The winner of Food Network’s reality competition show Food Network Star was announced Sunday night, and after 11 episodes of grueling competition, it was Damaris Phillips who beat out Rodney Henry and Russell Jackson in a viewer vote. The ninth winner in the show’s history, the Louisville, Ky., native will be bringing her Southern charm to her very own show.
Phillips, who teaches culinary arts at her alma mater Jefferson Community and Technical College, won over the judges and home voters with her unique take on Southern cuisine, and her pilot, which had her teaching hopeless romantics how to cook for their special lady, clearly beat out Henry’s idea to turn any food into a pie and Jackson’s half-baked "devilish" formula. Not only was her idea more fleshed out, Phillips’ natural charisma and perky friendliness came across as far more authentic than the images her challengers attempted to convey.
"Damaris' quirky charm, along with her natural ability to entertain and teach endeared her to viewers and the selection committee from the get-go," Food Network senior vice president Bob Tuschman said in a release. "Her unique idea of pairing Southern food and romance is fresh and fun, and her love of food shines through and makes her a joy to watch."
In the show’s earlier seasons, the entire series, including the winner’s first episode, were shot in advance of the finale, with the pilot airing several days after the winner was announced. Last season ushered in a new formula in which the audience voted and the winner was announced live, but winner Justin Warner never ended up getting his own series, just a one-time special. Hopefully this time around the winner won’t meet the same fate.