Could the next Food Network Star be a UCF student?
Emily Ellyn, who is finishing up her Ph.D. at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, will compete on the upcoming eighth season of Food Network Star. Ellyn, who also teaches a food service course at UCF, will vie with 14 others in the Food Network series.
“I always wanted to be a television cook,” Ellyn said.
Ellyn, the operations manager of Sublime Doughnuts in Atlanta, was coaxed into applying for and participating in a casting call in Washington, D.C., by her coworkers. They did not tell her about it until the day before the call.
“They didn’t tell me until the last minute, so I couldn’t say no,” Ellyn said. “I always dreamed of being on TV, and my friends knew me well enough to make it happen.”
Ellyn flew out to the capital and was asked to return the next day. Ellyn flew back to Atlanta and then back to Washington, D.C., to finish the casting call.
“It was like dominoes — boom, boom, boom — everything fell into place,” Ellyn said.
Then, she had an interview with celebrity chef Alton Brown followed by a call back to welcome her as a participant.
“I was shocked and honored,” Ellyn said.
Ellyn described her style as “retro-rad.” Much like her fashion sense, she tries to take the old and make it new. She collects old cookbooks that came with old appliances that often feature recipes that are not used anymore, such as gelatin dishes or family-sized meatloaf.
Ellyn said that now, dishes are often smaller and healthier. She tries to remake the dishes to be more relevant to today’s eaters, using modern appliances and techniques to do so.
The Ph.D. she is earning is in food service education, and she teaches classes of about 60 students. She believes that being able to teach a large audience how to cook a dish should help her do the same in front of a camera.
Ellyn, who has degrees from The Culinary Institute of America in New York and Academie Internationale de Management in France, credits her education as her edge in the competition.
She said it is rare for someone to have as much education as she does and that others typically learn on the job at restaurants. Ellyn, however, has worked throughout her schooling and benefits from both her work and school experience.
Ellyn grew up on a farm and credits her passion for cooking partly to having fresh, self-grown ingredients to work with when she started cooking “as soon as [she] could pull a chair in front of the stove.”
The casting special airs May 12 at 9 p.m., which will introduce viewers to the contestants. The premiere episode is at 9 p.m. May 13 on Food Network. On this episode, the contestants will arrive in the Food Network Star kitchen in New York City to create their own pop-up restaurant from the ground up with limited budget and time.
Alton Brown will join celebrity chefs Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis as hosts. Josh Lyons of Jupiter is the only other Florida contestant.