This definitely happened. Yep. Source: http://bit.ly/1nAGKBb

Woah. A whole lotta stuff went down in this episode.

We arrive in Vegas, then Luca returns, I use a bunch of big confusing words, and the cowboy does a belly flop.

As much as I’d like to talk about all of these things individually, there is only so much I can fit into one bitty blog post, and I’d like to take this opportunity to get a few things off my chest.

The Great Ham Fiasco of 2014. 

What you saw on Sunday night was true. I told a fib. It happened. But what you didn’t see, was why.

I’ve been getting a lot of harsh backlash about my horrible, deceitful, lying ways. People feel they can no longer trust me, and I’ve spent the better part of the past week beating myself up about it.

In life, in REAL life, I am actually honest to a fault. Believe it or not, sometimes the truth can hurt people.

Growing up, my parents taught me to always be an honest person. My Dad raised me with the logic that lying would always get me in more trouble than if I told the truth, no matter how bad it was. When he found a pack of cigarettes in my purse when I was 16, I didn’t tell him I was holding them for a friend. I fessed up to my “cool” new habit, and while he was upset, he didn’t punish me. Instead, we had a long heart to heart about the dangers of smoking, addiction, and why it’s a really bad idea.


Honest influences, Mom and Dad

I always appreciated this approach to life, and it taught me early on that lying, especially about important things, is never a good idea.

After Sunday’s episode, it seems that I have not only disappointed my fans, but I lost the trust of many viewers simply because I chose to verbalize a different word for prosciutto.

My presentation was well received, and the judges loved my scallop with romesco sauce. The fact that such a boneheaded mistake is causing such a negative reaction is absolutely gut-wrenching. How could I be so STUPID?

Well, let me walk you through my thought process.

In the mentor challenge, Giada was giving us great advice about how to better describe food to viewers. One thing many of us struggled with was the fact that we didn’t quite like the food we were eating, so it made it difficult to describe in a hunger-inducing way.

Giada said that if we don’t like what we’re eating, sometimes its OK to tell a little white lie in order to get a point across to viewers. 

It wasn’t until later, of course, that I realized she was  referring to opinion and not giving permission stretch the truth about facts. But this stuck with me, as advice from people I look up to often does. Which is exactly why I held on to what Bobby said to me in episode 5 (Knott’s Berry Farm). He told me that I missed a golden opportunity to take the audience to the coast of Mexico.

This time around, I was hell bent on taking them to the coast of Spain.


A variation on the dish- with crispy prosciutto sprinkled over the top

My idea was to play off of one of my most requested party dishes, scallops wrapped in bacon. I would sear up some scallops to get them nice and caramelized on the outside, then wrap them in serrano ham, instead of bacon, to provide that salty contrast to the sweet scallop. And then to cut through the richness with some acid, and to add a smokey element, I wanted to make a killer romesco sauce- a Catalonian staple made from roasted peppers, tomatoes, garlic, nuts and bread.

I was pumped to make this dish, and got to work quickly. But here’s the thing: In our pantry, proteins aren’t labeled. Chefs are expected to know what chicken, shrimp, beef, etc. look like. The ham was also not labeled. It was simply a dry cured ham, sliced thin, wrapped in paper and plastic wrap, without a name.

My assumption was that it was prosciutto. It looked and tasted like it, and it’s the most common of all the dry cured hams.

Hmm… So if I say I’m using prosciutto, I’m afraid the judges will hammer down on me for using an Italian product when I’m trying to sell Spain. But then I remembered what Giada said about it being alright to tell a fib in certain situations to embellish a story. So maybe I could just say its serrano ham, the Spanish equivalent, and it won’t be a big deal. WRONG.

I’m not saying that it was Giada’s fault I lied. At all. I take full responsibility for what I said. I just want people to see where I was coming from.


A mad dash for ingredients. In the FNS kitchen, ya snooze ya lose.  Source: http://bit.ly/1nAGKBb

In fact, I never really looked at is as a lie, more of an interpretation. After all, the mystery meat had never actually been confirmed to be prosciutto.

When I commented about the party goers not being able to tell the difference, it wasn’t at all meant to be a dis to them or their intelligence. In fact, I give viewers a lot more credit than some (I know you know what viscosity means).

I said it because it would be really hard for anyone. In this dish, with all the other flavors, it would be nearly impossible to tell unless you were maybe some sort of ham guru with an incredibly discerning eye and palate. Well, ok. Maybe Alton and Giada are totally just that.

