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Alex vs. America is returning; Alex Guarnaschelli started judging cooking at age 7

Alex vs. America is returning; Alex Guarnaschelli started judging cooking at age 7
Alex Guarnaschelli cooking on Alex vs America (Photo by Food Network)

My only real complaint about Food Network’s terrific competition series Alex vs. America—on which Alex Guarnaschelli faces off against three other chefs in their area of expertise, with blind judging—was that its first season was a mere five episodes long.

Thankfully, Food Network announced today that Alex vs. America was renewed for season 2.

That’s fantastic news for a show that centers one of Food Network’s best personalities, and also has some of the best parts of other shows, like Iron Chef, Beat Bobby Flay, and Tournament of Champions.

At the Television Critics Association winter press tour, Food Network senior vice president Todd Weiser said “fans loved as much as we do, and a season two pickup has been ordered.” Top Chef’s Eric Adjepong will be returning as host.

There are few details about that second season, such as when it’ll film or air, though a press release was headlined: “Food Network fast-tracks season two.”

The announcement did say, however, that season one has been “ranked as the #2 cable program among [people 25 to 54] and [women 25 to 54],” the network said, noting that it has grown its timeslot by 78 percent and is doing 28 percent better than Food Network’s average for new shows last year.

What Alex expects from Alex vs. America season 2

Alex Guarnaschelli, star of Alex vs. America on Food Network
Alex Guarnaschelli, star of Alex vs. America on Food Network (Photo by Sean Rosenthal/Food Network)

During the TCA press conference, I asked if Alex preferred the types of challenges where she really pushed outside of her comfort zone, such as with the chocolate competition, during which she lost in both rounds.

“Way to ask a question. Hey, you lost. Let’s talk about that,” Alex said, and then quickly added, “No, no, I’m teasing. I’m being playful.”

Alex said she did like being challenged, and that she was even asked about her weak spots. “Absolutely. The producers said to me, What don’t you like? And answer honestly. I think the most compelling television is when somebody is real about what they do and don’t like, what they can and can’t do. And why have a show called Alex vs America if I’m just going to get to cook my 15 greatest dishes, clean up and go home?”

“I think the viewer wants to take this journey with me, whether I’m losing, or winning, learning or not,” she added. “I think I say somewhere along the way, I’d like to beat everyone and learn along the way. And I thought that was really kind of a very apt description. So yes, more chocolate.”

After Alex said that the contestants are “learning what I’m not good at,” I asked if she though the season-two competitors would be more strategic in choosing the challenge, and specifically mentioning that they tend to give Alex a lot of time.

“They need the time as much as I do, because no one is familiar with where everything is,” she said. “You think, oh, you’re giving her that 45 minutes. They need it as much as I do to perform at their highest levels. So, the question is, do you give up what you need to hurt me or not? And that’s where the big part of this competition lies.”

“That’s actually what I wanted, and we all wanted this competition to do, explore competition from a different angle. What’s it really like waiting to hear what a judge says? What’s it like when a judge never sees your dish? What’s it like when you have no idea who’s eating it?”

How Alex Guarnaschelli got her start judging cooking

Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge, Food Network
Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge host Giada De Laurentiis (standing) with judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Christian Petroni, and Carla Hall. (Photo by Food Network)

Another critic, Mike Hughes, asked Alex to reflect on her childhood and where her love for cooking came from—and she revealed that what came before cooking was judging cooking. Really!

Here’s the story she told:

I grew up as an only child with two parents who cooked. They’re both Italian Americans. So each one thought the other made better tomato sauce. The dialogue was constant.

So, at the dinner table my mother would say, “Was this as good as your father’s last week, and why?” And I would say—it was all about—it was a lesson in diplomacy. It was also a lesson in honesty. So, I learned two things at the dinner table, diplomacy and honesty.

Honestly, when they asked me to come on a little show called Chopped, it felt like an extension of my childhood dinner table. So, it isn’t just how early I became interested in cooking. It’s how early I became interested in articulating what I feel and think about food, and putting that into words.

For someone else, who may not be able to taste or smell what I’m experiencing on television, I’m always thinking how can I draw the viewer to feel like they’re having the whole sensory experience with me?

Cooking came later. Talking about food started when I was seven, I was in the hot seat. My mom’s like, “Is it spicier than last November’s marinara, is it really?” But the cooking, the actual mechanics of cooking, came in my early 20s.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

Discussion

I value our community at reality blurred, which connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

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Happy discussing!

Devon

Monday 14th of March 2022

I like the Chef's Cut version, not even sure I ever saw the non-chef's Cut??? Eric is low-key wonderful (and I love that his beard glistens). I am looking forward to the competitors getting a little more cutthroat and pushing Alex into her non-comfort zones. For instance, they should have gone for the ultra-spicy chilis in that challenge, knowing that (like myself) she is not a super spicy chef. It would have been a lot more difficult. So I really liked this show and am glad it is continuing.

Melissa

Friday 4th of February 2022

Yay, I love this show! And great comments from Alex. Thanks for sharing.