Food Network Star Exit Interview: Penny Davidi

The future of both Penny Davidi and Chris Nirschel may be a bit uncertain at the moment but one thing is for sure; they will not soon be forgotten.  For reasons Penny Davidi Food Network Starboth good and bad each left their permanent marks on Food Network Star.  Hopefully they will be able to parlay their notoriety into full and rich lives.

Chris was not able to make the conference call today but should be answering questions via e-mail later this week.  Penny on the other hand was there.  She is undoubtedly aware of how she appeared on the show be it from her own actions, the manipulations of editing or a combination of the two so you have to give her credit for doing this interview.

This weekend there was an Internet rumor that broke quoting a leaked source saying Penny had won.  Many were ready to believe what proved to be a hoax after previous Food Network shenanigans.  Most notably season four where the network itself actually did leak the outcome revealing that a contestant that was only still in the competition because the judges changed the rules to save him from elimination had in fact won the contest.  Although the winning show remains but a footnote on the network’s line-up the stunt proved to be a ratings boon.

Penny interpenetrated the rumor as validation that viewers wanted her to win saying, “that there is an indication of what people want, what the network needs and what the people want to see.”  She went on to allege that the network has ignored Middle Eastern cuisine saying that she could have brought, “a whole new viewership, a whole new set of spices, tastes and flavors that the network has never seen.”  It is likely that Cat Cora, Mario Batali, Rocco DiSpirito, Michael Symon and the rest of the network talents who’s cuisines are firmly centered in the flavors of the Mediterranean would disagree with her.

Penny never seemed to comprehend that the goal of the show was to find the person that people would most like to watch.  Though her head games and schemes may have helped eliminate some people thus leaving less competition the reality is that it made her appear very, very unlikable.  However, one constant for Penny throughout the show was her food.  Week in and week out she produced when it came to making great food.  Anyone who cooks like that can always make use of her talents.

After speaking with Penny it is obvious that she firmly believes she was the victim of the FNS drama not the perpetrator of it saying that if she had it to do over again she wouldn’t let, “other contestants get to me.  I would really keep my eye on the prize and not let them try to throw me off my game.  I would just try to stay more focused on the competition and less on the drama.”  However she did not address her comments from the first episode about disliking Alicia Sanchez the first time she saw her or her proclamation from that same sound bite about trying to get Alicia eliminated as quickly as possible.   About those who remain in the mix she said, “there’s some amazing talent that’s still in the competition, obviously one that I don’t really care for but the rest of them are super awesome.”

At the same time she realizes that in reality TV there always has to be a villain, “Right off the bat the producers thought that I have a strong personality, a strong character and a background that would be intimidating to some of the other finalists and I’m kind of flattered that they thought I could take the heat.”  She also clarified that, “I can’t blame it all on the editing or the network all I can say is that it was a competition.

“You know what?  There are so many viewers out there that not only love me but love to hate me and they’re the ones who kept tuning in week after week after week after week.  And I know that where ever I go those same eyes will be following me where ever I go.  As much as they hate me they just love to hate me.  As long as it’s there for the ratings I’m happy to bring it.”

Looking back what is your favorite memory from the show?

My favorite memory on the show was winning the dessert challenge after being set up by the girls’ team, uhm, to fail and knowing that I really don’t have a dessert background but being able to take the knowledge of what I have and make something so decadent to be called something that could be served at a five star restaurant, something the judges couldn’t get enough of and actually win that challenge after being set up to lose was the highlight for me.

What experience on the show has had the most profound effect on you?

It doesn’t matter what race or religion you are America is ready for you to cross those lines, to cross those boundaries, to push the envelope.  For me I felt like I was the ambassador for Middle Eastern food and to be able to bring that world to this and to be able to show people that the Middle Eastern world isn’t what it looks like and it has these warm flavor and I know the personality came off bad but I also know that people understand that this was a competition, and this was a TV show, a reality TV show and despite everything else I made for good television and I was entertaining but the flavors of the Middle East and the warmth of the Middle East and you know for me to be able to bring that was probably the most profound thing.

Your food throughout was consistantly outstanding, is there a cookbook in your future?

Oh, absolutely, cookbooks, a product line of you know, I love to cook with savory marmalades,  and I make all my own savory marmalades so product lines, spices, a restaurant, a whole new restaurant concept in the works and actually I was offered a great part in a film that I’ve accepted and that starts filming in August and I’m really excited about that.


Alright folks.  There you have it.  There’s a comment section at the bottom.  Let’s hear what you’ve got to say.  Be sure to read Chris Nirschel’s exit interview HERE.

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Be sure to stop by each Monday for my exclusive mourning after exit interviews with each exiled foodie (HERE). This year I have also added the WTVC (WannabeTVchef) Food Network Star Polls – six categories for contestants who best embody the spirit of former Food Network Star competitors. Be sure to check them out HERE. Click HERE to get all the news, gossip and snark on Food Network Star season 7.

4 Responses to Food Network Star Exit Interview: Penny Davidi

  • Padi says:

    I have to say: she truly sounds delusional about EVERYTHING: her portrayal, her Middle Eastern point of view, her alleged star power, her persecution complex. Ugh. And everyone seems to gloss over her mac & cheese debacle.

  • DvorahB777 says:

    I SOOO wanted Penny to win when she first came on. Then, when I saw how she treated others, I knew she wouldn't last long if she didn't change. I adore Middle Eastern food and wanted a FN show to showcase it.

    I understand strong personalities, though I am not one. But hissing at someone? What network would want someone that treated those that didn't agree with them to do such a thing? And knowing this is the time for "make it or break it," I'd think on-camera moments would be tempered. Just my opinion though.

    I hope she gets a second chance on FN in the future if she can learn to respect others that she has to work with. Gotta run. Episode 8 is beginning. ;-}

    • Penny's first on camera comment in episode one was, "I don't know why I don't like Alicia but I don't. I want to get her eliminated fast." That was as good as she got personality-wise.

    • lyn_f says:

      She was disrespectful from the word go. I'm surprised you guys didn't seem to catch this: "I was offered a great part in a film that I’ve accepted and that starts filming in August and I’m really excited about that." Think this lends credence to what Alicia had said about FNS hiring actors/actresses to up the drama content this season? 😛

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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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