Not too long ago, millions of viewers watched as Tregaye Fraser was revealed as the next Food Network star. I watched every single episode of the season, as I have for the past nine years now. A lot of things have changed drastically over the past decade: the Star Salvation mini-series was added; Alton Brown left *whimpers*; the finale turned into a little private party instead of a celebration shared with a live audience. Even the title changed from Next Food Network Star to Food Network Star (Why??). Regardless, here are some tips that come in handy no matter what season you compete in.

Hone Your Culinary Chops

This one is a no-brainer. It is Food Network, after all. Better work on those knife skills and flavor profiles, or you won’t even make it onto the show…

Fine-Tune Your POV

One of the top reasons why finalists get eliminated is because they haven’t really tethered down their “culinary point of view.” What kind of fresh perspective can you bring to the Food Network? You can’t just say “I want to do southern cuisine,” or “I want to create Italian dishes.” What exactly are you doing with southern cuisine? How is your Italian show going to differ from those of Giada DeLaurentiis’s? You can’t be vague, and you definitely can’t bring something to the table that’s already there.

Perfect Your Presentation Skills

Food is half the battle. It doesn’t matter how well you can cook if you can’t perform well on camera. Give lots of eye contact. Learn to cook and engage your audience at the same time. Be energetic but not frantic. Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up if you stumble. Everyone messes up at one point or another. If you get a bit tongue-tied, move past it and keep going.

Watch Your Time Management

Keeping track of time isn’t just crucial in Food Network Star; it’s crucial in the entire cooking world. But time management doesn’t only mean getting everything on the plate before the clock stops ticking. You also have to make sure you stay on top of every component of your dishes. That goes triple for meat: overcooking beef will make it tough, while under-cooked pork or chicken can make a judge sick. That’s enough for you to get eliminated. You don’t want to send Bobby and Giada to the hospital, do you???

Welcome Cooperation

Just because you’re a star, doesn’t mean you’ll never share the spotlight. In Food Network Star, you’re going to work in pairs and teams pretty often. Sometimes you’ll get along with your partner(s); other times you won’t. Your styles or POVs may not line up at all. The best thing to do is either suck it up or find a way to blend your personalities in a way that makes everyone happy.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

This is good advice for everyone, but especially for people in competition-based shows. The constant threat of elimination is sanity-threatening. And it’s not great to be stressed in an already-stressful job like being a Food Network star. Taking deep breaths, doing yoga, and writing in a journal are just three of dozens of things that can help you shake the nerves and perform at your best.

Be Careful About Rehearsing

Rehearsing is great when your memory isn’t. Trust me, I know the feeling. But when you rehearse too much and focus too heavily on saying the exact words you want to say, you lose your authenticity. Just go over the main points you want to remember, like main ingredients and cooking tips, and leave the rest alone until the cameras roll.

Don’t Argue with the Judges

It’s not necessarily a cause of automatic elimination, but it doesn’t put anything in your favor either. Never tell the judges that they’re wrong, and never take their criticisms as personal attacks. When you slip up, you slip up, and it’s more admirable to own up to your mistakes than it is to start an argument.

Keep Up with the Latest Trends

This past season, there were kitchen hacks, food holidays, and even live segments. The more up-to-date you are on the latest trends in Food Network, the more curveballs you’ll dodge, and the more prepared you will be for challenges, particularly the later ones. Read up on the network’s magazine. Watch different shows and browse around on its website to stay up-to-date on what shenanigans current stars are getting themselves into.

STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF

This is the most important thing to keep in mind in becoming a Food Network star (or anything, for that matter). The truer you stay to your own personality, the better your performance will be. You’ll also be a lot happier. When you try to be something you’re not, you can become stiff, awkward, or even over-the-top. This isn’t an acting job you’re competing for, so don’t treat it like one. Embrace your authentic self and show it to the world. You have nothing to fear but your own fear.

What other tips do you think would help in Food Network Star?