kicked off

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. . .

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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.

Food Network Star Exit Interview: Martita Jara

All season long the judges have talked about how much they loved Martita and on more than one occasion I mentioned that editing must have been skewing what they loved about her.  It just wasn’t translating to the final product.  Well, after talking with her I can see exactly what Bob and Susie and Giada and everyone in the cast loves about Martita.  She’s is one of the most personable ladies I’ve met in some time, so warm and so sweet.  I totally get it now.  Editing sucks.

Check out her post-elimination Facebook post:

Truly humbled by all of the love, support and praise that has been shown to me through out my journey on Foodnetwork Star! Incredible mentor, Giada De Laurentiis, loving & kind crew and the best cast/friends that a girl like me, who comes from such an incredible loving family, could’ve ever been teamed up with! At first we were separate teams but within a couple of days we all became a family and to me that is what you all, Season 8 cast of Food Network Star, will always be! Thank you to all who have been and continue to send messages of love & support via facebook, twitter, txt, voicemail, believe me I feel the LOVE! I am truly Blessed! This is just the beginning! The best is yet to come!!! :-) XOXO

Martita JaraMartita Jara, 35 (San Diego), began working in her family’s restaurant business at a young age, and her mom’s authentic Mexican home cooking inspired Martita’s culinary passion. Her parents moved to the U.S. two years before she was born, and Martita credits them with her work ethic and perseverance. She attended a few semesters at culinary school, but most of her skills are self-taught. A vivacious newlywed who loves to entertain, Martita cooks with loads of Latin flavor and lots of love.

Some Star contestants leave the show having had their fill of TV and others leave hungrier than before.  Which category would you fall under?

Oh, I’m hungry.  I’m ready to start.  I’m ready to go.  To me getting eliminated was like, “OK.  Now what’s next?”  Let’s get busy.  Doing the show was just like a little tease to me of what’s to come.

What was the hardest part of the experience?

Being away from my family was really difficult.  They kept saying tell us more family stories and my thing was every time I’d start talking about my family I’d start crying and want to go get on a plane and go home.  I have the best family in the whole world.  For me to talk about them while being so far away from them was just too difficult.

Which cast members do you still have a strong bond with?

We’ve all stayed in touch.   Being over on the West Coast it’s a little bit hard because so many of them are on the East Coast but we all stay in touch.  Nikki is the only one I’ve seen.  I don’t know I think we’re all pretty close.

I’m so excited to be in New York (for the live finale in two weeks) because there wasn’t any tension or bad energy with anyone.  We all really got along and it was so amazing.  Even though I haven’t been physically close to them I feel close to them always.

What’s the number one thing you learned on the show?

I think we can all do a lot more than we thought we could do.   You don’t realize what you are capable of until you’re pushed to do something.  I am capable of a lot more than I think I am; there’s no limits.

Do you have any projects going on at the moment?

I’m working on a line of gourmet margaritas.   I’m getting all my recipes together, that’s taking a long time but that’s OK, cuz I’m trying to get a publisher for a cookbook.  I’ve been talking to a couple of people about doing a pilot for a show.  I’ve actually written a pitch for a show and sent it to a couple of production companies.  I’m working on a few things.


For more on Martita check out her web page HERE.  Be sure to check out all of the Star Season 8 Exit Interviews HERE.

Food Network Star Season 8 EP10 Recap

Deliciously Unpredictable Demos

Alton, Giada and BobbyThe seven remaining finalists are invited guests at a standing-room-only Food Network South Beach Food and Wine Festival demo tent with 150 fans and upon arrival the tables are turned – they each must take the stage for their very own cooking demonstration in front of the huge crowd! The finalists take the stage for their demos, and unbeknownst to them, each one will face a technical glitch set up by the producers. Tensions are high as each finalist struggles to save themselves from elimination.

Food Network has a new poll on their blog. The gist? Which eliminated finalist would you bring back?  Currently Emily Ellyn is running away with the fan vote with Judson Allen, Kara Sigle (really?) and Linkie Marais in a pitched battle for second.  No one else is even remotely close.  If you want to voice your opinion go HERE.

FNS8 Finalist Gallery Malcolm Mitchell s3x4 lg Food Network Star Exit Interview: Malcolm MitchellLast week Malcolm went home.  I’m not sure he should have been in the bottom two and I’m even less sure he should have been eliminated after the Producer’s Challenge.  But hey, it happens.  I know it’s hard to believe but this thing will be wrapping up and soon we’ll have a new Food Network Star.  [cough] Justin Warner [cough]

For the most part the new format is a breath of fresh air and though it is not devoid of controversy it is certainly better than the backbiting and chicanery of previous seasons.  Will they please stop with the eliminations obviously rigged to keep the teams even?  Probably not.


Eric Lee – Eliminated week 4.

Kara Sigle – Eliminated week 2.

Malcolm Mitchell – Eliminated week 9.

Michele Ragussis – I’m not sure how Michele is still here but it’s clear this cat has nine lives.  Consistency has not really been an issue for Michele, the problem with that is she’s shown little growth since week win.  Sabotage – wrong time cues.  It threw her at first but she recovered fairly well.  Her food was good.

Nikki Martin – Another strong performance last time out.  I get the feeling that Susie is begrudgingly taking to Nikki.  Sabotage – blender not working.  She didn’t handle it well.  Didn’t finish her demo.  Her food was fine.


Josh Lyons – eliminated week 3.

Linkie Marais – eliminated week 6.

Martita Jara – Ippy and Yvan were so good last week that it took the shine off what was a decent performance by Martita.  At this point decent doesn’t cut it though.  She has got to put it all together to stay on.  Sabotage – wrong ingredients.  Her energy was non-existent.  It was clear that the change up through her.  She ran short. . . again.  Rather than 30 seconds of dead air there was 30 seconds of random chatter.

Phillip “Ippy” Aiona – Ippy won last week’s episode.  He seemed more at home with the warm ocean breeze at his back.  Sabotage – audience members leave during his demo.  He handled it OK.  The Bam! was not cool; only one person gets to do that.  It’s extremely lame when anyone else does it.  In my book that’s an automatic trip to the Producer’s Challenge however he may be saved from it by Martita’s performance.  The food was very good.

Yvan Lemoine – Yvan had another great week scoring with food and charm.  He may find a home on Cooking Channel when all is said and done.  Sabotage – mic goes out.  It really wasn’t a sabotage; it actually helped him since talking too loudly is one of his weaknesses.  It seems a little fishy.  His food was very good.


Cristie Schoen – Eliminated week 1.

Emily Ellyn – – Eliminated in week 7.

Judson Allen – Eliminated in week 5.

Justin Warner – Last week I had Justin edging out Ippy for the best performance but you can’t blame the judges for going with the lovable Hawaiian since it appears Justin will be getting a TV show soon. Sabotage – heckler.  He handled it well at first but then his anger showed a little.  His food was great.

Martie Duncan – Watching Martie with Paula Deen last week was adorable.  Perhaps I’m just being a homer but I’d rather watch the Alabamian over the Georgia Peach on Saturday mornings.  Sabotage – misplaced her ingredients and tools.  She didn’t do too badly.  They liked the food.


Episode winner: Yven and Martie

My leader thus far: Justin.

Dark horse: Ippy and Yven.

Most unforgettable performance:  Yven

Most forgettable performance: Martita

Producer’s Challenge: Ippy and Martita.

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


The next Food Network Star will not be. . .

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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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