A Napa Valley grandmother is about to get a shot at her dream job.
Under the direction of celebrity chef Guy Fieri, chef Sharon Damante and her partner will be vying for their own Food Network TV show come November.
Damante and Sherri Williams of Crestview, Florida were chosen for “Guy’s Big Project” out of 7,000 applicants to participate as finalists on Fieri’s latest Food Network venture, “Guy’s Big Project,” in which 10 chefs will compete for their own food travel show.
Fieri has visited thousands of restaurants on his own culinary travel show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” and also films “Guy’s Grocery Games” at a warehouse in Santa Rosa.
“Over a decade ago I was given a chance that I could never have dreamed of on “Food Network Star,” and now I’m honored to have the opportunity to help make someone else’s dream a reality,” said Fieri. “As a producer, I know what it takes to get a show off the ground, and we will see if these prospects have the passion and skills needed, because a great idea is just the first step.”
Fieri and his team will take the prospects on the road where they will film a segment at a restaurant where they will eat and interview different chefs. They will have to prove they can describe what every bite of food tastes like, conveying flavors, aromas, textures, and engage the audience.
In Napa, Damante, 55, is a private chef who also teaches cooking classes, and writes a food blog, Sharon’s Traveled Table. She also teaches in Italy.
Damante and Williams, 54, describe themselves as competitive chefs, and are no strangers to television. They have each appeared on various Food Network cooking shows including “All Star Academy” which pairs home cooks with Food Network chefs. They were also asked to participate on “Guy’s Grocery Games.”
Damante said she believest they was chosen for “Big Project” because their application video was “loose and not fine-tuned.”
“I think they liked that it was so natural, and the loose banter. We laugh a lot and talk over each other, and are fun and crazy in a good way,” she said.
The pair, who met on Facebook, also display an obvious fondness for each other.
“She’s a little bit Napa, I’m a little bit country,” Williams said.
“She’s calling me a wine snob,” Damante laughed.
As for their age, “On the Food Network is doesn’t matter if you’re a supermodel or a grandmother. There’s room for everybody. There is a fan base that wants real people,” Damante said.
To succeed on the Food Network, however, you have to have the right attitude.
“You have to be able to take directions and critiques. You fall and get back up again,” Damante said.
Both said they are never too old to learn new tricks, and appreciate the mentoring situations with other chefs the food shows provide.
“We’re flexible. We’re two grandma’s open to new things. We’re like sponges,” Williams said. “If you have a dream go for it and enjoy it no matter what your age.”
The six-episode show has been wrapped and airs beginning Nov. 5. The Food Network declined to say who the winner is.
Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at Cynthia.Sweeney@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4259.