It was only two years ago that Damaris Phillips was likely feeling many of the same emotions and anxieties that are plaguing Alex, Arnold, Dom, Eddie and Jay today. After championing through the remaining weeks of Season 9, she earned the coveted title of Food Network Star, and now, with multiple seasons of her own show, Southern at Heart, under her belt, she's returning to Food Star Kitchen this week to mentor this year's crop of hopefuls. Just in time for brand-building challenges and all-important camera tests, Damaris will be on hand to guide the finalists as they inch one step closer to potentially joining the ranks of Damaris and the other past winners.
Star Talk caught up with Damaris to find out what it's like for her to be returning to set not as a rival, but as a peer among Bobby and Giada. Find out what she had to say, and learn how her own experiences in the competition will affect her judging this weekend.
What's it like working with Bobby and Giada as a peer and not as a competition hopeful? Damaris Phillips: It feels great. It feels so much better to be on the other side. Competition is awful. ... The part that I like about mentoring [is that] I feel like I actually have advice to give, which makes me feel really proud that in two years I’ve gone from literally being a hot mess to having advice that I think would help, and I mean that feels great, and I think a lot of it has to do with Bobby and Giada and their mentoring.
The Season 11 set is the exact same one you competed on two years ago, isn't it? DP: The exact same set! Every time I go on, it is anxiety.
If you've seen an episode of Star Salvation, you probably know that it takes much more time to actually film one episode than the 10 to 13 minutes that is shown on FoodNetwork.com. So what happens to all that lost footage?
Click play on the video above to watch the hilarious cuts that didn't make it on the Web series.
Just one year ago, Damaris Phillips was preparing to begin the job interview of her life, an 11-week journey alongside just as many rivals that would end either in disappointment or sweet victory and the title of Food Network Star. After a summer of heated competition that included tears, trying challenges and no shortage of constructive critiques from mentors Alton, Bobby and Giada, Damaris ultimately earned the win last August and secured her spot in stardom. Now as an all-new crop of competitors gets ready to experience the journey for themselves, Damaris looks back on her winning moment, dishes on what the contest is really like and offers insider advice for Season 10 hopefuls.
Take us back to the moment you saw your picture on the monitor and you realized you had won. What was going through your mind?
I was surprised and kind of not surprised because I had been hoping for it. But then also, like, there's this absolute moment of total blank, like I didn't have anything to say. No thoughts. And I just had no idea of what it was going to look like after that, so I couldn't even be like, "Oh, now it starts." Like, it was literally one of the only times in my life when my mind went completely blank.
As I'm sure Bob, Susie, Alton, Giada and Bobby have already done so, I'd like to be the sixth person to welcome you to the Food Network family. I'm sure you'll fit in quite nicely, as we are all really just a bunch of food-obsessed kooks who like to entertain and have a good time.
Having been through the process, I know exactly what it takes to get where you are, and you've got it. Your poise during the Chopped challenge led me to believe you were a contender. Your pilot really sealed the deal. Your sense of humor is a perfect fit for our audience, and your optimism and good vibes just leap from the screen. Your POV is as solid as it gets. It is who you are: a teacher, a romantic and someone who isn't afraid to sing Bonnie Tyler karaoke after just one drink. Congratulations on finding the sweet spot between all of those Damarises. Also, as a dude who was chastised for winning the home ec award in middle school, I appreciate you championing the idea that everyone should love to cook for each other.
Congratulations on also having the largest gain in Twitter followers since the start of the competition. Interacting with fans is the name of the game. I look forward to seeing your "blue check" soon.
So what else is in store for you? Lemme tell you this: everything.
It's been 11 weeks of ups and downs, tears and laughs, and moments that each finalist will never forget. The final three have been through the wringer, and now, thanks to loyal fans, Food Network has its newest Star.
Star Talk caught up with the winner just moments after the memorable announcement. Click play on the video above to watch Star Talk's exclusive interview.
What did you think about the big win? Share your thoughts on the finale in the comments.
Time is running out to vote (voting is now closed) for this year's newest Food Network Star. Will you join Damaris on her journey in helping guys woo their mates with Southern food on Eat, Date, Love? Will you get Pie Style with Rodney? Or will you channel your inner culinary sins and indulge with Russell on Guilty Pleasures?
All season long the mentors have guided this very decision, and now you, Food Network Star fans, get to make the final and most important decision. Will you join Damaris on her journey in helping guys woo their mates with Southern food on Eat, Date Love? Will you get Pie Style with Rodney? Or will you channel your inner culinary sins and indulge with Russell on Guilty Pleasures?
Food Network's newest sensation is up to you: Cast your vote now (voting is now closed).
It's down to the nitty-gritty: the final four finalists. Damaris, Rodney, Russell and Stacey have endured nine weeks of grueling tasks, surviving on-camera and cooking challenges, and now one is just eight days closer to stardom.
If you had to vote now, who would you pick as your next Food Network Star?
After watching Damaris Phillips' premiere performance last week, judge-mentor Bobby Flay had but one piece of advice for her: "Don't try to seduce us." It appeared as though she took that instruction to heart, but, unfortunately she let history repeat itself this week during the Burger Bash challenge, and it almost forced her week-two elimination.
Not long into her live cooking demonstration in front of the Selection Committee and an audience of 100 guests, Damaris once again resorted to uncomfortably suggestive body language as she described a key ingredient in her dish. She revealed duck fat to be the must-have addition to her pimento cheese burger, and she accompanied the announcement with a shoulder shake and shimmy that left the audience both grimacing and laughing — "at her," no less, according to Alton Brown.
Damaris realized almost immediately the mistake she'd made, explaining, "When I get nervous, I default to being awkwardly sexy sometimes." Come evaluation, she knew she'd be in for harsh feedback: "My presentation was crap. I went up there and did exactly what the Selection Committee told me not to do." Bobby indeed doled out hard-to-hear criticisms, among them that her demonstration was "a little off-putting," and Damaris was simply unable to hold back tears in front of her peers and the mentors.
You heard it here first: Food Network Star is kicking off an all-new ninth season on Sunday, June 2 at 9pm/8c, and returning judge-mentors Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis will be there at the helm. This year the mentors are tasking 12 hopefuls with weekly Mentor and Star Challenges in the ultimate multi-month interview for the chance to earn their dream television job: their own show on Food Network. While the contestants bring with them a mix of backgrounds — including culinary school, restaurant management, private chef and food blogging — they have but one dream, which is to become the next Food Network Star. From now until next month's premiere, Star Talk will introduce one finalist a day until you, Star fans, meet them on camera during the show.
After graduating from culinary school, Damaris Phillips, 32, worked front- and back-of-house restaurant jobs before returning to the same college to teach the next generation of chefs. Now living in Louisville, Ky., this self-described Southern spitfire grew up cooking dinners for her large family, and she is known for her unmistakable trademark wit.