Food Network’s long-running competition series Food Network Star returns for a ninth season with fresh talent, intense challenges, and culinary icons Alton Brown, Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay leading the charge to discover the best and brightest new faces in food television. In new twists, focus groups of Food Network fans will also have their say on contestant performances and one finalist will be brought back after elimination for another chance at victory. Viewers will again be able to vote online or via phone before the August 11th finale to determine who will win the ultimate prize: their own show on Food Network. Each episode before the finale features a first-round Mentor Challenge, second-round Star Challenge and an elimination determined by the selection committee, including returning judges Food Network executives Susie Fogelson and Bob Tuschman.
Upcoming episodes feature a Chopped-themed mystery ingredient challenge before Chopped judge Alex Guarnaschelli; an anything-can-happen live, on-camera test with E! News co-host Terrence Jenkins; a fresh Italian-themed challenge with a twist; a pantry cook-off with Cereals and Snacks; a Star-making screening evaluated by The Hollywood Reporter Editorial Director Janice Min and Senior Writers Gary Baum and Leslie Bruce; and guest appearances by Guy Fieri and Robert Irvine.
Two contestants to keep your eyes on are Viet Pham and Stacey Poon-Kinney
Viet Pham, 34 (Salt Lake City), born in a refugee camp in Malaysia, began cooking for his brother after moving to California while his parents worked to provide for the family. The James Beard Award semi-finalist graduated from the California Culinary Academy before working in restaurants in San Francisco and eventually opening his own restaurant in Salt Lake City. He is currently working on a new restaurant project — Fire and Water in Park City, Utah. Named one of Food and Wine’s Best New Chefs in 2011, Viet’s international background impacted his culinary style, and his eclectic and global perspective shines in his dishes.
Stacey Poon-Kinney, 34 (San Diego), grew up in a food family — her great-grandfather was a chef and her great-grandmother ran a diner. She was chopping, dicing and stirring from an early age, but her love of dance took over and she began performing onstage. She eventually returned to the food world, and now the married mom of two owns the restaurant The Trails Eatery with her father. Don’t let Stacey’s big smile, unique sense of style and carefree approach to life fool you — she is a competitor.