A Lowcountry Star is Born …well, maybe!

Orchid Paulmeier, owner and chef of Hilton head Island's own One Hot Mamas restaurant, is a contestant on The Next Food Network Star. Photo source: Food Network.

Last evening the 7th season of the Next Food Network Star television series introduced the world to local Hilton Head Island restaurateur and chef Orchid Paulmeier. Orchid is the owner of One Hot Mamas barbeque restaurant on the Island (part of the SERG Group along with WiseGuys, Skull Creek Boathouse and Black Marlin Bayside Grill). Orchid wowed the judges with her cooking acumen in just one night.

And Orchid, it seems, is not only an excellent chef but also has natural charisma appearing totally at home in front of the camera. Even Judge Bob Tuschman (Food Network General Manager) told her, “You have a real radiance toward the camera.” So between last night’s performance and the fact that right now Orchid is dominating the Fan Favorite voting (with a whopping 43% at the time of this post) I would say that Orchid is the early favorite!

And, if you aren’t familiar with the show, it is a reality television series produced by and aired on the Food Network that awards the winner his or her own series on the Food Network. The competition pits contestants including those from varied food service professions such as chefs, caterers and food bloggers (last season’s winner Aarti Sequeira is or was a blogger) to those outside the industry such as a stay-at-home Mom, stand-up comedian, and even a practicing attorney. Although the show is centered on food and cooking, what the audience really gets to see is how contestants handle the pressure of the challenges; interact with other contestants and how they react to the judges’ feedback.  You can see their personality and decide if this were someone you would want to watch in their own show on a regular basis.

Orchid, who is not classically trained but has been working steadily in food service since she was in High School – scooping ice cream in Chicago, nonetheless, has both a passion for food and being successful. She worked for large-scale chains including Ruby Tuesday and Longhorn Steakhouse before opening the original One Hot Mamas in Bluffton back in 2003. According to a recent interview, Orchid’s 3rd try at being chosen to appear as a contestant on the Next Food Network Star was the charm. She made the final cut and is now poised to show us all how “charming”, creative and ultimately – successful – she will

Orchid's beautiful, winning plate: Huevos Rancheros With an Asian Twist. Photo Source: Food Network.

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Last night breakfast was on the menu and Orchid hit it on all cylinders with her Huevos Rancheros With an Asian Twist. The judges declared her the winner of this first challenge of the season. According to Food Network Judge Giada De Laurentiis, her masa tortilla with clams, kicked up with Sriracha chili sauce, gets the seal of approval: “Delicious.”

Later, after she pretty much ran away with the best promo “audition” at the farmers market, Orchid’s team effort of pork skewer with fellow contestants Juba (shrimp boil) and Jeff (chicken burger) is declared the winner. Looks like there is a front-runner star chef already and it is…Orchid!

Lets cheer on Orchid! She has several more weeks of competition. Be sure to vote for her as the Fan Favorite , watch her in action on Sunday’s show and check back with me next week for a recap.