WTVC Exclusive: Food Network Star Martie (Knows Parties) Duncan

This past summer America watched as a Southern Belle from Birmingham, Alabama nearly became the latest Food Network Star.  She made the final four which is a testament to her resolve as there were only supposed to be three in the finale.  Martie Duncan is a vivacious, approachable  and as you will soon read a quite resourceful food star.

Recently, as part of the Year of Alabama Food sponsored by the Alabama Tourism Department Martie took a tour of some of the great restaurants in her home state.  Her voyage took two weeks, covered more than 15 cities while dining at more than 50 restaurants.  I was lucky enough to join Martie for part of her tour during Alabama Restaurant Week.

WintzellsThe first night was a meet and greet at Mobile’s oldest restaurant, Wintzell’s Oyster House.  This was an informal get together where we dined on terrific Gulf seafood and got to meet some of Martie’s fans like blogger Kelli Bosarge and culinary student Chelsea Herston.

The next morning I joined Martie and her assistant for brunch at True Midtown Kitchen owned by James Beard nominated chef Wesley True.  Chef True’s brother Richard sent us a full tasting menu including NOLA BBQ Shrimp & Grits, Smoked Fishcake Benedict made with smoked Gulf grouper, Banana’s Foster Waffle (OMG!) and many, many more examples of Chef True’s amazing creativity.  The following interview ensued over groans of  culinary ecstasy and numerous visits from those wanting to visit with Martie.

Check out the pix below.  Now on with the interview.

What was the audition process like for Food Network Star?

Martie DuncanI was on FoodNetwork.com looking for something.  I saw an advertisement pop up that said, “Hey, why don’t you audition for Food Network Star?”  So it was midnight Monday night.  Most of the auditions were done except for the West Coast and Chicago.  Chicago is my second city.  I lived in Chicago for a long time.

Tuesday morning I got in my car and I went to Chicago.  I went to the hotel, checked in and I auditioned on Wednesday morning.  I intentionally went at the end of the date hoping that if they haven’t see anyone good they’ll be happy to see me.

I walked in and talked for a minute.  A girl said hang on for a minute, wrote some stuff down and the next thing you know she asks me to come back the next day.  They wanted me to bring something that I cooked.  I called ten different people that I knew in Chicago trying to find a place to cook and they all had something going on.  How am I going to cook something?

So then I go, “Oh son!”  I tell the cab driver, “Stop!  Stop. Turn around.  Take me to the fire station.”  He thinks I’m having a heart attack so I say, “I’m fine just take me to the fire station on Pearson.”  So I walked in and said, “Hey, chief, how ’bout I use your kitchen?”  And he said, “How ’bout you cook us lunch?”  So I said, “Alright.  Deal.”

I made the firemen lunch.  They let me use their kitchen and I packed up enough food to take to my audition.  Then I had to go back to the fire station because they wanted me to cook dinner.  They took me out on a run.  I got to go down the fire pole, the whole nine yards.  They were so awesome.

I was tickled when they asked me to join the next round.  I had to submit a lot of recipes and videos.  Then a few more interviews, a couple of flights and then I got called to come to Atlanta to audition for Alton Brown.

What was it like living with all those strangers?

That was hard for me.  To move into a house with fourteen strangers and share a room with three other women. . . When I walked into the room the first time it looked the size of this table.

What was it like working with the mentors?

Alton had me read a book before the competition began, The Art of War by Sun Tzu.  You’re working with people who had your best interests at heart, who wanted you to get some where, to prove yourself.  There was a lot of tough love at times to get to the greater good; to get the best out of you.

Can you tell me about the tour you’re on?

I’m on a two week tour of Alabama.  For me it was a two-fold mission.  First things first, I wanted to be able to say thank you to the state of Alabama.  For the love and support during Food Network Star.  More votes came from Alabama than any other state.  I really just wanted a way to say thank you and to meet people in person.

During the show people kept saying, “Hey you’re that Alabama girl!” So I wanted a way of saying, “Hey!  Come see us.  Try our food.  Come see what we’re all about.”  I’m an impartial ambassador. I’m not a chef at any particular restaurant I like all of them.

For me this was just a great opportunity for me to get the word out about our food, what we grow, what we catch, how we cook it and why you should come here and eat it.  I’m passionate about it.  Alabama and Birmingham especially have gotten so much attention as being a food destination and now Alabama food is such a trend in the foodie world.


To learn more about Martie’s trek to Alabama’s best restaurants follow her Facebook fanpage or trip on over to her web site HERE.  Enjoy the pictures below and if you would like to see more about the meals Martie and I shared visit my Facebook page.  Be sure to give me a “Like.”  It’s about all I’ve got in this crappy economy.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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