Season 5: Jen Isham

Where are you living and working now?

We moved into a new house, still in Orlando. I'm working as conference sales manager at the new Hilton Orlando.

What have you been up to since FNS?

Working on making our new house a home. I'm still working and then cooking tasty dinners at night when I get home. I have done some spots with the Home Shopping Network, local food and wine fests and was a spokesperson for Godiva Liqueur this past holiday season. I've also been blogging at (, although I have been slacking since I lost my camera. It's called Dear Diary and chronicles my food and the randomness that is my life. Looking at it now I've been really slacking.

Oh yeah, and we're working on making a baby Isham — don't think I can handle four like Melissa. We'll start with one.

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

My favorite part was living my dream, and taking a huge chance.

The least favorite part was getting kicked off before I even got started, and that I got the smallest hotel room out of all the kicked-off contestants. I was there the longest, and I got the smallest room. Oh, yeah, and running up the AMEX once my per diem ran out — oops. Gabe was NOT happy.

Do you keep in touch with other finalists?

I keep in touch with a few. Facebook has kept us well connected. We did a really good job keeping in touch via e-mail, but still think Food Network should host a reunion for all the cast members. We are available to travel.

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

My grandmother's sapphire ring fell down the drain in our bathroom the morning we left to film the first elimination segment; the one where I was kicked off. Bad day overall.

And once we were kicked off, Brett was very nervous that our every move was being tracked. He was convinced that we were being followed and that we were bugged. I spent the first few days with him trying to convince him that our every move was not being monitored and that Food Network was not on our trail, no tracking devices were sewn into our clothes.

How did being on FNS affect your culinary career?

I realized that I wanted to be more food-focused in my life. I'm still trying to find the monetary funds to make that happen. Until then I still dream my dream of being able to be a mom and help contribute to the family by doing something in the food world. I think I want to be a contributing writer for The Nest — I think I'd fit in well there.

What advice would you offer the next round of finalists?

Bring ear plugs! Oh my gosh, a good friend sent a few with me, and Melissa and I found them to save our sleepless nights.

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

Being the first to be kicked off there isn't much to look back on. I really wouldn't change anything I did, BUT I would change getting kicked off. Maybe I should have been more vocal in the beginning and claimed a non veggie, even though I still like my green beans.

Do people recognize you from being on the show?

Only once. I was on a Jet Blue flight and our ad was on the information packs and they were running promos on all the TVs. I signed a few autographs, even though I insisted I wasn't that cool.

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

I had wanted to be on Food Network Star since the first season. I always said I would be on the Food Network. This one decision to fly out for an open call last season changed my life. We have one life and you should take chances and go after what you want, even if you fall short, which I did. At least I did it.

What's your current favorite recipe or signature dish?

I wouldn't say so much a dish, but I have not been able to stop snacking on these spicy candied pecans. Mix a bag of shelled pecans with melted butter, equal parts brown sugar and cayenne pepper (about 2 tablespoons each) and bake at 350 degrees F, turning occasionally until crispy. They go great on salads, too.

Anything else?

I think they should make a season out of all the contestants that were eliminated first. Just saying. I really would have rocked.