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Michelle's History-Making Exit

A food blogger from California, Michelle was the seventh finalist to leave the competition — though she was not eliminated. She voluntary ended her journey early to return to her family, marking the first time in the history of Food Network Star that a finalist has quit.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Initial Impressions

After her spotlight challenge in Episode 1 in which she pitched her Mediterranean point of view, Michelle admitted to the mentors that she was shaking in her boots, though Bobby and Giada couldn't sense her nerves. "You spoke about yourself very easily," Bobby told her.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Early Enthusiasm

"The exhilaration I am feeling having just finished my first cooking challenge!!! Chaos! Excitement! Action!" she penned after spending the first Star Challenge cooking outdoors for the food festival. "I'm in my element cooking and it feels good to be in the zone."

A Winning Soup

"I won today's challenge with this soup," Michelle wrote proudly of the Episode 2 dish she concocted using leftover pork chops. Though she tried to convince the judges that she had indeed transformed pork chops like this before, Giada was sure that wasn't the case, as Michelle wrote later, "Giada knew I had never made this before! Ha! Ha!" 

Relatable Cook

"Genuine. I will watch every time," guest judge Alex Guarnaschelli said of Michelle after watching her present at the baking challenge. When it came to Michelle's food, however, she was deemed less successful, as Bobby deemed it "very one note."

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Michelle's Heart

From the earliest days of the competition, Michelle has maintained the importance of her children in her life and cooking. Here she drew their pictures and wrote them a note, "I do this for you!"

Party Gal

Going into the third episode, Michelle confided in her journal that she's the "girl who gets up on a table at the end of the night at a party and does really bad Donna Summer renditions of 'Last Dance' karaoke!!" She even sketched a photo of herself belting out the tune on a table.

Needing More

While Michelle's photoworthy ratatouille-style dish was indeed selected for tasting based on its picture, the judges weren't wowed when they sampled it. "I would like something a little pungent, spicy or something," Bobby explained.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

From Serving to Flirting

Come the Episode 3 Star Challenge, the ladies decided to bring the sensuality at their dinner party, and Michelle indeed delivered. As she presented her slimy soup, she managed to flirt with Geoffrey Zakarian, shocking even herself: "Suddenly I'm telling Geoffrey Zakarian I'm on a yacht for two with him. I mean, I don't even know what I'm saying."

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Unprepared for the Crowd 

After an unexpected twist that found the finalists cooking with each other's ingredients, Michelle landed yogurt-marinated chicken for her 4th of July cookout offering, but ultimately the demands of the crowd got the better of her. "You need to be really consistent and get it done," Bobby told her after explaining that she'd presented both raw chicken and overcooked chicken — and seemingly everything in between.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

The Surprises Continue

The twists and turns continued into Episode 5 when the finalists cooked with each other's most-favorite ingredients. Michelle wasn't sure of the heat in Eddie's habaneros, so despite her plans to let the heat shine, her shrimp didn't boast the necessary habanero. But when it was her time to talk about Eddie's soup, which featured her grape leaves, she spoke well of its consistency and taste.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

A Partnership Gone Wrong 

Quite simply a match made in hell, Dom and Michelle could hardly find ways to work together come the Episode 5 Star Challenge at Patina Restaurant. They were tasked with fusing their flavors onto a single plate, but they failed to achieve harmony both in person and in their risotto with shrimp. "OK. So it's The Dom Show, and Michelle is the dumb sidekick," Michelle said, frustrated that Dom was taking charge of their menu.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Problematic Pizza

In Episode 6, Duff Goldman challenged the finalists to put "kicked-up flavors" on a pizza, and in keeping with her point of view, Michelle went the Mediterranean route, which proved to be less than exciting. "The pizza, I don't think it would be special on a menu," Duff told her.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Improv Plans

Though the name of the game at the pop-up comedy club was improv, that didn't stop Michelle from jotting down a few ideas for how she'd begin her presentation. What she couldn't expect, however, was that guest judge David Alan Grier would throw two curve balls her way while on stage, forcing her to both give a specific tip and tell a certain story.

Searching for Strength

In what would be the last week of the competition, Michelle was homesick, and it began to impact her performances. "My head is just with my kids. I can't focus," she said, explaining why she jumbled the presentation of her portable brunch dish, a duo of quiches. Giada told her, "You seemed a little unsure of yourself."

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Dancing and Rhyming

"I don't know, I can't stop dancing," Michelle said of the supposedly soulful jig she did during the social media promo video for her and Eddie's grilled cheese food truck. In her journal, she jotted down a few lines of the jingle, "cheesey, weezie, oh so pleazie," plus her team's menu of sandwiches and tomato soup.

Speaking the Truth

"I want to go home," Michelle wrote. "I miss my family." This note in her journal foreshadowed the ending of Episode 7. After a duo of difficult challenges in Episode 7, Michelle shocked the mentors and her fellow rivals alike by quitting the competition.

Michelle Speaks Out

For the first time in Food Network Star history, Michelle chose to voluntarily leave the contest, even though she was the last female still in the running for the prize. Click here to hear from her in her first exclusive exit interview to find out more about why she left.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Go Behind the Scenes

Get an insider's look at the making of the show, and see how the cast spends its time between takes.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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