Food Network Star Pilot: Martie Duncan

To vote for Martie go HERE.

Food Network Star Pilot: Justin Warner

To vote for Justin go HERE.

Food Network Star Season 8 EP11 Recap

“Pilot Greenlights”

Can you believe it?  We’re almost at the end.  Stuff’s about to get real.  Tonight three, count ’em, three wannabe TV chefs are about to get their tickets punched for the big show and three will be heading home.  And one week from tonight someone’s life will change forever.  The official voting has begun to determine the next Food Network Star.

Food Network StarThe six remaining finalists star in promos for their own Food Network shows directed by their producers/mentors. Network stars including Sunny Anderson (Cooking For Real), Anne Burrell (Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, Worst Cooks in America), Melissa d’Arabian (Ten Dollar Dinners), Robert Irvine (Restaurant: Impossible), Jeff Mauro (Sandwich King) and Aarón Sanchez (Chopped) give feedback on the promos. The finalists who survive the drastic and dramatic cut get to make pilots for their show produced by their mentor. At the end of the show, viewers vote online at to determine who will receive the ultimate prize during the July 22nd finale: their own Food Network show.

This season two FNS mainstays were absent from the season – the Kellogg’s Cereal Challenge and the Rachael Ray Show appearance.  Good riddance to the Kellogg Challenge.  It was never interesting but rather an entire episode that taught us nothing about the contestants but served as a 60 minute infomercial for cereal.  The RaRay Challenge on the other hand was the real deal.

The Rachael Ray Show appearance is exactly what this job is about.  The only reason I can think of for not continuing it is that the folks over at Rachael’s show always posted the contestants’ full demo on her site.  The problem with that is that it allowed the Star audience to see exactly what each performance was like as opposed to the carefully edited versions that aired on FNS.  Take last year when Jyll Everman was eliminated after the RaRay Challenge.  If you watched the full demos you would see that Jyll actually had the best performance of the day.  Their agenda was exposed.

Here was my pre-show Tweet predicting who the final three will be:

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Now it’s time for a quick round of “If I were an FNS Judge.”

  • If I were an FNS Judge this would be my final six: Nikki, Linkie, Yvan, Judson, Emily and Justin.
  • If I were an FNS Judge this would be my final three: Judson, Emily and Justin.
  • If I were an FNS Judge this would be my winner: Justin.
  • If I had been a judge tonight my final three would have been Yvan, Martie and Justin.

FNS8 Martita Jara s4x3 lg Food Network Star Exit Interview: Martita JaraLast week we bid adieu to sweet Martita and this week half of the remaining six will be gone.  I thought Yvan had a really good showing last time out and Justin was terrific as usual.  Let’s face it, Justin has dominated this competition.  Even the weeks he didn’t technically win he was no worse than tied for first.  I hope your votes reflect that.

The fan vote deciding the winner is not new for FNS.  It was done one other time; it gave us Guy Fieri.  Apparently the fans know a thing or two about what they want to watch.  Of course there are those out there who believe the fan vote is simply a gimmick.  These conspiracy theorists think the winner will be exactly who Bob and Susie want it to be, fans be damned.  Maybe so, maybe not but one thing is for sure – this has been the best season of Food Network Star ever.


Eric Lee – Eliminated week 4.

Kara Sigle – Eliminated week 2.

Malcolm Mitchell – Eliminated week 9.

Michele Ragussis – Last week was classic Michele – not great but not terrible.  This week her takes didn’t appear to go very well.  She was stiff and her tension really showed through.  In her final presentation she seemed to be yelling a lot and it was a bit uncomfortable.  Sunny Anderson admitted to being scared by her.  The judges were quite mixed on her. She obviously the weakest performance of the night.

Nikki Martin – Last week was not Nikki’s best performance but at the same time it was far from her worst as well.  Tonight her energy was great and her presence was spot on but she kept tripping over her words.  Her final presentation was good.  The judges seemed to really like her.


Josh Lyons – eliminated week 3.

Linkie Marais – eliminated week 6.

Martita Jara – Eliminated week 10.

Phillip “Ippy” Aiona – Last week Ippy was on the precipice.  This week is make or break.  Typical Ippy – cool and laid back but even he had some nerves issues.  I thought Ippy’s energy in the final presentation seemed a little forced but he got his message across.  The judges were all over the place with him.

