Aria Kagan was at home in Hollywood, Fla., last week, when her final episode of "Next Food Network Star" aired.
She knew how the "reality" competition was going to end, but kept mum, as her contract required. Still, when she was sent home after failing an "Iron Chef"-like competition, it hit her hard.
"Even though I knew the outcome, I was sad," she told me when we spoke by phone late last week. "I read some of the blogs (about her performance on the show), which is not a good thing. I spent Monday in my pajamas."
That didn't last long, and now that the word is out, the 30-year-old Kagan, whose parents ran Hartford's Main Street Cafe, is planning for her post-"Food Network Star" career. The family restaurant closed back in 2000.
She had been working as a private chef, cooking for groups of up to 20 people in her area. Business had slacked off while she was in the competition.
"A lot of people thought I was going to win," she said.
But calls were coming in last week, not to cook, but to speak, and teach.
She got a call from Temple Sinai in Hollywood to speak to the teenagers about to be bar and bat mitzvahed about the lessons she learned in a competition that played out in front of the TV cameras.
Still, her focus is cooking.
Kagan was back home in Wisconsin a few weeks ago, where she made a few public appearances and cooked at a charity event. The focus there is her latest interest, tracing food from the farm to the dinner table. She spent some time at area farms, and worked with local chefs.
She's due back in town this week, but this visit is family-oriented. She's bringing her 3-year-old son, Luca, for his first visit to Wisconsin.
Kagan first learned to cook from her late father. He, in turn, had learned from his own mother, who kept a kosher kitchen. I asked her whether that may have played a role in her performance in that final "Iron Chef" competition, when she was supposed to use bacon creatively in three dishes.
"I wish I could use that as an excuse," she said with a laugh. "Bacon was never really one of those things I rely on."
Instead, she thought she would rely on her cooking skills to make three dishes that sort of included bacon as an afterthought.
When her dishes flopped with the judges, "I was shocked," she recalled.
Despite that shock, she enjoyed her time on "Next Food Network Star" and is hoping that there's TV in her future. In the meantime, you can follow her on her blog.
And she takes with her a comment from celebrity Chef Michael Symon, who told her during the show that her food made him happy.
"That, to me, is one of the best compliments a chef can get."
On the air: Whitefish Bay's Sam Page is joining the CW Network's "Gossip Girl" this fall, playing Blake Lively's new guy, according to EW.com's Michael Ausiello.
- Former WXSS-FM (103.7) morning guy Joe Caruso has begun his campaign to replace the retiring Jonathan Green on WTMJ-AM (620). His first step: posting a WTMJ logo on his website. He's going to need a few more steps.
- ABC has ordered a fourth season of "Wipeout" for next summer.
- TMZ is saying runaway JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater is in line for a "reality" show where Believe it when you see it. He has picked up a Hollywood PR "maven."
What you won't see on NBC: With late, late nighter Jimmy Fallon hosting the Emmys on NBC in a couple weeks, the network is airing promos for the awards show. The funniest put Fallon in the "Mad Men" mode. But after complaints from AMC's competitors that the spot was favoring that Sunday night show, NBC pulled it.
Here it is:
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.