Just Eyeball It Exclusive Interview: Teddy Folkman of The Next Food Network Star


The fifth season of the Next Food Network Star started fours weeks ago. Ten people who love to cook were all trying to be the next “star” on the Food Network and get their own show. The most well-known contestant of the competition is Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Guy’s Big Bite, Guy Off The Hook), who won the second season competition.

The fourth person eliminated from this season’s competition was Teddy Folkman. Teddy is 33 and from Alexandria, VA. He is the co-owner and executive chef of Granville Moore’s Gastropub in Washington, D.C., developed his love of food at a young age while working at a deli and honed his culinary skills and style under several well-known chefs. Now, Teddy focuses on sharing simple techniques to inspire people to think and cook like chefs. Teddy spends his free time teaching cooking fundamentals to local high school students, and he won a mussels and fries challenge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay in 2008. I had the chance to interview him the day after he was eliminated and here is what he had to say…

Did you try out for any of the past seasons of the Next Food Network Star?

Teddy Folkman: Actually no. Over the past 8 years, I have been focusing on becoming a chef and restauranteur and hadn’t really given it a thought. But after my Throwdown with Bobby Flay and encouragement from my girlfriend Kate I decided to give it a shot. I was finally in a place where I had amazing employees and a completely understanding business partner who also inspired me to go for it.

Explain your try-out process in detail. How many rounds/interviews did you have to go through? What did you have to do to try out?

TF: When going into the auditions from the Next Food Network Star, I wasn’t expecting anything more then to have fun and maybe get a chance to go to NYC and show the Food Network that I could be the next member of their family. After my audition in Washington DC, I felt really confident that I was going to make it to the next round, demoing my “Flay-Slaying” Moules Fromage Bleu to the casting directors. Not only did I have them rolling in laughter, but asking for more mussels! Later that week, I got the call and next thing I know I am headed on a train to the Food Network Headquarters in Chelsea. It was then when I ran or should I say “rammed” into Tyler Florence right before my audition. Hmmm, maybe that was why he was so harsh to me during the supermarket tips challenge. During the audition I had a ton of interviews and finally a cooking demo in which I was pelted with questions about everything from my chilhood to what I was currently doing with the food. I was given raw almonds, spinach, an orange and a chicken breast. I wound up making sauteed spinach with brown butter almonds, and an orange-scented chicken breast with candied orange rinds. Things again went great and low and behold I made the show.

Did the fact that you competing against Bobby Flay in a Throwdown come up at all? Did you think that experience would help you at all during the competition?

TF: It really didn’t come up. They were totally different experiences. I was in my comfort zone during the throwdown, and his when I got to NYC.

Did you think you would make the finals to begin with?

TF: No. I thought I would make it far but being selected as a finalist was a complete shock. I am a chef who loves teaching kids and adults how to cook not by following a recipe, but rather by applying basic fundamentals to their cooking process which is hard to get across in a 30 second speech about a steak.

Why do you think you were ultimately eliminated?

TF: What, I was eliminated. Crap… no one told me this. I guess I should move out of this house. I was wondering why it is so lonely and the cameras left.

Why did you get into the argument with Debbie at elimination the next week instead of not commenting?

TF: I should have told Debbie flat out that I disagreed whose dish was whose. But under the pressure and with so much going on, I just wanted to put out the best damn food I could for us, ultimately, not being able to finish the dessert we contrived. I failed at that one. I then brought it up with her before the elimination but not strong enough. Debbie did not deserve the way I addressed the issue.

When it was down to you and Eddie after that did you think you were gone?

TF: No. I thought both of us were gone.

Should the other contestants not say or do anything that might make it seem like they didn’t like any of the other contestants and become a target?

TF: No. Always speak your mind and never hold things inside. Address them as soon as it happens. It is better that way. I learned the hard way.

Did you think you were gone when it was down to you and Teddy?

TF: Yeah, the mirror challenge was a tough one.

How much Food Network did you watch before the competition?

TF: Here and there. With 2 restaurants and all my volunteer work, I don’t watch much TV at all. But if I do, CNN, ESPN and Food Network are on.

Favorite Food Network shows? Favorite Food Network stars?

TF: My favorite show is Iron Chef. My favorite star is Bobby Flay. A year ago I would have said someone else. That guy just really cares and is a straight shooter. I admire him.

Who have you been most excited to meet so far?

TF: Morimoto. He is such a unique person.

Anyone from The Food Network you would like to meet that you haven’t yet?

TF: Michael Symon.

Favorite meal to cook? Favorite meal to eat if different?

TF: My favorite meal to cook is Curried Fish Tacos (currently – it changes all the time). My favorite thing to eat is CHICKEN WINGS!

Did you make any friends on the show that you will keep in contact with?

TF: Besides Jen, Brett, Eddie, Jamika, Debbie, Jeffrey, Melissa, Katie and Michael… no. We ALL keep in touch and Brett and Eddie are coming to DC in a few weeks.

Any finalist you didn’t like?

TF: No. They are all GREAT people and wonderful talents.

Hardest challenge for you?

TF: Getting up at 3am.

Hardest part of the competition for you?

TF: Leaving. I thought I was starting to really come into my own.

We have seen a few Next Food Network Star contestants get their own shows (Adam from last season, etc.). What do you think your chances of getting your own show are?

TF: We were all selected from thousands of applicants because we all in our own right could have our own show. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see any of us back on the screen.

What kind of show would it be? What would be the theme or “hook” of your show?

TF: If I told you, someone else might grab it so now its hush hush. Well, maybe something with kids and beer. But not together. Well….

Just so you know, before the show started my fiance looked at the bios and pictures of all the contestants and she picked you to win it all. So at least it seems like you have the “look” of being on the Food Network.

TF: Cool. Better then the look of a mass murderer! No, I still think I want to pursue this route. I love Food Network and they have doine great things for me. Ending this relationship now would not make sense for either party.

But if no Food Network future, what is next for you?

TF: My business partner Joe Englert and I are working on 3 restaurant concepts and working with expanding Brainfood (www.brain-food.org) to new and exciting levels.

The Next Food Network Star airs on the Food Network on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT.