Food Network Star Premiere Recap: First Impressions on the Season 9 Cast

Food Network Star Season 9One thing’s certain about Season 9 of Food Network Star: Danushka — the snarling, eastern European model whose initial dish was a deep-fried potato puff with a gloppy, raw center — definitely won’t be the last cook standing.

Yet even though Danushka’s not “in it to win it,” she’s still got a role to play — and in the next week or two, we’ll discover if that’s:

A. inspiring hilarious critiques like Food Network exec Susie Fogelson’s “You have got to find your own version of warmth” (translated from New Age-ese, that’s “You’re an ice-cold beyotch, so maybe try and work with that?”)

B. playing the role of supporting character in a sitcom who sits at the bar, sipping her martini and offering a smorgasbord of cruel witticisms and put-downs (as judge Bob Tuschman implied)

C. imitating a pretty, pretty piñata that will be thwacked weekly until candy rains down following her inevitable ouster

D. all of the above

Whatever the case may be, Danushka survived being the first evictee after Daniella, the self-proclaimed “Peruvian Princess,” was reduced to the brink of tears for her first on-camera presentation. (Apparently, “crippling insecurity” isn’t the best garnish for one’s papas a la huancaina.)

And so — under the premise that Danushka is marked for eventual elimination — I’m taking my first impressions from the season premiere to boldly separate the pretenders from the contenders.

CONTENDERS
* Chad: The camera loves this gray-haired hunk of grilling expertise as much as he loved the Easy-Bake oven he got at age five (though is his concept too narrow/similar to Bobby Flay’s?)
* Viet: Anyone who’s beaten Mr. Flay on Iron Chef must be taken seriously, even if his milquetoast on-camera performance needs a lot of seasoning
* Stacey: Gorgeous, warm and skilled in the kitchen, though her “reinvented classics” concept is as fresh as a month-old loaf of Wonder Bread
* Nikki: “Meat on the side,” pro-vegetable stance is intriguing, but as Susie noted, her cutesiness undermines her authority
* Damaris: Quirky southern chick might be too offbeat to win it all, but her potato-salad bite looked absolutely delish

PRETENDERS
* Russell: Anyone who spends this much time telling you he’s “unconventional” is probably stupefyingly mundane at heart, no? In other words, his “culinary anarchist” concept didn’t really seem to have any practical application.
* Lovely: Bob was right that the contestant with the self-chosen moniker will need more than poses and empty words to succeed; that said, her potato hash was rather pretty to behold
* Chris: “Chef with a cause”? What? An hour after watching the premiere, I don’t think I could pick him out of a lineup.
* Andres: Focus group perked up when he mentioned he used to weigh 330 lbs, but he doesn’t give off the slightest aroma of culinary authority
* Rodney: This show crowned a “sandwich king” just two seasons back; methinks “pie guy” will have a tough road ahead with a less-accessible person, to boot

What did you think of the Food Network Star Season 9 premiere? Who’d make your list of pretenders/contenders? How does the field stack up to seasons past? Sound off below, and for all my summer reality recaps and interviews, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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91 Comments
  1. Chris G. says:

    So, there are no teams this year? Just 5 judges?

    • DJ says:

      Not missing the teams concept. Glad its back to the regular format

    • Marsha says:

      Worst selection of competitors to date. #1 offender , Danushka. FN needs to re-think their candidate credential requirements. Show went from fun to boring. Shame on you!

      • Justin Funicello says:

        I couldn’t agree more about Daushka ( if that really is her name). Every time this Paris Hilton wanna be, self proclaimed “super model” is on the screen I want to put my foot through my T.V..
        I hated her when she lost on Chopped and I loath the sight of her now. God forbid, she is the one that Robert Irvine decides to bring back.

  2. Ella says:

    Michael, are you actually recapping this show every week?! If so….thank you! =)

  3. Sara says:

    Danuska was quite rude and dismissive of her critiques on Chopped, and only made it through the first round because someone else screwed up. She exited after the second round because she made the same errors she got dinged on in the first. She is completely delusional about her appeal and why she’s allowed to state in her FNS bio “made it through two rounds on Chopped” I have no idea. She did not make it through, and although I’m sure she is meant to be the designated villain on FNS, I hope she goes quickly. Unbearable.

    • Lily says:

      i couldn’t believe she wasn’t eliminated immediately. she was worse than the stammering tongue-tied daniela. i loved her self-important pronouncement: “I call this a ‘Potato Puff’.” Duhhhhhh, they’ve been around forever, EVERYONE calls them Potato Puffs. can’t wait til she unveils her next invention “Chicken Noodle Soup”.

    • Moody1 says:

      OMG she the WORST….That voice Plz…

      • Moody1 says:

        I liked the PERUIAN girl….maybe she was shy in front of the camera….But with guides’ could have provided INTERESTING food

      • Moody1 says:

        PLZ Food network people…..DON’T recycle these people….Didn’t like “D” the 1st time….

    • Abbe Rosner says:

      I agree- the first week she got thru because her obnoxious attitude makes for good TV. But, Food Network executives- I don’t care if she is the greatest chef in the world- I would never ever ever watch her TV show. There is a difference between ‘good TV’ and plain old rude and mean

  4. KMC says:

    Lots of previous Food Network folks. I have seen several of these potential “stars” (including dreadful Danushka) on Chopped, and Chris’ Hodge Podge food truck came in second on the Great Food Truck Race a couple of years ago.

    • Holly says:

      THAT’s who he is. Thank you – that was bothering me. As does Chris. And yeah, they are basically recycling at this point.

      • SororSalsa says:

        Stacey is a previous Food Network person as well..her restaurant was featured on “Restuarant Impossible”. I’m starting to doubt all of these people. I recently saw a movie featuring someone who was on “Worst Cooks in America”. Season before last’s winner (Kelly) has quite a resume as an actress, even though she claimed to be a SAHM on the show.

        • Kashi says:

          Ugh, Alex from the most recent season of Worst Cooks in America was from ABC’s The Glass House last summer. Terrible guy, don’t like him at all and definitely not liking Danushka either. Blah.

          • WaxARoo says:

            I would have sent Danushka home, but I knew they would keep her for the television quality of her looks and bad personality. Sad. They could have done better.

    • July says:

      I thought Chris was on Hells Kitchen before

    • Moody1 says:

      Yes, I saw Danshka,Tooo WHY…..are these career people….Listen up….Plz DON’tT like it….M

  5. ItsJustDoug says:

    I watch this show every season, and my biggest frustration is that none of the ‘stars’ are actual stars…Whenever I see them again on Food Network or cooking channel, it’s like “Oh, yeah I remember them…”

    They are not that great at picking ‘stars’ and it also seems that more people who almost won have shows than the people who have actually won.

    That said in early returns, I’m thinking Viet…if that dude doesn’t win the Iron Chef challenge he’s out, but he’s got a good look, just needs to get more comfortable with the camera.

    • meme says:

      Uhhhh, Guy Fieri? Heard of him?

    • lyn says:

      The only one I ever really liked is The Sandwich King. Can’t stand Aarti, Melissa etc.

      • MLO says:

        Aarti is cute.. love it when she guests on “The Best Thing I Ever Made”. What I want to know is what the hell happened to the ‘Rebel with a culinary cause’? Can’t even remember his name – and can’t believe he won last year over Yvan.

        • Margi says:

          Justin Warner, I think. Like you, I have not seen him.

          • vicki evans says:

            I sawing him doing Miracle Gro commercials
            I think they aired one show of his…and he wasn’t even cooking…going from one place to another showing “unusual” foods. I couldn’t understand his appeal in the first place.

      • Jan says:

        I agree . Love Guy Fieri, too.

  6. Sharon Morency says:

    Saw Stacey on Restaurant Impossible where she owed her father almost all of his retirement when her diner was going bankrupt.

    • Evan says:

      Ok, that is who she is! I saw her and went “Wasn’t she on Restaurant Impossible?” And Danushka was on Chopped. Knew I remembered her from somewhere but couldn’t place it.

      You’d think Food Network would be more forthright about saying the chefs competing have been on other shows on the channel before. Then again, they’ve spent this last overall season getting as many chefs from as they could from Hell’s Kitchen/Kitchen Nightmares as possible without saying anything.

  7. Jenks says:

    How telling is it that the premiere opened with a camera challenge, not a cooking challenge?This show has devolved into a blatant — and quite cynical — “branding” exercise (gotta keep Susie and Bob busy!) that has nothing to do with whether the supposed “star” can, in fact, prepare food. But then, with the exception of Chopped and Iron Chef, that’s about all FN is any more.

