Food Network Star, Season 9: Top Moments of the Premiere

Get an inside look at the finalists' challenges and relive the most-memorable moments from the premiere of Food Network Star, Season 9.
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Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet and Greet

On day one of filming in Los Angeles, judge-mentor Alton Brown warns this season's cast of 12 Star hopefuls of the challenges ahead. "This competition will not be easy," he says. "So, may your food be tasty and your personalities sparkly." Browse these insider photos from the premiere challenges, then get an exclusive interview with the first fallen finalist at the end.

Wasting No Time

Immediately after introductions, Alton, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis assign the finalists their first Mentor Challenge: record 30-second pitch tapes that detail their culinary points of view for later viewing by Food Network executives Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson. "Doesn't this happen later in the show?" Andres questions. "Like, we have to do this right now?"

Embracing Individuality

A self-described "modern Paula Deen," Damaris is known for her Southern cuisine and eccentric spirit, although on camera, she doesn't show her silly side. "You're wacky, OK?" Bobby tells Damaris between takes. "But that's good ... You need to be wacky when you get up there."

Confused Message

"I'm so frustrated," Chris reflects after filming. "What I thought I was doing right obviously wasn't working out." He pitches the idea of using a show to convey his own "passion and ... compassion," but the mentors question how that relates to his food. "We need to know who you are and what your relationship with food is," Giada tells him.

Just What She Needs

Visibly nervous in front of the camera, Stacey struggles to convey her vintage kitchen approach to cooking. Alton briefly interrupts filming to give her a pep talk, explaining: "When a camera comes on, it's you and that. Trust me." Sure enough, that is all it takes for her to find her place and finish the taping successfully.

Fumbling

Although she's sure of her culinary point of view — "Peruvian cuisine" — Daniela is barely able to complete the challenge, speaking hesitantly, seemingly unaware of what to do next. "Take a deep breath," Giada advises her. "You know what to say."

Knockout

Former rock 'n' roller Rodney wows the panel with a one-take pitch, confidently and effortlessly explaining his pie-centric culinary focus. "You did it in your very own style, and that's the thing I like," Bobby tells him.

Personality in Potatoes

In the Star Challenge, contestants have 45 minutes to create what Bobby calls an "unforgettable" bite that showcases their culinary viewpoints. The trick? They must use potatoes as the star ingredient, highlighting the spud at the forefront of their dish. "There's so much you can do with it to elevate it," Lovely says of the potato, explaining that it's inherently tricky because of its versatility.

Slip of the Knife

Nerves get the better of Nikki just a few minutes into cooking when she cuts her fingers not once but twice. She recovers quickly and continues preparing a cauliflower-potato soup with pancetta, a dish that showcases her belief in enjoying "meat on the side."

Mixed Reviews

In his pitch tape, Viet shares his story of "the American dream" and his journey to earning the success he has today. The judges want more from him than a "gentle soul," according to Bob, but Susie is quick to admit that his soup-filled potato bite tastes "ridiculously good."

Potatoes, Three Ways

"I'm here to start a food revolution," Russell announces during filming, which does more to frighten some of the judges than inspire them. He prepares a "potato tasting," featuring pickled, baked and fried components. Giada admits that, while she appreciates the concept of his plate, "the execution's not great."

Introducing: The Dial

For the first time this season, the Selection Committee has invited groups of Star fans to view the finalists' presentations. They'll impact judging, thanks to their hand-controlled dials, through which they can share their approval or disapproval of each contestant.

Personal Experience

Having struggled with his weight in the past, Andres is on a mission to show viewers how to make deliciously healthful meals at home. Although the Selection Committee isn't wowed by his Spanish-style potato omelet, he receives a better-than-average rating from the focus group.

Fan-Approved

Chad, the "Jewish barbecue guy," stays true to his culinary comfort zone by preparing potato latkes with shredded chorizo, a bite-size egg and barbecue sauce. Bob deems him "instantly likable," and the focus group agrees, giving him a mighty applause in addition to a high rating on the dial.

Missing Warmth

"That was almost bizarre," Susie tells Danushka of her video, explaining that she appears "aloof" on camera. "You've got to find your version of warmth," she adds. Danushka wants to be America's private chef, and for her first dish of the competition, she's prepared a fried potato puff that leaves much to be desired by the judges.

Glam at Home

Lovely's "pan to glam" pitch receives a high rating from the focus group, but Bob wonders if she can make her viewpoint more "authentic" and "natural," something that "doesn't rely on poses and empty words." Her potato hash garners mostly positive feedback from the Selection Committee, including Bobby, who calls it "all in all ... a good dish," despite the perhaps too-sweet bacon.

Early Success

At the first evaluation, the Selection Committee commends Stacey, Nikki and Chad on their stellar premiere performances. They're safe today, automatically advancing to week two of the competition.

First to Fall

Russell, Danushka and Daniela don't fare as well, and all three are up for elimination. Despite what Alton calls Daniela's "fabulous on-camera energy," she's forced to say goodbye after just one week. "I'm feeling sad, but I'm more than happy to have been part of this experience," she reflects. Read Daniela's exclusive exit interview to hear more from her.

Go Behind the Scenes

Browse exclusive snapshots of the finalists and judge-mentors on set, plus get insider trivia about the show from Food Network's culinary team.

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