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Justin Warner doesn’t play by the rules. He eats jellyfish on Thanksgiving, serves cold-pizza terrine at his Brooklyn restaurant and writes rap songs about wine. But when Alton Brown, Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay had to choose their teams of aspiring stars for the most recent season of Food Network Star, Justin’s unconventional approach caught Alton’s eye. Alton picked Justin for his group, and throughout the season Justin was a rebel, presenting wild combos like peanut butter–stuffed dates topped with seaweed. In the end, after 4.5 million viewers voted, Justin emerged as the winner. He says Alton’s guidance made all the difference. “It was a true mentorship,” Justin says. “Day one, Alton said, ‘No apologies.’ That’s how you win.”
Although Justin has been busy planning his new show (coming this fall), we managed to pull him aside for a quick Thanksgiving assignment: Come up with a fun new way to use leftover mashed potatoes. Justin took an old-fashioned candy idea and turned it on its head. Traditional mashed-potato candy is made with peanut butter, but Justin added umeboshi paste (Japanese plum paste) as a twist on peanut butter and jelly. Try the recipe (pictured after the jump).