Calling all foodies!
America has spoken -- and there's a new star in town. With 4.5 million votes cast, Sunday's finale of "The Next Food Network Star" cooked up a winner. The prize? A cooking show on the Food Network.
In what was a reunion/retrospective style format that brought back all 15 of this season's contestants. The final four "Next Food Network Star" hopefuls -- Justin Warner, Martie Duncan, Michele Ragussis and Yvan Lemoine -- awaited their fate, but not before viewers were treated to a look back at the past season and a few token awards from Food Network judges Susie Fogelson and Bob Tuschman.
Ousted contestants Nikki Martin and Malcolm Mitchell were voted most competitive and most cocky, respectively. Not surprisingly, Justin Warner and Martie Duncan were voted "oddest couple."
But then it was down to the meat of the show. In a twist for Season 8, it was viewers -- and not network judges -- who determined the winner.
Early on, Martie Duncan -- whose nickname and show pitch idea is "Martie With the Party"-- was the first to go. The Team Alton (Brown) contestant called her elimination a "bittersweet moment," most likely because Justin, her BFF and teammate on the show, was still in the running.
Also in the running was Michele Ragussis (Team Bobby Flay) whose "My New England" pitch featured her love of seafood and all things New England. And Yvan Lemoine (Team Giada De Laurentis) made it clear that he's all about family and he hoped to become a part of the Food Network family with his show "Family Style."
After a series of season highlights were shown, including some behind-the-scenes backstabbing and some grueling pitch room moments, Food Network President Brook Johnson made the big announcement: Justin Warner was crowned the next Food Network Star.
The 28 year old's show idea, "Rebel with a Culinary Cause," was quirky enough to stand out (where else will you find a Caesar salad made with grilled greens and an aspic?), nabbing him the grand prize of a Food Network pilot produced by his mentor, Alton Brown.
"I feel like a proud papa," Brown gushed, while Warner expressed disbelief over his win. "I never thought I would be accepted by America," he said.
In addition to his Food Network pilot (look for it this fall!), Justin Warner will have a spot at the New York Wine and Good Festival and will be featured in an upcoming issue of Food Network magazine.
Now that's some good eats!
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