In a special two hour premiere episode of The Next Food Network Star, twelve hopefuls arrive in Los Angeles to compete for the ultimate dream job: To host their own show on The Food Network. The competition starts right away as they face their first on-camera test: preparing a meal that best represents who they are. Next, the finalists are taken to Paramount Studios where an A-list Hollywood Director films 30-second promos for the show that each finalist wants to host. Finally, the finalists must each create a Power Lunch for LA's biggest celebrity Chef, Wolfgang Puck.
The remaining eleven finalists learn how hard it is to perform an assembly line demo in only eleven minutes. Then, special guest star Duff Goldman from "Ace of Cakes" presents their next challenge: Duff is throwing a party for a hundred of his closest friend on the Santa Monica Pier. The finalists must each take a classic carnival sweet and transform it into a savory party bite for the guest of honor and all of his friends.
Ten remaining finalists get a crash course in the Hollywood way of life! First they have to present a dish to camera inspired by a classic Film Genre. Next they strut the red carpet at an After-Party for Grammy Award Winner Colbie Caillat. The twist: they also have to cater the event in teams of two.
The heat turns up on the remaining nine finalists. Pepper Master Bobby Flay assigns each finalist a pepper to cook with - the winner's dish is put on the menu of Bobby's famous restaurant, Mesa Grill. Next, Bobby introduces three culinary legends who challenge the finalists to re-invent the best thing they ever ate.
In a super-sized episode, the remaining eight finalists have to create their very own food product in a jar. The twist: instead of presenting the product to camera, they must do a live demo in front of a crowd of hundreds. Then, special guest Paula Deen reveals four lunch trucks, and challenges the finalists (in teams of two) to create and operate their very own lunch truck business at Venice Beach.
The seven remaining finalists must prove that they have another essential trait for a Food Network star: the ability to entertain. Special guest Ted Allen assigns each finalist a party theme "in a basket." The finalists much create a party bite, and give an entertaining tip to camera. Next, the finalists head to Frank Sinatra's Estate in Palm Springs where they must serve a retro dish for a table of special guests.
The remaining six finalists are thrilled to meet last year's Next Food Network Star winner, Melissa D'Arabian. Melissa challenges the finalists to cook "dinner for breakfast" with Kellogg's cereal. Next, the finalists band together to serve some of L.A.'s culinary elite at an Underground Supper Club location.
The five remaining finalists are excited when Giada reveals they will cook their all-time favorite signature dish and present it to the camera, but surprise - there's a twist! It's not that easy. They have to add their least favorite ingredient, which was delivered by the family members of each finalist. After recovering from the emotional reunion of seeing their families, finalists are each assigned "an emotion" and must cook a dish and tell a story inspired by that emotion for special guests Eva Longoria and Todd English at their restaurant, Beso.
The final four arrive in NYC! Alton Brown meets them at Food Star's version of "Kitchen Stadium" to explain that the finalists will compete in a real Iron Chef America battle! The challenge is two-pronged: one pair will battle in the kitchen head to head, while the other pair will act as commentators for the battle, try to outdo each other's knowledge and camera presence. The Selection Committee and guest Iron Chefs Michael Symon, Cat Cora, and Morimoto will judge.
The final three arrive at the Food Network Kitchens and are blown away when RACHAEL RAY walks in to explain that she's going to take her years of experience and direct THEM in their pilots this year! Then the pilots will be shown to a focus group of Food Network fans, while the selection committee gauges their reactions and the finalists' performances as the pilots play. Meanwhile, the finalists will watch all of this remotely, anxiously awaiting their fate and trying to read every sign. After deliberation, finalists are called back into the studio and the Next Food Network Star will be announced!