Hi! My name is Kennedy, and I go to Seton Hall in South Orange, NJ — which is a mere 40 minutes by train to New York City. Coming from Southern California, Seton Hall’s proximity to the Big Apple was a huge selling point for me, as someone who loves art museums, Broadway, and most important, FOOD!! Though it’s definitely one of my more...unique personality traits, I’ve dreamt of watching a taping of a Food Network show since I was eight years old. When I was 10 years old, I happened to be at an event where I got to taste a Cupcake Wars winner’s creations, but that Girl Scout Thin Mint cupcake with a fudge center just didn’t do my dream justice.

Flash forward to my freshman year at SHU when I made a casting profile for New York City television and movie extras (mainly to fulfill my coexisting dream of being on Law & Order), and a few weeks later got an offer to be an extra on and make money watching Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay.

Kennedy Dierks

The day of the taping was chaotic, start to finish. I remember getting ready (hair, makeup, the whole shebang...because, you know, I’m gonna be behind an Iron Chef, left unnoticed by the people watching at home) and rushing to my 9am class before running out early and booking it for the South Orange Train Station. We made it as the train doors were closing, and took a power nap on our way into NYC — only after realizing we forgot our winter coats, and it was the coldest day that the tri-state area had seen that winter.

When we arrived at Penn Station, borderline freezing and knowing that we were pushing it on time, we ran a block to another subway station to jump on the A-train, which took us to the Upper East Side. From there, we ran the 20 blocks to the studio, and quickly realized we were the last pair to arrive. The two of us had just enough time to sign our lives away to the production company, but not enough to grab one of the Subway sandwiches provided to extras — which we soon learned was a fatal flaw.

Kennedy Dierks

They shuffled us onto the set, which, weirdly, looked so much bigger than it does on TV. The casting director sat me and my roommate on a ledge overlooking stage right, and we got an excellent view of both stations as well as the judges’ table. After being told we would get signals about when to clap, when to cheer, and when to boo, we were hushed as the man himself emerged from backstage, provoking cheers.

Katie Lee of FN’s The Kitchen and Heidi Gardner from Saturday Night Live were the hosts of the episode, and the crew directed them through several options for their opening sequence. With the exception of their banter, I can confirm that Beat Bobby Flay is 100% "real". After filming their intros, the contestants then faced off and cooked a dish that incorporated an ingredient of Bobby's choice; that day, it was Provolone cheese. With just 30 minutes on the clock (yes, really!), they faced off

I'm happy to confirm that, yes, the last ten seconds of the round are just as chaotic IRL.

One of the duos decided to make a twist on spaghetti carbonara, but the other pair of chefs ultimately pulled out the first-round victory with a provolone & bacon sandwich -- and let me just say, it smelled FANTASTIC on-set.

The worst part about spending five hours at a Food Network show taping is, without a doubt, being able to smell, see, and even hear the food -- from the peppery, cheesy pasta to the sizzling bacon -- but not being able to taste it.

After they announced who would advance for an opportunity to Beat Bobby Flay, the crew came around and moved members of the audience. The casting director approached me and my roommate, who were still in awe that we were really watching the show, and asked if we could move to the opposite corner of set. We agreed, and were thrilled when, less than a minute later, we were standing behind the Grill Master himself.

Kennedy Dierks

We had thought the first round was bad, but let me tell you -- after three hours of filming with only an RX Bar in your stomach, watching three VERY talented chefs face off in a Lumberjack Breakfast battle is borderline torturous. Bobby whipped up an "everything but the kitchen sink" style plate, filled with corn meal waffles, whipped maple butter, bacon with pomegranate glaze, eggs scrambled with goat cheese, apricot-glazed ham, and a potato hash, while his opponents stuck to the classic components (plus a bit of Caribbean flare) with flapjacks and their homemade chorizo. (Yes, my mouth is watering as I write this.)

I was curious to see how Round Two judging went; unlike Round One, which is decided by the two hosts of the episode, a panel of experts is brought in for the second tasting. I was stoked to see that, yes, the judges really had no idea whose dish was whose! And, it seemed as though both competitors held a solid poker face, though editing may indicate otherwise. Though the audience was rooting pretty hard for the dynamic duo, the judges ultimately concluded that Bobby just couldn't be beat.

Kennedy Dierks

A lot of people have asked if we got to meet any of the chefs. Unfortunately, we were shuffled out pretty quickly, but by no means did that ruin the experience. Spending a Friday in NYC living out my Food Network dreams? I'd take that any day. The cherry on top, though, was when my roommate and I were each handed an envelope of cash as payment for being Food Network extras. 

The moral of my story? It pays to follow your dreams -- especially if they take you to good food, a renowned comedian, one of the world's best television networks, and, of course, Bobby Flay.