Los Angeleno Jeffrey Saad made it to the final two on The Next Food Network Star, but unfortunately, his consistently popular “cooking without borders” mantra wasn’t enough to surpass Melissa in the end for the title. However, the journey for this restaurateur and chef continues (with a cookbook and blog) until, of course, we see Jeffrey accomplish his dream to get back on the network with his own show.
From your perspective, why not you?
Honestly I think it’s impossible to answer because what makes a Food Network star is so subjective and it really is something that [the judges] know best. They know what fits their model and they had a tough decision looking at all of us to figure out who was going to be that fit. And I think it comes down to them having to go with their gut [in terms of] who is going to be that person to grab the viewer and give ‘em what they want. If they had to pick two I’d be there, but they have to pick one and make the best choice they could make.
Looking back at the season, what was the best part of being on the show?
Oh my God, do you have like six or seven hours? [laughs] So much, from the second we got to walk into the studio, walk into the place that we worship—I worship the Food Network—every day there was a kind of ‘if I leave now that would be okay’ mentality because every day had something so amazing. Each Food Network star that we got to meet was so real and had so much to offer. Being pushed so far out of my comfort zone was so unbelievable but at the end of the day the amazing moment that I’ll miss the most is being able to stare into that little lens and hope that I’m inspiring millions of people.
Did you have a favorite dish or meal that you created on the show?
The Iron Chef/Red Lobster challenge was by far my favorite. Not just because [I won] but because it was physically and mentally the most challenging. I was really excited about how all the flavor profiles came together. It was really satisfying—I just walked away and felt really great about it.
What did you learn about yourself as a chef?
I am in a completely different place now. That show provides a training-ground like you couldn’t imagine. Not just the influences from the other contestants but just having to go so deep into yourself and be so in your head about food for seven weeks…I’m using so many different ingredients now…it’s unbelievable. I’m inspired and so grateful.
Your cooking show pilot wowed the judges, is there a chance we might see you back on the Food Network?
If it was up to me, you’ll see me there for the rest of my life! It’s in the hands of the powers that be. I’m not discouraged. I’m excited. And I’m here to make it happen when the opportunity arises. I went into the show thinking this is what I am meant to do—I left it knowing this is what I am meant to do. So now it’s just a matter of when/where I’m going to do it.
What have you been up to since the show wrapped?
I have been acting as if my cookbook has a deadline. I’ve always cooked from my head: just open the fridge, put it together, make it happen, enjoy your dinner. Now I have a notepad by the stove and pens always there and I’m constantly taking notes and creating recipes. I always cooked, every night. Now I’m cooking two and three times a day. I just can’t get enough. I’m just constantly trying to expand my horizons with a lot of different flavors and profiles since the show ended. And I started a blog (www.jeffreysaad.wordpress.com). When you don’t have that lens in front of you and the show’s over it’s like who is my audience going to be? I still want an audience so my blog is becoming my audience and I’ve had great interaction with people. The blog has become really fun for me.