    • Mike R. says:

      There fighting for a FN show, their camera performance is just as important, if not more important than how well they can cook, since the viewer at home won’t be tasting the food anyway, but regardless they cooked in the second part of the episode.

      • Jenks says:

        I guess that’s my point. FN is about personalities and branded merch, not food. Just my opinion, but I don’t care how camera-ready they are. If they can’t cook, I’m not watching.

    • MLO says:

      Okay, so imagine Danushka is the best cook the world has ever seen – her food capable of giving you multiple ‘O’s. Would you watch her show? Could you stomach her for more than 5 mins?

  8. Chablis says:

    Glad you are recapping.

  9. Mike R. says:

    Only one I didn’t like was Danushka, will have to wait and see to judge the others. Putting my money on Nikki, may be a bit annoying, but she comes of as delightful on camera.

  10. stephanie says:

    I really thought Danushka had been on another show…maybe Private Chefs of Beverly Hills but I can’t seem to find info…I remember her on Chopped but when she was on there she was familiar to me. I liked Viet on Extreme Chef too…weird to see so many this season that have competed somewhere before.

    • Holly says:

      IMDB says she was on Fear Factors: Model Edition in 2004. She seems more and more like a “professional” reality star than anything else. Presumably they are aware of that and kept her primarily for dramatic purposes. Food Network does this a lot – like, on Worst Cooks in America, one of the contestants had also been on The Glass House on ABC, I’m fairly sure.

  11. leigh says:

    The contestants have been on other food shows before? I had no idea…and I looked up Danushka because I couldn’t remember her from Chopped. Ugh. Hope she goes quickly for the shows sake.

    • Margi says:

      A great aspect of DVRing is the ability to fast forward through Danushka. Sorry to see she dodged another bullet. I’ll not comment on her again with the hope that no buzz will expedite her exit from the show.

  12. legalchef says:

    Danushka was also on Fear Factor, according to the interwebs.

    I like Stacey, but I don’t see how she can be considered any sort of authority on food after her appearance on Restaurant Impossible. I chuckled when she introduced herself as having a restaurant that does $1M/year.

    • legalchef says:

      And I read that Lovely and Russell were both on Hell’s Kitchen.

      I think Rodney may have been on an episode of DDD.

      • Russell was on Iron Chef. I think he battled Chef Garces? Not sure, but he did lose.
        I really like Viet and hope he wins. I hate Flay and whoever beats him, I support!

    • Leslie says:

      Stacey’s restaurant is actually really good. She was one of the few Restaurant Impossible people who had a restaurant that needed help, but not with crappy food, etc. And, she’s taken all of their advice, has dinner now, and is doing great. She’s also a real sweetheart, and is very good with people – she knows all of her customers, talks to everybody, and her staff seem to really like her. I think she’ll do great on this show.

      • Vee says:

        Thanks for having Stacey’s back. I’ve been to her restaurant several times. The food and service are great. It is my favorite breakfast spot. I always talk to Stacey when I’m there and she is so incredibly nice.

        • CanuckLulu says:

          Regardless of her personality, the competition is about cooking. We are supposed to believe that a woman who virtually ran her restaurant into the ditch is now an authority on “vintage recipes with a modern twist”. Just another actor. Hopefully a REAL cook will win. Chad and Damaris are on my radar.

          • Lee says:

            Love Stacey, love her restaurant. I’ve been there several times – including the night of the Grand Reopening when Robert Ivine re-worked it (got his autograph!). Her food was never her problem … although Robert did tweak the menu a bit. His changes were mostly focused on changing the design of the kitchen and seating area to increase productivity, price point adjustments those sorts of things.

            Stacey is genuinely a lovely person. She had waitressed at her restaurant for a long time prior to purchasing it from the previous owners (I use to go there even before she took ownership). If she had a Food Network program, I’d watch it. It would be wonderful to see her do well. I really hope her restaurant maintains her high standards in her abscense :-)

          • Sue says:

            Someone may have already covered this…but Restaurant Impossible had a special on several months ago and in it revisited some of the restautants they helped- Stacey’s was one of them and she was probably the most successful of all those they helped. She also mentioned in thathow that the restaurant was now pulling in about a million a year. And it was believable.
            I think right now I am liking Damaris. She’s real and she can cook.

  13. lolomama says:

    “Lovely” is also recycled from Hell’s Kitchen. Season 6 I think. This recap is great! Hope to see it weekly???

