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Meet Juba Kali, The Next Food Network Star

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(InthekNOwla) -- NEW ORLEANS | New Orleans is certainly full of food celebrities. And no, we’re not talking about Emeril Lagasse or John Besh or Paul Prudhomme. I mean, they’re great and all, but truthfully, our grandmother know she can throw down on some red beans and rice and gumbo. Our mama ain’t no joke with the fried chicken. And you can’t forget that cousin who boils the best crawfish in the city. In our book, New Orleans people are food celebrities in their own right and don’t need a much too expensive restaurant to give them that clout.

Well coming up, one of our own will actually become a food celebrity outside of the city. We’re pretty sure you haven'y heard of him...yet...but it’s a good thing we’re telling you about him now so that you can be on the lookout. So without further ado, it’s time for you to meet Juba Kali, a contestant on the Food Network’s upcoming season of Food Network Star.

Obviously, being from a city as great as ours, Juba is no stranger to good food. But just because you know what good food is doesn’t mean that you can cook it. However, for Juba, cooking came as a second nature. He said, “I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t into cooking. I’d say that it goes back as far as my mother being comfortable with me at a stove. I was the cook of the family growing up though my skills weren’t up to par at the time. And it was all trial and error; I had some delicious meals and some not so delicious ones, so I wasn’t always the ‘go-to-guy’ for my family. But they saw the passion that I had for cooking and how much joy I got from the challenge of creating something from scratch, so they nurtured that passion.”
Like many in New Orleans, Juba’s environment growing up was not always the best with crime, poverty, and the overwhelming deterioration of the inner city. So, soon after graduating from McDonogh #35 Senior High School (yes, those Roneagles), Juba found his way out of New Orleans. “I wanted to get away from of all of those negative things that were plaguing the city,” Juba explained. “So when I graduated from high school, I went to a liberal arts college in Minnesota because a lot of what I wanted to do wasn’t in the city at the time and I knew that there were better opportunities for me elsewhere. I went out to explore the world and to see what else was out there.”

Trying to choose between becoming a scientist or a chef, Juba decided he would go the science route first while studying in Minnesota. “My first year, my major was biology, but I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to do that,” he said. “So I changed my major to theater, but realized that I didn’t want to do that either and changed to an art studio major. After having those three different majors and not feeling content about any, I decided that it was time to try cooking and I enrolled in Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island where I received an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts and a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Nutrition.”

“And ever since then, it’s been on. I’ve interned at McCormick & Company, cooked in Providence, Times Square, and New Orleans, and worked at multiple catering companies. In the future, I hope to have my own place in New Orleans to pump out some good food as well as do demonstrations and cooking lessons. For me, cooking is my craft and art form and I want to share that passion with others.”

And Juba is about to showcase his passion for cooking to the entire country as he prepares for the Food Network Star competition. Juba said, “A friend of mine told me about the casting for Food Network Star and I decided to give it a try. I had to do a video demo to apply, so I made a salad with shrimp and vinaigrette dressing and sent it in. They liked it, but I wished they could have tasted it because it was delicious. I just kept getting further and further into the process and next thing I know, I was in Los Angeles filming a television show. It was surreal that out of thousands of people, I was one of the 15 chosen. A lot of the other contestants on the show have applied multiple times and I was blessed to try the first time and get through. And, I’m also the first person in 7 seasons to represent New Orleans.”

Food Network Star premieres tonight at 8:00pm Central time and is not to be missed with celebrity guest judges, Food Network personalities, and tons of drama all in the spirit of having a good time.

And of course, Juba can use all the support he can get. He explained, “Try to remember that it’s easy to be judgmental, but there’s a whole world behind the camera that you don’t see. What you see on TV is such a small percentage of what goes on behind doors. I mean, you’re working 14-16 hour days and you might get 10 minutes out of that. There’s a lot that goes into making a television show and without knowing that, it’s easy to sit on a couch and tear people apart. So just show love and support cause this is only the beginning. We’re putting New Orleans on the map and we’re gonna blow it up big time. We are such a talented city; we birth nothing but talent and that’s what we’ve always done. We innovate!”

Viewers can vote for their favorite contestant until the season finale on the Food Network website and we’re definitely routing for you Juba. Let’s GEAUX all the way!

For more information about Juba, please visit his Facebook page, and website And be sure to vote!

Last modified on Monday, 06 June 2011
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