Damaris' Look-Back at Season 9 and Insider Advice for Future Finalists

Finalist Damaris Phillips in the Mentor's Challenge "Pitch Tape" 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

Just one year ago,  Damaris Phillips was preparing to begin the job interview of her life, an 11-week journey alongside just as many rivals that would end either in disappointment or sweet victory and the title of Food Network Star. After a summer of heated competition that included tears, trying challenges and no shortage of constructive critiques from mentors Alton, Bobby and Giada, Damaris ultimately earned the win last August and secured her spot in stardom. Now as an all-new crop of competitors gets ready to experience the journey for themselves, Damaris looks back on her winning moment, dishes on what the contest is really like and offers insider advice for Season 10 hopefuls.

Take us back to the moment you saw your picture on the monitor and you realized you had won. What was going through your mind?

I was surprised and kind of not surprised because I had been hoping for it. But then also, like, there's this absolute moment of total blank, like I didn't have anything to say. No thoughts. And I just had no idea of what it was going to look like after that, so I couldn't even be like, "Oh, now it starts." Like, it was literally one of the only times in my life when my mind went completely blank.

What do you think is the one thing viewers don't realize about competing on Food Network Star?

Just how close you are as friends with these other people, like how close you become. You are so removed from your life, and the only people that you have to support you and hang out with and talk to for the month that you are filming ... you become actual friends with these people. And so it's quite possibly the most-uncomfortable situation of all time, where you're hoping that you beat out people that you have become friends with, and you learn their story and you're rooting for them, and you're rooting for yourself, and I ... was like ... I hope we can all win. I kept trying to pitch, like, shows with five of us.

What's the most-important piece of advice you can give this year's Star finalists?

Pack a lot of clothing. Pack way more clothing than they tell you to pack. And think about that, like really don't try to come up with, like, an idea of who you are. Just cook the food you love to cook. Everybody talks about that POV, and if you would just go in loving the food and liking yourself, then you're going to be good ... it's going to come out.

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