On July 23, , Bed-Stuy food-preneur and co-owner of Restaurant, beat out 14 contestants to be crowned this season’s Food Network Star.
Close to 4.5 million Americans voted and decided Warner was the most talented (and most likeable character) on season 8 of Food Network’s popular reality show and cooking competition.
And for those who have eaten at the Bed-Stuy restaurant, it was clear, Warner brought to the reality show the same creative and edgy flavor he made popular at the Bedford Avenue diner.
As winner of Food Network Star, Warner will get his own show on the Food Network this fall which will be produced by Alton Brown, his mentor on the show.
"I had a feeling about Justin the first time we met, when he auditioned for me in Atlanta,” said Brown. “I couldn't put my finger on it, but I'm pretty sure it's because I thought I saw a little me in him - deep down, we all want to replicate ourselves.”
How does Warner feel?
He says he missed the restaurant on Bedford Avenue and that it feels good to be back. But he is in no way thumbing his nose at whatever opportunities await him in TV Land.
“I won’t necessarily say that I’m not made for t.v.,” he says with trepidation. “But if t.v. can be made for me, then I’ll do it!”
The finale came down to four finalists - Justin and Martie Duncan (Birmingham, Ala.) from Team Alton, Yvan Lemoine (Maspeth, N.Y.) from Team Giada and Michele Ragussis (Brooklyn, N.Y.) from Team Bobby.
“I didn’t really think I was gonna win in all honesty, because I do weird stuff, and I didn’t know for sure that America was ready,” Warner told Bed-Stuy Patch. “But what I’m really excited about is, because it came down to a national vote, it’s really an endorsement of America than it is of myself.
“It means ‘Yes, we are ready!’ We are a developing food nation and we are eager and excited to eat fish bones!”
Warner is referring to one of his final challenges in which he fried fish bones like potato chips and fed them to restaurateur, Food Network t.v. personality Guy Fieri, who loved them.
“It’s been done in other cultures for many years, but in America, bones have always been bad,” said Warner. “But it’s actually really tasty; it’s like eating fried lace.”
Brown says it was Warner’s willingness to get playful and push boundaries that gave him a competitive edge.
"As soon as the competition cranked up, it became clear that Justin is an original, possessing a singular culinary vision,” he said. “I did very little to steer him through the weeks that followed, mostly I tried to make sure his real character came through in each challenge."
Warner says the producers have not revealed to him yet when he will begin filming, but his show is scheduled to premiere this fall on Food Network. In the meantime, he’s going to enjoy his downtime with his Do or Dine family before refueling for his next food journey along with 4.5 million more fans.
“Now, it’s just a matter of seeing where we can take this audience we have established and how we deliver justice to them,” Warner said.