She is often the calm after the storm.
It's not an easy task, especially when the "storm" is host and executive chef Robert Irvine. In each episode, he diagnoses a troubled restaurant and brings in a small army to fix it, launching a wholehearted commitment to a successful renovation and business turnaround with resources of just two days and $10,000.
As an ex-military man, failure for Irvine is not an option. And if that means he whacks down an ill-placed wall or two, exploding it into drywall dust with a swipe of his sledgehammer, so be it.
Nayak then comes on the scene to literally pick up the pieces, envisioning a total transformation of the eatery's visual appeal, to accompany the re-do of the menu and the business model.
The combo has made the show a ratings hit since its debut in 2011.
"Robert really is what you see on television," she says. "He cares so much about the people who he's there to help that he'll do anything to get them back on track."
Common on the show is a scramble to stretch the limited budget as far as it can go. When unexpected expenses hit, Irvine often relies on Nayak's creativity and imagination to arrive at cost-effective solutions. Best, however, is that she remains unflappable when these deep cuts affect her vision. "The restaurant comes first," she says. "So if Robert needs $3,000 of the $10,000 to replace a gas stove or hire an exterminator for a bug problem, then we fix the stove or hire the exterminator. Because you can't have a restaurant without a stove," she wryly admits.
Food Network is only one of the arenas in which Nayak's design skills shine. She also hosts HGTV's House Hunters on Vacation, Billion Dollar Block and Urban Oasis. Her spatial savviness is something she attributes to her father, an architect, and her abilities with dining room layouts have come in handy with her husband, a Boston-area restaurateur.
When they go out to eat, do they view the experience with the critical eyes of their professions? "We will note things we'd change for about 10 minutes' worth of the meal," she admits, laughing, "and then settle down to eat."
Nayak will be appearing at the King of Prussia Mall on Saturday, July 20, at a pop-up HGTV retail store. In addition to meeting the star who has appeared with Oprah and Rachel, do-it-yourselfers can preview paint, fabrics, furniture and color combos, all of which have been orchestrated to work together. "The HGTV product lines can give professional-looking results without all the guesswork," Nayak notes.
King of Prussia Mall boasts more retail space than any other shopping complex in the country with more than 400 stores
One of Nayak's most valuable skills is her ability to evaluate a piece and determine whether to refurb or replace, often a tough decision. Her advice: "If it's something that you were going to throw out anyway, give it a try and see what happens. Change out the hardware, stencil on a design. There are a lot of options in bringing something back to life.
"People ask about kitchen cabinets all the time," she continues. "For a small budget or for a rental property where you may not want an expensive replacement, use a heavy-duty coverage spray paint. Go for a good overcoat in cream paint or black paint - it's hard to go wrong with those two colors - and then make the decision whether it works or not. I use this to bring back countertops where the budget just won't allow total replacement. There are paints on the market that create a durable result, at much less cost than new countertops.
"If it doesn't work out, you've at least learned something - tried some technique you may have never tried before - that you can use somewhere else."
Despite any third-party design recommendations, Nayak recommends that homeowners follow their instincts. "People ask me: What's the hot interior design trend of 2013? And I tell them: There really are none. What's hot is what works for you.
"Inside your home, you should be comfortable and relaxed. This is your respite from the outside world. It's the place where you've got to wake up every morning and face the world and then come home after a day's work and unwind. It should be the place you choose it to be," Nayak advises. "The hot design trends are the ones you choose for yourself."
Nayak's appearance is scheduled from 1-4 pm; the HGTV pop-up store is on the lower-level, near the Neiman Marcus plaza. Fans can follow her on Twitter @TaniyaNayak.