Q: Minute to Win It consists of try-this-at-home games that look easier than they are. Which one's the toughest for you?
A: Triple Pong Plop—that's where you bounce the ball off the table, on the three plates, and then into the fishbowl. I'm not good with Ping-Pong balls. I don't know what it is. I'm great with marbles and food—anything that has food in it.
Q: What's it like doing a show that isn't about eating?
A: The common denominator here is the people. The difference is we're not talking about smoking a pork butt, but I feel very natural, very at-home, very excited. And here's the thing about it—I've got a lot of energy. The expressions, the exuberance, and all the energy you see coming from me is not telepromptered. This is actually what I'm into.
Q: Is that your appeal? Is that why you think you won The Next Food Network Star, which launched your TV career?
A: I cook my ass off. I have no boundaries in my food. I think that's one of the things. And I'm not putting on a show. I mean, I am putting on a show, but I'm not trying to be this way for TV. This is how I am; this is how I roll. I'm just a guy. I'm just an average dude. I'm not really tall, not really good-looking.
Q: Your show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives highlights some pretty small-time places. How do they handle the press?
A: I'll tell the new restaurant, "Here's 10 phone numbers. Call these people [who've been featured] and tell them that your show's getting ready to be aired and listen to what they're going to tell you." They'll say, "Stock up, buy extra products, buy waiting seats for out front, have T-shirts for sale—because people will come by the thousands."
Q: What kitchen skill are you proudest of?
A: The one that I really was excited to master was barbecue. And I wouldn't even call it mastering. I packed up my stuff, headed down to Houston, Texas, slept in a parking lot outside of a barbecue plant, and took a big three-day class. We barbecued our heads off. I did the same thing with sushi. I went and trained with a sushi master down in Los Angeles at his house, 12 hours a day. But I don't take the not knowing. I gotta be in the middle of it.
Minute to Win It premieres Sunday, March 14, at 7 p.m. on NBC.