Chatting with the First Eliminated Star Finalist

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, June 1, 2014

Food Network StarDespite Food Network Star finalists' highest hopes for success and their best attempts to at once craft top-quality dishes and present a winning personality on camera, week after week another rival will be sent home, unable to survive in the face of stardom. It's up to judge-mentors Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis to decide who should stay and whose journey has ended, and after every elimination, Star Talk will bring you the first interview with the ousted competitor.

If you haven't yet watched the episode, don't read any further. Star Talk is about to break down the ins and outs of the premiere and reveal the first finalist sent home.

Not long after arriving on the set of the first episode, finalists were already in the throes of a challenge, as they walked onto a celebrated movie back lot and pitched their points of views to superstar mentors Alton, Bobby and Giada. They had only 30 seconds to introduce themselves and what would ideally be a unique culinary perspective to the judges, and while a few rose to the occasion, many stumbled, including Donna Sonkin Shaw, who was ultimately sent home this week.

Donna Sonkin ShawDonna's healthy focus appeared too blunt, and Giada had to remind her: "You can't hit people over the head with the healthy thing." Once the rivals arrived in Food Star Kitchen to work on their party bites for that night's red carpet event, Donna started making what she called "Donna's BLT," but the combination of ingredients didn't wow the judges. "You had a great message," Giada told Donna, who, looking ahead to the future, said, "I have a lot to share, and I'm going to keep sharing it."

Read Donna's first exclusive interview below to hear more from her and learn what she hopes fans will remember about her point of view.

How would you explain what this competition is really like?
Donna Sonkin Shaw: Well, it was a great opportunity for me to meet some really amazing people.

What element of the competition were you least expecting, be it good or bad?
DSS: I wasn't expecting that I would really like everyone so much.

Was there a moment in either of the challenges that you found especially difficult?
DSS: Standing in high heels for however many hours we needed to stand in them.

What's one piece of mentor feedback that you're going to take with you into the future?
DSS: To refine my message.

What do you want fans to remember about you and your message?
DSS: That you are what you eat. That your food becomes your body. And that you make choices every day at every meal.

What's next for you, and what are you looking forward to?
DSS: I'm excited to see my husband and my family and my clients, and resume my workshops and teaching private cooking lessons. I've been writing, so I want to write some more.

What's your early prediction for who you think is going to win it all?
DSS: I would totally watch any of their shows. I love what Aryen does. I find Loreal fascinating. Nicole, like, she's got such a great story. … Both Chrises I just adore. Luca's so charming. Reuben — he's my buddy, and I would totally watch his show. Lenny is a huge personality. Emma is my soul sister. Sarah's just [a] sweet, Southern girl. … I love Kenny.

Watch Donna battle for a chance at redemption on Star Salvation. Click the play button on the video below to see the first part of Episode 1, then head over to Star headquarters to catch the second part.

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Comments (49)

  1. Charlotte says:

    i guess our votes dont mean anything cause we all voted to boot Sarah,,what because shes a blond? OMG,,everybody dye your hair!!! Quick!!!

  2. Chris says:

    You have done it again: select a quirky health chef just to eliminate her in the first round. Why is the Food Network doing everything they can do undermine the health trend in gourmet cuisine?

    • Cal Orie says:

      Right you are. Christy Schoen. Herb, the energy chef. Last year's Andre and also Nikki Dinki. And now Donna. Why even bother to have these people as contenders? Often, they are one of the first two sent packing. Whether its fitness, eating light, meat on the side, vegetarian or whatever, it gets turned down year after year after year.

      • Tammy says:

        It is good to hear others say this because I feel the same way. They are always the first to go. I felt Donna had much more potential than Sarah, and that her POV should at least keep them interested for another week. I don't think FN wants healthy cooking because they think the public wants to gorge on fat (as evidenced by how many times a day Triple D is on).

        I loved Kathleen Dahlman's Cooking Thin and Robin Miller's Quick Fix Meals. They were great shows and Robin Miller was especially appealing to the working mom. I would love to see another healthy show. I have definitely decreased my FN watching time lately.

    • Mark says:

      I totally agree. They show us someone who wants to represent health. But, guess what, They suck. So, its not FN's fault. Well, we see right through it. If you had any interest in a Healthy POV, you'd bring on a better contestant. You'd also have a show or two already with this POV. As someone with health issues, who loves food, I'd love your help. Instead, I feel like you are trying to kill me.

  3. Deborah Zarzecki says:

    I thought Sarah should have been booted ,not because she's a blond but because she comes across as being a phony.

    • guest says:


      • Deborah Zarzecki says:

        If you watched the show you wouldn't have to ask. The way she spoke and carried herself,she came across as putting on an act rather than just being herself.

        • guest says:

          Some of us haven,t yet. Good brief, you're vague, but you have the right to be that way. What about the way sdhe spoke? What about how she carried herself? This tells us nothing. Never mind, I'll be looking to others for clear details.

          • larrae says:

            she's not in a pagent - it's more than being a pretty face. who is she? does she know?

