One-on-One with the Latest Star Contestant to Go Home

by in Interviews, July 9, 2013

Chris and Nikki - Food Network Star Season 9Every Sunday, Bobby, Giada and Alton take on the difficult task of eliminating one finalist in the quest to help guide fans to vote for Food Network's next sensation. And this is no easy task. Check back here every week to read Star Talk's exclusive exit interview with the latest Star hopeful to leave Food Star Kitchen.

If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — Star Talk is about to chat with the latest finalist to go home.

The mastermind behind Cleveland's first-ever food truck, Chris Hodgson, is the most recent finalist to be eliminated on Star. He delivered thoughtful dishes and presentations, but his lack of progress at the end of six weeks ultimately prevented his stay for more.

Do you think he deserved to go home? Tell Star Talk in the comments below.

Did appearing on Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race help prepare you for Food Network Star in any way? What did you learn from being on TV the first time that you brought with you to Star?
CH: They were completely different experiences. I knew the routine of filming, but was not used to the extreme pressure and degree of criticism that Star placed on contestants. The Great Food Truck Race was all about selling food and making the most money with my two favorite girls. With Star, everything fell on my shoulders: how to talk, cook and interact, and each week there was a new challenge you weren't prepared for. I learned to go with the flow, have fun and try to enjoy every moment while I was on the show.

Chris HodgsonWhich judge's mentoring style was most beneficial to you?
CH: I think Bobby's. Alton terrifies me because he's so dang smart [laughs]! I've been watching his shows and have been so intrigued by him for years that his knowledge was truly intimidating.

Do you think your "compassion"-focused culinary point of view was accurately portrayed on TV? How would you best describe it presently?
CH: Compassion is a hard culinary point of view to sell. I do know one thing though: In a world where we're constantly surrounded by negative news, it'd be nice to bring another "feel-good" show to the Network — one where families can watch and be constantly reminded that there are people out there with huge hearts that just want to use their gifts and talents to uplift people, bless them and hopefully make a positive impact on their lives. It's a part of who I am and I won't ever stop the pursuit of bringing joy and helping to change lives through food in one shape or form.

In Episode 4, we saw you sing on camera for Team Musical's movie trailer. Tell us what's more difficult: singing on camera or cooking on camera?
CH: I definitely think singing on camera. I am not a singer [laughs] — I leave that to my beautiful wife. It absolutely took me out of my comfort zone. I would have felt better if I had a bigger backup band to drown me out.

What was your experience like on Star Salvation? What was your first reaction when you found out you'd get a second chance?
CH: Stop playing games with my emotions — that was my first reaction! It was exciting, but very stressful. It's difficult to be constantly judged, and just when I came to peace with being off the show, they threw me right back in!

Chris HodgsonIt's getting down to the nitty-gritty on Star. Who are you rooting for?
CH: It's tough to say. The greatest thing I came away with from being on Star was 11 new lifelong friends. I respect, admire and love each of the contestants (in their own little way). I love Stacey's passion, Damaris' kind heart, Rodney's rock-and-roll, Chad's rugged Fabio likeness and fun, Nikki's unwillingness to give up and Russell's dark side. They are all such wonderful people that each one deserves this and so much more.

What's next for you?
CH: Keep plugging away on restaurants in Cleveland. Continue to give back to the community and find new and better ways to serve those less fortunate around me with food. It's an exciting season in my life — I recently got married, I have new restaurants opening and the overall growth of our company. It's exciting to see that each year we're able to reach more and more people.

Browse Chris' Star Scrapbook

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Comments (43)

  1. MoHub says:

    So we get an interview with Chris but not with Viet, Lovely, or Danushka. I'm trying to figure out the thinking behind that.

    • Shannon says:

      Mo Hub, Me too. It is making me think that possibly the interviews transpired (they always have in the past) but there were no usable answers. By usable answers I mean nothing that did not have some form of negative connotations regarding FN.

