Star-a-Day: Emilia Cirker

Get to know Emilia, a finalist on Food Network Star, Season 11.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

There are traditional job interviews, which are surely daunting, then there's Food Network Star: an intense 11-week journey that requires nothing short of flawless technique in the kitchen and a downright sparkly personality on camera. Beginning June 7 at 9|8c, 12 all-new rivals will put their dreams on the line as they endure mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis' lofty challenges, all in the hopes of scoring the most-sought-after culinary career: Food Network host. Star Talk is bringing you the first look at each of the finalists in exclusive, candid interviews, and today we're introducing Virginia's Emilia Cirker.

Emilia, 36 (Reston, Va.), is a beauty pageant veteran with a French culinary degree and a wicked sense of humor. Her parents passed their love of food to her, and she is currently a culinary instructor and software company executive. Emilia is also a former head pastry chef for the Washington Redskins. This natural-born leader and single mom is determined to inspire viewers with her global-ingredient, technique-driven cooking style.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence — if you can.

Emilia Cirker: My friends and family tell me that my food is the place where tradition and change meet; I like to honor culturally rich, ethnically rich heritages dishes, but put a new spin on them. So you're getting something that's craveable but also new and traditionally rich at the same time.

If you could ask Bobby and Giada to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?

EC: Well, Bobby's is easy for me, because I really don't like smoked chipotles. So I want him to prove me wrong by cooking me a dish and teaching me how to cook something that I will actually like, 'cause I hate the fact that I don't like one ingredient. With Giada, that's a tough one, 'cause I'm Italian, so I have a lot of the same techniques that she uses. But one of the things that I love about her is how warm and inviting she is on camera, and I need that as a skill set. So I'd love for her to show me how she got that talent.

What one thing do you really want to convey to the mentors about you, your food or your would-be Food Network show?

EC: One thing I want to convey to them is that I'm refreshing. I feel like a lot of the finalists that come onto this show have the same kind of story. Mine is a new story, and it's going to be refreshing. And I think that's what the audience wants to see.

Win or lose, what's something you want to take away from this contest?

EC: Win or lose, this is going to make us stronger in everything we do. Even if we don’t get a show, I know it's just going to make me a stronger chef, a better teacher, even a better mom.

What's your greatest strength in the kitchen?

EC: My greatest strength in the kitchen may not necessarily be something that's immediately related to food, but my presence is powerful and it's dominant, and people always remark on that. When I get into a kitchen, I naturally take a leadership role.

What is the strangest thing we'd find in your refrigerator right now?

EC: I have so much weird stuff in my fridge. I don't know how to narrow it down. All I do is shop in international stores, so if I see stuff I don't recognize, I buy it. My fridge is stocked with stuff I don't even know how to pronounce, so honestly, like, everything in my fridge is bizarre. And then 17 canisters of creme fraiche. Maybe that's the weirdest thing. My fridge is always stocked with creme fraiche. It's absolutely my favorite ingredient. I can't cook without it.

What was the first dish you perfected?

EC: I truly perfected pasta first. My dad made pasta since the day I was born. He's not even the Italian in the family, but he's always made pasta. So I've been making it since I was a kid. I do it in my sleep.

What dish or ingredient will we never catch you eating?
EC: Smoked chipotles
What's your favorite late-night snack?

EC: This is so bizarre. My favorite late-night snack is fried okra. Honestly, it's the weirdest thing. I fry okra like it's my job. I don't know why.

What is one must-have dish at your last supper?
EC: Foie gras in any capacity
What do you want to say about yourself to fans watching at home?

EC: I think a lot of people will judge me by cover, and I understand why. I use it as a tool. I look really preppy all the time, and I want them to know that it's kind of a little bit of a comedy for me because I'm slightly a degenerate, I'm super hilarious, I'm really an anomaly. So what you see on the outside is not always what you get on the inside. So don't judge this book by its cover.

Rapid fire: Think fast!
Ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise? Mayonnaise
Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla
Bagels or doughnuts? Doughnuts
Cream cheese or butter? Butter
Coffee or tea? Tea
Burgers or hot dogs? Burgers
French fries or onion rings? Onion rings
White meat or dark? Dark
Cake or pie? Pie
Beer or wine? Wine!
French toast or pancakes? French toast

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