Meet the Food Network Star: Comeback Kitchen Finalists

Each of these former contestants has felt the sting of elimination before, but all of them are back and want a second chance to compete on Food Network Star.

Photo By: Eddy Chen

7 Hopeful Contenders

You've seen them all before. These finalists have competed on past seasons on Food Network Star — and lost. But this time, they're hoping to rewrite their Star stories and earn the right to join the Season 13 competition. Find out what they've been up to since you last saw them.

Danushka Lysek (New York City)

Danushka grew up in Canada and graduated at the top of her class from the Le Cordon Bleu culinary arts program. With a cultivated cooking style that represents different cultures and foods, Danushka competed on Season 9 of Food Network Star. She is currently a private chef to working professionals, from Aspen and Los Angeles to the Hamptons and New York City. Danushka has also competed on other Food Network cooking competitions. 

Emilia Cirker (Washington, D.C.)

After graduating first in her class with a degree in French culinary arts, Emilia quickly climbed the kitchen ranks and ultimately landed her role as a head chef for the Washington Redskins. A finalist on Season 11 of Food Network Star, Emilia is currently working as a startup consultant while managing a food lifestyle blog and teaching private cooking classes in the D.C. area.

Jamika Pessoa (Atlanta)

Highlighting her bold twists on traditional dishes, especially those of her Southern and Caribbean heritages, Jamika has an innovative style, sassy personality and inspiring tenacity in the kitchen. As a caterer to the stars and self-proclaimed “life of the party,” since competing on Season 5 of Food Network Star Jamika has been featured as a contributor and guest judge for numerous cooking competition shows. In an effort to meet the demands of West Coast clientele, Jamika recently expanded her catering business to Los Angeles. 

Josh Lyons (Jupiter, Florida)

A competitor on Season 8 of Food Network Star, Josh has an affinity for food, music and entertaining, with an expertise in creating unexpected Asian fusion dishes. After spending years in a rock band and working in restaurants, Josh decided to go to culinary school. As an experienced sushi chef and restaurant consultant, Josh is currently a franchise owner of a healthy fast-casual restaurant. 

Joy Thompson (Lexington, North Carolina)

Between running a catering company and food product line and wrangling five children, Joy also competed on Season 12 of Food Network Star. Drawing inspiration from her childhood, Joy manages to maintain a self-deprecating wit through all the chaos, creating elevated Southern food, such as fried green tomatoes and chicken and waffles.  

Matthew Grunwald (Scottsdale, Arizona)

Matthew 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. At 16, he began working in professional kitchens and became a food writer by 17. He is now the corporate executive chef of national accounts for Nestlé Professional in Cleveland. 

Rob Burmeister (Staten Island, New York)

Rob started out washing dishes over 25 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. Previously a finalist on Season 12 of Food Network Star, Rob currently runs a lunch program at a private school in New Jersey, operates a food truck business called Culinary Renegade Wandering Kitchen and is the co-host of a food podcast.

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