Get to know the six lovely ladies of “Food Network Star” season nine before the reality culinary show returns this Sunday, June 2.
From the internationally-inspired cuisine of Peru to the farm-to-table mindset of a New York chef, these competitors really do come from different backgrounds, and they all – literally – bring something different to the table. Some are teachers, others professional chefs, and even one has some practice in front of the camera, as she vlogs about food.
While they’re all fierce competitors in their own way, it will be a tough season this time around. Not only will they have to impress the likes of Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson, but also Bobby Flay, Alton Brown, Giada de Laurentiis — and a host of other people who participate in focus groups.
Check out the list of six female “FNS” finalists (as well as the six men) and make your guesses about who has what it takes to become the ninth next “Food Network Star” in the comments below.
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Connie ‘Lovely’ Jackson of Los Angeles, CA
As the baby of her family, Connie got the nickname Lovely at an early age while she was growing up in Chicago, and the name stuck around. She has three culinary-related degrees, including one in culinary management from the Illinois Institute of Art. Today, the 27-year-old works as a private chef for professional athletes and celebrities.
Damaris Phillips of Louisville, KY
Southern Belle Damaris Phillips started to cook at an early age, as she was responsible for dinner every Wednesday night for her large family. Later, she earned her culinary arts degree from Jefferson Community and Technical College, where she now teaches. The 32-year-old’s skills in the classroom just might give her an edge on “Food Network Star” season eight. As she says, “I love food, and I’m good at it, and I’m a good teacher.” She also describes herself as “weird, loud, and inappropriate.”
Daniela Perez-Reyes of Haleiwa, Hawaii
After growing up in Peru, Perez-Reyes followed her dreams by studying and graduating from The Art Institute of San Diego. The 29-year-old also took a course at Le Cordon Bleu Peru. All of her experiences have influenced her cuisine, as she enjoys bringing both Polynesian and Peruvian flavors into the food she makes as a chef de cuisine at a Hawaiian catering company.
Daniela was eliminated in week one of “FNS” season nine.
Danushka Lysek of New York City, NY
The 37-year-old Lysek previously competed on “Chopped.” She’s also worked as a personal chef in both Los Angeles and New York after graduating from culinary school. Today, the opinionated chef enjoys serving farm-to-table cuisine with seasonal ingredients, and also works as an instructor.
Nikki Dinki of New York City, NY
With some on-camera experience already under her belt — she has an online cooking show — Dinki wants to share how she went from being a picky eater to a more well-rounded one. Learning to cook played a big role in that transformation. With a desire to act as well, the 29-year-old combined her two passions by blogging and vlogging about cooking.
Stacey Poon-Kinney of San Diego, CA
Poon-Kinney grew up in the kitchen as her great-grandfather and great-grandmother owned and operated a diner. After dancing for a few years, she returned to her roots and opened a restaurant, The Trails Eatery, which was one of the subjects of “Restaurant: Impossible” season two. While the 34-year-old has a carefree personality, she — like the other “Food Network Star” contestants — is there to play, and win.