So this just happened…  :)

At cooking class tonight (rustic Spanish cuisine…recipes coming soon!), I thought I recognized the blond in the awesome fedora at the other end of the table.  It was one of those try-not-to-be-obvious-I’m-staring-as-I-try-to-figure-out-if-I-really-know-this-person things.  Turns out I was right!

Emily Ellyn was in the house!  For those Food Network fans out there, you might remember Emily from season 8 of The Next Food Network Star.  She was the Retro Rad girl whose culinary POV was turning classics into modern masterpieces.  She’s also appeared (and won!) on Chopped and also (won!) on Cupcake Wars.  

It was definitely like meeting an idol.  I *love* TNFNS and she was the one I’d been rooting for that season.  Unfortunately she did not win, but her dreams are still alive and she’s actively pursuing them.

Best of all was how nice and genuine she was.  What you saw in front of the cameras was definitely not an act.  She’s funny and quirky, and I just adore her urban hippie/hipster vibe.  Plus, she openly and freely shared cooking tips and ideas, without ever “putting on airs.”  She was just a fun gal who had some culinary experience and wanted to share it with folks because that was what made her happy–sharing food and sharing knowledge.

Totally an amazing night.  Fantastic food, lots of learnings, and a chance to meet an idol.  Doesn’t get much better in my book. 

#TBT My very first headshot. I’m lucky to have talented friends like photographer Tyler Golden who volunteered his time on a warm Sunday afternoon to take pictures of me. Of course, it had to be on a budget as I had been unemployed for nearly two years. I just needed something decent to send with my application for “The Next Food Network Star”. I loved those IKEA showrooms and thought their kitchen setups were great. So I figured we should go there for the shoot. We snuck cameras in yellow bags after we learned that no pictures were allowed in the showroom. We had no idea but now it was too late. I was on a mission :) After I found my favorite kitchen, it took us a minute to hide every tag possible. If you’ve been to IKEA, you know there are a lot. It was fun, in a very silly way, to look out for employees and pose for him when time allowed. Lighting was low, but Tyler managed to make the absolute best of this cheap “set” I had provided. The headshot helped get me a YES when I auditioned for the next Food Network Star, and eventually for MasterChef. Especially today, when I’m sharpening my knifes to face a new adventure, this picture holds special meaning. It celebrates the beginning of this crazy ongoing ride.