Michelle Karam does it all: She is a mother of three, food blogger at TheMediterraneanMama.com, radio host, private chef, and owner of a catering company. So it’s no surprise that the 39-year-old was selected to compete on-air in The Next Food Network Star, the popular television station’s taxing, 11-week competition against other chefs to become the host of a new show.
“I was challenged and placed outside of my comfort zone more than I could ever imagine,” admitted Karam last week. While she couldn’t reveal any details about who came out on top in the new season, which premieres on June 7 at 9 p.m., she did answer a few of my questions.
How did you prepare for the show? You can prepare up to a certain point. You can watch previous seasons, and you can know, “Oh, they’re going to give you this challenge, and they’re going to give you that challenge.” But there’s really nothing in particular you can do to prepare yourself for what happens. The Food Network is going to surprise you, even when you think you know what is coming for you in a challenge and you think, “Oh yeah, we’re going to do this challenge,” it’s never what you expected.
What was it like to be on set? I was very nervous to be there and not know what was coming next. I’m not a chef that does cooking in a restaurant professionally. I was surrounded by competitors who were really fierce and really well seasoned, and that’s kind of hard when I’m there as the “mommy chef.” I mean, my biggest audience right now is my kids and my husband. I definitely gave myself some slack to say, “Well, if this doesn’t work out, it was an experience.” I was just happy to be there and honored that they selected me to be there.
What was your biggest challenge on the show? I’m not naturally competitive. I want everyone to win. I guess that’s the mom in me. My heart goes out to everybody, and I feel bad if someone doesn’t win. My nature is to help everybody out, and that’s a tough one to follow on the Food Network because that’s not the nature of the game. It was the hardest I’ve ever been challenged in my life, and I am so proud to say I was a part of this.
What did you take home from your experience on the show? All of the valuable advice I got from the mentors and veterans of the Food Network. That was a major plus for me, to be able to say that I’ve been mentored and coached by people who I honor so much. I also took away some really amazing people that I got to know in terms of the other finalists that were there. We know what we went through, and some days when we were having our highest highs and our lowest lows, we were together. I think when it airs and people see some of the things, no one will get it except for the other people who were around me, and that to me is kind of special. There were definitely a few people there that I will consider friends for the rest of my life.
If you do win, what would your ideal Food Network show look like? I would love to do something along the lines of The Mediterranean Mama. I’d like to bring some of those flavors to The Food Network. I don’t really feel like there’s a show right now on The Food Network that specifically focuses on Middle Eastern food, and I’d definitely like to put that out there. Or maybe do something along the lines of a supermarket ambush. Find a mom who’s in the market with her kids who are driving her crazy and say, “Okay, what do you have in your basket? Let’s go home and see what you have there, and let’s make something great out of it.” Because we don’t all have culinary degrees or time to spend in the kitchen to cook.