JCTC chef becomes TV’s “Next Food Network Star”

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Chef Damaris Phillips felt a long-held dream come true Sunday night when she was named TV’s “Next Food Network Star.”


The win for the Jefferson Com-munity and Technical College Culinary Arts faculty member followed a challenging 10-week competition and 59 hours of voting by viewers and supporters.

Winners of the program, receive their own show on the national network. Phillips’ show will premier this fall.

“I am overjoyed. I can’t believe it,” Phillips said in an interview with Food Network after her win. The Louisville chef said the first thing she would do was hug her family and then write a “lot, a lot, a lot of thank you notes.”

Phillips was surrounded by cheering family, friends and supporters at a viewing party Sunday at Molly Malone’s in Louisville’s Highland’s neighborhood, including Chef Gail Crawford, JCTC Culinary Arts program coordinator and Phillips’ former professor.

“I can’t even begin to express how happy and excited we are for Damaris,” Crawford said. “She set the bar high even as a student. Today, she expects the best from her students. So it doesn’t surprise me that she would be the next Food Network star.”

Phillips is thought to be the first community college instructor to compete on the show.

Her progress also was followed closely by JCTC faculty, staff and students, including college President Tony Newberry, who never missed an episode.

“What an exciting summer it has been to watch her progress,” he said. “She represented JCTC, Kentucky and herself beautifully. She is a true talent and we are pleased to count her among both our alumni and faculty.”

Her Southern point of view, sense of humor, and charm were cited by her fans as reasons for their support. But many viewers said they enjoyed the fact that Phillips could actually “teach” as well as entertain.

Food Network host and “Food Network Star” judge Bobby Flay told the network, “I love that Damaris is from the South. She has that Kentucky flavor, so hopefully there will be lots of bourbon in the food.”

Host and judge Alton Brown said Phillips advantage is that she is a teacher and will be able to share that with the audience. He also said “She’s charming. She’s lovely. She’s funny.”

Phillips, who often speaks about her passion for teaching and her students, doesn’t know what the future will bring, but hopes to find a way to continuing teaching for Jefferson, in addition to her Food Network program.

In an interview last week with Brown, Phillips said that food and cooking were important to her because of the way food helped people connect to things that were important to them, such as family.

“If I can bring people to the place they do feel connected, do feel loved or do feel good, then that is something to invest your life in,” she said. “I’ll do that in any way possible (whether) that’s a show …. or in the classroom.”

While Phillips waits to see what’s next, the college is planning a celebration for her.  However, both Crawford and Newberry assure that Phillips won’t have to do the cooking.

JCTC offers a culinary arts program.

While the major courses pertaining to the program have to be completed at the Louisville campus, several of the general education courses can be completed at the Carrollton Campus.


Heather Yocum is Counselor/Faculty Instructor at JCTC Carrollton.