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Turlock native cooks up competition on reality show
Turlock native Susie Jimenez will compete with 14 other finalists on Food Network Star. The show will premier at 9 p.m. on June 5 on Food Network. - photo by PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED

Susie Jimenez has been telling her friends and family for years that she will be on Food Network some day. The Turlock native has finally realized that dream. She will appear as a finalist on season 7 of Food Network Stars, a show that pits professional chefs against each other for the chance at hosting their own television show.
"I told you! Thirteen years later and I finally made it," Jimenez joked.
Jimenez grew up in Turlock and went to Turlock High School. In 2000 she moved to San Francisco and attended the California Culinary Academy. She now lives near Aspen, Colo., and works as a personal chef and owns her own catering company. She auditioned for the Food Network show in Denver last August.
"I decided to just go and see what my chances were," Jimenez said.
The audition process started with an open casting call. Jimenez made it to the next round and was asked to submit a home casting video.
"I didn't have anyone home to help me with the video, so I had this great idea to tape a camera to my forehead. I looked at all of the footage afterwards and it was all of my kitchen cabinets. It was a process, but I did get a video in," Jimenez said.
Food Network must have enjoyed Jimenez's sense of humor, because she made it through every round of auditions and was invited to appear on the show as one of 15 finalists. Filming has already wrapped for most of the series, but Jimenez isn't allowed to reveal how far she made it. She wasn't even allowed to tell her friends and family that she would appear on the show until promotional materials were released by Food Network.
"How do you explain disappearing for that long? I was allowed to tell my husband but not anyone else. I came up with every story in the book," Jimenez said.
Seeing herself on TV and in magazines is a weird feeling, Jimenez said. She visited family in Turlock last week and saw herself in a Food Network Commercial while she was watching television with her mother.
"I think that was when she finally realized what I've been talking about. She was like ‘hey that's you!' Then I was in the grocery store with my sister and saw a magazine that I knew wrote an article about the show. I was like, ‘hey sis, turn to page 55,'" Jimenez said.
Jimenez said that she plans to watch every episode of the show, but she's a little nervous about how she was edited. She said that she is very enthusiastic most of the time.
"I'm sure they made me look like the crazy Mexican girl. I am what I am, take it or leave it. But I've always been very comfortable in my own skin, and it's paid off," Jimenez said.
She said that she is looking forward to the reunion show at the end of this month, and she is excited for the show to premier.
"They tell you to follow your dreams, and it's actually true," Jimenez said.
The two hour premier of Food Network Stars starts at 9 p.m. on June 5. Fans can vote for Jimenez at
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.