Season 5: Debbie Lee

Where are you living and working now?

I am still residing in West Hollywood. I am in the process of opening up my own restaurant, a Korean-inspired pub. It should open later this year. In the meantime, I am doing a guest chef series at Breadbar, West 3rd Street, for a pop-up concept of what I call “Seoultown Tapas.” It’s my modern take on Korean pub grub. It gives L.A. diners a sneak peek into what they can expect from my very own place.

What have you been up to since FNS?

Gosh, where do I begin? Being a finalist on FNS has opened up such a range of opportunities. Most important, it brought me back to my real love for cooking, and inspired me to dig real deep into my ancestral culinary roots. I had the opportunity both during and after the show to meet such an incredible group of professionals, both in the culinary and entertainment worlds. I have also been retained by the Coronel Group and APA Talent Agency. I am truly grateful. My focus right now is working on getting the restaurant opened and also writing my first cookbook. I would love to look into more TV options, so you never know!

What was your favorite thing about being on FNS? And your least favorite?

I would have to say my most favorite thing would be meeting such great talent, both among my cast mates and the guest chefs that appeared. Not to mention being able to bond with Bobby Flay, Susie Fogelson and Bob Tuschman on a daily basis. They were great! My least favorite was definitely waking up at the crack of dawn. I am so not the morning riser.

Do you keep in touch with other finalists?

Absolutely. I think it’s truly hard to not be in contact with the gang. You bond over such an intense experience together. I am always in touch with them, especially Jamika, Michael and Eddie.

What was the funniest/coolest/weirdest (or worst!) incident to happen behind the scenes?

God, there were so many funny moments, especially with Michael and Katie around to entertain us. I swear those two should have their own show. They are great together.

My worst incident was probably the moment when I got hit in the face by accident during the Intrepid Challenge. My eye was closing up right before my presentation and make-up was trying to get it to stay open. Ugh, that was painful!

How did being on FNS affect your culinary career?

It has been nothing but a GREAT thing for me. I have been given so many new opportunities to share my culinary viewpoint and be part of such a great culinary community in Los Angeles. In addition to my restaurant opening, I will be working on a few other large consulting projects. So you can say that the door is now wide open.

What advice would you offer the next round of finalists?

Stick to who you are and you will always find your way. Also, just ignore the camera and imagine you are just hanging out and chatting with your friends. Natural is always best.

When you look back, what would you have done differently?

Probably not buy that Angel Food Cake, lol. Don’t think I will ever live that one down!

Do people recognize you from being on the show?

Every day. Your life definitely changes, and although you are only on a show for nine weeks, it is amazing how many people you affect. My fans have been, and continue to be, incredible. Also, the local media in L.A. has been truly supportive as well.

What was the greatest lesson you learned from your time on FNS?

That I am so proud of who I am and where I came from. I think it has made me be a stronger Korean-American woman. You can be accepted for who you are and not try to fit into a mold.

What's your current favorite recipe or signature dish?

God, there are so many, but I would have to say my Bacon Shortbread. I got rave reviews from ABC News for this creation, and everyone that tries it becomes addicted.

Anything else?

I can’t wait to see the cast for Season 6! Good luck to all of you. For those of you who are watching and always wonder if it could happen to you, it actually might. You have nothing to lose and all the world to gain.