Food Network Star Martie Duncan: She Brings the Party Wherever She Goes
by Holley Dey ©2013 OnTapBlog all rights reserved
She’s throwin’ down the gauntlet. Martie Duncan knows her music, and well, she’s ready to prove it. The Food Network star has an idea for September’s exhibition in Texas. She’s invited an American Idol winner and restaurant owner to join her on stage at the food-lover’s event, and when he does, Taylor Hicks had best be ready for the challenge. Whether it’s music trivia or “Name that Tune”, Martie will surely be wearing her game face, lips turned generously at the corners and eyes sparkling with good-natured fun. Martie’s gonna bring the party to Houston. You can count on it.
Don’t be surprised if she hums a few bars from the stage. Can she sing? Says Martie, “There are people who can sing and people who will sing. I will sing.” Warm and delightfully chatty, Martie describes herself as a “party starter”. She’s the kindling that ignites good times. She’s the friend that will tell the bad joke, sing from the middle of the crowd or share a personal story to put everyone else at ease. She has plenty of experience; the Alabama native has been hosting legendary parties since she was a teenager.
She funded those high school parties herself, you know. In the process, Martie learned a little about the business of music, and plenty about the business of fun. At only fourteen, or maybe fifteen years of age, Martie declared herself a booking agent and went immediately to work. That’s right; she recorded her boyfriend’s garage band on cassette tape, snapped a promo picture with her Kodak and set about finding gigs for the guys. Only charged the boyfriend ten percent by the way; the woman has always been a professional.
A professional, yes, but Duncan is also a lifelong entrepreneur. She has a knack for putting herself in the right place at the right time and with just the right skill set to make opportunities happen. There have been some impressive opportunities along the way. Take, for example, Martie’s 2012 run on “Food Network Star”. The home cook took on professional chefs and restaurateurs in a made-for-television competition, using her considerable life experience and engaging personality to competitive advantage. Her appearance on the show came not by chance, but grew instead from a chance meeting some two years earlier.
She was waiting for the valet in front of a pricey Atlanta hotel when Martie was approached by a gentleman who needed directions. He tapped her on the shoulder and asked, “Hey, can you tell me how to get to Buckhead?” “Yeah, take a cab!” she replied. There was an immediate connection. One cheerful smart-ass recognized another, and Martie chatted easily with restaurateur and television personality Guy Fieri. “What are you doing here?” he wanted to know. “Why, same as you,” came her answer. Both were in town to attend the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show. It was Martie’s first invited appearance at the Show, and she had taken a room at the hotel she couldn’t afford, hoping to meet someone who might help her career.
That someone was Guy Fieri. When he learned that Duncan is a blogger and writes the “Martie Knows Parties” website, he exclaimed, “You’re like a walking party!” He immediately wanted to know why his charming new friend didn’t have her own show on Food Network. Martie confessed to her inexperience and lack of formal training, but Guy was unimpressed. Neither Paula Deen nor Rachael Ray have formal culinary training. “Why don’t you do ‘Food Network Star’?” recommended Fieri, and his advice made sense. After two years behind the scenes and in the kitchen learning technique, developing new recipes and building her confidence, Martie was ready to take her shot at television fame.
It wasn’t easy, and Martie insists that she won’t rewatch the first few episodes when Season 8 airs again later this year. There are some painful memories including the tense and embarrassing critiques from her mentor, Alton Brown. There were some great successes, too, like the “Signature Dish” episode when Martie planned to make individual chocolate souffle cakes with homemade ice cream, only to find that there was no ice cream machine in the Food Network kitchen, and her oven didn’t work! Improvise, improvise. She did, and the home cook was a quick study, beating out several professionals to finish among the top four contestants, earning the admiration and enthusiastic vote of viewers across the country. Since the show has ended, one or more of those viewers stop Martie every day on the street or in the grocery, eager to explain how her Food Network journey has inspired them to take on a difficult new challenge. “They make me cry almost every day of my life,” she says sincerely, “to think that I may have made a difference for someone.”
Rivers of tears may soon be flowing because Martie makes a difference wherever she goes. She has partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a “Food Safe Families” campaign that offers meal preparation tips and encourages safe food practices. She works with the state of Alabama to promote tourism and the local seafood industry. (Did you know that 90% of all crabs caught in the United States are processed in Alabama? Well, did you?) She quietly volunteers her time where needed, recently making an unpublicized trip to Newtown, Connecticut where she helped throw a Valentine’s party for the Sandy Hook community, a heartwarming, cupcake filled event.
The Valentine’s party was one of several events on her February calendar; she averages two to four per month, all fit around her day job. Martie produces a featured web series for myrecipes.com and writes extensively on recipes, food and entertaining for her own website, MartieKnowsParties.com. Her mission is to get people back to entertaining, and she is passionate about her work. “America! Let me help you,” she pleads. “Parties don’t have to be perfect; they just have to be fun. Let’s do it!” The food, the decorations and table settings are “just the icing on the cake”. It’s the interactions with guests that make a party great. Martie wants to teach us how to dial it down, make a party simple, affordable and most of all, fun.
She knows all the tricks. During a twenty year career in the wedding industry she learned from customers, caterers, suppliers and stylists, and now Martie’s ready to share her tips for easy entertaining with us all. Her web content will soon be supplemented by an eBook on appetizers. A full length book on food and entertaining is in development. Two or three different television show concepts are currently in the early stages of discussion, focused on cooking, parties and FUN! Martie is also interested in producing a wedding segment for one of the major network early morning shows. In May, she’ll help host one of Alabama’s biggest parties, the Hangout Festival, with music superstars like Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty and sixty other music acts. She’s busy, but having the time of her life!
Despite her jam-packed schedule, when the call came from an old friend this spring she simply couldn’t refuse. She used to book him gigs in high school, and now the former band member planned to get married…..in a week. Just a simple wedding, that’s all he wanted. Martie agreed to the challenge, and then a full week became a matter of a few days when rain precluded work at the outdoor wedding site. On the morning of the event, Martie’s assistant spiked a fever and spent unexpected time at an emergency clinic. The team’s wedding preparations began two hours later than scheduled. Martie forgot to bring all the serving platters……
…..but she remembered to bring the party. It was a perfect day.
Check out this newly released video and see if you agree! We think party expert and Food Network star Martie Duncan is a natural for television, and we’re ready to bring the party home with Martie!
Follow @MARTIEparty on Twitter
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Join Martie Duncan and Taylor Hicks at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show in Houston on September 15: Buy tickets