Meet the Food Network Star Season 9 Finalists

Get to know the 12 finalists competing on Season 9 of Food Network Star.

Food Network Star Season 9

Twelve finalists have traveled to Los Angeles to begin a multi-month interview for the chance to earn their dream job: hosting their own Food Network show.

Andres Guillama (Waynesville, N.C.)

Andres, 26, grew up in a traditional Cuban family and worked at his father's restaurant. After losing 150 pounds, Andres became a childhood obesity prevention coach, and he is now eager to show the audience how deliciously satisfying healthy food can be.

Chad Rosenthal (Ambler, Pa.)

Passionate about all things barbecue, Chad, 37, is a self-taught cook in the process of opening a comfort food eatery near Philadelphia. Growing up, this father of two would perform cooking shows for his family, and he now wants to turn that childhood play into reality.

Chris Hodgson (Cleveland)

A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, Chris, 27, was the mastermind behind Cleveland's first-ever food truck. He founded a second truck before opening his premiere brick-and-mortar restaurant, Hodge's. In 2011, Chris and his teammates were the runners-up on The Great Food Truck Race.

Connie "Lovely" Jackson (Los Angeles)

The baby of her family, Connie, 27, earned the nickname "Lovely" as a child. After growing up in the kitchen with her mom, she received a bachelor's in culinary management, and is now a glamorous private chef for celebrities and athletes.

Damaris Phillips (Louisville, Ky.)

A self-described Southern spitfire, Damaris, 32, was introduced to the kitchen at a young age and grew up cooking for her family one night a week. She's now a culinary school instructor who is equally known for her trademark wit and classic Southern cuisine.

Daniela Perez-Reyes (Haleiwa, Hawaii)

Born in Peru, Daniela, 29, earned a culinary arts degree from The Art Institute at San Diego and currently works as the chef de cuisine for a catering company in Hawaii. She's known for introducing signature Peruvian and Polynesian flavors into her food.

Danushka Lysek (New York City)

Danushka, 37, has had a place in the kitchen since she was a child. Now a culinary school graduate, she works as a private chef in New York and specializes in cooking seasonal farm-to-table cuisine. In 2012, Danushka competed on Chopped and survived two rounds of cooking.

Nikki Dinki (New York City)

After growing up as a picky eater, Nikki, 29, craved a diverse palate as an adult, so she set out to learn how to cook and found her passion. She's the creator of an online cooking show that showcases her semi-vegetarian lifestyle and combines her love of the spotlight and of food.

Rodney Henry (Baltimore)

Owner of three Dangerously Delicious Pies shops, Rodney, 47, is known for his next-level interpretations of the classic pie. This former musician has appeared on Chopped and Throwdown With Bobby Flay, among other Food Network shows, and is a father of two with a style all his own.

Russell Jackson (San Francisco)

Russell, 49, is the founder of an underground supper club in San Francisco, where he uses local ingredients to create innovative meals. The challenger against Jose Garces in Iron Chef America Battle Rhubarb, he's been cooking since he was 3 years old and now considers the kitchen home.

Stacey Poon-Kinney (San Diego)

As the great-granddaughter of a chef, Stacey, 34, grew up surrounded by food, first performing tasks in the kitchen when she was a child. After pursuing her love of dance, she teamed up with her father to open The Trails Eatery in San Diego, which was featured on Season 2 of Restaurant: Impossible.

Viet Pham (Salt Lake City)

Victor over Bobby Flay in Iron Chef America Battle Ground Meat, Viet, 34, was born in Malaysia and graduated from the California Culinary Academy. He worked in restaurants in San Francisco before founding his own eatery in Salt Lake City, and he is known for his globally inspired dishes.

Want More Food Network Star?

Watch a sneak-peek clip of Season 9, then visit Food Network's Food Network Star headquarters for more insider coverage of the show.