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

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

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

After 10 weeks of competition, the final three have been chosen, and determining the next Food Network Star is in your hands. ( Vote for who you want to win.) If you haven't watched the episode yet, read no further because Star Talk is about to dish on what went down and reveal who was sent home.

In what Giada deemed "the most-important 30 seconds of this entire competition," the top-four rivals taped brief promos for their would-be Food Network shows, each showcasing their all-important culinary POVs. Lenny, Luca, Nicole and Sarah each stumbled a bit in their pitches — some forgetting words and others rambling with no clear purpose — but thanks to the mentors, each managed to wrap up all of their ideas into clear presentations.

It was up to the Selection Committee to green-light only three of the four promos, and after Luca and Nicole claimed the first two spots, the decision was between Lenny and Sarah for the third. Ultimately, though, Lenny was given the go-ahead to continue and Sarah said her final farewell after she failed to include a key part of herself — her role as a mom — into her pitch. Read on below to hear from Sarah in her first exclusive exit interview to learn why she considers herself "lucky" and what she's looking forward to doing back in Texas.

What three words describe how you're feeling right now?

Sarah Penrod: It would be so much easier to just say one. ... I kind of feel lucky.

Tell us a bit about that. Why do you feel so fortunate?

SP: I feel like I made it to the very end, got all of the experience, all the mentorship, which, I’m in the industry, so I know that them giving us these nuggets of wisdom is hard for them, because it took the mentors so long to learn those things. And now the three — Luca, Nicole and Lenny — are going to go and make their pilots, but they’re going to be making their pilots in this environment with the show, which is very nerve-racking.

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

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

How would you explain what this competition is really like?

SP: You can never understand the stress, the pressure, etc. The mentors are near and dear to us, but at the same time, you have to remember that you’re constantly under the microscope. And for some people, just to go and take a test is hard. Well, this test lasts 10 weeks long. ... There’s people who went home a long time ago who are better cooks than I am. There’s people that went home that I think had a better handle on being able to make a pilot — Emma, for one, comes to mind. But they went home, and I think that a lot of it is just succumbing to the pressure of this competition.

What is one piece of mentor feedback will you always remember?

SP: There’s so many. I think it was the element of attaching your POV to connecting with it. I kept thinking they meant something else, but what they really mean is turning it into a personal thing for you. And it has to be in a really organic way. I learned way after some other finalists, so they had an edge on me for a long time, and then one day, it was like a light bulb went off.

Speaking of your POV, you first introduced date night, then switched to the food of your home state: Texas. What led to that switch, and how did you handle the transition?

SP: It's something that I really stressed about — should I have made that change? I’ve already written a book on date night; I already have 180 recipes that are personal, so I really did feel like I had an authority on that. But ... when they mentioned Texas, pride goes off in my heart. The same way as when I talk about my little boys; I mean, Texas is up there for me. So I made the switch, but it’s still something that I wonder whether I should have done. I truly believe that there’s no one POV for everyone; there’s probably a couple of things that you could go with. ... Date night might make a comeback — we’ll see. In Texas!

Knowing what the competition is like now, are you happy that you didn't make the cast when you auditioned for Season 8?

SP: Absolutely. I mean, people probably think that I hate Bobby Flay, and really I was indebted to him because he was honest with me, and I had to be honest with myself: Go home and get some training. And that’s how I’ve made it to this point. It’s from falling down. I always learned the most from my mistakes, which made this competition really hard for me because you don’t have a lot of time to learn from your mistakes; you’re just going onto the next challenge. But yeah, I’m very happy that I didn’t make Season 8 and that I came this far in Season 10, and what have you guys seen from me? I always turn it into a good thing.

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

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

What do you want your fans to remember about you?

SP: I want my fans to remember that humor and a positive outlook can overcome anything. I’ve been really transparent with my feelings in this because I think we all should be. Say what you mean and let’s all look at things from a perspective where if there’s honesty, it’s so much easier when people just say what they mean.

Luca, Lenny, Nicole. Who are you voting for?

SP: Wow, that is so hard. It’s hard because I know them all. I will vote for — gosh, I don’t know. I want to say Luca because he’s in Texas with me; he’s actually in San Antonio. But I think I’m the most interested in Lenny’s food because it’s kind of my food, you know, in a way.

What’s next for you? What are you going home to?

SP: I’m going to go home and go to church. I’m going to read my little boys a story. Oh, my gosh, I’m so excited about the stuff I’m going to get to do. To not to be under such intense pressure will be a relief. And I’ll probably eat a Frito pie. Just sit back and think about everything and regroup. Because I don’t know if I’ll come back as a food star, but I know that my future is bright, and this whole thing that we’ve done here has taught me that I’m tough as nails.

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