"Food Network Star" 2014 premiered June 1 on the Food Network. The show's 10th season opened with 12 talented chefs hoping to snag the big prize following a series of creative challenges designed to test their camera comfort and kitchen chops.
The new season opened as the 12 chefs gathered on a back lot set in Hollywood. Moments after the last hopeful's arrival, judges Bobby Flay, Alton Brown, and Giada De Laurentiis joined them to begin the season in earnest. The trio welcomed the contestants to the show and explained that they wanted to celebrate the season with a Hollywood-style premiere party thrown in their honor.
With no further ado, the first task of the season commenced as they were told they had 30 seconds to explain their individual food perspectives and why they should win the chance to host their own shows. In order, Texas pageant girl Sarah Penrod, catering company owner Chris Kyler, personal chef Nicole Gaffney, butcher Loreal Gavin, fast-casual restaurant owner Kenny Lao, self-taught cook Aryen Moore-Alston, Culinary Institute grad Christopher Lynch, holistic health coach Donna Sonkin Shaw, Italian Luca Della Casa, Miami's Reuben Ruiz, food blogger Emma Frisch, and chuckwagon cook Lenny McNab gave their pitches.
Some fared decidedly better than others. While the judges liked what Aryen, Loreal, and Luca had to offer, Sarah, Emma, Christopher, and Donna took harsh criticism for their efforts.
With the introductions out of the way, Bobby presented the first challenge of the season as he instructed each hopeful to make his or her "most impressive party bite" that reflects them as a person. The dishes would be served to 100 party-goers. With 90 minutes on the clock, the contestants rushed off to the Food Star Kitchen to slice and dice their way to the season's first win.
After time expired, the three judges entered the kitchen accompanied by Food Network bigwigs Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson. After greeting the chefs, Bob revealed that E! personality Ross Mathews would be present at the party to help judge the dishes, and then dismissed the hopefuls to get dressed for the event.
Later, each contestant arrived alone at the event and walked a paparazzi-manned red carpet to a podium to stand before the selection committee. The hopefuls presented a wide array of tasty bites that included the following: Sarah, exotic mushroom soup; Nicole, sesame crusted tuna; Donna, endive BLT; Luca, beef tartare; Christopher, fried boudin ball; Lenny, chicken fried lobster; Aryen, puff pastry pillow; Loreal, sour cream pound cake; Kenny, ahi tuna tartare; and Emma, open faced grilled cheese.
The panelists tasted each dish as it was presented, and the chefs achieved widely varying degrees of success. They were particularly taken with Lenny's big personality and yummy dish, and especially critical of Sarah's mushroom soup, which Alton called off-putting.
After each dish was critiqued, the contestants joined the judging trio in the studio. Loreal, Nicole, and Lenny earned top honors for their dishes and presentations, and passed safely to week two. Also earning berths in the next round of the competition were Reuben, Luca, Chris, Kenny, Aryen, and Christopher, leaving Emma, Donna, and Sarah in danger of being the first contestant sent home.
The three ladies left the room so Bobby, Giada, and Alton could deliberate further. When they were summoned to return, Emma was declared safe to cook again. Sarah earned the last available spot, sealing health enthusiast Donna's elimination. A tearful Donna lamented missing out on an opportunity to get her message out and share her craft, but vowed to continue on in the kitchen.
"Food Network Star" 2014 resumes June 8 with season 10's second week of competition. For more information on the contestants, visit the show's official website.