Amy Finley crowned 'The Next Food Network Star' third-season champ
By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 07/23/2007
Amy Finley, a 33-year-old mom, freelance writer and caterer from San Diego, CA, was revealed to be The Next Food Network Star'sthird-season winner during last night's live finale of the Food Network reality competition series.
As The Next Food Network Star's third-season champion, Finley will now star in her own six-episode Food Network television series that is scheduled to premiere in October. She also received a 2008 Mercury Mariner.
"Thank you. Thank you very much," said Finley after it was revealed she was the winner by Food Network star Emeril Lagasse and The Next Food Network Star judge Bobby Flay. "I'm going to enjoy being your gourmet next door!"
Finley defeated Rory Schepisi, a 30-year-old restaurant owner from Vega, TX, to take home The Next Food Network Star 3 title, a victory awarded to her by home viewer votes cast after last Sunday night's pre-taped penultimate episode.
Finley ended up being crowned The Next Food Network Star's third-season champion despite not having originally been one of competition's final two finalists. When the show had originally finished production earlier this year, The Next Food Network Star's judges had decided that Schepisi and Josh "Jag" Garcia deserved to be the season's last two finalists.
"I've had a really fantastic time," said Finley after she learned of her elimination on the cusp of the finals. "Who knows what the future will bring? I still think 'the gourmet next door' is a great idea. We'll see if it pops up again some place."
However Finley didn't have to wait all that long to find what the future held for her -- after the show premeired in June, allegations that Garcia had lied about his military background and education emerged, resulting in Garcia deciding to withdraw from the culinary competition. After Garcia withdrew, The Next Food Network Starjudges and Food Network executives Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson decided that rather than just calling off the home viewer voting and declaring Schepisi the victory by default, Finley would replace Garcia in the show's finals.
As for Schepisi, she's quickly becoming the Rob Mariano of cable reality competition programs. Prior to competing on The Next Food Network Star, Schepisi had also previously appeared as a contestant on Popularity Contest, a 2005 CMT reality series that took 10 city folks and plopped them in Vega (population 936), where they spent 28 days competing in various challenges and attempting to be convince residents to award them the show's $100,000 grand prize.
Just like The Next Food Network Star, Schepisi made it to the competition's finals, however -- similar to her Food Network experience -- Vega residents decided to give the money to Alex Slattery, a Major League Baseball scout. Despite losing the residents' vote, Schepisi fell for a local cowboy and has lived in the town since.