Weekly Feature

2013-05-29 / Local News

Clarence native hopes to become next ‘Food Network Star’


Clarence native Nikki Dinki stars in the ninth season of “Food Network Star” premiering June 2 on the Food Network. Clarence native Nikki Dinki stars in the ninth season of “Food Network Star” premiering June 2 on the Food Network. Clarence native Nikki Dinki has come a long way from the days when she was known by friends and family as “Picky Nikki” — a nickname that resulted from her limited palate.

Dinki has been chosen as one of 12 finalists for season 9 of Food Network’s reality TV show “Food Network Star,” which premieres at 9 p.m. this Sunday, and will be able to showcase just how far her taste buds have come in the years since she left Clarence for New York City.

Originally, Dinki left Clarence to pursue a degree in photography. But feeling self-conscious when eating out in public with friends, she decided to tackle her food issues head on.

“I was still eating ramen noodles, and it was embarrassing,” she said. “It was hard to go out to a dinner or anything, so I started trying different foods and went through this transition where if I tried something enough times, I liked it.”

Around the same time, she started watching the Food Network a lot. That led to experimenting in the kitchen with different foods and ingredients.

“When I started experimenting in the kitchen, that caused me to mess up a lot of dishes,” Dinki joked. “I just started watching shows, reading books and it became an extreme hobby of mine.”

Dinki would go on to create an online cooking show, eventually turning it into a radio program and blog — quite the success for a hobby that was born out of frustration.

That success helped land her an audition for “Food Network Star,” a cooking competition series featuring celebrity chefs such as Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis. She said the competition was what drew her to the show.

“It’s what I love about ‘Food Network Star’ and why I wanted to be on it — because it’s about the competition,” she said. “It’s a reality show, and they show what really happens.”

Dinki said she is a little nervous about how she is going to come across when the show begins to air because the challenges were intense, adding that she is the only competitor without formal culinary training and had never been subjected to time restraints.

“I wear my heart on my sleeve during a cooking challenge,” Dinki said. “I don’t really know how I will look, and it will be very interesting to see how it comes across.

“I think the biggest thing was I am a home chef. I cook for two people with a knife in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. I’m just not used to cooking fast.”

In fact, tears welled up in her eyes during the first challenge because she was unaware of where any of the items in the pantry were located. But she was determined to battle through the frustration and show that home cooks can hang with the big names in the business.

“That was probably the scariest things ever when you don’t even know what ingredients are available,” Dinki said. “I’m cooking next to people that just beat Bobby Flay on ‘Iron Chef’ and have seven restaurants — I just didn’t know if I could beat the clock.”

Find out if she did this Sunday at 9 p.m.

email: sjagord@beenews.com

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