    • Marion says:

      Yes 100. Percent annoying..I also thought the "soup in a cup" looked dreadful

    • Shannon says:

      I agree Sarah should be booted, next week. I don't think there is much room for improvement from her. I say that because I don't think she came across as phony, as you feel Deborah. I think she came across as who she is. Pretty, with not much depth of character. Relying on looks with an inability to dig deep and communicate well. Her casting video relayed the same thing. Just my opinion, it's a shame because she is a pretty girl with engaging looks and can probably cook well too. After all, the texture of the soup was off but they said the flavors were good.

      • Crouton40 says:

        If she's on the bottom 3 again next time, it'll be difficult to stick with her. However--remember last year? Damaris and her "shimmy"? She took some heat for it at the time. I'll bet she wished she coulda took it back--but look at her now. She learned from her mistakes. And improved. Let's see if Sarah learns from this. I'm betting she can cook.

        • shannon says:

          So true about Damaris Crouton. However,I searched and tried to find anything positive in Sarah's casting video and just came up empty handed. It actually made me wonder if she was not cast as this year's "Danushka".

          • Crouton40 says:

            Ohh, cmon. Oftene, we agree much more than we don't (smile)...and I, too, was disappointed in how I saw Sarah start. But--- Danushka? Sorry, I just can't see it-- because:
            1. Danushka talked in half-zombie monotone as if she hadn't quite woke up yet. Sarah doesn't.
            2. Penny, was a bully and sarcastic. Haven't seen Sarah bash or try to boss her competitors.
            I will say, though,....ya know that video clip season 10 where Sarah is wearing a dark grey chefs coat and her pink headband with her hand up to her mouth and a surprised look? I keep asking myself whether its because:
            A) she blew it and is being eliminated....or....
            B) she has buckled-down, focused and it was just announced that she knocked it out ta the park. Right now, I just can't tell. She doesn't strike as a Villain, though. I'd be more concerned, this year, about "the goof-off". None of this is meant as any sort of "attack" on you. Just explaining myself. :). But she better turn things around soon. Waiting to see if she does. Did you know she was invited to the White House to cook? See

          • shannon says:

            Oh Crouton,Crouton, you take me much too literally.(smile). I don't think she looks the same or acts the same as Danushka, it would be quite difficult to replicate that (thank goodness). I am wondering if she is going to be the one kept around for a while even if she puts out a poor showing week after week just to get people talking watching and speculating. Danushka for the most part was last season's car wreck, You know what I mean, you do not want to, but you can't help gaping. Is Sarah this year's car wreck? I said before she can cook, maybe she will do a 180 and that will be the plot twist. We shall see. As always,wonderful bantering with you! I look forward to many more weeks of the same.

          • Liz Cantu says:

            Shannon and Crouton, I really enjoy reading through your comments :) You are always professional and don't jump to snarky "i'm right and everyone is wrong" comments. :) I can say from my personal experience in the production industry (although a much smaller scale) that it's a good chance some of these people are chosen specifically to create drama. Donna can cook, she is pretty to watch, but because she couldn't package the "look at all the vitamins in the food" in a way that most people can digest, it ended up being her downfall. I agree that Sarah seems very pageanty and rehearsed, and sadly doesn't help the rest of us blondes who live in Texas look good. But because of that, she may end up sticking around just so the editors and judges have something to use to create tension and drama. This is something my husband and I discuss every time we watch a reality show. I do feel like the head honchos in charge of casting seem to be trying to find a replacement for one or more of the judges. Like in season 8 when they had teams, each judge picked ppl most like them. I didn't get to see season 9, but this season I can see the same thing. You have Chris K with his colorful wardrobe and bowtie, Loreal's pinup badassness, Ruben with his "hipster" look (Alton) you have Nicole, who seriously looks like a Giada Mini-Me, Sara is a pretty face (Giada) and then you have Chris Lynch, Emma (Farm to table) and Lenny (who is about BBQ and cowboy food) seem more Bobby. So even though they like us all to think that these 12 people were the best cooks out there, they were picked not only for their talents but also for the probability of causing drama and keeping people interested. :-) Hope all that made sense haha, i'm running on half a cup of coffee, and this is all just my little opinion.

          • Crouton40 says:

            Thanks for the kind words.Nice to hear what you think, too. It's funny, the similarities we see from season to season. Not always, but often, someone in the group, will be:
            The awesome cook who freezes on camera
            The confident, smooth-talker who can't cook
            The ditz
            The bossy/sarcastic I'm better than these other schmucks
            The scattered one who can't get their food plated in time
            The quiet, too-gentle one
            The edgy, downtown street-person....and so it goes.
            My main concern with all this is that we've already seen so much of it from past seasons, that now, a lot of viewers and blog-posters jump on finalists to see how quick they can "assign" a finalists to this oir that label - AND - (pt.2) once they do, there is a too-often unfair unwillingness, to "freeze" people into whatever label...I.e "they're that way and they'll always be like that." But people CAN learn from mistakes, mentor feedback, and viewer comments. Too many viewers won't give 'em credit when they do. Some folks, don't seem to Danushka, and the PieMan....but this year, I hope folks will wait to see if bad behaviour keeps continuing before they "Lock" a perception, or whether finalists will realize they've messed up but take it to heart, and grow. It can happen. If it does, let's give 'em credit. Some others may seem lackluster, but "bloom" later. Ahh, the possibilities....

