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Food Network Star 9 Finalists Announced

Food Network Star 9

Bobby, Giada and Alton return to mentor a new cast of wannabe TV chefs.

The newest Starsters are: Nikki Dinki (New York), Andres Guillama (Waynesville, NC), Rodney Henry (Baltimore), Chris Hodgson (Cleveland), Connie “Lovely” Jackson (Los Angeles), Russell Jackson (San Francisco), Danushka Lysek (New York), Daniela Perez-Reyes (Haleiwa, Haw.), Viet Pham (Salt Lake City); Damaris Phillips (Louisville, Ky.), Stacey Poon-Kinney (San Diego) and Chad Rosenthal (Ambler, Penn.).

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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Food Network Star Season 8 Finale Recap

fns8cast 300x199 Food Network Star Season 8 EP1 Recap

Well, I’m still a little flabbergasted with last week’s results.  Michele had easily the worst performance of the night yet she gets a pilot.  However, since Martie and Justin had the best performances they let them both stay.  Kudos Food Network, that’s the first time you’ve done a mid-show rules change with a positive result.  Yvan has really proven he belongs as well.  All things being equal Justin is the best pick for the next Food Network Star but as I have stated before, I don’t trust this show.

As usual with the finale I will give my assessment of each remaining candidate and what I see in their future.  I will also try to predict the future of a few of the other contestants.  Let’s get started shall we?

Michele Ragussis – The best way to describe Michele’s performance is underwhelming.  I have never seen what the judges have loved so much.  I can only assume that it is because of editing.  But I can only base my predictions on what I have seen and what I saw was someone who showed no growth from beginning to end.  Should Michele win I see her show following the same path as Aaron McCargo Jr’s show.   For those of you that don’t know Aaron’s show was canceled last year but people are only now starting to notice it isn’t on.  I don’t think she wins but we will occasionally see her from time to time and I would love to cook with her someday.

Yvan Lemoine –He has really grown since the show started.  His charm and camera presence have been present since the beginning but it took him a few weeks to put the whole package together.  Yvan would be a wonderful host and his show could be a hit for Food Network but I see him on Cooking Channel instead.  I’d watch the crap out of Yvan’s show.

Martie Duncan –I’ve never met Martie personally but she is the friend of a friend.  She’s also from my home state of Alabama so it stands to reason that I love Martie.  As a Southerner I have always hated the portrayal of us in the national media but there was a time when food TV got it right.  Justine Wilson was amazing, Emeril brought our culture to life and lest we forget that Alton Brown is a good ole Georgia boy.  The best cooks in America are now and have always been from the South.  Win or lose I see Martie with a show on Food Network.  She’s earned it.

Justin Warner – this has been his contest since about week two.  In all reality if Justin doesn’t win this show needs to stop billing itself as a competition.  He has been the class of the cast all season long.  His fresh and brainy approach make his POV perfect to fill the void left by Good Eats retirement.  Keep in mind that GE didn’t go off the air because people weren’t watching it anymore but because Alton decided it was time for something new.  Justin Warner is new, like nothing we’ve ever seen on Food Network before.  He should win but if he doesn’t he’ll still get a show and it’s ratings will destroy the show of whoever does win.

Of the others:

Emily Ellyn – Eliminated in week 7 in what was easily the sleaziest episode of the season.  She is a fan favorite and I see her with a show if not on Food Network/Cooking Channel (they’d be foolish to let her get away) then on another major cable network.  Her POV, style and food are too good to not have a national audience.  Plus she’s just so damned good looking.  I think Emily and Nadia G would make a great one-two punch.

Judson Allen – Eliminated in week 5 in what was the second sleaziest episode of the season Judson is not only likable he just may be what the black community needs to form a unified front against obesity and the diabetes it leads to.  As much as Judson would love to be on Food Network/Cooking Channel I believe his place might be on BET.  It was originally started as a network to break the stereotypes of black culture but these days it is one of the worst perpetuaters of them.  Judson has the potential to have the most important show to come from this contest.  After watching Susie gushing over his new heath & wellness POV I would not be surprised to see him on Cooking Channel.

Nikki Martin – Eliminated in week 11 Nikki showed a lot of personal growth and tenacity.  Here elimination last week was questionable since she clearly had a better performance than her teammate Michele.  As much as I would love to see Nikki on a major cable network I’m just not sure if it will happen.  She’s good enough but they can only take so many people from one cast.  Still, we have not seen the last of her.  She would totally rock on this new Chopped: Grillmasters special.

As I have stated before this is easily the most talented cast they’ve ever had.  Every single contestant this year was good enough to have a nationally televised TV show.  Most of them, should they chose to do so, will have ample opportunities within their own communities.  I look forward to what the future holds for all of them.  I have made some terrific friends in this year’s cast and I want the best for each and everyone of them.

The next Food Network Star is. . .

Food Network Star: The Wannabe TV Chef Interviews

Justin

Food Network Star Pilot: Yvan Lemoine

To vote for Yvan go HERE.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

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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