Meet the Finalists Competing on Food Network Star: Comeback Kitchen

Get to know the seven hopefuls vying for a spot on Food Network Star, Season 12.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Introducing: The Hopeful 7

You've seen these seven rivals before. They're all returning finalists from past years of Food Network Star — and they all want to score the one coveted spot on the upcoming Food Network Star, Season 12.

Brianna Jenkins (Atlanta)

Brianna, 35, competed on Season 6 of Food Network Star. Originally studying food journalism at Georgia Perimeter College, Brianna fell in love with cooking after moving to Atlanta. She graduated from the Ecole Supérieure de Cuisine Française in Paris and now serves as the executive chef and owner of her own catering company, Amuse. In her spare time, Brianna teaches cooking classes and travels the world looking for culinary inspiration. 

Chris Kyler (Fredericksburg, Va.)

Chris, 34, received culinary training while in the Navy, where he was known for his sense of humor, charisma and serious cooking chops. After several years of working in restaurants and at catering firms, Chris competed on Season 10 of Food Network Star. He now runs Kyler’s A+ Catering, a gourmet mobile catering company with an emphasis on exciting, fresh cuisine.

Dominick Tesoriero (Staten Island, N.Y.)

Dominick, 31, is a charming, funny New Yorker who has been hamming it up for his friends and family all his life. His culinary training took him to Italy, where he refined his skills and placed second in an international cooking competition. A former competitor on Season 11 of Food Network Star, Dom believes in quality ingredients, solid technique and simple cooking. He now owns New York City’s first and only mac-and-cheese food truck.

Martita Jara (San Diego)

Martita, 39, showcased her talent on Season 8 of Food Network Star. She began working in her family’s restaurant business at a young age, with her mom’s authentic Mexican home cooking inspiring her culinary passion. Martita's parents moved to the United States two years before she was born, and she credits them with her work ethic and perseverance. Martita attended a few semesters of culinary school, but most of her skills are self-taught. She loves to entertain and cooks with loads of Mexican flavor!

Matthew Grunwald (Scottsdale, Ariz.)

Matthew, 23, was the youngest finalist on Season 11 of Food Network Star, but don’t let his age and enthusiasm fool you: He’s got the experience of a chef twice his age. He began working in professional kitchens at 16, became a food writer by 17 and is now a sous chef at one of the finest restaurants in the Southwest. Matthew’s passion is feeding people, and he is dedicated to cooking robust flavors.

Michele Ragussis (Provincetown, Mass.)

Michele, 46, grew up in an Italian-Greek family where food was, and still is, a big part of their lives. She fell in love with the New England lifestyle and cuisine when she moved to Rhode Island to attend college. After deciding that hands-on restaurant experience was more valuable to her than attending classes, Michele went on to spend 15 years in executive chef positions. While her distinctive tattoos and piercings may look intimidating, Michele has a relaxed and fun personality, which she conveyed as a competitor on Season 8 of Food Network Star.

Penny Davidi (Los Angeles)

A happily married mother of two, this chef and entrepreneur, 42, grew up learning the art of cooking from the women in her family, and she used this knowledge as a launching pad to fuse creativity and personality to create her own innovative recipes. Raised in California, Penny franchised Pizza Rustica and opened a popular branch in Beverly Hills. A former competitor on Season 7 of Food Network Star, Penny currently helps consult and create menus for restaurants throughout Southern California.

Want More Food Network Star?

Check out the Food Network Star headquarters for more insider coverage of Comeback Kitchen, plus interviews with the cast and mentors of Food Network Star, behind-the-scenes photos and video highlights.

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