  14. lolomama says:

    PS Danushka’s YouTube video–Chopped appearance–is unintentionally hilarious.

  15. lyn says:

    I gave up on HGTV when I found out that the people have already purchased a home before the producers scare up two others to pretend they’re considering. Now I’m ready to give up on Food network, too.

  16. Holly says:

    Holy cow. Danuska was apparently also on Charlie O’Connell’s season of the Bachelor and some VH1 show called “Super Group”. That’s just ridiculous. Chopped. The Bachelor. Super Group. Fear Factor. NFNS.

  17. Jillyb says:

    Did anyone see Justin’s show? I am curious to hear if it was good and if he has been renewed. I missed it. From the description, it sounded similar to Guy’s DD&D.

    I didn’t realize that so many of the contestants have been on previous shows except for Viet since they admitted that one. There appears to be one great chef but not so great on camera and a few that are good/great on camera and we will see how great they are at cooking.

    Hope Michael continues to recap. This is a fun summer show when there isn’t much to watch.

  18. Jane says:

    This show is such a summer guilty pleasure-I watch purely for the train wreck factor because I can’t really see any of the contestants actually having successful shows. out of all of them, I think the veggie girl’s concept is most interesting, but I don’t like her personality.

    • The name Nikki Dinki made me laugh. It sounds so porn. I agree with the nice concept, unfortunately, I do not like her personality.

      • CanuckLulu says:

        I totally agree. I like the veggie with a side of meat premise too. The name has got to be changed; wouldn’t you think she would opt for Nicole just to avoid that goofy rhyming sound? Or how about just Nikki Dee or something like that?

  19. Ashly says:

    I’m so glad to see this recap! It’s one of my favorites of the summer along with HGTV’s Design Star.

    I like the BBQ guy and the veggie girl so far. I’m pretty sure that Danushka’s just staying for ratings. I have a feeling that this season is going to be more interesting than last’s.

  20. Babybop says:

    I agree with everything you said!! I’m so excited you’re recapping this, Michael! Please continue to do so, I love your commentary! :)

  21. Steve says:

    (Next) Food Network Star has done this more than once before. They have a certain detestable contestant in the mix who draws our ire and has us vigorously commenting on how much we loathe them to make sure that we tune in every week just so we can be there when the evil one is finally dispatched and justice is served.
    I have a feeling Danushka might be around for a little while.

    • Mary Ann says:

      I agree. I think Danushka will be this seasons “Penny” and that she may be around to annoy us for a while.

  22. WaxARoo says:

    I’m still waiting for the guy who won last year. But I do like this group of wannaBees.

  23. Tammy says:

    I use to be a Food Network addict as well as HGTV….. but now all I watch from both networks is their Next Star shows. Not sure why but I have always loved both of these competition shows. Sure it’s not Top Chef (a few Top Chef contestants could win Food Network Star in a heart beat!) but it’s fun to see what it takes to host a show. Plus who doesn’t love Alton Brown.

    I like Viet a lot. I hope he can warm up to the camera challenges.

  24. Risa Rait says:

    Indeed I agree that Chad came on looking very comfortable and fresh. He has a unique look and style. I understand why the focus group liked him. Right now he is my favorite Let’s see what happens next.

  25. Rick says:

    Noting that most of the chat is about what I agree are simply professional reality show wannabe’s, I give you an Original: Damaris. As both Michael – AND Giada – pointed out, her COOKING was superior. Which is the foundation for being a “star” on FN. combine that with a breath-of-fresh-air sweetly sassy ‘tude, and this prediction is that she is not only a Contender but will still be standing with one other in the finale!

    • Kate says:

      I actually know Damaris in real life. The crazy girl you see on TV is 100% her, not an act. It’s just who she is, and her energy is infectious. I just hope it translates on camera and people don’t think she’s too over the top. Also, the girl can COOK; I’ve never eaten anything of hers that wasn’t knock-out delicious, especially desserts- that’s her real gift. She has a passion for getting other people into the kitchen and for teaching. She (of course) can’t/won’t tell us how far she made it, but we’re really hoping she wins!

  26. Billy Harr says:

    I’m watching Restaurant Impossible right now and it is the episode with Stacey Poon Kinney . Hmmm now I see her on Food Network Star lol . She said on F.N.S. and I quote ” I make over a million a year ” so why is she on there ? All FAKE !!!!!

  27. Crystal webster says:

    HATE Danuska! Get rid of her fast!!!!!

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