Yvan Lemoine – Another outstanding week for Yvan.  At this point he is the only real competition Justin has.  He seemed to be going good and then he couldn’t remember the name of his show.  The nerves strike again.  His final presentation was charming and personable but he may not have conveyed his POV as well as some judges may have liked.


Cristie Schoen – Eliminated week 1.

Emily Ellyn – Eliminated in week 7.

Judson Allen – Eliminated in week 5.

Justin Warner – Last week was another solid performance by Justin.  He didn’t win but he did well enough to win.  His nerves were there but he came across fairly smooth.  His final presentation was dynamite.  You could tell from the judges eyes they loved him.

Martie Duncan – She shared the win last week with Yvan.  It was a great performance.  Her first take was really stiff. Like everyone else her nerves were really at the surface.  Her final presentation was terrific, classic Martie.

It’s a shame they are only choosing one winner from each team because Martie and Justin were light years ahead of the other four finalists.


My leader thus far: Justin.

Dark horse: Yven.

Most unforgettable performance:  Justin and Martie

Most forgettable performance: Michelle

Be sure to check out all of the Star Season 8 contestant exit interviews HERE.


The next Food Network Star will not be. . .

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Ippy and Nikki and in a nice change up from the judges Martie and Justin remain.  There are four remaining three.

We got to see parts of all four of the remaining three’s pilots.  It’s amazing what unlimited takes can do; everyone was smooth so it comes down to the POV’s.  My ranking of those POV’s would be:

  1. Justin
  2. TIE: Yvan and Martie
  3. Michelle

Prior to the pilot footage I had Martie over Yvan but that guy just really won me over with his Family Style.

Chopped: All Stars Season 2 Contestants Announced

Chopped All Stars

A few months ago a friend within the Food Network family hipped me to who the four Food Network Star participants in Chopped: All Stars would be.  So I’ve known since last fall that we’d get to see the charms of Penny Davidi and Chris Nirschel on display once again and have managed to keep it to myself.  Even better we also get to see Vic Moea and Justin Balmes cook again.

The talent in this group runs the gamut.  Chris is the chef at what many consider a wannabe Olive Garden, Penny is a one trick pony but she does that one trick extremely well and then Vic and Justin are top notch chefs.  But these guys make up just one night of Chopped: All Stars.  Dig the rest.

Part 1, “Iron Chefs Do Battle” Premieres Sunday, April 8th at 9pm ET/PT  Competitors: Iron Chefs Cat Cora, Marc Forgione, Jose Garces and Michael Symon.  Judges: Scott Conant, Aaron Sanchez, Geoffrey Zakarian

Part 2, “Prime Time vs. Day Time” Premieres Sunday, April 15th at 9pm ET/PT  Competitors: Show hosts Keegan Gerhard (Food Network Challenge), Jeffrey Saad (United Tastes of America, Cooking Channel), Aarti Sequeira (Aarti Party) and Marcela Valladolid (Mexican Made Easy).  Judges: Amanda Freitag, Aaron Sanchez, Geoffrey Zakarian

Part 3, “Food Network Star Contestants” Premieres Sunday, April 22nd at 9pm ET/PT  Competitors: Food Network Star Season Seven Finalists Justin Balmes, Penny Davidi, Vic “Vegas” Moea and Chris Nirschel.  Judges: Scott Conant, Amanda Freitag, Aaron Sanchez

Part 4, “Judge Remix” Premieres Sunday, April 29th at 9pm ET/PT  Competitors: Chopped judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Marc Murphy, Marcus Samuelsson and Chris Santos. Judges: Amanda Freitag, Aaron Sanchez, Geoffrey Zakarian

Part 5, “Grand Finale” Premieres Sunday, May 6th at 9pm ET/PT Competitors: Prior episode winners.  Judges: Anne Burrell, Amanda Freitag and Aaron Sanchez.

Read full chef bios HERE.  Read bios for judges and host Ted Allen HERE.

Read my exclusive interviews with Alex Guarnaschelli (HERE), Scott Conant (HERE), Justin Balmes, (HERE) Penny Davidi (HERE), Chris Nirschel (HERE), Marc Forgione (HERE), Michael Symon (HERE) and Ted Allen (HERE and 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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