          • Liz Cantu says:

            I agree completely. and I admit I found myself trying to label people as well just based off of episode 1. But after watching the audition videos I did feel a little differently about ppl. I understand the execs want to hit as many demographics as possible, but yeah people need to grow. I get bored of watching the same thing over and over, no matter how good a cook. Like Rachel Ray and Giada and Bobby and Ina, all fantastic talent, but it feels like they could change up presentation or something every once in a while to rejuvenate the show. That was one reason I liked Good Eats, you never really knew what you were going to get that day. Same basic structure, but just enough change in the way info was given and the type of food that was going to be shown that it kept me personally interested. Thanks for reading my responses! This episode is the first time i've voiced my opinions in a public forum haha, I try not to sound douchey or too judgemental, but let's face it, I'm a pretty blunt person so I'm sure to upset someone eventually.

          • Crouton40 says:

            No worries. Chances are we all will by the time its over, lol. Sometimes people agree with me, sometimes they don't. I'm OK with that. What I try and do is to say how and why someone is good, or bad. Not just that they are.

          • Dinner for one says:

            I thought the same thing that here is this year's Danushka. I figure they will keep her around to see if they can get the same kind of press for her they got for Danushka. I thought Damaris was silly but could at least cook for the most part. Danushka was full of herself and a mediocre cook which seems to parallel her with Sarah

          • Tina says:

            We don't have a villian this year. Now the bloggers are trying to create one.

          • shannon says:

            Just speculating on how it will play out. That's all. No offense intended. Wondering who the "villain" will be,as there generally is one.

          • Kim says:

            I second that.

          • shannon says:

            Dinner for one, exactly, you understood what I meant.

  4. Jane says:

    I'm sick of Sarah already!!! A fake who can cook. Why, with all the great competitors is Sarah featured constantly with her comments. She's fake! Fake stupid curly extentions too. Me thinks the judges want her to win already? But I don't want to believe that in the judges would do that but remember how fake they thought Sarah was and how awful her little cup of chunky/thin something was? Why didn't they give Donna a chance. I almost flipped the channels early on and will next week if they keep featuring Sarah in the solo comments. There are so many more and more interesting contestants! Please NO MORE SARAH !!!

    • geri says:

      Do you have dark brown eyes and dark hair? Every year it's bash-the-blondes, no matter who they are. Who was your favorite and why? You didn't say.

    • Suzy says:

      Hate to break it to you, but his series is in the way to incorporate your suggestions.

  5. Ted says:

    Let the 2014 Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa begin. Are all of you the same people who swore last season they would never watch the show again? 1....2.....3.....whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

  6. Cookie says:

    I was hoping Sarah would be eliminated. All she could think about is her pageantry and this is a cooking comp. Yea Donna was going on about healthy food blah blah blah but I think she should of stayed over Sarah. I guess when they have auditions they need to also pick a few people to cast off first. I think Loreal will go far. She nails it better than some of the others but I hope her cooking wins them over as well.

    • Bonnie says:

      If you check the star-a-day comments for Sarah, I believe there is a comment there from someone who knows her that says while she had been in some pageants she didn't enjoy them that much and that's not her style. Could it be that Giada doesn't want Donna or Sarah as they may be competition?

      • Kitty says:

        Ha! Bonnie, I just posted about my thoughts on how I think Giada was jealous of Donna!

  7. Kitty says:

    I the feeling Giada was jealous of Donna. The facial expressions Giada made when faced with Donna were hilarious! Donna is so beautiful! I actually expected grace and sophistication from her, but instead she was so out there! Anyway, I got the feeling Giada did not want Donna to have that chance to replace her as the "beautiful" Food Network Star.

    • Jean says:

      Donna is beautiful. It will be worth watching to see if other pretty ones get eliminated soon. Is the only way to win, to not be a threat or competition?

  8. SUZY says:

    I can't believe it. Once again the webmaster of FN just doesn't get it: Put a link for the blogs on the HOME PAGE ..

  9. Crouton40 says:

    Enjoyed the show! Made some notes as it went along. Will have a longer review tomorrow/Monday w/more thoughts on more people (bed is calling) but briefly for now:
    #1 While I have to say that I can see why the judges let Donna go, nonetheless, she has a valuable message, she knowledgeable and has good credentials for her POV. It doesn't hurt that she's strikingly pretty, too. Check out some of this info. It's too bad we didn't find out more of -this- in tonights show: Best wishes, Donna. Keep doing what you're doing. ...and...
    #2. Briefly, the two (just my personal opinion) who most impressed me this first time are: Loreal and Nicole. Why? Because of: 1. Real-ness/UNpretentious 2. Excellent food quality I want to see more of these two. More tomorrow. See ya!--Crouton40

  10. CarrieAnn says:

    Felt bad for Donna ! People have struggled w the healthy point of view , and realistically , it's one that s needed . Hope the best for her. .