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

by in Interviews, June 15, 2014

One-on-One with the Latest Star Finalist to Go HomeStar has seen many themed challenges over the seasons, including takes on Chopped, Burger Bash and even Thanksgiving Live. But for the first time in Star history, finalists faced off in a round of Cutthroat Kitchen-inspired competition. Alton brought all of his antics and even Cutthroat judge Jet Tila made a special appearance.

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 episode and reveal who was sent home.

Kenny did not have a great showing in Episode 2 (he escaped elimination after admitting his faults), but a failed dish sent him to compete on Star Salvation this week. In what would be his final challenge — the Cutthroat Kitchen-style battle — Kenny managed to go sabotage-free the entire time, and yet his breakfast dish was a tragedy.

Read Kenny's exclusive interview below to hear more from him. Learn how he felt about his elimination, as well as what he hopes fans will remember about him.

Kenny LaoHow did you feel about the judges' remarks coming off of that elimination?
Kenny Lao: I thought they were totally fair. I think that it was very, very evident that I am not the best chef here and that was the downfall for me, and I think that they did recognize that I was making great improvements on being able to actually connect the food to me and then to the viewer, but I think that I just really needed to step it up culinarily, and I got called out for it today.

Do you stand by your breakfast dish? And did you taste it as you were assembling it?
KL: I stand by the concept of my breakfast dish. I don’t stand by the execution of it. I tasted it going through it and my biggest problem, I think, was exactly what they said: too many elements. The issue was, though, that trifle has all of those elements. I don’t think my flavors necessarily melded well, but also, too, I was operating with no sugar — which was really rough! Not that I’m making any excuses, but I think that’s what they tasted when they said it was tart and savory and that there was no sweetness to it.

Alton said in an interview that your heat dealt with more-difficult sabotages than the other. Do you feel like that’s fair?
KL: I think that all is fair in this game, and I actually think that it’s totally fair if you think about it because, I mean, a heat’s a heat, and it’s basically like being graded on the curve because you’re not compared against the other people. Each heat had a separate winner. I understand why no one was like, "Let’s pile on Kenny." Because Kenny's just going to pile on himself, right?

Kenny LaoHow would you explain this competition to someone else?
KL: Get ready to wait. Bring a book. Bring more than one book if you're a fast reader like me.

In a short period of time, you dealt with challenges involving big names: Alex Guarnaschelli and Jet Tila. Was there an intimidation factor?
KL: I was not intimidated by either of them. I’ve been really lucky to have worked with a lot of great chefs. Having not seen Alex on TV, I didn't know her TV reputation, but I knew her culinary reputation. So when I first saw her, I was like, "Whoa, it’s Alex Guarnaschelli." But I didn’t know it was scary Chopped Alex Guarnaschelli like everyone else knew. I don’t own a TV. For example, for Sarah, she’s like, "I'm your biggest fan," like, totally starstruck. You shouldn’t be like that because I think that part of this competition is showing you can handle everything, meaning the production side of it, the meeting the famous people side of it, but that gets you only so far. I think you're allowed to be starstruck the first day, and then afterwards you need to just buckle down and listen to the advice they're giving you.

What was your favorite challenge?
KL: Oh, my God! My favorite challenge was Cutthroat Kitchen. Are you kidding me? So fun. I love games. I love games, and I love competing in games, and I like the strategy of games, and I love watching how other people work through them because it's very insightful.

Does that mean that you would go on the actual show Cutthroat Kitchen if given the opportunity?
KL: No! I would never go on Cutthroat Kitchen because I can’t cook like that. But I really wish that all the competitions were group competitions like this because there’s so much more energy versus going and doing our thing.

Which mentor did you find most intimidating?
KL: I found Alton initially most intimidating before I started, and even on the first day. But I started really valuing his comments. I started really seeing his thoughtfulness and his preparedness, and I thought that that was so respectful towards us.

What do you want fans to remember about you, even in these three episodes?
KL: I want fans to remember that I’ve always been game ready.

Watch Kenny 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 (40)

  1. Jelaza says:

    I have no complaints on today's results. I actually like Cutthroat Kitchen and it's telling that someone did so poorly with no sabotages.

    • Buffy says:

      I am not sure why Leo was selected. He had an opportunity to bring something that is missing from the Food Network. I do not know who Leo is as chef. Leo presented a parfait. There is always a nice memory in life, Leo refused to present it.

      Leo. Please move forward and never remember your time with the Food Network. There is another place for you somewhere else to make your mark in the world.
      I do not remember his words about his inspiration or training to become a chef, but some people prepare a "slurry" to create gravy.

