The Food Network has announced that it has begun production on the third season of The Next Food Network Star, a reality competition in which 11 contestants will compete for the chance at their own six-episode Food Network television show.  The series will premiere on Sunday, June 3 at 9PM ET/PT.

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In each episode, contestants will be tested in a series of challenges and will be judged on "personality, performance and food knowledge," with their skills being evaluated by a rotating panel of culinary experts, including Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray, Giada De Laurentiis, Alton Brown, Cat Cora, Duff Goldman, Robert Irvine, and season two winner Guy Fieri, among others. 

Once the judges narrow the competition to its last two finalists, home viewers -- voting online or via text messaging -- will get to determine who comes out on top and wins the competition.  The Food Network will air the winner's six-episode television series in Fall 2007.

"We're upping the ante on this season's challenges, making them more difficult and demanding, so that we and our viewers can judge who should truly be our newest star," said Bob Tuschman, The Food Network's senior vice president of programming and production.

The second season of The Next Food Network Star averaged 1.6 million viewers each week, and more than 2.5 million people watched Fieri be named the winner -- making it the most watched telecast in the cable network's history.

"Last season's winner has become a big success and we're hoping to find another unique talent who can join our roster of talented chefs," said Tuschman.

Ten of the contestants chosen to appear on the third season of The Next Food Network Star were picked by an "internal Food Network panel," while FoodNetwork.com visitors were allowed to vote one of two additional semi-finalists into the competition as an eleventh contestant.  The 11 finalists -- who will travel to Food Network's New York City headquarters for the competition -- include:

- Vivien Cunha, a 39-year-old chef and actress from Winnetka, CA

- Amy Finley, a 32-year-old caterer and freelance writer from La Mesa, CA

- Josh Garcia, a 25-year-old chef de cuisine from Havelock, NC

- Tommy Grella, a 33-year-old certified financial planner from Methuen, MA

- Colombe Jacobsen, a 28-year-old private chef and exercise instructor from New York, NY who was also the FoodNetwork.com finalist
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- Paul McCullough, a 36-year-old private chef and caterer from Los Angeles, CA

- Patrick Rolfe, a 32-year-old chef from Lake Forest Park, WA

- Michael Salmon, a 52-year-old general manager of two New York-based restaurants from Brooklyn, NY

- Rory Schepisi, a 30-year-old restaurant owner from Vega, TX

- Adrien Sharp, a 29-year-old part-time local television host from Jackson, MI

- Nikki Shaw, a 38-year-old caterer from Manhattan Beach, CA