Recap: Next Food Network Star, Season 6, Finale!

Well, folks, it's been a good run. Weeks of breathless anticipation, cut-throat camera challenges, and emotional breakdowns have led us to this, our final week together. Who made it through the drama and emerged victorious as the champion of The Next Food Network Star? Read on to find out! [Warning: Spoilers ahead.]

Final Challenge

For their final episode, the contestants had only one challenge—shoot their own three-minute pilot, to be screened before the selection committee and a focus group. The three finalists—Herb Mesa, Aarti Sequeira, and Tom Pizzica—were appropriately terrified. But then they found out that Food Network megastar Rachael Ray would be there to provide guidance and nasal advice. Herb had this to say:

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Herb's pretty freakin' happy to see Rachael. [Photographs: Leah Douglas]

After a brief consultation with Ms. Ray, the three move on to shooting their pilot. Herb starts out nervous and awkward, and I was afraid he might lapse into his old days of weight-conscious, family-missing blubbery. But no! He craftily taped pictures of his kids and wife onto the camera, and then became much more comfortable before the lens. His egg-white frittata looked almost good enough to convince me that egg-white frittatas can be edible.

Aarti was up next, and her nerves once again started to get the best of her. She even began to close her eyes and pray, seeking guidance from the gods of food television (Guy Fieri, Aaron McCargo Jr., etc.). But she pulled through, making a naan pizza that has serious potential of deliciousness. And her cheery demeanor and pretty hair flower (which still causes my mother to exclaim, "Why is there a flower in her hair?!" every week) added to the charm.

Finally, "Big Chef" Tom was up for filming. I gotta say, he does not dress to impress. Flannels and cords? Are we screening on national television or headed for a basement concert? In any event, he seemed to have the fewest issues getting comfortable before the camera—and Rachael loved his chicken with marinated mushrooms.

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These people are much better dressed than I am as I write this.

Time for the ultimate test—a screening before a room of "typical" Food Network viewers. I have to say, the first thing I noticed was that these individuals were impeccably well-dressed and -groomed. Now I know they're on TV and all, but this was simply not realistic. I have never worn heels while watching Food Network. Also, there is usually a dish of actual food by my side. If NFNS was going for realism here, well frankly, they failed me.

But anyway. The pilots all turned out really, really great. All three finalists looked professional, were entertaining and relatable, and to be honest I would watch any of the three shows being pitched. But now is not the time for compliments—now is the time for...

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Face-to-face with destiny.

The Final Judgment

After a period of reflection and discussion, the judges stand before the finalists. On the wall hang pictures of other Food Network stars, and either Tom, Aarti, or Herb's face would soon hang beside them (in epically distorted size). I could barely breathe as I waited for the curtain to fall and reveal that the winner of this season's Next Food Network Star is...

Aarti Sequeira! Woooooooo! I've been rooting for Aarti from the beginning, and I'm so glad to see her get a chance to share her Indian cuisine with the country—nay, the world! Check in later this week for an interview with the beflowered lady herself. Congrats, Aarti!!

What did you think of the final showdown, eaters? Did the right contestant take home the gold?

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves consuming and learning about as much food as possible. She blogs at Feasting on Providence.

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