Damaris Phillips won the Food Network Star finale tonight, earning her own TV show on the Food Network. The Louisville resident watched the episode, taped Wednesday in New York City, with about 250 supporters at Molly Malone's upstairs bar in the Highlands. The pub has hosted viewing parties throughout the 12-episode season. Sunday night though, the tension and eventual exuberance resembled that of Louisville basketball game deep in the NCAA tournament.
"I would hope that everybody would have this experience in their life one time for people to tell them how much they believed in them," Phillips, seated on the bar, said to the crowd after the cheering died down.
Phillips is a culinary arts instructor at Jefferson Community and Technical College, a position she hopes to continue to hold. Previously she worked at Louisville's 610 Magnolia, Harvest, Lynn's Paradise Cafe and Wiltshire Pantry. No details are yet available about her Food Network show.
Judges Alton Brown, Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay selected Phillips over finalists Rodney Henry (Baltimore's "The Pie Guy") and Russell Jackson, founder of an underground supper club in San Francisco. Initially the show had 12 contestants. Jackson was the first contestant in the finale to find out he would not be the next Food Network star, when he was eliminated about 25 minutes into the episode.
While the public had 59 hours to vote for its favorite chef, Food Network Gossip reports the show's winner likely was chosen at the discretion of the Food Network. From the Food Network Star season 10 casting rules:
All decisions related to the selection of the Finalists, any Program winner, the winners of the challenges in the Program, the judging of the various challenges in the Program (including all aspects of any voting processes), the application evaluation, and eligibility requirements shall be determined solely by FOOD NETWORK. "I feel like Food Network is grooming her to be the next Paula Deen," wrote Jenna Mullins for E!, in a piece published before the finale. (Hopefully Mullins meant without the racism or diabetes-inducing recipes.) Mullins predicted Phillips would win.
Food Network Gossip also anticipated Phillips's victory based on its own polling, in which Phillips led with 72 percent of the clickies made.
Even before she won, Phillips had picked up a lot of supporters. Before the show debuted, she had no social media presence. Seriously, none. And, yes, it's 2013. As of Saturday, however, her Facebook page had more than 3,500 fans and she had 4,800 followers on Twitter. Her recipe for pimento cheese went viral on Facebook, earning more than 530 comments, 2,600 likes and 65,000 shares.
At Molly Malone's upstairs bar, every seat was taken 90 minutes before show time. Phillips spent the pre-show run up posing for photos with her family, friends and fans. Other Louisville chefs at Molly's to root on Damaris include Jesse and Liz Huot of Grind Gourmet Burger Truck; Josh Lehman, Andy Myers, Alison Settle, and Paul Skulas of Holy Grale; Terra Weber of Blue Dog Cafe; Levon Wallace, Andrew McCabe and Matt Seamon of Proof on Main; Ryan Rogers of Feast BBQ; and Coby Lee Ming of Harvest.
Phillips is the second Louisvillian to win a food reality show this year. In February, Ashley Holt, then the head pastry chef at the Louisville Country Club, won season three of TLC's Next Great Baker. Holt's prizes included a $100,000, a job at host Buddy Valastro's New Jersey bakery and a feature in Redbook. Holt, who just got married, currently can be seen on TLC's Cake Boss.
Chef Gail Crawford, JCTC culinary arts program coordinator was at Molly Malone's to cheer on her former student. "I can't even begin to express how happy and excited we are for Damaris," Crawford said via a press release. "She set the bar high even as a student. Today, she expects the best from her students. So it doesn't surprise me that she would be the next the Food Network star."
"What an exciting summer it has been to watch her progress," JCTC president Tony Newberry said via a press release. "She represented JCTC, Kentucky and herself beautifully. She is a true talent and we are pleased to count her among both our alumni and faculty."
Still here? Watch Phillips's audition for Food Network Star:
Still craving more Phillips? Here's a clip from her Eat Date Love pilot:
[Photos: Zach Everson]