    • FNS Editor says:

      Youre right. i would especially be interested in what Danushka would say. =D

    • Asdffghjk says:

      I would like to see one with Viet for his cooking.

  2. Yvonne says:

    Reading this interview, Chris is more clear than he was on FNS. He has a good heart and is a regular guy. Too bad it took this long to relate to him. I'm tired of the edgy types or the loud street people like Fieri. We don't need another one. Next thing you know they might grow a mohawk on the cutting board or paint tattoos on the kitchen bowls while they're at it. Imagine Susie Fogelson with green hair and headbanger music singing a heavy metal song. Rock on. It's reality tv, right? All we need now is Anime race car superheroes.

    • Kelly says:

      They're so obsessed with innovation yet the they haven't had a decent winner since Melissa. That sandwich guy bores me to death. Aarti seemed fake and after watching maybe 4 shows, I had enough. Justin was so out there they didn't even give him a show. Who wants to eat Octopus?And now Russell wants another revolution. When will Food Network ever learn and pick someone that can last longer than 1 season without boring us with everything is a sandwich or making things so unique no one would want them? I want an awesome chef not some mad scientist playing with food.

    • Richard says:

      I agree - he seems like a good-hearted guy, and yet...

      ...whenever he was trying to 'sell' himself or his POV, to me it felt hucksterish and pushy. Like he didn't want to give you what you wanted, but to convince you to take what he was offering. I've worked with too many salesmen like that.

  3. msjs0315 says:

    "dried up busted career women"? What evidence do you have of that?

  4. Andrew says:

    I thought Chris did a great job. He definitely deserved to be there. I feel that his show is one I would want to watch. He makes people feel comfortable and he demonstrates true compassion.

    • Robert Ostrowski says:

      Andrew - I'm all in agreement with you about Chris' performance. But it's too bad that his heart-felt ambition to try and do a great job was inadequate. It's the FOLLOW-THROUGH that always gets the best of almost anyone these days in the culinary world. I relate to this because I have a unique POV being "Recipe Innovation 101", and yet,so far I only had ONE successful outcome, being my recipe for Chocolate-Raisin Pudding Delight, which I first created on May 7, 2006 and redid on March 9, 2009. This one is a combination of "Semi-Homemade" store-brought ingredients and Emeril Lagasse-like ingenuity, and I published it on the NFNS 2009 blog website, for which 3 bloggers were blown away by.

  5. Ivy Freeborn says:

    I realized a week ago that I couldn't care less about who the Next Food Network Star is. You can gather in a bunch of people with some claim to cooking credentials and the stereotyped "quirkiness" in the hope of interpersonal drama, but whoever wins isn't going to necessarily be a star no matter how you promote them. What happened to the woman, whatever her name was, who was second and then first when you fired the winner who lied about his resume, whoever he was? Who really cares about Indian fusion cuisine? Aarti might be a very nice person but even so, I'd rather see real Indian cooking than the mishmash she does. Don't remember the guy who was a rebel- did he ever get a show? What in the name of the gods gave Food Network the idea that they could run an annual Next Star show and actually get a star? Guy Fieri did it but frankly, he's loud, annoying, and talks with his mouth full. He's over. I check the Food Network lineup every night to see if there's anything interesting happening so I can record it- and it's damn little. This week I was fast-forwarding through the contestants trying to talk about food and realized that it wasn't even worth my time fast forwarding, and permanently deleted it from my DVR. Here's a suggestion: don't try to run a contest. Just find somebody you think might do a good show, film a few episodes and see what happens. How many reality stars actually become stars? Serious hint here: if they had talent to begin with, you'll probably spot it. And another suggestion, this time to the contestants: you're going for what you obviously see as a big prize. Why don't you watch the show and see what kind of things you'll be asked to do? Figure out two, maybe three "culinary points of view" you can run with. Come up with the kind of show you want to do- maybe two or three. Practice reviewing your dish to people. It's enormously embarrassing to see people who want to be on TV freezing and going stupid in front of a camera- which is why I won't watch it again.

