The Next Food Network Star: do you believe in karma?

For those of us pissed off that the judges of “The Next Food Network Star” kept giving Debbie Lee pass after pass this season, despite the fact that she was dishonest and deceitful while acting all jolly and Korean, karma reared its head in our favor. More on that in a minute, but last night’s showdown between the final three of Lee, Melissa D’Arabian and Jeffrey Saad was actually very exciting to watch.

They began the episode by having the three finalists meet Emeril Lagasse at his restaurant, and Emeril announced their challenge for the week–in honor of the upcoming film, “Julie & Julia,” the contestants would have to create their own ultimate 3-course meal for some very distinguished judges. Each would have $1000 to shop as well as the help of a sous chef. After shopping (and Jeffrey being way under budget), they arrived back to find out who their sous chefs would be….naturally, former contestants….Jamika, Michael and Katie, who would be paired with Melissa, Debbie and Katie, respectively.

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The Next Food Network Star new season debuts Sunday June 7

Yes, it’s really been a year since Aaron McCargo, Jr. won Season 4 of “The Next Food Network Star,” one of the network’s most popular and talked about shows. Since then, McCargo has his own show, and Season 2 champ Guy Fieri is about as ubiquitous on TV as Peyton Manning or Oprah. So, you see, The Food Network takes this show very seriously, and well they should. Not only is it vital for them to keep finding new talent, but we are able to enjoy the process as ten finalists battle it out with tough challenges and nerve wracking on-camera experiences.

Season 5, which kicks off this Sunday June 7 at 9:00 pm ET/PT and 8:00 pm CST, features finalists Brett August (Washington Heights, N.Y.), Katie Cavuto (Philadelphia, Pa.), Melissa d’Arabian (Keller, Texas), Teddy Folkman (Alexandria, Va.), Eddie Gilbert (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), Jen Isham (Orlando, Fla.), Debbie Lee (West Hollywood, Calif.), Jamika Pessoa (Atlanta, Ga.), Michael Proietti (New York, N.Y.) and Jeffrey Saad (Los Angeles, Calif.).

The challenges promise to be even tougher this time around according to a press release, and we had the chance to ask judge and long-time network personality, restauranteur and Iron Chef Bobby Flay how he felt about the challenges.

“I do think sometimes the challenges are hard, but that’s what this is about,” he said. “If everyone was perfect in every challenge, there would be nothing to watch. You want to see how they do under pressure and how they handle it.”

In addition, since Flay is the lone chef on the judging panel along with Food Network execs Bob Tuschman (Senior Vice President, Programming and Production) and Susie Fogelson (Vice President, Marketing and Brand Strategy); he admits that he is looking more for that special culinary talent first and foremost, while the other two may have different priorities.

“Since I’m the chef on the panel, I’m always protecting the food,” he said. “It’s three things–they need to be able to cook with authority, they need to be able to be a good teacher and inspire, and then if they have those two things they need to be entertaining. All three of those things are the recipe for success.”

In addition to Flay, there are several network personalities that will help with the challenges and with guidance to the ten finalists. Those include Rachael Ray, Giada De Laurentiis, Alton Brown, Guy Fieri, Ina Garten, Emeril Lagasse, Gina and Pat Neely, Masaharu Morimoto, Ted Allen, Tyler Florence, Michael Symon McCargo, Jr.

We’ll be blogging the entire season right here starting this Monday, so tune in and then read us right here and let us know what you think!

  

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