Where are you living/working now?
I currently reside in Provo, Utah but my new husband (Robby) and I are making a big move to NYC in April. I've been a busy girl and continue to be involved in several different endeavors. I currently work as the director of the Zupas test kitchen where I develop original recipes for their Featured Recipes menu. I've also taken on a multimedia project with the restaurant revamping their website to make it a daily interactive food blog that highlights my work in the test kitchen and the local food community. Along with the website, I film a local cooking show that airs within the restaurant. The project is an interactive approach to make our customers feel like they are taking part in the food. In addition, I continue to enjoy reaching out to the home cook and teach culinary classes throughout the state and offer kitchen consulting services. I'm looking forward to a partnership this spring with a local Bed & Breakfast hosting cooking retreats and weekend getaways.
What have you been up to since FNS?
2008 was a big year for me. After the show, I was married to the love of my life. We love being newlyweds and try to sneak in a bit of travel as much as possible. I've put a lot of focus on jump-starting my culinary career by immersing myself in the industry as much as possible.
What did you enjoy most (and least) about being on FNS?
Hands down, the best thing taken from my NFNS experience was the friendships I made. I loved working with the different food personalities from the network and getting a shot at my dream job. I hated being away from my loved ones and having no communication with the outside world. I also really struggled with having an unexpected schedule – you never knew what the next day would bring. 2am or 10pm you needed to be on your game.
Do you still keep in touch with other finalists?
I have kept in touch with a lot of the finalists. Aaron and I have developed a great friendship and have spent time getting to know each other's families. I try and keep in touch with most of the finalists, but look forward to friendships growing over the next couple of years.
Any behind-the-scene happenings from FNS you can tell us about?
The Carriage House was freezing! We didn't get much time with the "outside world" but we did get a small moment to celebrate the Giant's Super Bowl win by taking a victory lap around the block (supervised of course). Lisa's wardrobe is even more amazing in person.
How did being on NFNS affect your culinary career?
Food Network Star was an unbelievable boost for my culinary career. The show really gave me direction and helped me define my passion within the industry. I love the "home cook" and hope to tailor my career around developing recipes that people can use everyday. The exposure has definitely led to some great work and networking opportunities. NFNS reaffirmed my passion for food media and that this is the industry I belong in.
What advice would you offer the next round of finalists?
Come prepared with recipes that can all be prepared in under 30 minutes for 30 people. It doesn't matter if you have the best original recipe known to man; if it can't be made quickly – it's not going to happen on the show. Also, don't pass up an opportunity to learn from the other finalists. Chances are you are working with an incredibly talented bunch.
When you look back, would you have done anything differently?
I would have served Martha Stewart foie gras rather than a sloppy joe – just kidding. It was good for her, right?
Are you recognized from your time on FNS?
I'm continually surprised that people still stop me for pictures and a "way to go" every now and then. The support was incredible during the show and people have been great to cheer me on as my career has progressed this past year.
What was the greatest lesson you learned from your time on FNS?
There is no substitute for experience.
I filmed a new web series with Spike Mendelsohn from Top Chef that will debut on a new website for Food Network. It was an amazing experience and opportunity that I would love to elaborate on but definitely need to check with the network on what specifics they would like to allow (if any)!