Food Network Star 2012 came to an exciting close on July 22 as the identity of the newest cooking superstar-to-be was revealed. But who took the title: Michele Ragussis, Yvan Lemoine, Martie Duncan, or Justin Warner?
Show mentor Bobby Flay kicked off the hour by welcoming all 15 contestants back for the big reveal. What followed was a pre-taped overview of the entire season, from episode one through last week's elimination, which featuring the shocking inclusion of an extra finalist in the final "three."
Back in the studio, Bobby checked in with the four remaining hopefuls. Justin, the self-termed "rebel with a culinary cause," called the experience "so surreal," while Martie said it was "overwhelming." Michele said she felt "honored," and Yvan copped to being excited but "extremely nervous." Giada DeLaurentiis said her protegé, Yvan, was her very first choice, while Alton Brown confirmed that Justin and Martie were his first two choices. Bobby said he "could not deny" Michele when she promised him to take him "to the promised land of victory."
Up next, a segment featuring competitiveness between the teams aired. Team Bobby accused Team Alton of being intimidated by their cooking chops, but Team Alton laughed it off, calling Team Bobby rude. Martie explained "they wouldn't even speak to us," and Team Bobby looked shocked by the accusation. When asked how Alton felt about having his team labeled the "nerds," he said he'd mentored them to be "individuals" with their own identities. Giada had no problem with her team's label, the cheerleaders, noting "there are worse labels" and "we'll take it." Bobby agreed that the "jocks" label fit his team's collective "take no prisoners" attitude.
Show judge Susie Fogelson took over after the mentors waxed poetic on their experiences, and revealed that America had cast a whopping four and a half million votes after last week's show. In the interest of moving closer to the big reveal, she and Bob Tuschman narrowed the field to three by eliminating Martie from contention. Bob noted that she had "many, many fans," but not quite enough to get the win. Martie called it a "bittersweet moment" and praised her competitors for teaching her so much. Alton called it a mere "bump in the road" and said he was sure that she'd accomplish what she aimed to accomplish.
Up next, Bobby revealed the results of an anonymous poll asking the finalists who was the most competitive in the bunch, and Nikki Martin was the winner. The title of "cockiest competitor" went to Malcolm Mitchell. The "oddest couple" award went to Justin and Martie.
After a segment showing the mentors in silly mode, the judges again turned to Bobby, Giada, and Alton for more thoughts on mentoring. Bobby confirmed that he'd made the right choices in his five finalists—Michele, Nikki, Eric Lee, Cara Sigle, and Malcolm—and called Eric's elimination the biggest mistake of the show. Susie turned to Alton, who admitted that it was hard for him to "listen" to his proteges, who included Martie, Justin, Emily Ellyn, Judson Allen, and Cristie Schoen. Giada admitted that she'd "learned to have more patience" and that "part of life is the journey" while mentoring Yvan, Ippy Aiona, Martita Jara, Linkie Marais, and Josh Lyons.
Up next, a segment featuring some of the tougher moments from the Pitch Room aired. Bob admitted that when Eric and Ippy went against each other, he'd been in favor of keeping Eric around, but Susie made an "impassioned" plea to keep Ippy, and she won. Bob also shared that the mentors' comments had played great roles in their decisions. He called the Pitch Room his "favorite part" of the show, since it gave him a "close up" look at several of the hopefuls.
Pre-taped finalist refreshers followed, giving viewers one last look at the last three standing prior to the big reveal. After a break, Justin, Yvan and Michele and their mentors joined Bob, Susie, and network President Brooke Johnson for the long-awaited announcement.
A sheet dropped from the wall, revealing Food Network Star 2012 winner Justin Warner's photo. An emotional Justin said he'd never expected to be accepted by America, while Alton encouraged him to "keep breathing" as the news sank in. And thus ended the reality cooking competition's latest season. Look out for Justin's new show this fall.