  2. Whatever says:

    Why is that black chick still on the show? She hasn't cooked one decent thing!

    • Buffy says:

      She is presenting her life experience. She has a problem with seasoning the food. It is not made clear why this is a problem with her. It is not clear why she continues to allow this to be a problem with her, since her desire is to be a chef to the world and the world desires "salt/seasoning". :)
      I cannot tell you why she is still in the competition. She is stronger than the Donna and Leo.

      The elimination is a chess game.

    • Slacker says:

      You're right. She hasn't.

    • MoHub says:

      "That black chick"? She is a person and has a name; it's Aryen.

    • Cletus says:

      No chat, her food has sucked every episode!!! Definitely could drop about 75 lbs andfind a new look, not to mention some cooking skills. Maybe a couple of leg bones stuck through that hamburger bun weave on top of her head?

  3. Miranda G says:

    Kenny interviews better than he cooks. He seems arrogant on tv but nicer in an interview...honest...he knew that he was not going to win and admitted it. I really have no favorite yet....

    • MoHub says:

      So far, I think I'm on team Emma. I like Aryen for her backstory and her camera presence, but she doesn't seem to have the cooking chops. One doesn't make up for underseasoned dishes by throwing every hot spice at one's disposal into a dish.

      • Shannon says:

        I think I am staying on team Emma as well. She seems to be able to cook. I would like to try her breakfast sandwich, even though it's not ingredients I would have previously considered pairing. She thinks outside of the box and that is a positive. Her presence is soothing, also a positive. She is attractive and can certainly teach/explain in a cohesive manner. I also love her voice. She is Unique.

        • Brad says:

          How interesting. I need to chew on this for awhile. Emma comes across as a pleasant soul. That is a good thing. What concerns me is in Justin's season many were raving about how he was outside the box and unique. It was a big flop. Now I see Emma described using some of the same terms. I am not saying you are wrong. I agree with the soothing part. But Justin had no appeal to me and outside the box seems to have backfired. How much appeal will Emma's dishes have? Does she cook meat dishes? Will she be so unique she will go the way of Justin? It's too early to know but being described that way makes me leery.

          • shannon says:

            Brad, to me Justin was way more than outside the box thinking. He was so far outside the realm of my concept of cooking I knew I would never replicate his recipes for my family. Some of his dishes were something I "might" make make when entertaining for a "wow" effect, all the while knowing I would have to make other dishes to actually feed and satisfy people not just entertain them. I perceive Justin as making novelty type dishes. Emma on the other hand to me looks like she may have a knowlege of how to blend unusual ingredients and still make something satisfying and comforting. Aryen is the one toting knowledge of international cuisines, however without flaunting it emma seemed to naturally pull from her international culinary base this week. Hence outside the box and intriguing to me.

          • guest says:

            I agree with you, Shannon. Justin and Emma are two very different cooking personalities. So far Emma has made dishes that I would feel comfortable attempting. Her use of the chocolate-covered bacon was inspirational (and for those who missed it, she was forced to swap out regular bacon for the chocolate version, so she does cook with meat). Emma strikes me as someone who can take any available ingredient and use it in a way that makes it seem like a familiar food even when it is not. I would really like to see some serious cooking episodes to learn more about the techniques of all the contestants, as I don't really think I have a good feel for most of them yet.

          • Guest says:

            You may not get a feel for them next time, too. With these viral videos they will be making, will we even see any cooking or will it all be extreme entertainment? How much better would they all have done on their cooking if none of them were sabotaged last week? There is a serious need to get back to the kitchen so we can see more of what they can all really do.

  4. zeric says:

    cutthroat kitchen should be on disney channel.. food network is not about cooking at all.. so boring had to switch channel to stop this nonsense

    • Al Dente' says:

      It was a test of fast thinking and overcoming obstacles but the results of this challenge may have skewed some people's perceptions. If everyone had made their dishes tonight with no sabotages, who would have done better?

      • MoHub says:

        Well, Nicole still would not have had pasta for her spaghetti and meatballs—grape stomping notwithstanding.

        • Guest says:

          True, but whoever wins won't be doing chopped challenges on their show.

          • MoHub says:

            Maybe, but the winner—and often the near misses—usually show up on special editions of Chopped, triple-G, and other FN competitions, so it doesn't hurt to hone those skills.

    • MoHub says:

      I love Cutthroat Kitchen, and it always amazes me when chefs manage to sabotage themselves. Nicole not grabbing pasta for spaghetti and meatballs and Lenny making the unnecessary and misnamed sopapilla cut their own throats without any "help" from their competitors.

