BYU grad Kelsey Nixon stars in cooking show

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 3 2010 11:30 a.m. MDT

Kelsey Nixon is actually glad that she didn't win the "Next Food Network Star" reality series back in 2008. The BYU grad made it to the final four of the Food Network's competition, but it was Aaron McCargo Jr. who ended up winning his own cooking show.

At the time, the Food Network's senior vice president Bob Tuschman commented that at 23, Nixon seemed too inexperienced to be a cooking authority, and needed to "live a bit first."

Fast forward two years, and Nixon's very own show, "Kelsey's Essentials" will premiere on the Cooking Channel Nov. 6 at 12:30 p.m., Mountain Time (air time varies with cable carriers).

"I guess Bob Tuschman was right in saying I was too young," said Nixon in a phone interview. "I don't think I was ready then. I've grown so much, and learned so much about myself. Now I feel confident and clear about my message in the kitchen. It's all about understanding how I can help the viewers at home. The timing couldn't have been better."

The North Ogden native also recognizes the "unbelievable" support she's received from Utah viewers. She said their votes helped her win the online "Fan Favorite" vote while she was on "The Next Food Network Star," which told the network that people enjoyed watching her on TV.

"So it's partly because of Utah's support that I've been given this opportunity," she added.

Taking Tuschman's advice to heart, Nixon packed a lot of experience into the past two years. She married college sweetheart Robby Egan in the summer of 2008. While he finished an advertising degree at BYU, Nixon taught cooking classes, worked in a restaurant, appeared at local events, and developed recipes for the Zupa's restaurant chain and the Shelf Reliance food storage company. Before she was chosen to compete on "The Next Food Network Star," Nixon had already earned a degree in broadcast journalism from BYU, where she created 100 episodes of her own cooking show, "Kelsey's Kitchen," for iProvo cable TV. She had also earned a culinary arts degree from the Kitchen Academy in Hollywood, and interned at Martha Stewart Living, ABC4's "Good Things Utah" and the Salt Lake Tribune.

"I didn't limit myself to just one area of the culinary industry, I tried to get a taste of everything," she said.

After Robby's graduation, the couple moved to New York City, where he pursued an advertising career and she became a spokesperson for a line of Pyrex cookware products. She also co-hosted a Web cooking show, "Kelsey and Spike Cook," for Food2.com, a subsidiary of the Food Network. The cohost was Spike Mendelsohn, a restaurateur and former "Top Chef" reality series contestant.

"It was a great project to stay involved with the brand," she said. "I felt like I was on the farm team and they were trying me out to see if I could do more camera work."

She also appeared as a judge on "Iron Chef America." Chef Masaharu Morimoto was one of the judges when Nixon was on "The Next Food Network Star," and now, the tables were turned.

"He's probably the most famous and respected Iron Chef, so for me to tell him that there's anything wrong with his food is incredible, because it's all perfect," said Nixon.

When the Food Network began its new Cooking Channel, Nixon was approached about the possibilities.

"The Cooking Channel is focused on younger demographics, and an emphasis on teaching people how to cook," she said.

She was eventually paired with chef Bobby Flay's production company, and in July, they shot 13 episodes for the first season.

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