Like Orchid Paulmeier, Whitney Chen emerged early on in Food Network Star season 7 as a viable winner. She was calm, collected, confident and, most importantly, a damn good chef. Whitney continually proved herself to be a capable culinary expert, but the judges kept telling her to open up. Week after week, Whitney found herself in the bottom. And this past Sunday, she was eliminated after making it to the top five.
I got the chance to ask Whitney some questions about this season. It sounds like this won't be the last we're seeing of Whitney Chen.
The judges really got on you again and again about opening up. What do you think they were looking for?
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I think they wanted to see me as myself, not me as a cook. The way I've been trained in the kitchen is to keep your head down and focus on the food and that training didn't do me any favors at the start of the show! As I got more comfortable with the experience, I think I absolutely started opening up and simply enjoying the ride. I think the Rachael Ray episode well represented my personality.
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
I love a big-ass, bone-in piece of meat.
What is your least favorite ingredient to cook with?
I don't like cooking with foods that have been super processed (like Pop-Tarts!).
Out of everyone remaining in the competition, who do you think has what it takes to be the next Food Network Star?
Actually, I think everyone that made it to New York has the talent to host a show. Everyone could cook, had interesting ideas and was able to articulate them in their own way with their own style. I'd watch any of the remaining competitors.
What was your favorite challenge? Least favorite challenge?
My favorite challenge was the cupcake challenge with Ina Garten. First of all, I love that woman's recipes. They are simple and delicious. I liked that challenge because I had to really stretch myself. I actually made three different kinds of mini-cupcakes that represented my evolution as a cook. Only the coconut cupcake got airtime, but Ina liked the curry-carrot cupcake the best!
I was always disappointed when we had to cook for hundreds of people. I always thought to myself "Did I sign up for the Next Catering Star?" You really have to change the way you cook if you're cooking for hundreds.
Which judge or mentor did you enjoy meeting and working with the most?
I enjoyed the feedback from Susie Fogelson and Bob Tuschman. It was so fascinating to learn about the TV biz and what their jobs entailed.
Describe Whitney Chen's Food Network show!
I have zillions of ideas! I still love the Four Star Flair show, but think there are lots of different ways to teach people about food. I'd love to travel around and teach people about how a particular spice is harvested and how you can cook with it. I'd love to do a show about farms ... America's farms and the families that run them. I'd love to host a show that mimics all the basics I learned in culinary school.
What's in the works for you right now? What can we expect to see from you next?
I'm taking it easy the rest of the summer to enjoy the heat and sunshine with my family and friends. Soon after, I'll be writing recipes, visiting kitchens and writing about food for various websites and publications and continuing to learn about food and pursue my passion. If anything, this competition has clarified my goals and dreams. I really do believe that I'll have a cooking show one day -- now was simply not my time.
(Image courtesy of Food Network)