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Utahn Booted From Food Network Show

July 15, 2008

By Valerie Phillips Deseret News

Utahn Kelsey Nixon offered up her last sound bites Sunday night for “The Next Food Network Star.”

The Brigham Young University graduate, one of the four remaining finalists, was sent packing from the reality series after guest judge Paula Deen commented that her entree portions were too small.

On Sunday’s show, the finalists went to Las Vegas to cook in a Bobby Flay-style “Throwdown,” where they had to make an ultimate version of their own signature dish while simultaneously creating an ultimate version of their competitor’s signature dish.

While cooking, they also had to respond to questions from Dayna Devon of “Extra.”

“She nailed it, didn’t she?” Deen exclaimed after watching Nixon’s interview.

But Nixon’s strategy to create petite, sophisticated pork loin and chicken parmigiana entrees backfired when Deen commented, “It’s petite in size, and I think it would make a fabulous appetizer.”

The 23-year-old’s other misstep was referring to her recent stint in culinary school. Judge Bob Tuschman warned her in earlier episodes that such comments made her sound too inexperienced to be a cooking authority.

Far from sounding discouraged, Nixon, of North Ogden, sounded positive after being dismissed by the judges, saying she felt lucky to have the experience. “This experience has decided my future. I know more than ever that I will be cooking on television.”

Nixon married her college sweetheart, Robby Egan, Friday and was unavailable for comment. “She’s on her honeymoon, so it’s bad timing for exit interviews,” said Lisa Krueger, the Food Network’s public relations director. (The reality series was filmed last winter.)

In a previous interview with the Deseret News, Nixon said she had the least amount of culinary experience among the finalists. However, her cooking skills shone during several different challenges.

Her tilapia dish was chosen as the best fresh seafood entree and was put on Red Lobster menus nationwide, and her No Nightmare Beef Wellington created with finalist Shane Lyons was tapped for Bon Appetit magazine. She also won a one-minute “technique” video challenge by showing viewers how to french the bones on a rack of lamb.

But her youthful enthusiasm garnered mixed reactions from judges. Tyler Florence, host of “Tyler’s Ultimate,” complimented her energy, but Bob Tuschman, Food Network’s senior vice president, called it “overcaffeinated cheerleader,” an opinion he has since revised.

“At first, I thought her sunny, ever-chipper personality read as fake,” Tuschman wrote in a blog posted Monday morning. “But she is just a rare person. I know she will be back to reclaim a spot in the food television world. Like Shane, I think she just needs to live a bit first.”

As a BYU broadcasting major, Nixon created a cooking show, “Kelsey’s Kitchen,” and did more than 100 segments. She sent the Food Network tapes for several years before making the cut as a finalist.

Nixon could still win a set of kitchen appliances in the Fan Favorite poll. Viewers can vote for their favorite finalists at www.foodnetwork.com.

Since filming the reality series, Nixon has been teaching culinary classes at Sur La Table at The Gateway but may parlay her Food Network experience to other opportunities. Soon after being ousted on the second episode, finalist Kevin Roberts became a celebrity spokesman for Frank’s RedHot sauces.

E-mail: vphillips@desnews.com

(c) 2008 Deseret News (Salt Lake City). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.