Food Network Star, Season 12: Top Moments of the Premiere

Get an inside look at the finalists' challenges and relive memorable moments from the premiere of Food Network Star, Season 12.
Save Collection

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Hooking an Audience

In true Food Network Star fashion, mentors Bobby and Giada waste no time in assigning the finalists their first challenge of the competition. The name of the game this week is introductions, and on TV that means what Giada terms "a cold open." It's up to the finalists to film their own cold opens in the hopes of intriguing an audience — and the mentors. "Don't forget," Bobby says. "We need your culinary identity."

Bakers, Beware

"Don't forget that I like to giggle a lot," Erin says, closing her 30-second open. She introduces herself as a baker known for fusing old-school charm with new-school flavor. Though she piques the mentors' interest, Bobby tells her, "I would have liked to hear what I was going to taste."

Expecting More

Standing at 6 feet 9 inches, Yaku is indeed "very unique," Giada notes, but she and Bobby wish he would open up about himself more. "I need a little more flavor from you in terms of who you really are," Bobby explains to him.

Impressive Start

"I loved it," Bobby says simply of Joy's introduction in which she describes her busy life as a Southern mom of five. "I got a picture of your day in 30 seconds." She's pleased with her performance, saying confidently, "I do Southern, and I do it well."

Mission: Realness

With a hand wave and promises to "keep it cute," Tregaye introduces her "whimsical world of food." Fellow finalist Ana notes that Tregaye's persona is "a little bit of a shtick." But Giada admits, "I think that I'm intrigued to see more." Bobby asks her to deliver her truest self, whatever that means, and Tregaye explains, "I think I'm going to reel it on back and find a balance."

Strong Opening

There's no doubt about it: Italian Damiano turns heads with his suave accent and tales of "fresh gelato" at his bakeries. Both mentors are happy with his cold open, as Giada deems it "very conversational." Damiano, too, is impressed with himself. "Perfect," he says. "Perfecto."

Timid and Quiet

"The energy is incredibly important," Bobby advises Havird, a Southern chef who delivers a lackluster introduction in which he simply stands silently for the final 10 of his 30 seconds. The mentor urges him to be outgoing on camera. "You don't want to lull us to get sleepy," Bobby says.

Making an Entrance

Bobby has warned the finalists of an upcoming "surprise," and sure enough, the first of many unexpected twists he and Giada deliver is nothing short of game changing. Former Season 8 competitor Martita, fresh off her win on Comeback Kitchen, walks on stage for her second shot at Stardom, joining the cast as the 13th finalist. Her rivals' reactions to her unanticipated arrival ranges from anger to worry. "It sucks," Damiano says simply. Erin deems Martita to be "a front-runner" by default on account of her past success.

Now Showing: Potential Stars

Just as Martita's been given a second chance, so have the rest of the finalists, as they're allowed to remake their cold opens. This time, though, videos will be shown to a crowd at one of Los Angeles' upscale movie theaters. The moviegoers and mentors, along with guests Tyler Florence and Valerie Bertinelli from Comeback Kitchen, will not only stream the finalists' videos, but they'll also taste the first competition dishes.

Cuban Flair (and Flames)

"I'm a home cook, so to cook in a professional kitchen is just so out of my element," Ana explains, as she and the rest of the finalists make themselves at home in the kitchen at iPic Theaters. Within minutes she rescues her grated potatoes from near burning in the deep fryer, and she also sets a scalding pan ablaze when the oil in it catches fire.

Demonstrating Growth

Monterey wows the mentors with a second-chance cold open that is far and above superior to her earlier one, when she stumbled through the 30 seconds and didn't explain her international POV. After watching Monterey's new piece, however, Giada says, "Telling us she was a model, which she did not tell us in rehearsal, helped me to understand her travels." The panel members agree that her poached cod is plated beautifully, but Bobby wonders if it's "too pretty."

A Lovely Impression

"I'm cooking for love," Jernard, the self-proclaimed "chef of love," says as he works on a shrimp and grits offering inspired by his wife. Though they're happy with the flavor of his dish, the panel members find his personality leaves the greatest impression. "You're not going to forget him anytime soon," Valerie proclaims.

Lessons Not Learned

Giada has explained to healthy-cook Melissa that it's best to avoid the "negative" in her speech, yet in her second cold open, she once again uses unpleasant phrases like "food allergies" and "very healthy meals," much to the disappointment of the mentors. And while the mentors are wowed by Rob's crab cake offering, Melissa's is less successful, as Giada admits, "I do not like the sauce."

The Champ Proves Herself

"You got her to a really good spot," Bobby tells Tyler and Valerie of their Comeback Kitchen victor, Martita, whose first showing in this competition is a success. 

Meat Missteps

Ever the meat aficionado, Aaron prepares a flat iron steak, though the mentors aren't impressed. "To me this feels like a dish of garnishes," Tyler explains. "If he's, like, the meat guy, I want to taste the beef." Just like his first cold open, Aaron's second video shows him in an almost silly light, and Bobby admits, "He's like the awkward teenager — in a sort of charming way."

The MIP in Action 

Despite her past television experience, Ana delivers a first attempt at a cold open that leaves much to be desired, as her fellow finalist Aaron says she "disappeared" while presenting. In her second attempt, however, she's made such successful strides that Bobby deems her "the most improved player." And when the mentors taste her food, they can hardly discern her struggles in the kitchen. Bobby's so wowed by her burger that he says, "That was my favorite thing I ate the entire day."

Early Success

Rob, a self-described "lunch lady," had the mentors giggling in his first presentation, and in his second cold open, he delivers more of his now-signature charm. "I actually think there's some Star potential," Giada tells her fellow mentors. His strong showing lands him in the top three this week, alongside Ana and Monterey.

Crunch Time Is Now

Valerie finds Havird to be "sweet." But Giada notes, "We have the biggest number of Southern cooks than we've ever had, so I feel like if he really doesn't differentiate himself from the pack, he's going to get lost." Unfortunately for Havird, his food isn't a standout success either, as Bobby notes the taste of "carbon" in Havird's burned chicken. Ultimately Havird joins Aaron and Melissa in the bottom three this week.

The First to Fall

"Nobody wants to be that first sacrificial contestant to go home," Havird explains, just moments after learning of his crushing Week 1 elimination. "You got to take those experiences, learn from them and move forward."

One-on-One with Havird

We checked in with Havird after his elimination. Hear what he had to say about the competition and learn his thoughts on the remaining finalists in an exclusive exit interview.

Go Behind the Scenes

See what the mentors, finalists and crew are up to between takes by checking out insider photos from the set.

More: Behind the Scenes of Food Network Star, Season 12: Part 1

Want More Food Network Star?

Check out Food Network's official Star headquarters for more insider coverage of the competition, plus exclusive mentor interviews, behind-the-scenes photos and winning recipes.

More: Food Network Star

More from:

Food Network Star