During her audition for “The Next Food Network Star” reality show, Colombe Jacobsen-Derstine ’00 had 45 minutes to cook a chicken—she opted for a Colombian soup—while fielding questions about her willingness to be sequestered for a month without books or contact with the outside world.
Her motivation? To “show people that eating well can be easy, fun, and simple—and their lives can be better as a result.”
After making the cut in January 2007, Jacobsen-Derstine, a “core fusion” exercise instructor in Manhattan, found substitutes for her classes and moved into a carriage house with 10 other food lovers. From the moment they woke up until late into the night, the chefs were monitored as they competed to host a six-show series of their own. “The biggest challenge was living in an environment of manufactured intensity. There was no outlet or independence,” she said.
A part-time personal chef, Jacobsen-Derstine specializes in healthy, primarily vegetarian cooking. On the show, which aired over the summer, she was “angled as the hippy, crunchy, granola type.” She won the first challenge with a butternut squash salad (the recipe is listed on www.foodnetwork.com), but was voted off the program following the “stadium food” contest in the third week. The judges loved her fresh salsa, she said, but they couldn’t get past the jarred cheese she served with her nachos.
Upon returning home, she received a per diem allowance for the duration of the show’s taping, so as not to reveal her early departure, and returned to teaching her classes in March. Her aim, she admits, was never solely focused on winning, but the entire process—which proved to be a great adventure.
“Being on the show wasn’t just about cooking, but creativity,” she said. At that, she raised a glass of homemade hibiscus tea. “Isn’t this refreshing?”
—Sarah Norris MFA ’05