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

by in Interviews, July 28, 2013

Stacey, Russell and Nikki - Food Network 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.

Although the mentors appreciated Nikki Dinki's commitment to her vegetable-based culinary point of view, they were forced to let her go because she failed to convince them of her authority over food after more than two months in the contest.

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

The mentors and focus groups agreed that your "meat on the side" point of view is smart and watchable. Have you always been a "semi-vegetarian?" What led to your eating like this?

ND: Veggies were the first food group that I tackled on my path from picky eater to who I am today. Meat came up much later in the journey, so I have always thought of veggies first and meat second. I've realized since I came up with the concept how timely "meat on the side" is. We are all learning that we should be eating less meat, and with more people embracing Meatless Mondays, I think a "meat on the side" show would really offer new ideas for vegetarian meals, along with presenting a more balanced plate.

You seemed to fluctuate between extremely strong performances and mediocre showings. What do you think accounted for the discrepancies?

ND: Each challenge is so different, and in the moment, it's difficult to always make the right choices. In the beginning, I let myself get so intimidated by the other chefs and the overall experience that I really forgot what a strong, confident woman I am in the real world. When I got that confidence back midway through the season, my performances improved greatly, but more importantly, I think the audience saw the real me.

Alton told you in your final evaluation that "your ability with food greatly outstretches your ability to explain what you're doing." Do you agree with him? Why or why not?

ND: Just like Rodney and Chad, I'm not a trained chef, so I have learned by experimenting, tasting and doing my own research. I might not be as scientific about food as Alton (I'm not sure anyone is!), but I have the extensive knowledge and experience to teach people. I am creative and able to develop complex flavors in ways that are simple and approachable for home cooks. My at-home education allows me to really connect with the viewer, by providing useful techniques and practical advice.

Did you become particularly close with any of the other finalists during filming, and if so, who? Any funny behind-the-scenes stories you can tell?

ND: I became really close with the other finalists; they were my supporters, confidants and family during our time together. Rodney would help me to relax when I couldn't stop worrying about the competition, Chad always offered great advice, Damaris and Stacey are two of the sweetest people I know and always knew just the right things to say. Combine all those things with the all-out fun we had together, especially when Damaris would do a signature dance for us, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Giada and BobbyWhat was your favorite moment of the competition?

ND: When Giada clapped for me at the end of my presentation during Episode 7 at the auction. I finally felt like myself again, and to have her so excited over what I did, I knew I nailed it and was on the right path. I realized in that moment that I could win this.

Who do you think is the most intimidating judge/mentor?

ND: Alton. He knows his stuff, and he's never afraid to challenge you.

What are you up to these days, and what are you most looking forward to in the future?

ND: I will have my own show one day — just to be clear. In the meantime, cooking is one of those skills that needs to be constantly refined and polished, so I was thrilled to recently have the time to spend more than 100 hours in culinary courses here in New York City, focusing on new techniques and diverse cuisines. Those courses and my constant experimenting at home have helped me grow as a cook and, most importantly, given me the unwavering confidence to stand up against any chef.

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Comments (1,315)

  1. PThompso says:

    I think it was huge mistake to let Nikki go. She should definitely be given her own show-her ideas and recipes are great!

  2. Darlene says:

    Nikki, I totally loved your POV of meat on the side. In my eyes you should have been the winner. You were great on camera, knew on to cook, and related to the audience. FN made a big error by losing you.

  3. AD San Diego says:

    I am so tired of this show! As much as I like the judges in their own programs, they are terrible at determining who we, the audience, would like to see in a new show. If you review the history of this show's winners, out of the past eight seasons of FNS, there has only been one real "star," and that is Guy Fieri, who incidentally was voted for by the fans. Not to bash the other contestants as people, but to purely rate their performance, both Rodney and Russell should have gone home a long time ago. Rodney, the self-proclaimed "pie man" has had more misfires with his pies, than hits. Plus, his critics have all pointed out his need to articulate his intelligible riffing. Russell seems to spend more time in his own head thinking of words to say than actually saying them. His presentation skills are lacking. Also, let's not forget how many times both Russell and Rodney have been up for elimination. Not counting the last two episodes where everyone was up for elimination, Nikki has been up for elimination only twice and Rodney three times. Russell has been up for elimination a staggering five times! That is five times out of eight episodes!! Yet he is in the final. This is crazy! Unfortunately, although the winner will be chosen by the audience, our finalists have been pre-chosen for us. The only finalist left worth choosing is Damaris. She's great, but in reality she should have been up against Stacey and Nikki in the final. When will Food Network learn from their mistakes and let the viewers pick the winner legitimately? Eight seasons and one "star" is not a good track record. Give Nikki and Stacey their own shows on the Cooking Channel.

  4. Rachelle says:

    I don't think the judges made the right decision. I would have definitely watched her show!! It is something different than what I have seen on food network and Nikki is so likeable and easy to connect with.

  5. arizele says:

    Dear Food Network,

    After Nikki was kicked off, we stopped watching your show and your network. The Pie Man presented you with raw dough and can't talk. Russell has been on the bottom several times with an inconsistent POV. Stacy and Damaris actually have a shot.

    Nikki was the complete package. You don't need another Guy Fieri. You don't need any more "badass" hosts, save those for your other network. What you need is what you used to have: class. And you kicked her off for not knowing the classical definition of "pilaf".

    Goodbye Food Network.

  6. Marylee says:

    Rodney is absolutely obnoxious. His cooking is sloppy. Most people dislike making pie crust plus who wants to bake everything. His language is awful and he is just too impressed with himself. His personality would get very old QUICK!!!

  7. Laura says:

    I'm so disappointed in the direction this show is taking. Nikki had the concept, camera skills, and the talent. I have been craving a show like hers, and have been extremely disappointed with the new shows FN has put out. FN used to be on our tv everyday for hours at a time, but now with more reality shows and less about teaching us at home cooks, we hardly ever watch. Hopefully Nikki finds a home somewhere on tv, until then I will follow her online and continue to learn and stretch my veggie knowledge. Thanks for helping me want to experiment with my veggies Nikki, and good luck!

  8. Rpgmom1 says:

    Nikki had the concept that is fresh and new for today's foodies. Her concept of "meat on the side" brings back the tradition from our heritage when meat was scarce and more a condiment than the main star of a dish. This concept is healthier and more economical than the way most of us eat today and it fits in with the desire of most of us to eat more locally sourced foods.
    I feel the mentor' love affair with Rodney is similar to the Sandwich King...a show I refuse to watch because it offers NOTHING new. If Rodney's concept wins over Nikki it will prove that Food Network is pretty shallow and not at all in touch with what is happening now in the food movement.

  9. Tracy says:

    I like many of your contestants but really hoped that Nikki would win. She was genuine, did have "food authority" if not the expertise you might have been specifically looking for, and appealed to both vegetarians and nonvegetarians so had a wide audience appeal. On top of that she was great on camera because she sounded and looked natural in her delivery. Lastly Nikki echoed current food trends in healthy eating which should have made sense for Food Network. It seems that many of your current shows have the "personality" but not the usefulness to home cooks. Nikki represented that. She is also the first person in all of the seasons that I have followed post-show specifically because I wanted the knowledge she had. I am grateful she has a presence online since she was not awarded the FNStar show.

  10. Eileen says:

    Nikki should have won. I would have watched her show and I loved her POV. I am pretty disgusted with the judging this year. I missed watching the judges mentor and feel this show will not last much longer. Pie man, really? Nikki, please go to another network and get your own show!!!