  5. Crouton40 says:

    Kenny is outgoing and doesn't seem to be afraid of the camera. That part is good, but as I said last week, things quickly fall apart after that. He doesn't have the cooking shops. Even though may be talkative, his talk doesn't pull me in or make me want to listen to him. The judges made the right decision. It was time for him to go. In Star salvation, I do not expect Kenny to beat Luca. That would really surprise me. More tomorrow in threads....

  6. Runner says:


    Christopher – I think he’s one to watch. Good cook, interesting POV, and if the presentations skills continue to get better (not bad now); he’s a contender.

    Emma – out of nowhere she lets everyone know she’s in this thing. I went from ZZZZZ when she spoke to hey, she’s cute, can cook, and present.

    The Bad:

    Kenny – it was time. In fact, well past time. I think the judges were foolish to keep him around over Luca last week. I’m not sure how he even got invited to participate.

    Aryen – simply terrible. Time to stop wasting everyone’s time. So her solution to bland food is to dump a ½ bottle of red pepper flakes into the dish? Yikes! There are truck-stop chefs who know better than that.

    Chris – chances of sticking around diminishing rapidly. His inability to focus for 5 seconds is a real detriment.

    Loreal – she is not a star. Matter of time before she’s back at her butcher shop.

    Sarah – continues to be uninteresting and her POV is lame. She’s like the friend that constantly thinks she is great at setting up her friends when it’s one horrible first date after another.

    Lenny – it was good for him to have to get a work out on the bike because he ate a ton of humble pie last night. Tough obstacles though and he’s clearly still in the upper tier.


    Nicole – neither helped not hindered herself this week.

    Reuben – would have liked to see him cook in a real kitchen. Better presentation and did OK for the circumstances. On a huge positive note – he shaved for next week. Glad he found his lost clippers.

    • Walker says:

      Lenny - He'll be back in the saddle soon.

      Emma - from boring to OK. Is she a granola girl with a soft voice who does heavily plant-based dishes? Does she cook meat or anything Anne Burrell would make?

      Aryen - a waste of time. Boring.

      Reuben - Put a flat black hat on him with that beard and he'll look like he came off of an Amish farm.

  7. Crouton40 says:

    More reviews in Justin's Rebel Recap discussion. Check 'em out.

  8. Dianne says:

    I have problems with the whole "Cutthroat" idea for any show. The world is full of hateful mean and negative people as it is. Are you trying to target that audience?

    • MoHub says:

      The thing is that there are always contestants on "regular" cooking competitions who try to strategize against and sabotage the others. Although this usually backfires, the practice persists.

      Spike Mendelsohn bit himself in the hindquarters by attempting to strategize multiple times on Top Chef, and there have been several instances on Chopped when contestants have hoarded tools or ingredients. And Penny Davidi deliberately tried to sabotage another competitor—dont' remember who—after she herself was eliminated and called back as a sous in an Iron Chef challenge by cutting ingredients in slo-mo.

      The beauty of Cutthroat Kitchen is that it takes an existing practice and runs with it by building a whole show around what many of these cooks are doing anyway. In other words, it's honest and upfront about something that's already going on, and that's what makes it fun to watch.

  9. Scott says:

    The look on Bobby Flay's face, as he was spitting out Lenny's food, shows a disdain for Lenny that goes way beyond just food. Almost as if his bottom was not properly kissed.

    • Cathy Lee says:

      Do you ever feel like judges don't want some newcomer invading their territory? Competition. That's been said about Giada. Could this be going on with Bobby? I don't know.

      • Buffy says:

        I don't think this is the case. These individuals do not have to do this show. Bobby has other programs he produces that have been shown on FN and other channels. Both chefs have had to practice everything they are telling the contestants. Look at some of their early programs. They were not polished in their earlier programs. Most excellent people have taken time to outside of the job to learn more.

        I believe they are presenting the realities of being a FNS. It is not an easy job. Viewers lose interest in the chef when the recipes turn out horribly

    • Buffy says:

      Lenny did not serve a sopapilla, he served a tortilla. I do not think the tortilla came out well because it did not look right in the skillet. He should have been using a comal or griddle to prepare the tortilla. I prepare fresh tortillas and the skillet does not give the restaurant finish I like. The tortilla looked like a dried disc.

  10. Peaches says:

    I've just about had it with FN and I have been a big fan for years. Next Food Network Star has always been a favorite, but now they are screwing it up with Star Salvation and the initial selection of unqualified contestants to begin with, just to present a variety of personalities. 90% of the contestants this time don't have a prayer of winning- unqualified cooks and personalities almost no one would ever watch. Lenny is so awful but obviously will go on to the finals no matter what he cooks. Come on FN, cut out the nonsense.