The Season 12 premier of Next Food Network Star debuted tonight and I am so excited for its return! I’m going to be on this show one day, so I watch it while taking notes with great anticipation. Did you watch? In case you missed it, I’ll provide a quick recap here including my top picks right off the bat. LAWD at all the “Southern” cooks cast this season! Among the top 13 finalists, five of them claim a “Southern soul food” culinary point of view–one of them is from San Francisco. Now tell me how that’s possible? Three of the contestants are fellow Georgians – one from my hometown of Augusta and the other two, from Atlanta, but we’ll claim them anyway. Ha!
In the contestants first challenge of the season, each one had 30 seconds to share their culinary point of view and to introduce themselves to America on camera, with the intimidating Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis watching from director’s chairs just a few feet away. During the first take, contestants received instruction and feedback from the other competitors and the mentors, but the second take was turned into a big screen debut at a nearby theater. Food Network’s Tyler Florence and Valerie Bertinelli joined the other mentors to judge the contestants debut dish, which they had 45 minutes to prepare.
Producers brought back one surprise “come back kitchen” contestant: Martita from Season 8! She was my absolute favorite back then and she’s back and better than ever.
In the premiere episode, the most likable and stand out contestants in my opinion are these three: Jarnard, Martita and Erin.
Jarnard Wells, 37, of Atlanta, calls himself the Chef of Love. He has an immediate fun loving personality and believes food and love go hand in hand. He cooks with a Cajun twist and says what he thinks. Plus, he’s a big guy and you should never trust a skinny cook, right? Being a genuine Georgia girl myself, I can’t not pull for a good ol’ Georgia boy.
Martita Jara, 39, is from San Diego, Calif. She made her first appearance on Food Network during Season 8 of Next Food Network Star. To secure her spot on the show again this year, she competed on “Come Back Kitchen” in an intense 3-week battle with other Next Food Network Star hopefuls. This girl is a star – she’s got that spark and she’s hungry for the title. Everything from her hair to her passion for food and her fiery personality, I love. I bet she will win it all. I am pulling for her!
Erin Campbell, 24, is from Woodbury, Minn., and she’s a baker. I love her genuine personality and bright sense of style. She’s authentic and cool. The real contestants always get my vote.
A quick note on my least favorite contestants this season – I’m not a fan of Aaron, the meat guy. He’s obnoxious. Ana, the Cuban chick – bless her heart. Stick to Real Housewives of Miami, sugar. Melissa, the health nut. Come on girl! Giada told you not to use the phrase, “not good for you foods” and you did it twice. Twice. Learn to listen or get out of the kitchen. Not cute. Damiano, the Italian guy. He’s good looking but oh so cliche. Food Network, we’ve had enough of “I can’t believe it’s not butter” Fabios. Give it a rest.
The first contestant we said farewell to tonight was Haivard from Augusta. Bummer that he didn’t last a little longer in the competition–I think he had potential. But I know all too well what’s it like to leave before you’re ready. Check out My Taste of Hollywood.
Are you a fan of Next Food Network Star? Meet all the contestants and be sure to tell me who your favorites and least favorites are in the comments below!