A great season of Food Network Star recently ended with Lenny McNab being named the winner. We started watching the show two years ago and were immediately hooked! We recently caught up with Martie Duncan, a contestant from Season 8, to find out what she has been up to since the show.
FP: Two seasons of Food Network Star have passed since our last interview. Tell us what have you been up to.
MD: Hard to believe it has been that long… 2 years! I have had so much fun; I’ve traveled the US for various live shows and appearances… everywhere from my home state of Alabama to Alaska.
As you know, earlier this year, I was called back to Food Network Star as one of two all-time fan favorites to compete in the Star Salvation episodes of Season 10. That was pretty thrilling-since it is the fans that matter most.
I also just launched a new website: martieduncan.com – for now, my old site is still up until I have the chance to incorporate all of the content into my new site. I expect to merge them by the end of the year. I did every single bit of the site myself…. graphics to content to navigation…the whole thing.
MD: I’m currently working on a charity cookbook project that benefits our local library and I’m working (finally) on my own first book. I helped cook the world record pot of gumbo last year… over 5,000 pounds and we’re going to break that record in October this year if we can. I’ve appeared and also cooked at events with American Idol winner Taylor Hicks and opened up for Bobby Flay and Giada at different events. I invited several of my Season 8 cast mates to appear with me at different events in Alabama. Michele, Linkie, Nikki, Emily, and Ippy have all been here. I haven’t gotten Justin here yet. Maybe he will come when Alton is here in October. Wouldn’t that be fun?
FP: Justin and Alton together again? That would be interesting for sure!
Now that some time has passed, what advice has really stuck with you from your experience on FNS? How have you incorporated it into your regular practice and routine?
MD: I suppose the thing that has become practice is the way I organize in the kitchen before I cook. When I went to the show, I had never worked in a professional kitchen or taken a cooking class. I was a wanderer; I would waste way too much time looking around and make way too many trips to the pantry. It is a good thing I’m a pretty fast runner! I had never worked in anyone else’s kitchen before so the first few episodes were a learning curve. I learned how to prep and organize from Justin Warner- he was a master at that skill since he has worked in restaurants his entire life and now is the chef in his own place.
I still hear Alton Brown in my head at times telling me to tell the end of the story first and then, if there is time, to work my way back to the beginning. That’s one I’m still trying to master. The clock will never be my friend.
This time around I’d say I learned that you should always speak up for yourself- don’t wait because it may be too late.
FP: One day, we’ll make it down to Birmingham, AL. Any new places in area or other cities you’ve visited that you recommend for good meals?
MD: Goodness. Yes! Did you know I visited over 200 restaurants around Alabama last year? I visited 81 for my annual Alabama Restaurant Week campaign alone and sampled over 256 different dishes, desserts, and/or drinks as I made my way around the state. Many of them were in my hometown of Birmingham and it is very much a foodie town. We have our iconic restaurants like Chef Frank Stitt’s Highlands Bar & Grill, a finalist for the James Beard award for Restaurant of the Year for several years now. Chef Stitt also has three other restaurants: Chez Fonfon, Bottega and Bottega Cafe. I frequent all of them.
We have another Beard award winner in Chef Chris Hastings at Hot and Hot Fish Club. He also beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef. Because these chefs have trained so many other fine chefs, wonderful new places are popping up all the time.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. We have everything from soul food joints like Eagle’s Restaurant– Andrew Zimmern was there recently, landmark places like Fife’s and The Bright Star in Bessemer, which also received a Beard award as an American Classic…. and we have not even begun to talk about our BBQ joints! Anyone wanting restaurant recommendations in Alabama can hit me up. I probably have the perfect spot and likely even have photos to share from my travels.
FP: Sounds like we’ll have to book a trip! We have to ask, any new foodie pleasures? 🙂
MD: I just returned from a wonderful trip to Juneau, Alaska where I had things like salmon candy- like a salmon jerky of sorts– and my new friend Tracy from Tracy’s King Crab Shack treated me to some fresh, never been frozen King Crab that was absolutely divine. I went salmon fishing and caught a King and a Coho. Folks should put a week in Juneau on their bucket list… I can’t wait to go back one day.
FP: Sounds like we have another city to add to our list! It was great catching up with you Martie. We wish you continued success!