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Food Network Star Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Justin Balmes, season seven finalist of Food Network Star, is a graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta with a degree in Culinary Arts. He has worked almost every level in the kitchen including line cook, sous chef and executive chef. When he's not concocting organic recipes with local ingredients, this adventure seeker takes it outside for competitive cycling. In his current position as farmers' market specialist at a large organic retailer, Justin is the jack-of-all-trades as a fish monger, a butcher and an instructor.

Justin Balmes

I had a chance to speak with Justin Balmes on June 27, 2011 about appearing on and being eliminated from Food Network Star.

If you had the chance to do this whole experience all over again what, if anything, would you do anything differently?

Justin Balmes:
I don't know. That's a hard one. Even including last night's episode, I stand by my food 100%. As far as doing something differently, I don't know. Everybody reacted to the stress of the competition differently. For me, I went into a bit of a personality coma. I was like just focus up in the kitchen, be professional, get it done, make the best food, and in that case - mission accomplished. However camera skills, especially those in front of a static camera, that's just not my thing anyway, and coupled with the stress, the lack of sleep, and the craziness that was going on it was a lot to keep things together.

What was the most surprising thing for you about this whole experience?

Justin Balmes:
Probably the awesome people that I got to meet and stay in touch with and befriended. Watching previous seasons in my research, I'd see the little postings in exit interviews about how they still talk with so and so. I'd be whatever. That's kind of a joke, it's a competition. Those have to be just completely superficial relationships. As it turns out Jeff, and Justin D., Orchid - I just love them. I hope to know them for the rest of my life. There are a few others who are totally cool in my book, but then again there are a few others that I hope I to never see or hear from again.

What are your plans for the future?

Justin Balmes:
I am very open at this point. I definitely want to be involved in some form of social media, whether that's television, radio, or print. Honestly having some camera work in less stressful working conditions would be a great shot at redemption. In real life I'm borderline obnoxious, as anyone who knows me can attest. I'm really into fundraising and charity work and I've been really blessed with this opportunity and this platform to reach so many people. I really want to connect people with food and do some good in this world.

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