Marketing Iceologist, Heidi, recently had the opportunity to chat with Emily Ellyn, finalist on this year’s Next Food Network Star. As part of Alton Brown’s “Team Geek”, Emily won the hearts of viewers and judges with her unique Retro Rad culinary point of view and infectious energy. Emily exudes joy on camera and off.

We caught up with Emily as she was making potato pirogies for a television appearance. Some people can’t walk and chew gum. Emily can cook and a conduct an interview at the same time. That’s Retro Rad multi-tasking!

Retro Rad celebrity chef, Emily Ellyn

Iceologist: The Iceologists believe in supporting our customers.  When we heard that one of  chefs at Teak Grill (Easy Ice customer) was competing on Next Food Network Star, we were immediately on Team Emily!

Emily:  Ahh… I love you guys.  Easy Ice has been a lifesaver at Teak!  We had inherited a disaster of an ice machine.  It was always breaking and never worked right.  We had to send guys out to buy those big bags of ice — you know, 50 pounders!

Then we learned about Easy Ice.  You guys totally saved the day!  Everything works great now.

Iceologist:  What first interested you in cooking?

Emily:  Mother’s milk?!  I have known I wanted to cook and be part of the hospitality industry since birth!  My mother used to prop my sister and I up in our bassinets and we would watch her cook, can and jam. When we got older we were cooking right beside her!

At about the age of 12 I over heard the “adults’ talking about my second cousin who had gone to the Culinary Institute of America and it was perceived as THE BEST!!  So, right there and then I had my sights set on the CIA. I applied when I was 17 and on my 18th birthday I got a phone call that said I got accepted and did I want to start in July or October! I said October…moved to the CIA and started my culinary education.  

I was always working through school, but at the CIA I assisted the chefs with a lot of continuing education classes and then after my bachelors program at the CIA I stayed on and did a teaching assistantship where I taught all the baking students how to own and operate a café!  Right then and there I knew I would be teaching, consulting, or mentoring people for the rest of my life!  Lots of education and I am still teaching – my goal is to be on TV so I can touch a greater audience!

Iceologist:  What’s your culinary training & background?

Emily:  What do you get when you mix down-home values with quirky up-town flair and a solid culinary education?   A deliciously unique personality!

I earned my bachelor’s in Restaurant Management at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and worked as a teaching assistant at the CIA until moving to Paris to attend graduate school.  During the next two years, I earned two Master’s degrees in Hospitality Management — one in Paris and one from University of Central Florida’s Rosen College.

I’m currently pursuing finishing up my Ph.D. in Food Service Education at University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

Iceologist:  What was the process for getting selected to compete on Next Food Network Star?

Emily:  Well, I never wanted to try out for a cooking competition, but for years people were telling me about the Next Food Network Star and how I should try out! Needless to say one of those friends signed me up and made me do it.

I was working at Sublime Doughnuts at the time helping in the process of expanding the Doughnut shop into an international franchise and I walk into the shop at 4:30 AM and all the guys are standing there with Cheshire cat grins on their faces (odd! I was thinking they all need or already had too much coffee).  I was then given a packet of papers and they said I was going to Washington, DC.  

I quickly responded “I am not going to DC to deliver the doughnuts…I am a terrible driver and the doughnuts will not make it there!”  They all said, No you are not going to DC to deliver doughnuts you are going to DC to become the next food network star!  And I went!  

It was an open casting call and unlike any casting call that I have seen on these shows I floated through.  It felt like magic!  I walked in, put my name on the list, had enough time to read over the paper work, my name was called, and I was sitting in front of one of the talent scouts!

I was asked within 5 minutes to come back the next day with a cooked dish and demo.  I did!  I was called in to interview with Alton Brown (less than ONE MILE down the road from the doughnut shop – months before I was in Orlando – what were the chances?) and the rest is history .  When I got the final call I was “soooo happy!”  

I remember when I got the phone call from the Food Network producers that it was Thanksgiving and I was at my mom’s house in Ohio preparing Thanksgiving dinner.  I said,  “I could not ask for a better thing to celebrate than to be cooking on TV and making them proud!”

Look for Part 2 of our chat with Emily coming later this week. You’ll love her stories describing how she developed her Retro Rad philosophy!