    • Margaret says:

      Ivy, I read your comment and it's everything I've been wanting to say and more. Well done! Guy and the endless reruns of DDD are so over it's pathetic. I like Chopped but that's just one big rerun too. I used to love Food Network but not anymore. There's plenty of shows to watch on other channels that don't keep repeating the same thing over and over and over. Hell's Kitchen and Master Chef just to name two. As for the contestant who was fired, I think you mean JAG. He was terrific but lied about being in the armed forces and Food Network said they had too much integrity to overlook it. Integrity??? Then there's the one who lied on his resume and said he had cooked for the British Royal Family and USA Presidents or some such nonsense. In his dreams maybe, but FN took him back and I think he is a boring, loud mouthed bully. I can't think of one Star winner that I ever watch now. The true professionals have never been Star contestants but were chosen for their charm and expertise. FN should read some of these comments, they might just learn a thing or two. Good job, Ivy.

  6. Callie Carver says:

    I really think Chris is a good guy, is a good chef (he studied at and was a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, Chris was recently was runner up in the Silver Spoon Awards, coming in second to Celebrity chef Michael Symon in Cleveland, his team was runner up in the Great Food Truck Road Race, he owns 2 food trucks and a restaurant. He has the culinary chops. I think his problem came in with his POV and how to sell a show about himself to the FoodNetwork.

    He kept talking about charity and giving back, but that is what you do AFTER you make it. After Rachael Ray made4 it she put together a charity called YUM-O, Marcus Samuelsson works with City Harvest, and when they have the CHOPPED SUPERSTARS, each accomplished chef donates names a charity that they will give their $50,000 winnings to.

    I know Chris will accomplish a lot, and if FoodNetwork is smart, they will keep him as a possible future project. (Viet should also be a future consideration). Not everyone who wins works out as the best possible choice for a show.

    • Crouton40 says:

      Good points! Yes, Chris has ability. Looking back on it now, it's surprising how Russell and Rodney are still here over him. I, myself, just wasn't connecting with Chris in the early episodes. Too much talking as if he were giving some motivational speech and going on about passion a journey. By the time we got to his last 1 or 2 episodes where I realized, hey, this guy is a good cook...he was already too far behind. But he still deserves to be here over the pie man.

  7. KGB says:

    The only true Star the food network has is AB. The rest are filler! ;-) it seems though with noble intent, the ICA and FNS competitions, are just that. Food competitions. It's like the bachelor and bachelorette. Scant few have really been successful.

    • MoHub says:

      I assume by "AB" you mean Alton Brown and not Anne Burrell. It might serve you better in terms of clarity to take the time to type it out. We don't all operate our lives on initialisms and acronyms.

  8. Helen says:

    I see the pic of Giada here and I think of the statue of liberty holding the torch, except lady liberty doesn't have those teeth.

  9. LJI says:

    I am so glad Danushka was eliminated, but Chris should not have been eliminated, nor Viet. It is rigged as far as I am concerned. Have you seen any of Justin's shows? It is mostly about Giada (horse teeth). She smacks her lips.

    • Christa says:

      I'm so glad that Danushka got eliminated!! She was there much too long, IMHO. I've seen here previously as a stand up comedian, so I'm wondering why FNS brought her on as a chef? Anyway, glad she's gone, no personality at all!!

      • Crouton40 says:

        Ya know, I might wanna see her as a stand-up comedian, just to see if her sarcasm can be funny elsewhere.
        As for personality, who do you think has the best personality of who's left? (pick 2), and also who would you say are the 2 best cooks that are left? Does anyone stand out?

