Food Network Star: One-on-One with the Latest Finalist to Go Home


Contestants Matthew Grunwald, Nancy Manlove, Toya Boudy and Coadan Tran are left as losing team and face Elimination from the Star Challenge Be Our Guest!, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 13.

Photo by: Eddy Chen

Eddy Chen

The nature of the Food Network Star beast is such that no matter how much mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis have to teach the finalists, their time is limited, which means they're forced to make quick decisions about who has the greatest potential for success. Week after week finalists will fall in a series of eliminations, and following each gut-wrenching exit, we here at Star Talk will bring you insider interviews with the fallen hopefuls.

On Day 1 of the competition, Nancy Manlove told the mentors, "I just want to prove that it's never too late." This 60-something grandmother went to culinary late in life, and since then she's been on the culinary fast track. So when the contest kicked off, it seemed like she'd be able to keep up with the demands of the challenges, both in the kitchen and on camera. She struggled with both aspects of the competition, however, as she often ran out of time in her presentations and suffered a few setbacks come meal prep.

In this week's hospitality-themed challenge, Giada found her to seem "shy" while introducing herself to a room of guests at the Millennium Biltmore Los Angeles hotel, where she and the other finalists hosted a crowd to celebrate the movie Beauty and the Beast. Similarly, her dish — a vichyssoise — wasn't up to the judges' standards as her version of this normally smooth potato-based soup proved to be similar to "cold mashed potatoes," according to Bobby. Her double whammy of errors forced her exit this week, and Nancy was one of two finalists sent home. Read on below to hear from Nancy in an exclusive interview.

How are you feeling right now? What's going through your mind?

Nancy Manlove: They didn’t get to see the real me.

Teammates Contestants Matthew Grunwald, Coadan Tran, Toya Boudy and Nancy Manlove giving their introductions to the guests at the Star Challenge Be Our Guest!, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 13.

Photo by: Eddy Chen

Eddy Chen

Tell me more about that. Why not?

NM: I guess I expected that our cooking opportunities weren’t as similar to Cutthroat Kitchen as they were. When a chef cooks, they know their kitchen. ... I know that if I had been more familiar with my surroundings, I would have done better, because I have this recipe in mind that I knew I was going to do for the first cook, that would work if I had the right protein. By the time I got to the protein, my first several choices were gone, and then I just grabbed. It was a bad decision on my part.

What do you think the mentors didn’t see in your vichyssoise? What did they miss?

NM: I don’t know why they thought it was mashed potatoes, because it certainly wasn’t. I had guests in the room walk up to me and say it was the best vichyssoise they ever had. For Giada and Bobby and Sandra to say it was mashed potatoes, something’s not right. Something’s not connecting. That really, really bothered me, because I’ve made vichyssoise a lot of times. It’s a classic French dish.

What pieces of mentor feedback will you take with you?

NM: If I’m ever given a chance to do this again, I will have my script down to a mimic, rehearsed script, and then I can pull it back from there.

Contestants (left) Suzanne Lossia, Rusty Hamlin and Amy Pottinger (right) behind contestant Nancy Manlove introducing herself for the Mentor Challenge, Ready, Set...Rehearse!, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 13.

Photo by: Eddy Chen

Eddy Chen

What’s the best advice they gave you?

NM: It had nothing to do with my food. They were inspired by my story. It needed to be shared. I think I have a lot than I can offer to women, to the millennial generation who is not being taught how to cook like I was. And it skipped two generations. People are fast-food, drive-through, microwave people, and a lot of kids want to learn how to cook, because they’re tired of ramen noodles and they’re tired of Burger King and they’re tired of Kentucky Fried Chicken. They get tired of eating the same stuff over and over again. Food doesn’t have to be expensive to be good, and they want grandmas to show them how to cook.

Fill in the blanks with your fellow finalists' names. 

_____ is the class clown? Trace.

_____ is the quietest? Blake.

_____ is the most daring? Cory.

_____ has the best recipes? Rusty.

Did you feel that anxiety of being in this strange environment and working with the mentors? If so, how did you deal with it?

NM: I never was nervous. Even after the Biltmore when I knew everything was working against me, I decided that I was not going to go to the stress-out zone. I was going to stay cool, calm and collected.

Contestants Nancy Manlove, CoadanTran and Matthew Grunwald decorating their table for the Star Challenge Be Our Guest!, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 13.

Photo by: Eddy Chen

Eddy Chen

What was the most-rewarding moment of this experience for you?

NM: To increase my network of friends and get to meet Giada and Bobby.

What do you want fans to remember most about you?

NM: That I have tenacity and perseverance, and that I’m living proof that it’s never too late.

When you did have a chance to hang out with the other finalists behind the scenes, how would you spend that downtime?

NM: We all have been very supportive of each other when we can and when it’s appropriate, and we’re going to take from here some memories that’ll last a lifetime. We’ve gotten to know each other personally without invading privacy. It’s always a good thing to expand your circles.

Contestants Nancy Manlove and Jason Smith plating their dishes in the Star Challenge, Food Network Firing Squad,, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 13.

Photo by: Eddy Chen

Eddy Chen

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

NM: We have been working on a brand-new menu. It’s a farm-to-table, modern, molecular dining experience. The new menu is going to have 26 courses. We’re going get back into production as soon as we can for our to-the-table TV [show]. My boss is super excited for me, and I want to meet Nancy Fuller. I want you all to get the two Nancys together: the Nancy North, the Nancy South. Nancy New York and Nancy Texas.

Who are you rooting for?

NM: Rusty.

Tune in to Food Network Star on Sundays at 9|8c.

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