Food Network celebrity chef Guy Fieri is exactly what he appears to be according to Emily Paster, River Forest resident, cookbook author and contestant on a recently aired episode of Grocery games for boys. The shopping and cooking game show has aired for 30 seasons and pits home cooks against each other in quick rounds designed to test their creativity and culinary prowess to a panel of judges.
“There’s nothing fake about Guy Fieri,” Paster said of the Food Network star who also hosts Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. “I really appreciate how he supports small businesses through his work and I admire that he has done this for himself.”
Known for writing books covering global Jewish cuisine, Paster found her way to Grocery games for boys through a casting company that had been considering her for another cooking show on the Food Network years earlier.
“I think they pulled me from a file they had on hand,” Paster said. “The application was extensive and I went through several interviews before they made the decision to bring me in to record the episode. I didn’t think it was really going to happen until I got a plane ticket.”
Grocery games for boys it’s a relentlessly positive show and the contestants, even those who may struggle, are never humiliated or reprimanded for their mistakes. No one comes across as a villain and Paster wanted to be in a show based on fun and cooking had no downside risks, but still she was determined not to make a fool of herself. To further complicate matters, each challenge remains a complete surprise to the contestants until moments before they are released into the “Flavortown Market” for a frantic ingredient shopping spree. You have only 30 minutes to shop for ingredients, cook, and plate your dish each round.
Paster, who describes himself as naturally nervous and detail-oriented, went overboard when preparing for the show. After being selected as a contestant for the episode titled “Cooking the Books”, Paster said that she focused on how she would beat the competition without letting herself down. He applied his intellect and passion for recipe development to identify the proteins that would cook fast enough to meet the strict time constraints contestants face and promised to pay special attention to the submission as it accounted for 20% of the your total score.
Paster’s episode filmed in January and aired in August. The show took 12 hours to film and pitted her against three “super fans” of Guy Fieri who were asked to put their own spin on dishes inspired by recipes from his many books. The first challenge forced Paster and his fellow contestants to deal with a redacted recipe for blistered pepper burgers and the second allowed them to change one of Fieri’s few recipes.
Paster said she was up for vague assignments, but was a bit intimidated by the professional kitchen equipment available to her while she competed. She describes herself as a competent home cook and had never used equipment like the deep fryer, top rotisserie and searing grill available to her during filming. However, Paster turned out a top-notch burger in the first round and crispy fish tacos in the second. Despite being a formidable opponent, Paster missed out on first place by just one point.
“It was a lot of fun to be on the show and I would definitely do it again,” Paster said. “I am still in awe of how many people it takes to make an hour of television.”
Paster is a former freelancer for the Wednesday Journal and the author of four cookbooks: “Instantly Mediterranean” (Tiller Press 2021); “Epic Air Fryer” (Harvard Common Press 2019); “The Joys of Jewish Preserving” (Harvard Common Press 2017) and “Food Swap: Specialty Recipes for Bartering, Sharing & Giving” (Storey 2016). His episode of Guy’s Grocery Games (Season 30; Episode 10) is available to stream on Prime Video.