One-on-One with the Latest Star Contestant to Go Home

By: Sarah De Heer

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

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

Every Sunday, Bobby, Giada and Alton 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 Food Star Kitchen.

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

Although the mentors appreciated Nikki Dinki's commitment to her vegetable-based culinary point of view, they were forced to let her go because she failed to convince them of her authority over food after more than two months in the contest.

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

The mentors and focus groups agreed that your "meat on the side" point of view is smart and watchable. Have you always been a "semi-vegetarian?" What led to your eating like this?

ND: Veggies were the first food group that I tackled on my path from picky eater to who I am today. Meat came up much later in the journey, so I have always thought of veggies first and meat second. I've realized since I came up with the concept how timely "meat on the side" is. We are all learning that we should be eating less meat, and with more people embracing Meatless Mondays, I think a "meat on the side" show would really offer new ideas for vegetarian meals, along with presenting a more balanced plate.

You seemed to fluctuate between extremely strong performances and mediocre showings. What do you think accounted for the discrepancies?

ND: Each challenge is so different, and in the moment, it's difficult to always make the right choices. In the beginning, I let myself get so intimidated by the other chefs and the overall experience that I really forgot what a strong, confident woman I am in the real world. When I got that confidence back midway through the season, my performances improved greatly, but more importantly, I think the audience saw the real me.

Alton told you in your final evaluation that "your ability with food greatly outstretches your ability to explain what you're doing." Do you agree with him? Why or why not?

ND: Just like Rodney and Chad, I'm not a trained chef, so I have learned by experimenting, tasting and doing my own research. I might not be as scientific about food as Alton (I'm not sure anyone is!), but I have the extensive knowledge and experience to teach people. I am creative and able to develop complex flavors in ways that are simple and approachable for home cooks. My at-home education allows me to really connect with the viewer, by providing useful techniques and practical advice.

Did you become particularly close with any of the other finalists during filming, and if so, who? Any funny behind-the-scenes stories you can tell?

ND: I became really close with the other finalists; they were my supporters, confidants and family during our time together. Rodney would help me to relax when I couldn't stop worrying about the competition, Chad always offered great advice, Damaris and Stacey are two of the sweetest people I know and always knew just the right things to say. Combine all those things with the all-out fun we had together, especially when Damaris would do a signature dance for us, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

What was your favorite moment of the competition?

ND: When Giada clapped for me at the end of my presentation during Episode 7 at the auction. I finally felt like myself again, and to have her so excited over what I did, I knew I nailed it and was on the right path. I realized in that moment that I could win this.

Who do you think is the most intimidating judge/mentor?

ND: Alton. He knows his stuff, and he's never afraid to challenge you.

What are you up to these days, and what are you most looking forward to in the future?

ND: I will have my own show one day — just to be clear. In the meantime, cooking is one of those skills that needs to be constantly refined and polished, so I was thrilled to recently have the time to spend more than 100 hours in culinary courses here in New York City, focusing on new techniques and diverse cuisines. Those courses and my constant experimenting at home have helped me grow as a cook and, most importantly, given me the unwavering confidence to stand up against any chef.

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