        • Shannon says:

          Hmm. IMO, of the remaining. Damaris and Russell are probably the 2 best cooks. Damaris has shown versatility and produced good food. She is a culinary instructor and has talked about her love of pickling and making sausage..so she has a lot more she is comfortable and confident of. Russell I pick because he has produced good food and because he won ICA, I think he has been over thinking his dishes and has tunnel vision at the moment on his POV. He needs to relax and just cook and I think he would take off (culinary wise).
          As far as the 2 that I think have the best personalities. I would say Damaris for sure, she is fun and genuine. Damaris also shown authority and an ability to teach and explain.
          The next one is tough, I think I like Russell just a bit more than I like Chad. They both seem very likeable and interesting. Maybe I am leaning more towards Russell because I think he can cook a wider variety of cuisine. So that may be influencing my thoughts on personality.
          Does anyone stand out? Unfortunately 2 people stand out for me..and not because they are superior but because they are inferior. Those 2 would be Stacey and Rodney.

        • Christa says:

          Crouton40.... I agree about Danushka's sarcasm; much better suited to comedy than to cooking! I think Stacy has a natural TV personality. She can handle impromptu and seems to be able to to communicate well. Best chefs go to Nikki and Stacy! What do you think?

          • Crouton40 says:

            It's hard to know what to think. In the beginning, I liked:
            (no order)
            Viet, Damaris, Chad, Nikki.
            Then, I started to like Chris and Stacey more.
            Then, Russell seemed like he might more potential.

            Thru all of that---Damaris and Nikki have remained and been my 2 favorite over the longest time.

            But Stacey has been doing good lately with the judges. However, people online are also questioning how the judges, judge, with stacey.

            The women seem to have it over the guys this year...and right now tonight...if I had to make my best guess...its mostly a 4-way battle between:
            Stacey, Damaris, Nikki, and...probably Russell. Next sunday isn't here yet, but if I picked, now...i would say either Russell or Rodney are "most deserving to go home next." Why? Bad quality or inconsistent food and presentations that are either somewhat incoherent and/or riddled with blanks and pauses...ahhh's..and umm's.
            IF--Russell and Rodney both get eliminated (and I don't know that, I'm another viewer like you and I don't work for the network) then I would predict a 3-way battle between Stacey, Damaris, Nikki.

            All three, are outgoing and likable in somewhat different ways.
            There has been alot of focus lately on presentation. It matters, but you can't win it only on that. Someone may be confident, which is good, but that's no guarantee we will like them. Someone may be outgoing, but lack knowledge.
            Someone may be confident but be a snob. Someone may be at ease and seem phony. Someone may be very "upbeat" but hi-strung and nervous. They may be lucid but not have any humor or warmth. And on it goes. They may not be consistent--in their food OR personality. Some will grow and improve. Others just plateau, like Chad.
            It will take excellent food, clear teaching, and warm personality.
            I'm watching intently. :)

          • Crouton40 says:

            And then of course, there's the kitchen. Who's food has best flavors? Do they do that one night, or are they consistent? How about when they don't do well on food? Do they have any disastrous misses that you'd wanna throw in the trash, or could it have merely been "a little better"? How often are they bad? How often are they good? How good?

            And what about time-management in the kitchen?
            How about range-of-dishes?
            And can they clearly explain what they know?

            And besides being likable and good food....there's a whole 'nuther area...is there something about anyone that turns us OFF? What? How often does it happen? How bad is it? Is someone else even worse? Are there enough other positive things we like to overlook it?
            Who has the most good in all areas, not just one?
            If I gave all of them a show, who would i *still* enjoy 3 years down the road...? Lots to think about. Still watching.

  10. Crouton40 says:

    If you like her, she has a facebook page. I'm not giving away anything private, here. It can be easily found simply by typing her name into a search engine. I've typed in some of the others, too. Just to see if they have any youtube videos, a website, interviews, etc.
    Scroll down a bit on left and check out the tvline.com poll. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Damaris-Phillips/1...

