Aria Kagan

Eliminated Week 9

Aria, 30 (Hollywood, Fla.), a single working mother and former chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu in Miami, Fla., likes learning where food comes from and enjoys using fresh produce from farmers’ markets in her recipes. She loves the way her food makes people feel and wants to teach people more about cooking with their family and friends. Aria grew up working in her parents’ Wisconsin café; she was trained at the Culinary Institute of America and now works as a private chef.

Food specialty: Anything I can eat with my fingers!

Favorite restaurant: Bourbon Steak in Aventura, Fla., Timo Restaurant in Sunny Isles, Fla., and Gramercy Tavern in NYC.

Three foods you can't live without (other than bread or water): Chocolate, coffee (I know it's not technically food, but I just can't imagine my life without it!) and almond croissants from this little French bakery down the street from my house. (I think my tush just got bigger thinking about them).

Food you won't go near
: While I do like mildly spicy food, super spicy food is another story. If it makes my nose run and my eyes water just looking at it, I swiftly turn in the other direction.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: Okay, so it was my first month in culinary school, and it was a dare! One tablespoon of cinnamon; it's not really possible. I think I actually ingested one teaspoon of it and for the next week I was sneezing chunks of cinnamon. Horrible, and not recommended.

Interests and hobbies: Running (it keeps me sane and able to fit into my jeans), gardening and photography

Favorite Food Network chef: Ina and Giada

Favorite shows (don't have to be on Food Network): Love my girls on the The Real Housewives (all cities), Chelsea Lately, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Brothers & Sisters and Desperate Housewives

Favorite food destination: NYC is hands down my favorite place in the world to chow down.

Culinary inspirations: Farmers' markets

Three people, alive or dead, whom you'd like to invite to a dinner party, and what culinary delights would you prepare for your guests: The three people that have made me the happiest: My mom, my son, Luca, and my dad, who passed away 1 1/2 years ago. It would be amazing to give him a big hug and cook our favorite meal of the day, breakfast. My house would be filled with vases of daffodils — I just love those darn flowers. You probably won't be able to hear the music, most likely jazz, because there would be so much talking and laughing. Fresh-squeezed orange juice for Luca and Bloody Marys for my mom. Big pieces of pillowy French toast smothered in sweet butter and maple syrup, scones and chocolate banana muffins. I adore making ooey gooey pecan sticky buns, so my house would be dripping in the smell of them baking. Colorful plates of fresh fruit with slices of lime. Omelets filled with only cheddar cheese (Wisconsin, of course). Crispy bacon and sausage just to round things off.

Favorite books: My favorite author is Ruth Reichl, and Garlic and Sapphires is my all-time favorite book.

Favorite movies: Here's my top five: Grease, A League of Their Own, Spirit (Luca and I have watched this movie about 347 times and I still love it), the original Annie and The Family Stone.

Why do you think you should be the Season 6 Food Network Star: I LOVE food and I LOVE to cook, but my PASSION is to teach! It's a truly powerful gift to be able to inspire people to cook amazing food. I want to encourage people to lick their fingers and sprinkle salt with their eyes closed.

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