Food Network Star Runner-Ups: Where Are They Now?
As much as we love seeing what comes next for the winners of Food Network Star, it's sometimes the runner-ups whose careers take a more exciting next chapter. I followed up with each from all 13 seasons of this series and discovered that they continue to make major waves in restaurants, cookbook publications, and food television.
Season 1: Deborah Fewell
Deborah Fewell was the first runner-up of the very first season of Food Network Star. She hosted a special called Surf n' Turf on the Food Network and has also appeared on OWN's Home Made Simple as the chef host. She has worked as a private chef for celebrity clients such as Will and Jada Smith, Russell and Ciara Wilson, and Stevie Wonder and Tasha Smith. She has also catered for Brandy Norwood, D.L. and LaDonna Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer and Lorna Wells, Niecy Nash, and Tisha and Duane Martin. She's currently working on cooking show treatments.
Season 2: Nathan Lyon
The runner-up from season two was Reggie Southerland, a pastry chef currently based in Los Angeles. However, Emmy-nominated chef Nathan Lyon was on the final four of Food Network Star season two (with Guy Fieri). Although Nathan did not win, he has had an exciting career in the food world: He went on to have his own show on Discovery Health called A Lyon in the Kitchen, which ran for four years. He cohosts and cooks on the PBS show Growing a Greener World and received an Emmy nomination for his show Good Food America With Nathan Lyon on Z Living. Lyon also published a seasonal cookbook, Great Food Starts Fresh, and is a regular contributor to Clean Eating magazine. He has appeared as a judge on Guy's Grocery Games. He even recently competed on Guy's Grocery Games in a season two reunion episode, which featured many of the original cast members from the season!
Season 3: Rory Schepisi
Rory Schepisi was a third season runner-up and has since appeared on OWN's Home Made Simple and The Rachael Ray Show. She holds the title of the Texas Restaurant Association's Best Chef of the West in 2008 and 2009, and her famous ribs landed the cover of Bon Appétit magazine. She's currently working on a cookbook: The Southern Yankee.
Season 4: Adam Gertler
After Food Network Star, Adam Gertler had the opportunity to host a few other Food Network shows including Kid in a Candy Store and Will Work For Food, which was where he first tried his hand at sausage making. He is now the "Wurstmacher" aka sausage maker for the critically acclaimed Dog Haus restaurant concept. He's also gone on to host Man vs. Child, as well as FX movie Download.
Season 5: Jeffrey Saad
Many of us were shocked to see Jeffrey Saad lose, but he's been winning since. He went on to host Cooking Channel series United Tastes of America for three seasons and publish the cookbook Global Kitchen: Recipes Without Borders.
Season 5: Debbie Lee
Finalist Debbie Lee launched Ahn-Joo, a Korean food truck as well as brick-and-mortar location. She published her first cookbook, Seoultown Kitchen, which was listed as one of The New York Times's most notable cookbooks of 2011 and was also nominated for an IACP award for best international cookbook (the first ever Korean cookbook to be nominated).
Since then, she encountered health issues and was diagnosed prediabetic, so she decided to create a sustainable meal delivery service called Mind Body Fork. The service has been open for three years, specializing in gluten-free and sugar-free cuisine, keeping things farm fresh, and always practicing "conscious cooking."
Season 6: Tom Pizzica
Season six runner-up Tom Pizzica hosted two seasons of Outrageous Food on the Food Network and went on to start a burger concept that serves 100 percent ground pork belly patties called Big Chef Tom's Belly Burgers. It started out as a pop-up and ultimately became a brick-and-mortar location in San Francisco.
Season 7: Susie Jimenez
Season 8: Martie Duncan
"After the infamous 'Martie, we want to see a pilot from you, too' scene, four of us made pilots. Afterwards, America voted and I was runner-up to Justin Warner, also on Team Alton," said Martie Duncan, who is based in Birmingham, AL. Duncan has written two cookbooks, both for charity. Her second cookbook, Magic City Cravings, was released this month and benefits Children's Hospital of Alabama. In 2015, she was named one of the 20 Women Making a Difference in her hometown of Birmingham. She also participated in the 2016 Chefs Cycle event, riding a bike 300 miles in three days from Carmel to Santa Barbara, CA. "I was the only Star alum to ride. Our group of chefs collectively raised over $1 million to help end childhood hunger in America. I don't ride a bike (I ride horses) but I trained and rented a bike for the ride and I did it! I'm planning to ride again in 2018," Duncan said. Lastly, she just booked a pilot for a new talk show . . . stay tuned for more info on that.
Season 8: Martita Jara
Martita Jara was Team Giada and a finalist on season eight. She went on to win Comeback Kitchen in 2016. She was also a surprise addition to and finalist on Food Network Star season 12 in 2016. She appeared in four seasons of OWN's Home Made Simple. She is an interior designer and just finished her own lake house in Coeur d'Alene, ID.
Season 9: Russell Jackson
First runner-up Russell Jackson created NYC-based SubCulture Dining (SCD), an underground supper club with events focused on art, music, culture, and technology (the killer app will keep you updated). He is collaborating with Tache Chocolates in Manhattan and will be creating some crazy sweets. He's in preproduction for his online show PopfoodsTV, and he cohosted the first Bravo original digital TV show, Going Off the Menu.
Season 10: Nicole Gaffney
Since Food Network Star, Nicole Gaffney has been busy developing recipes for brands and for her blog, Coley Cooks. Gaffney makes frequent appearances on QVC and gives cooking demos on local TV news programs around the country. She hosts the syndicated TV show The Chef's Kitchen, and last year she got to cook one of her favorite family recipes with Matt Lauer on the Today show. "This Summer I opened up a little joint called Soulberri in my hometown of Brigantine, NJ. We built it out of a recycled shipping container and offer locally roasted organic coffee, creative fruit/vegetable smoothies, and a few different smoothie/acai bowls," she said.
Season 10: Loreal Gavin
Loreal Gavin, a finalist from season 10 of Food Network Star, recently published The Butcher Babe Cookbook. She moved to Louisville, KY, and started a catering and events company. "I've been filming some yet-to-be-disclosed TV, so you'll be seeing me on the small screen again soon!" Gavin told POPSUGAR.
Season 11: Jay Ducote
Baton Rouge, LA, native Jay Ducote lost in the 11th season to Eddie Jackson and went on to have a pilot for his own show, Deep Fried America, air on the Travel Channel in 2016. Since then, he has appeared on HBO's drama series Treme and has been featured on Cutthroat Kitchen, The Kitchen, and Burgers, Brew & Que as well as Eat St.
He launched Jay D's Shop with products like Louisiana Barbecue Sauce, Molasses Mustard, Spicy & Sweet Barbecue Rub, and Single Origin Coffee. This year, he is opening his first restaurant concept, Gov't Taco, inside White Star Market in Baton Rouge.
Season 12: Jernard Wells
Since the show, Jarnard Wells has been quite busy. He appeared as a guest host on Chopped Jr. and participated as a celebrity chef in several notable events like the Tom Joyner Cruise The Fantastic Voyage. He appeared at this year's Essence Festival in New Orleans and the St. Simons Island Food and Spirits Festival. He just released a new book, Road Map: A Woman's Guide to a Good Man.
Season 13: Cory Bahr
Since the show finished airing, Cory Bahr has been in the process of opening a new restaurant in his hometown of Monroe, LA. "I'm excited to announce that Parish Restaurant will be opening at the end of this year. Other than participating in some really great culinary events coming up, my focus right now is bringing great food and Southern hospitality to my amazing community that supported me every step of the way on Food Network Star," he said.