One-on-One With the First Star Contestant to Go Home

By: Sarah De Heer

Finalists Russell Jackson, Danushka Lysek and Daniela Perez Reyes in as seen on Food Network Star, Season 9.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eleven episodes, 12 contestants, countless challenges and only one ultimate dream come true. Every Sunday, Bobby, Giada and Alton will take on the difficult task of eliminating one finalist in the quest to help guide fans to vote for Food Network's next sensation. And this is no easy task. Check back here every week to read Star Talk's exclusive exit interview with the latest Star hopeful to leave Star Kitchen.

If you missed the show and recorded it, don't read any further — Star Talk is about to chat with the first finalist to go home.

Daniela Perez-Reyes, from the very beginning, proved she had the smile, charm and culinary chops to be on Food Network Star, but her journey was short-lived.

Finalist Daniela Perez Reyes cooking for the Star Challenge "Impressing the Network and FN Fans" as seen on Food Network Star, Season 9.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

While Bobby enjoyed her Peruvian potato dish, the mentors, network executives and focus group didn't enjoy her 30-second pitch tape. "Daniela has a lot of presence on screen — she's very vivacious. The problem is, it's hard for her to get her stories across to the camera," Giada said in an interview.

Ultimately it was decided that Daniela had too much of a journey ahead of her and was sent home. As she was leaving, she said this isn't the last you'll see of her, and Justin Warner summarized it best in his Rebel Recap post,:"I think that statement is la verdad."

Do you think she deserved to go home? Tell Star Talk in the comments below.

Being first to go is always the hardest . You have such little time to get across what you need the judges to know. What was your time like on Star

DPR: Regardless of going home first, I enjoyed the experience. The making of the show itself is impressive, and I had a great time being part of such a professional team.

What were some of the biggest surprises you encountered?

DPR: The biggest surprise to me was to meet and learn about the other contestants and realize how talented and experienced they were compared to me. I couldn't believe I was part of this team of such amazing chefs. I can't believe I got to compete with chefs that have won Iron Chef America — one of the hardest competitions on Food Network.

If you had to choose one mentor to continue through the process, who would it be: Bobby, Giada or Alton?

DPR: I liked Alton — he showed me his sensibility and heart, and that definitely stuck with me. I would have loved to get mentored by him.

Just one episode into the season, who are you betting on/who do you think are the toughest contenders?

DPR: To me, Stacey Poon-Kinney is probably the strongest right now. She's humble, has a great personality, is a creative chef and also has the TV experience required to reach the audience. I would love to see her win this!

What's next for you?

DPR: I just recently started working with Hi'ipaka, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve and perpetuate the human, cultural and natural resources of Waimea Valley. Waimea Valley is a sacred valley located in the north shore of Oahu. I've been working in the kitchen with the implementation of local, organic, unadulterated and seasonal products from the area. I have some other amazing projects in the works, too, so stay tuned!

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