Personal chef Jamika Pessoa made it to the final four on The Next Food Network Star, but the Atlanta native perhaps focused too much on the food last night, and not enough on mugging for the camera. Still, Jamika has no regrets about her performance. As she said on the show, we haven’t seen her at her very best—yet.
What happened on the show last night from your perspective?
For the live demo on the morning news they just really wanted to see how we rolled with the punches. The guy who was cuing me just stopped and I didn’t know if I had two minutes or two seconds left to talk. I thought I held my own in that one, considering I didn’t know it was a prank. For the Red Lobster challenge…let me set the scene for you: it’s sunny Miami, like 100 degrees out , the wood fire grill is like 600 degrees, you don’t know what you’re going to cook, and then they start the clock and they take your ingredients away or give you something else. With my challenge, I had my plan in mind, and then Bobby and Michael decide to give me celery root and take away my pineapple. Luckily I’d done celery root before—raw, in salad—I decided to try to grill it since the challenge was to use the grill.
How did you feel about your performance?
I worked it out. I got a little frustrated. Here’s the thing for me: I’m a chef and moments like that are intense. You’ve got to get the food out. It’s not about personality for me. It’s not about smiling. It’s about getting the dish together. I’ve got the personality. I have the smile, the charismatic personality they’re looking for—it just didn’t come out. I was more focused on the food.
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Did you think you were going be going home?
Getting to that stage of the game, it’s like somebody has to go, and it just happened to be me that night. At that point I was so proud of myself for doing it and getting that far—you can take my pineapple and give me celery root, who cares! It was all fun and all fair. Going through the challenge, you kind of sense that it might be time to go.
If you had to choose a favorite dish you made on the show, what would it be?
I’m proud of the Good Housekeeping challenge and I’m glad that I won with [a dish] that’s so simple and soulful. Back home I am known for my collard greens so to be able to put it on TV, and now the world knows me for my collard greens—I have been getting so many calls and so many emails from people wanting me to do that dish for them. I was very proud of that.
What have you been doing since the show and what’s your plan now?
I’ve been traveling a lot. I definitely want to do more things on television because I really love being in front of the camera. Of course I’ve been getting calls from people saying they want to work with me and it’s just a matter of figuring out what the best direction is for me to go. I may even try another reality series. I was laughing with friends that maybe I’ll try out for Dancing with the Stars. Who knows? The sky’s the limit.
Who are you rooting for to win the show?
I’m gonna have to root for my girl Debbie now. When I left the show I told her, “I’m handing you the torch. If I can’t take the title, I want you to have it.” I think she’s very creative, very clever. I don’t know a lot about Korean food so I learned a lot from her about the culture and the cuisine just cooking next to her on the show. She can teach people and she’s great on camera. I think she should win.