    • Crouton40 says:

      Oops. Sorry about the double-post. Firsr, the reply to shannon didn't seem to "take." Then, I write the 2nd one. Now, it reappears and they're both here. Gremlins.I would delete one of them but the only options I have are report and reply.

      • MoHub says:

        This is why we need Edit and Delete options. However, considering the technical inconsistencies and problems with these boards, adding new functions might just mess things up more.

        • Crouton40 says:

          Getting back to this thread and exit interviews....I think its a fairly safe bet that most of the audience thinks the pie man should go next. But that doesn't necessarily mean he will. And if he doesn't--who might it be instead? Will that person really do worse and will the audience agree with the judges or will there be an outcry? Will Rodney surprise us and do better? . Will someone else really fall flat? And if they do, will the audience believe they were worse than Rodney? I suppose it's possible, but judging by what we've seen up to this point, it would take my off-guard if it happened.

          • MoHub says:

            I fear Rodney will be eliminated, go to Star Salvation, and beat Lovely for the return to the competition. My latest conspiracy theory is that Rodney will be maneuvered into going head-to-head against Stacey in the final, with the assumption that viewers will vote for Stacey—the preordained winner—rather than see Rodney get a show.

            Probably far-fetched, but that's how my beady little mind works.

          • Crouton40 says:

            Pre-ordained winner, eh? Hmm.
            Quite a few feel that she isn't the best cook. And some others have just as good of a personality or better. Opinions vary.

            Although she has been in the top 3, and she is friendly. I wonder if most viewers think she is better, or worse, than Nikki. ?
            Also, how would viewers feel about a star who has trouble making a good chicken pot pie? Then again, others have had some problems along the way...Ahh, the suspense.

          • MoHub says:

            But I think Food Network wants to invest in Stacey as one of the few sustained successes from Restaurant: Impossible. If you Google The Trails, you'll find reviews and Yelp postings that give the place very high ratings.

            So many RI places go back to their old ways after their makeovers, and a lot are closed or under new ownership, so having The Trails prove successful is a feather in FN's cap and a good reason to keep Stacey in the limelight.

          • Crouton40 says:

            Ohhh man...
            OK. yes, I can see that it would be a feather in FN's cap....and I would wish for Stacey's restaurant to succeed rather than fail....BUT--to give her the win just so they can say RI was a success is ssoooo (how can i be polite here?)---Less-than-showing-integrity. Stacey is in the running--but--

            Let whoever wins--CLEARLY show--by their performance (that the viewers can see and hear)---that they honestly won this by: Better cooking, better personality and better teaching!

          • MoHub says:

            I agree with you Crouton, but I trust FN as far as I can throw it. For my money, the win would go to Damaris. She has a nice personality, is knowledgeable, and has teaching experience, and I suspect she has a much broader range of culinary chops than we've been able to see.

          • Crouton40 says:

            Those are four VERY good reasons to vote for a winner!

            And from what I've seen, I am leaning more and more in Damaris's direction, for exactly what you've just said about her. I feel the same way at this point -and I believe these are things we can legitimately claim about her based on what she's actually done. I can only hope that she makes it to the end and that the judges end up agreeing.

        • Crouton40 says:

          Speaking of inconsistencies, I tried typing on here a bit earlier and got a message that it must be approved by site admin....less than 3 minutes later, I type on another thread in this Blog and it instantly goes right through. Go figure.

          • Shannon says:

            Inconsistency is right ! I can't vote in star poll today, I am told I already did. Anyone else having a problem with this?

          • Annie says:

            Does anyone believe the poll? How can all those people really be voting for the pie man?

          • Shannon says:

            Annie, I do not. I tried to give it an open mind. Not any more, there is NO way that Rodney is that far ahead of Damaris. Damaris is my favorite, however I don't expect her to be a favorite of everyone. But the berth between the 2 ..no way. They have Damaris and Russell still just slightly ahead of voted off contestants....no ..not buying it.

          • Tom says:

            Damaris is best. She has the most knowledge and she's fun.