove to myself that whatever I decided to do with my life I could do, and this was exactly what I was looking for. I was looking for something to challenge myself - I have to have a challenge. I cannot live without something challenging, it just becomes very uninteresting to me. So from a personal standpoint, it benefited me because it proved that if wanted to do something and wanted to change in a direction that is not necessarily where my education or experience would imply, I could still do it. From a professional standpoint, performing so much, it was amazing because you end up having some serious communication skills.

Question:
It helps you in being a lawyer too.

Serena Palumbo:
It does, because as a lawyer, I came to some sort of advantage, because lawyers are naturally inclined to communicate, be it with the counter-party in my case, or as a litigator, with a judge or a jury. So I think I had that advantage to that extent, but at the same time, it gives you a lot of confidence. It gives you the confidence, that if you've done something that is completely out of your control, your comfort zone, you can still do something else to make it exciting and interesting.

Question:
How did it feel to live in that house with all your competitors?

Serena Palumbo:
It was not easy, because I never really had a roommate. It was not easy, getting used to routines and different habits, and I don't know if it shows, but I'm a fairly neat person, so I had to reconsider things for people that were not as neat as me. If you see the reality portion of the show, you'll notice that Herb and I were pretty much all the time cooking for the others, and I have to say, the great thing is that most of the time he was clean in the kitchen, and I really appreciated that. In the very beginning we were all very shy, but it becomes more like a family, especially when the number of finalists is substantially reduced.

Question:
Are you in touch with the other finalists?

Serena Palumbo:
Definitely, when they come to New York they call me, which has happened a couple of times so far. I'm in touch with Aarti, Aria, Doreen, Brad, Herb and Alexis, and obviously Brianna.

Question:
So are you friends now?

Serena Palumbo:
With Brianna? Yes, it was just a miscommunication and misunderstanding. She had this feeling that I wanted to one-up her on certain things and conversation, which is really not who I am at all, so after we cleared that up, we did a really good job together.

Question:
Do you have an idea of who you think will win the show?

Serena Palumbo:
I think the people that are now on the show, the finalists that are left, I see a couple that I think are really talented, two in particular. I think they're very good chefs and have great personalities, so I'm going to keep my fingers crossed. I don't know who own, but even if I did, I wouldn't be able to tell you. I would say that my money is on Tom or Aarti.

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