Food Network Crowns 2 New Stars, Both From Westchester
Finalists (and Westchesterites) Christian Petroni and Jessica Tom shocked audiences everywhere this weekend as they were both declared winners on this season of Food Network Star.
Mentor-judges Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis shocked audiences (not to mention the Final 2) this weekend as they announced that both competitors — Fortina’s chef and Port Chester resident Christian Petroni, and Pleasantville native-turned popular food writer Jessica Tom — would be declared co-winners of Food Network Star’s 14th season.
“Both Jessica and Christian wowed Bobby and Giada and the viewers at home throughout the season with their unique blend of charm and culinary talent,” says Food Network and HGTV President Allison Page. “We are thrilled for Christian and Jessica to join the Food Network family and continue to entertain and inspire fans to follow their dreams.”
We were lucky enough to get in touch with both Petroni and Tom before they set off to film their pilot episodes.
So honored and excited to have made #FoodNetworkStar history with @ChristianPetroni. Even from the beginning, it was always weird to think there would be a "winner". We're all humans with strengths and weaknesses, rough edges and polished surfaces, good days and bad. I'm in awe of everyone standing on this stage and how they sparkle in their own distinct ways: @chefmannyfd @chefkatiedixon @caviarandcrayons @chefpalak @chefsamone @chophappy @skgfoodblog @adamgertler @hbader430 and @chrisvaldes1. Since the day I met them in Orlando, they've inspired me with their tenacity and talent.
Westchester Magazine: After working so hard all season against such talented competitors, what’s it like to be crowned the first co-champions in Food Network Star history?
Christian Petroni: Quite humbling. I’m just happy to be taking the ride. It’s an honor. Jess is awesome. I’m just happy to be here.
Jessica Tom: It’s amazing. I’ve been watching this show from the very beginning and I imagined maybe I could compete in it but I never imagine I could win. We were all so strong and so different, and it was great that the Food Network recognized we all had something different to offer.
How does it feel to double-represent Westchester with another talented local chef?
CP: Oh, it’s the best. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I’m in great company!
JT: It’s so funny, a crazy coincidence. When I first arrived to film and met Christian, I felt this immediate connection. It was Westchester. … I feel very at home when I’m with Christian, so it’s extra special to be co-winners with him.
What can local fans expect next from the author of Food Whore? Are you planning your pilot to be an extension of your book/blog, or will this be a whole new Jess Tom production?
JT: Next is working with the Food Network and figuring out what the plan is going to be. There are a lot of ideas circulating and I’m excited to get started with that!
Chris, you’ve been a Food Network staple for a few years now, but having your own show is a potentially huge time commitment. You’re not going to forget us little people dining here at Fortina’s, are you?
CP: Never in a million years! Anything that promotes me promotes Fortina’s. After my family, everyone who works at the restaurants are the most important people in the world. I would never in a million years forget where I started and where I came from.
We were so happy to see you remembering to taste your own food in the finale! Was that a big shift for you, going from professional chef to televised chef?
CP: Yeah! There’s a learning curve for me because all these year’s I‘ve tasted my food, but I’ve never had to taste my food and describe my food the way we do on the Food Network!
Jess, you opened up your personality so much from premier to finale this season. How did your time on the show change your approach to presenting yourself as a chef?
JT: When I got to the show I thought, 'Oh man I really need to brush up on my cooking skills. The other contestants are all going to be professional chefs and caterers and I’m just a home chef.' What I didn’t realize until later in the competition was I really have a power of my own. I describe food as a profession. You can’t taste the food that’s on the screen when you’re cooking on television so you have to describe it!
You can check out a full recap of the stunning finale at FoodNetwork.com. For more on the winners, head to Petroni’s Fortina’s Pizza in Yonkers, Armonk, Rye Brook Brooklyn, or Stamford; and pick up a copy of Tom’s book Food Whore: A Novel of Dining and Deceit online or wherever books are sold.