After an audience vote tallying 4.5 million, TV fans crowned Justin Warner winner of Food Network Star Sunday night on the program’s Season 8 finale. The self-proclaimed “Rebel With a Culinary Cause” beat out 14 competitors to snag the title and the contest’s grand prize: his own Food Network Show, to be produced by mentor and Star judge Alton Brown.
Warner, a 27-year-old Brooklyn chef and restaurant owner, quickly developed a following with his unorthodox cooking style, food-themed rapping and Elvis-like pompadour. As part of Team Alton, each week Warner squared off against other culinary hopefuls mentored by Food Network hosts/chefs Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis in challenges designed to test cooking skills and on-air personality.
A longtime Brown fan, Warner credits the brainy chef’s hands-off mentorship as a key element in his victory.
“He could have come in and micromanaged, but really, I think he knew that it was very important for me to make him proud,” Warner said in a press conference. “So, by kind of endorsing me and letting me go how I wanted to do it, then I think he knew that he would get the best results from me.”
While Warner claims he is “not the best chef ever,” he also says his own failures have led him to success.
“I think that mentality helped me on the show,” he told USA WEEKEND. “What I learned about myself is that, yes, I’m good at failing, but also, I like teaching. I like getting people amped about food. I didn’t really know that I had that in me.”
Warner plans to use his newly-harnessed teaching abilities on his program, which is scheduled to run in the fall and will feature his signature “wacky food.” Not much else is set in stone, he says.
So, what exactly can fans expect to see on the new show? More rapping, perhaps?
“Expect the unexpected. I don’t know exactly if they would like to use my rhyme enthusiasm,” he jokes. “They’re welcome to, but I think we just need to have a big meeting and see what everyone has to say. We’ll see if those potent lyrics have any place in the food world. We’ll see.”