Well, BYU grad Kelsey Nixon survived her third week on "The Next Food Network Star."

Most of the time, I watch TV only sporadically. But now, with a Utahn on the show, I'm making a point to tune in every Sunday night at 8 to watch her compete for her shot at hosting her own cooking series.

The crazy, beat-the-clock challenges make for interesting TV, but I'm not sure they're the best predictor of who makes a good cooking-show host. I was checking out the Food Network's Web site and found a "Where Are They Now?" post from last year's winner, Amy Finley. She wrote that after completing the six-episode series "The Gourmet Next Door," she opted not to continue to do any more.

Finley, who is currently living in France, said she found that shooting a food show is "very, very, very hard." And, she added, her nervousness was compounded by a sense of guilt that she shouldn't have won the competition.

Those who followed last year's show may recall that Finley was eliminated before the show's finale. Then questions surfaced about the background of one of the two remaining finalists. Joshua Adam Garcia, "Jag," admitted to some heavy-duty resume padding. As a Marine, he was never deployed in Afghanistan, nor did he graduate from culinary school.

So Jag resigned from the competition, Amy was reinstated and ended up winning over the other finalist, Rory Schepisi.

The situation raised some questions about how well the contestants were screened. But after reading Finley's post, it also made me wonder how she could make it all the way through such a rigorous competition supposedly designed to prove her fitness for the job, only to decide it wasn't right for her after all. Maybe a lot of the challenges are fun to watch, but they aren't always good predictors of who will still be around a few years from now.

If success comes from persistence, Nixon may have the edge. She has been sending the Food Network tapes for years, wrote Food Network Senior Vice President Bob Tuschman in his blog about the judging process.

He added, "She's a sweet, high-energy, passionate foodie and darn if her 'I'll keep coming back til you say yes' attitude didn't finally wear us down and win us over." (This is the same guy who told her to tone down her "overcaffeinated cheerleader" persona the first week.)

The biggest "NFNS" success story so far is the second-season winner, Guy Fieri. His spiky bleached-blonde hair seems to be everywhere, from his Food Network shows "Guy's Big Bite" and "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," to T.G.I. Friday ads. The winners from the first season, Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh, have a show called "Party Line With the Hearty Boys."

Some past finalists have been tapped for other TV gigs. For instance, Nathan Lyon, who competed with Fieri in 2006, now has his own series, "A Lyon in the Kitchen," on the Discovery Health Channel.

And back to the Food Network's screening of TV hosts, what about Robert Irvine? His "Dinner Impossible" contract wasn't renewed by the Food Network last spring, after the St. Petersburg Times reported he fibbed about being knighted by Queen Elizabeth and working as a personal chef to U.S. presidents. Irvine appeared in this season's "NFNS" second episode, which had already been filmed before his credibility problems came to light.


E-mail: vphillips@desnews.com