Chris Kyler, 32, received culinary training while in the Navy, where he was known for his charisma and slick sense of humor. After working in other's restaurants, he opened his own catering company, which specializes in fresh and healthy foods. Read on below to hear from Chris, and learn about his style of cooking and his thoughts on the competition.
What are you most looking forward to in this experience?
Chris: I am looking to see how far I can go. … I believe my whole life is not an accident. This is not an accident. This is not a coincidence where I am today. I have a really compelling story of where I come from. … I've been rock bottom, and, like, [with] this opportunity I'm, like, almost back at the top from rock bottom. This, right here, I know if it's for me, I'm going to win. This is my destiny, so I kind of have that head on my shoulders. I'm just going to give it my all. Everything I have within me — my body, mind and soul— I'm just going to leave it on the stage. And when it's over, if I don't win, I know this wasn't for me but something else is. And if I do win, I know this is where I'm supposed to be.
Describe your cooking style or culinary point of view — in one sentence, if you can.
Chris: Taking classic dishes and humble ingredients and transforming them into restaurant-quality, modern dishes.
How did you prepare for the competition?
Chris: About two weeks before … I stopped [working], I focused and I watched the whole season of Season 9, and I strategized and looked at the key things. What will my show be, my POV? I focused on that, writing my strategy down. That's how I prepared mentally. And after that, I spent time with my family, 'cause I knew I'd be away for a while, so I just spent time with them [and] focused on that.
Which mentor are you most excited to learn from?
Chris: I'm definitely excited to meet and learn from Bobby Flay. I think he's a great chef. I admire him 'cause he's an Iron Chef. I want to be one of the first African American Iron Chefs, not to compete, to be on the poster.
Which mentor do you find to be the most intimidating?
Chris: I definitely feel a little intimidated by Alton. I feel like he's a stickler, but I feel like it's for my good. He's trying to get the best out of all us, all of the finalists. And he wants the very best, but he can be very hard and strict — like a strict chef or father would be to his children.
What’s your Achilles’ heel ingredient, one that you hate to work with?
Chris: It's kind of contradictory with my favorite ingredients to work with, 'cause my favorite ingredients are fresh fish. But I cannot stand some really small fish with a lot of bones. It's real tedious to pick out all the bones, and then if you leave a bone in there, someone can choke.
What's your guilty pleasure food?
Chris: I really don't have a guilty pleasure.
What's your favorite late-night snack?
Chris: Probably like sorbet. I love a fruit sorbet, a fresh one.
What's one must-have at your last supper?
Chris: I would probably say I would like a nice, juicy steak — medium steak with some type of truffle butter melting on it.
Rapid fire: Think fast!
Ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise? Ketchup
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate
Bagels or doughnuts? Doughnuts
Cream cheese or butter? Butter
Coffee or tea? Coffee
French fries or onion rings? French fries
Burgers or hot dogs? Hot dogs
White meat or dark? White meat
Cake or pie? Pie
Beer or wine? Wine
Waffles or pancakes? Waffles
Click the play button on the video below to hear more from Chris.
It's going to be a summer of heated competition as Food Network Star gears up for its most-explosive season yet, a 10th year of putting hopeful rivals through the job interview of their lives. To make it to August and ultimately land a sought-after television career — Food Network show host — finalists will have to impress mentor-judges Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis with the coveted combination of cooking chops and on-camera charm. Season 10 kicks off Sunday, June 1 at 9|8c, but before then, FN Dish is introducing fans to all of the contestants. This year's crop of competitors boasts business owners, executive chefs, world travelers and farm-to-table enthusiasts — not to mention fiery personalities, over-the-top entertainers and undeniable competitive spirits. Check back every day to meet another finalist, then learn more about each of them by checking out their casting videos.