Just Eyeball It Exclusive Interview: Jamika Pessoa of The Next Food Network Star


The fifth season of the Next Food Network Star started five weeks ago. Ten people who love to cook were all trying to be the next “star” on the Food Network and get their own show. The most well-known contestant of the competition is Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Guy’s Big Bite, Guy Off The Hook), who won the second season competition.

The seventh person eliminated from this season’s competition was Jamika Pessoa. Jamika is 30 and from Atlanta, GA. She is a certified personal chef and businesswoman, who loves exploring international cuisines in the kitchen. Family, friends, and clients rave about her bold twists on traditional dishes, especially those of her Caribbean heritage. Innovative style, sassy personality, and inspiring tenacity are Jamika’s key ingredients to the magic she produces in the kitchen. I had the chance to interview him the day after she was eliminated and here is what she had to say…

Did you try out for any of the past seasons of the Next Food Network Star?

Jamika Pessoa: I tried out for Season 3 as well. I sent in a video tape, but it was awful, I mean really bad.

Why did you try out for the show?

JP: I tried out for season 5 because I have always wanted my own TV show and I still do. Being a chef with a unique style and realness, I figured the Next Food Network Star would be a perfect fit for me. Not to mention I knew the exposure from being on reality TV would be enormous.

Explain your try-out process in detail. How many rounds/interviews did you have to go through? What did you have to do to try out?

JP: I went to the open call in Charleston, South Carolina. I was number 4 in line. With application in hand that I download from the internet, I was ready to turn on the charm. I spoke with the casting director for a just few minutes. I remember making her laugh a lot. She asked me to return the following day to cook on camera. I prepared a salmon dish while answering tons of questions. On the way out of the building, I had a feeling they would call me back because I had such a good time auditioning. I just had fun with it. Next I got a call about a month later to come out to New York and answered a ton of questions and even had a cooking challenge on camera. Finally about two months later I got the call to be on the show and the rest is culinary history.

Did you think you would make the finals to begin with?

JP: I had a pretty good feeling I was going to be on the show. During each round of interviews, I had fun and was myself. I kept the interviewer entertained and smiling. That’s what I do. So the final call was not a huge shock, but an appreciated one.

So last night we saw that the judges called you out on not smiling as much during the Red Lobster challenge. You didn’t seem to have as cheerful of an attitude as we have come to expect. Do you think that was the reason you got eliminated?

JP: Hey, it was down to the final four, someone had to go. I think they finally decided to let me go because my personality was not at its best; but I was more focused on trying to figure out how to incorporate this big brown rock (celery root) into my dish while cooking in the dead heat over a 600 degree grill. Who has time to smile when you are melting poolside?

Why else do you think you were ultimately eliminated then?

JP: In the end, I feel they knew what they were looking for and I was just not it for this gig. They were “just not that into me” and that is fine by me.

What was going through your head during the Red Lobster challenge, especially when Bobby took away all of your ingredients?

JP: Literally, I thought oh s*#@! Can I say that?

When it was down to you and Debbie and Melissa last night did you think you were gone?

JP: Yep. In those situations you know. At that point, I knew Debbie won the mini challenge so she was not leaving, and Mellissa came out swinging, not going down without a fight. Regardless of how much talent and culinary skill I may have had over those two, I knew it was my time.

After which challenge, were you most confident that you were safe and moving to the next week? Meaning which one did you think you did the best at?

JP: I was most safe of course when I won the Good Housekeeping challenge the 2nd week. Make sure you pick up a copy of the July issue!

After what challenge, were you least confident that you were safe and moving to the next week? Meaning which one did you think did the worst at?

JP: The Rachael Ray challenge was a tough call. After re-watching the version on the Rachael Ray website, it was clear that I was not the worst performance; however, in the moment of the show and with everything going on, I kind of convinced myself that I did really really badly. Katie felt she did so well that week, so I thought, man I’m going down then. Thank goodness the judges saw otherwise.

Debbie really hasn’t been honest throughout the competition. She always makes excuses for her mistakes and doesn’t own up to them. What are your thoughts on that? Why do you think she is still around if the judges know this?

JP: During the Red Lobster challenge, I feel it was totally an oversight about the capers. People forget stuff all the time. Hey, I forgot to smile. No big deal. Debbie is an amazing chef and great on camera and the judges recognize that.

How much Food Network did you watch before the competition?

JP: I watched a couple shows before getting on the network myself. The only problem for me is that I can’t watch the Food Network late at night because it makes me hungry.

Favorite Food Network shows?

JP: I like watching Ace of Cakes. I don’t bake so I like to watch those that can. 

Who have you been most excited to meet so far?

JP: I loved meeting Giada!

Anyone from The Food Network you would like to meet that you haven’t yet?

JP: I was so hoping to meet Paula Dean this season but she wasn’t part of the show.

Favorite meal to cook? Favorite meal to eat if different?

JP: No favorite meal to cook, I just cook whatever my clients request or I come up with. I love eating a great pizza. Basically anything covered in cheese and sauce is good for me.

Did you make any friends on the show that you will keep in contact with?

JP: I keep in contact with Michael, Katie, and Debbie the most. 

Any finalist you didn’t like or one you think you will keep in touch with the least?

JP: After living with the same 9 people for so long, at one point they all got on my nerves, and I am sure I got on theirs too. Nevertheless, I love and respect them all equally.

Hardest challenge for you?

JP: The Intrepid. I never want to cook in those stoves again!

Who do you think will win the entire competition?

JP: Can’t call it. Any one of them is a great choice for winner.

Hardest part of the competition for you?

JP: Missing home and my family.

We have seen a few Next Food Network Star contestants get their own shows (Adam from last season, etc.). What do you think your chances of getting your own show are?

JP: I am an optimist, so I think my chances are great!

What kind of show would it be? What would be the theme or “hook” of your show?

JP: I would love to have a traveling cooking show like Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, but with a more upscale dining twist. With my business and traveling, people always ask me the best places to eat around the country, so how about I take a camera along and show them.

If no Food Network future, what is next for you?

JP: I, without a doubt, want to stay in TV and entertainment. Everyone loves my smile, so maybe I’ll do some toothpaste commercials or something. Seriously, the sky is the limit for me. I have a lot of talent in, and outside of the kitchen, so I am just carefully planning out my next move. Trust me it will be a big one no matter what it is!

The Next Food Network Star airs on the Food Network on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT.