'Food Nextwork Star': Meet Penny Davidi of Los Angeles
Season 7 of "Food Network Star" kicks off Sunday night with three SoCal competitors all vying to be the next Guy Fieri. We chatted with the local finalists in advance of the new show. Yesterday, it was Jyll Everman. Today, we meet Penny Davidi of Los Angeles, restaurateur and former owner of Pizza Rustica, which she helped turn into a successful franchise:
This much is guaranteed: Penny is going to be the talk of Season 7. She teeters in on impossibly high heels and never stops. Before the first episode is over, she'll be labeled a cougar, threated with bodily injury ("I'll literally beat you over the head," her nemesis tells her) and she'll receive high praise in the judge's room.
Susie Fogelson, Food Network's senior vice president of marketing and brand strategy, who is constantly chiding contestants for not staying true to their authentic selves, says of Davidi: "She really is an empowered woman. Whether you like it or not, Penny is who she is."
Season 7 of "Food Network Star" kicks off Sunday night with three SoCal competitors all vying to be the next Guy Fieri. We chatted with the local finalists in advance of the new show. Today, we meet Penny Davidi, 39, of Los Angeles.
She's not surprised she was chosen to be among the 15 finalists. "I knew I had what it takes to make it and to bring a new culinary point of view of new flavors, textures, spices," says Davidi, 39. She said Fogelson's comment is spot on. "I am totally about female empowerment. You can do it do if I can do it, and I’ve never gone to culinary school."
She wasn't intimated by her lack of cooking prowess, but she did feel like she needed to bring her A-Game to a competition where many of the competitors were classically trained. If the first episode is any indication, it leads to fireworks at every turn.
"Watch out 'Top Chef,'" she said. "This season is over the top. Everyone was truly truly skilled. You really had to step it up with every challenge...I felt like I needed to step it up that much more and really excel over those that were schooled.”
She says her goal is to "bring sexy back into the kitchen," and if she wins she wants to have a show called "Stilettos in the Kitchen" cause that's exactly what she wears when she's cooking for her two teenage girls.
"I like to bring a bit of that sexiness into the kitchen," she says. "I just want to give that same feeling of empowerment to women out there. In January of 2010 I decided 'I want to be on the Food Network.' And look where that got me? That's female empowerment."
She says there's an added reason why she should win: She brings a completely unique point of view: "I want to be the first Middle Eastern ever in the history of the network. It’s huge for them. It will be so impactful...This is what I want. Rachael Ray did it. Giada did it. I think it's time for a Middle Eastern Cook on the Food Network. This is what I want."
"'Stilettos in the Kitchen' means bringing a little bit of ethinc flair to an American palette. 'Let me introduce you to my culture, and let me show you how I embrace yours.' I think it will have an impact on people...It will give people a different vision of the Middle East...If I could bring just a little bit of that, then I am more than happy.”
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Photo: Food Network