Right after I graduated college, I worked at a gourmet Italian market in the area. We sold all sorts of high end meats and cheeses, not just of the Italian variety, and I was in charge of educating customers about each.

So lets talk about what the difference actually is.

You see, prosciutto and serrano ham are very similar products. Of course, there can be slight differences between the two, but both are simply versions of dry cured ham. Prosciutto is Italian, and jamón (Spanish for ham) is Spanish. Jamón serrano, or serrano ham, tends to be a bit dryer and denser in texture, with a slightly more pronounced flavor. The methods of production are slightly different for each, but even within each category they can differ quite a bit.

There are many different producers of each, and depending on the breed of pig, ingredients used, and method of curing, they can vary greatly in shape, size, color, texture, and flavor. It would make more sense to differentiate the characteristics between different brands, as both prosciutto and serrano ham serve as more general terms.


pants on FIRE. Source: http://bit.ly/1nAGKBb

Think about it like this. Champagne, prosecco, and cava are all essentially the same thing: sparkling wines identified by the regions the are produced in. Yet their flavors can vary greatly depending on the producer. Two bottles of champagne can taste very different, just like two types of prosciutto can taste very different.

There are some really bad prosciuttos out there on the market. Cheap, nitrate-laden, poorly made versions that are a far cry from the acclaimed prosciutto di Parma, which is heavily regulated in production. There are even some incredible, artisinal proscuittos being made right here in America, like those from Iowa company, La Quercia. Their prosciuttos are absolutely fantastic, but can look very different from Italian varieties. The same goes for jamón.

See this description from Wikipedia:

Jamón serrano: (also known as jamón reservajamón curado and jamón extra): “ordinary cured ham” from white pigs, fed with a mixed diet of authorized commercial compound feed. The words serranocuradoreserva and extra are just marketing terms and do not reliably indicate quality, which can differ markedly between different brands and is not easy to recognize.

Unlike Serrano’s older, more sophisticated cousin ibérico, serrano is not regulated in quality. Jamón ibérico is much more expensive, like prosciutto di Parma, as the production is highly regulated and can only be made from black Iberian pigs.

“But how did you think you could fool Alton and Giada?!”

The thing is, I wasn’t trying to.

I had honestly misinterpreted Giada’s advice and made a hasty decision that seemed logical at the time. I’m still a bit perplexed as to how Mr. Brown was so quick to identify that my ham was not, in fact, serrano, based on sight alone, and from a distance nonetheless!

I don’t discredit Alton’s food authority for a second. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, and the guy is a BOSS. There is no doubt that he knows his stuff. Same goes for Giada. I know that homegirl knows her prosciutto!

But because even different prosciuttos look different from one another (prosciutto San Daniele is often darker than prosciutto di Parma), it is really hard to determine the country of origin from sight alone.


Sure, props make sense. Source: http://bit.ly/1nAGKBb

Overall, looking back, I see that it was really just poor judgement on my part. Bottom line, they aren’t the same thing, and I shouldn’t have pretended they were.

Hindsight is always 20/20.

I made a decision thinking it would prevent me from being criticized for not being authentic to Spain, but it instead, it actually caused even more trouble and made me seem like less of a food authority.


I’ve made a lot of stupid mistakes on this show. Forgetting the pasta was a knucklehead move. Bombing on the green screen challenge was brutal.

But this wasn’t a weird breadcrumb gnocchi or an awkward performance. This was something that actually caused people to question my integrity, and to no longer trust me.

It was never my intention to mislead people, or to do something that would ever discredit my food authority on national television. I have a history of over thinking things to the point of self sabotage, and this was a perfect example. Sometimes I just need to get out of my own way.

I want to extend my sincerest apologies to anyone who has lost their faith in me as a result of this whole debacle. I am disappointed in myself, and all I can do, as I did on the show, is promise to never, EVER, make a mistake like that again. Moving forward, I hope that I can regain some of the trust I lost this past week.


Chris was always quick on his feet! Source: http://bit.ly/1nAGKBb

But before I sign off, this blog wouldn’t be complete without saying a few words about my buddy Chris.

As I mentioned before, one hour just isn’t enough time to really get a feel for all of our personalities. Chris, without a doubt, wins the award for class clown. He was alllllways cutting up and cracking jokes behind the scenes, making all of us keel over in laughter. His impressions of people were priceless! He brought a light element to the group that I totally missed when he was gone.

Chris had overcome a lot of big hurdles in his life to get where he is today, and it was incredibly inspiring to hear his story. Not many people are able to pick themselves back up after hitting rock bottom, and especially not able to reach the level of success that he has. He should be so proud of all his accomplishments. And even though he didn’t win Food Network Star, he still got very far, and heck, this guy won on Cutthroat Kitchen! Ya can’t win ‘em all, CKY!


It may look like a lot of drama on screen, but in real life, there’s actually no “beef” between any of us


Tune in next week as we embark on the toughest culinary challenge to date!

Vote for me for Fan Favorite!

Top moments from this Episode

Watch a video recap of Episode 7 and a sneak peak of Episode 8!

Read fellow Season 10 contestant Emma Frisch’s Recap

Read Season 8 winner Justin Warner’s Rebel Recap

Read Chris’ Exit Interview


Lobsters and clams, so just clap your hands (photocred: EMMA!)

This was a pretty rough episode for me. No way around it.

So let me break it down with the best Western cliche I can think of: John Wayne Style… Err, I mean Clint Eastwood.

The Good

The silver lining to Sunday’s episode was without a doubt having Emma Frisch & her posse over for a night full of coastal cuisine and the usual Brigantine high jinx.

It was great having Emma, a bunch of friends, lobsters, and lots of rum to help soften the blow of having to watch myself absolutely bomb on tv.

But even though my performance was horrendous, there was a little golden nugget tucked away in that commercial.

I introduced the world to Coley.

I’ve been going by the nickname Coley since I was a baby. But it’s a name that really only my close friends and family call me, not something I go around introducing myself as. But more and more I identify with being called Coley over Nicole. I’ve never really been a Nicky (although I’ve gone by Nic in a few circles). Coley is a little more unique, a little more playful, and it just feels more fitting to my character.

Nicole is my serious business persona. Coley is the down-to-earth, goofy person I am inside. Nicole can have resting bitch face, but Coley always looks happy! Observe the difference:

Emma and her awesome husband Bobby arrived in town mid-afternoon on Sunday. Chaser and I came straight from the beach and greeted them with sandy hugs and Italian subs.

Soon we were joined by Emma’s twin, Dimity, her husband Nolan, and friends Shanti and Steve. We headed over to Casa de Pullella for an impromptu dinner and to watch both FNS and the Atlantic City fireworks, which had been rescheduled after a stormy 4th of July.

Sunday was the epitome of what Coastal Cuisine is all about. Casual food with friends and family. Lots of locally caught fresh seafood, a little bit of meat (because, you know, some people are allergic), and lots and lots of veggies. Eating outside/on the beach is optional, although always preferred.

Lobsters and clams. Warm fingerling potato salad with bacon and long hots. Heirloom tomato panzanella with Shanti’s homemade bread. Apple cake with toasted meringue. Pasta with mama Pullella’s pesto. Pulled pork. Sweet Jersey corn. Zucchini gratin. So. Much. Butter.

Aperol spritzes, rum punches, and beers.

I wish every night could be as good as this one, but I guess that’s what makes nights like these so special in the first place. They don’t happen very often. So, when they do, they are to totally be cherished. And thanks to all these EMMA-zing pictures Emma took, we’ll always remember how special this night actually was.

Well, minus the whole struggling and being embarrassed on national television part. Yeah. That leads me to …

The Bad

Well, for starters: my performance was bad. Reaaal Bad.

I held my breath and absolutely cringed when I watched. It was like reliving that brutal moment all over again.


RBF or just concentrating? Source: http://bit.ly/W0GAxN

There’s really nothing more to my poor performance other than the fact that they threw me a giant curve ball and it truly had me stumped.

I felt like a total goober trying to get those lines out. I was not confident in the script I had written, and I was letting the whole scene psych me out.

Your mind can be a dangerous place. Sometimes negative emotions can snowball and have the opposite affect on what you are trying to achieve. I know that in order to be the next food network star I need to project a fun and upbeat attitude all the time. I can’t let a stupid challenge like this get me all flustered.

You gotta be cool, man. Always.

But in that moment, I became so frustrated that I was unable to project anything other than nervous, awkward energy.

I was really, really disappointed in myself. Afterwards I thought of a gazillion different ideas that would have worked infinitely better than my “drier out here than death valley during prohibition” joke.


It was super lame, and I was trying way too hard.

I knew it then, but I couldn’t come up with anything better in time. So I just went for it, and hated every second.


Hey girl, just be yourself. Source: http://bit.ly/W0GAxN

I walked away from this challenge with one big giant lesson: Stop taking all of this so seriously.

Stop taking life so seriously.

What’s the point? You’re going to die some day, and then that’s it.

I didn’t go out for this competition because it seemed like a fun thing to do. I did it because I want this job reeeaal bad.

So if I don’t win, is it the end of the world?

No. It’s not.

Having so many wonderful people around me Sunday night was a great reminder of just that. I already have a thriving business, a loving husband, a supportive family, and the best friends a girl could ask for. Winning Food Network Star would be a great bonus. But I’ve really already won in life.

So it’s about time I stop worrying so much, and let myself just be Coley.



The Ugly

Being critiqued and seeing one of your friends go home is never a barrel of monkeys, even when you’re the winner.

But this was my first time on the bottom, and boy, did it suck. And on top of it, mi amigos and former Rrrreece’s teammates Reuben and Emma were stuck there with me.


Thank you sweet baby Jesus, I’m safe. Source: http://bit.ly/W0GAxN

Reuben and I clearly had the worst commercials, but I still don’t really understand what the big fuss was about Emma’s.  It was adorable! Her commercial was informative and funny. I thought she nailed it. But I’m not a Food Network Star judge, and therefore my opinion is null.

Giada spoke some real truth to me that night. And coming from her, I really took it to heart. I’ve learned to present myself in a certain manner in order to be taken seriously as a chef and a business person (Nicole). But Giada was telling me that I’ve already gained their respect in those departments. It’s time to let go, and show them who I really am at heart. Coley!


Reuben in the little kitchen, priceless! Source: http://bit.ly/W0GAxN

As relieved as I was to be safe, I was so bummed that Reuben wouldn’t be joining us in Vegas.

Reuben is a kind, genuine soul, and we developed a sibling-like relationship while filming. His hotel room was right across from mine, and he was always the first thing I heard each day. He would come out into the hallway to hug, kiss and greet everyone good morning. That’s just the kind of guy he is.

Reuben is a big ball of Cuban energy, and often drove me up the walls with his pre-coffee early morning chatter. I was quick to shush him, but would then run over to give him a hug and rub his head like a little brother. Reuben has a great sense of humor, and is quick to call me out on my “Coley problems.” I’m always up for good- natured teasing, so we got along just fine. And as Reuben knows, I can certainly dish it right back with the best of ‘em!


Just change the H to a C, and the second L to an E…

LA- its been real. But we’re goin’ to VEGAS BABY!!!

Bring it on.

Vote for me for Fan Favorite!

Top moments from this Episode

Watch a video recap of Episode 6 and a sneak peak of Episode 7!

Read fellow Season 10 contestant Emma Frisch’s Recap

Read Season 8 winner Justin Warner’s Rebel Recap

Read Rrrrrreuben’s Exit Interview

Watch Reuben, Luca & Chad battle it out in Star Salvation! Who’s going to rejoin the competition?! 

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Fourth of July in January! Source: http://bit.ly/1vBHo6n

So, let’s just dive right into this: Resting Bitch Face.

Yeah, I said it.

And I still can’t believe that it actually made it into the episode. But I think it gave a little more insight into who I actually am.

I want to come off as a warm and friendly person, but I’m realizing that even if my intentions are there, my face doesn’t always show it. So I’m trying to work on that, because I really don’t want to come off as a cold heartless soul.

But aside from educating the world on resting bitch face, I really wanted to nail down the definition of my POV in this episode. I set out as the star de la mar, but in the past few challenges I haven’t really had much of a chance to explain myself.

In this competition, a culinary point of view is extremely important. I knew I had to work my coastal background into my concept, but I was very resistant to just being the fish girl.

Don’t get me wrong. I love seafood. 

But I love lots of other foods, too.

So to be pigeonholed into just making fish?

Come on.

Seafood is a big part of my culture and my culinary repertoire, but the food I cook is not solely from the sea.

So I can understand why people would hear “coastal cuisine” and think it’s too limiting. That it’s something reserved only for people who live on the coast, and not accessible to those in landlocked parts of our country.

That’s exactly why I really wanted to drive home my definition of coastal cuisine in my demo. It encompasses so much more than just fish.

Sure, I didn’t relate my dish back to Mexico and connect the dots to my POV, but I’m hoping I was at least able to clear the lens on what the heck coastal cuisine is, anyway.


Ooh! A berry farm! NOT. But, tomatillos are in the gooseberry family… Jus’ sayin’, Source: http://bit.ly/VI94vO

At one point in the competition, Giada asked me what made coastal cuisine different from California cuisine. My answer is simple. California cuisine IS coastal cuisine. Just like food from New England, the Gulf Coast, the Eastern Seaboard, Florida, and the Pacific Northwest, California cuisine is just one example of what coastal cuisine is.

I took a look at the food from all these different regions, as well as the coasts of Latin America, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and Asia.

While all of these cuisines vary greatly in their ingredients and preparations, they all share a few common threads.

The food is light, fresh, and simple, with flavors that pop.

Coastal cuisine is not dense or heavy. It is not low and slow. It does not stick to your ribs.

It is not extravagant, complicated, or pretentious. There is no sous vide or liquid nitrogen in the coastal kitchen.

Coastal cuisine is food that makes you feel light on your feet. It’s the kind of food I love to cook AND eat.

So without further adieu, my official definition of Coastal Cuisine is:

Food that’s prepared using simple techniques (grilling, steaming, fresh salsas, simple sautés, vinaigrettes, quick pickling, light frying, raw preparations) made with mostly fresh ingredients (lots of fresh produce, seafood, meats/poultry, dairy, nuts, legumes, and grains- locally sourced when possible), with bright, clean flavors (fresh herbs, citrus, soy, chiles, spices, fruity olive oils).


New viewing party game: drink every time we run Source: http://bit.ly/VI94vO

When we picked cards, I was wishing, hoping, thinking, and praying that I would get a seafood dish. The butcher babe got a steak! But the fish girl wasn’t so lucky.

I was dealt the card of BBQ Pork with Onion Rings. You know, a nice, heavy, low and slow dish. So naturally, I had my concerns about how I was going to be able to tie it back to coastal cuisine.

When I saw pineapple in the (sick) pantry, I instantly thought of tacos Al Pastor: a Mexican pork slow cooked with pineapple and chiles, served as a taco. One of my all time favorites.

I saw the chipotles and knew that would be a great way to impart a slow cooked, smokey flavor in a short amount of time. I saw skewers and thought a kebob would be the perfect twist.

Down here in the summertime, we get together on the beach as much as possible. And someone, somewhere, is always grilling up something.


Grill Master Chaser

If its not a hamburger or hot dog, its probably something on a stick. Kebobs are a perfect, easy eatin’ beach food.

I felt my dish was totally keeping true to my coastal cuisine:

The ingredients are fresh. I can’t grow pineapple in NJ, but tomatillos grow like weeds in my garden in the summer. I have three different varieties growing this year. I grow plenty of chiles, and cilantro too.

You know, they don’t call us the garden state for nothin’.

The technique is simple. Marinate, skewer, grill. Easy, peasy.

The flavors are clean and bright. The chipotles give bold flavor to both the marinade and the salsa. Grilling the tomatillos, garlic and onions brings out their sweetness. The pork and pineapple are charred and caramelized on the outside, and super juicy inside. The salsa is acidic, smoky, and spicy.

I thought this was a perfect tie in to my POV. The problem was, I just didn’t communicate enough of that in my 3 minute demo.


But 3 minutes is just so dang short. It’s really hard to get in everything you want to say.

But the judges liked my food, and that’s a big deal. My heart skipped a beat when I heard Bobby Flay say he “just wanted to keep eating” my kebob.


Chris owe’s me a bloody mary after that cutthroat win. Extra pickled green beans, please. Source: http://bit.ly/VI94vO

I didn’t find my way into the top, but I was happy to have made one of the best dishes of the day. Christopher, who made the best dish of the day, was the one sent home. This was a little perplexing, but again, this competition isn’t just about food.

Christopher was without a doubt the best chef in the bunch. He knew it, the mentors knew it, we all knew it. Not convinced? Just compare his resume with any of ours.

He smokes us.

Christopher is originally from Philly, but has been living in New Orleans for about 10 years. I’m from Atlantic City but used to lived in Baton Rouge. So we had this interesting, bizarre connection, which gave us plenty to talk about. It’s a unique dynamic moving from the northeast to the deep south, one you truly have to experience first hand to understand.


Turn down for… Al Pastor?

Want to try my Spicy Pork and Pineapple Kebobs? You can!

Whether you’re kickin’ it at the beach, the lake, the pool, the backyard, wherever, there is still time to make these for your 4th of July bash. The ingredients are all totally accessible, the method is super simple, and the flavors definitely won’t disappoint.

Make the salsa and kebobs in advance, and then grill em up when you get hungry. That way, you can spend as much time as possible getting turnt up with your friends.


turns out, a food processor blade is also the international symbol for a hurricane. Stay away Arthur!


Spicy Pork and Pineapple Kebobs
6 Chipotle peppers in adobo, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from can
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into chunks
1 whole pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1 large red onion, peeled, layers separated, and cut into squares

Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour over pork and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight. If using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water for at least one hour. Place the pork, pineapple chunks, and red onion on skewers, alternating pieces, and set aside. Preheat a grill to high and be sure the grates are clean and well oiled. Place the skewers on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until they are nicely charred. Serve with tomatillo salsa.


these would be PERFECT for an LSU Tiger tailgate. Look at those colors!

Chipotle Tomatillo Salsa
1 pound tomatillos, husked
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
¼ white onion
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo, (more for a spicier sauce)
1 teaspoon adobo sauce from can
1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon honey

Preheat a grill on heat and throw the tomatillos, onion, and garlic cloves on. Cover and let cook, turning occasionally, until charred and blackened on all sides. Remove the skins from the garlic and put everything into a food processor. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to combine. Adjust seasoning as needed. Salsa can be made up to 2 days in advance.


naked tomatillos

Tune in next Sunday night, as I try to lasso my inner gourmet cowboy, and it doesn’t go so hot.

Vote for me for Fan Favorite!

Top moments from this Episode

Watch a video recap of Episode 5 and a sneak peak of Episode 6!

Read fellow Season 10 contestant Emma Frisch’s Recap

Read Season 8 winner Justin Warner’s Rebel Recap

Read Christopher’s Exit Interview

Watch Christopher, Luca & Chad battle it out in Star Salvation!


Mean muggin’ teacher’s pet Emma. That’s some world class acting right there. Source: http://bit.ly/1lR4iFi

What can I say, this past Sunday’s episode was siiiiiiick.

We took a gander at the world of social media marketing, each of us making both a solo selfie video, and a group viral video.

And in the viral video challenge, MY TEAM WON!

Since this episode didn’t contain any actual cooking, it seems to have been a bit controversial amongst fans. But truth be told, we had a BLAST filming it. Working with Emma and Reuben was a dream. I love those crazy kids. Or should I say niños locos?

Check out the video that made us champions:

In my selfie video, I started off at ease, but quickly got nervous trying to remember everything I wanted to say.  And as a result, I fell into my fake, trained broadcaster voice.

In this competition, that’s been the toughest obstacle for me to overcome.

You see, when I’m nervous, I try extra hard to sound like I’m not. So I overcompensate, and then it comes out sounding really put on, and not at all authentic.

If it sounds like I’m trying too hard, it’s because I am.

When I heard myself say the pantry was “sick,” it made me cringe. In part, because, well, yeah. IT’S A TERRIBLE WORD TO USE TO DESCRIBE FOOD!

But, in all honesty, it’s a word I use quite a bit at home around my friends. It’s just common vernacular in my circle.

However, I recognize that when referring to something that’s really awesome, “sick” is not a word commonly used or appreciated by a lot of people. So it’s something I reserve for use only around my friends, and those “in the know.”

When presenting myself in the business world, I put on a professional persona.

I mean, don’t most people conduct themselves differently in a business meeting than when out at a bar with friends?

Here’s the thing: I went out to compete on Food Network Star because I want this to be my career.

So naturally, I’m inclined to treat this more like a job interview than a night out partying.

But the network, and America, wants to see the real me.

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Low-key viewing party with Dad and Chaser. Not pictured: Ems and her delicious apple pie. For the record, my dad still can’t roll his R’s.

So what I’ve really struggled with is how to find that sweet spot between the Nicole I am in the professional world, and the Nicole – or rather, Coley – I am around my friends. How do I find the balance between being professional and polished, and being the sarcastic, opinionated, slang-talking person I am at home?

It was much easier for me to open up and be myself in the group challenge, because I was surrounded and supported by two friends, Emma and Reuben(cito). Working with them INSTANTLY made the challenge more fun.

Being able to collaborate took a lot of the pressure off, too. In other challenges, we aren’t allowed to consult with anyone about our ideas. You decide what you’re going to do, and that’s it.

I never realized how much I value other people’s opinions until put in a situation where I wasn’t allowed to seek them. It’s hard to have 100% confidence in what you’re doing without first bouncing your ideas off of someone you trust.

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Big win for team Rrrrrrrrreese’s!! Yay! Source: http://bit.ly/1lR4iFi

The friends I made while filming this show have turned into family. The Food Network Star family.  Going through a unique situation with a small group of people for an extended period of time forces you to bond, and to bond quickly.

I remember seeing everyone that first day, and just thinking, “WOW, look at all of us us! We are each a walking caricature of a stereotype.” A group of people as diverse as us would never come together to become friends under any other circumstance.

But we did become friends, and what brought us all together was our love of food, and our innate desire to share that love with the world. 

We were all anxious about who was going to be sent home, because the criteria for this week’s challenge seemed so arbitrary. While social media is a huge part of our world today, and something I enjoy doing (Hey look! I’m blogging!), I didn’t think the elimination challenge really gave any insight into who would make a good Food Network Star. It didn’t involve any cooking, or really talking about food at all. It was more like acting.

But this competition is supposed to be about getting America to see who we really are, and I guess that’s where I got confused.

I thought Aryen really put herself out there and shined in this challenge. It was the first time all season that I saw the real true Aryen that I knew behind the scenes.

…No, I don’t mean a weird hunchback lab assistant.

I’m talking about a girl who doesn’t mind getting goofy and poking fun at herself.


these three.. I can’t even! Source: http://bit.ly/1lR4iFi

Aryen is funnnnnyy.

Sometimes, all she had to do was look at me the right way and I would crack up.

My absolute favorite memories from filming are from when we would all sit and joke around together. Aryen’s laugh is infectious, and we would both catch a bad case of the giggles after long storytelling sessions with Jackie and Tamar in the makeup chairs.

Was she a little hard to understand in the video? Maybe. But I thought she NAILED that performance. It was weird, funny, and a little bit creepy- everything that it was supposed to be, and more. I felt absolutely crushed for her when she told us it was her time to go.

But that’s the thing with filming this show. You form friendships with these people.

Real, actual friendships.

And then one of you gets their dream crushed, and one of you gets to stay.

And it’s weird. Because you feel bad – really bad – but you’re also happy that it’s not you.

It’s a mind-boggling mix of emotions that only gets harder as the weeks progress.

Tune in next week as we get back to cooking, and celebrate the 4th of July- My all time FAVORITE holiday!

Questions? Comments? Leave em’ down below!

Vote for me for Fan Favorite!

Top moments from this Episode

Watch a video recap of Episode 4 and a sneak peak of Episode 5!

Read fellow Season 10 contestant Emma Frisch’s Episode 4 Rrrrrrecap

Read Season 8 winner Justin Warner’s Rebel Recap

Read Aryen’s super sweet Exit Interview

Watch Aryen, Luca & Chad battle it out in Star Salvation!

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Bobby really brought the Flayvor at Monday’s Bourbon Dinner! Great to see him outside of the competition


Channeling my inner Lucy. So dramatic! Source: http://bit.ly/UaKFya

Cutthroat Kitchen is a gnarly game.

Need I say more?

Well, yeah… I guess I have a bit of explaining to do.

Before leaving to film Food Network Star, I had only seen Cutthroat Kitchen a small handful of times. But, nonetheless, I was excited to play. Last week I was called out for having low energy and not having enough fun. I knew, if nothing else, Cutthroat Kitchen would be a blast.

And it was!

When Alton told us we’d be making spaghetti and meatballs, I was really pumped.  I grew up making meatballs. In fact, they were the first food ever I learned how to make and master.

As a kid, my girlfriends and I would play on the beach and make “meatballs” in the sand.  Each of us watched our Italian moms make meatballs at home, so on the beach we would use our hands to form little balls out of wet sand and set them all in a row.


my sister Andrea, cousins Lindsay & Jaimee, & me back in my sandy meatball days

Meatballs are a thing in New Jersey.  And they’re a thing within Italian communities all across America. And that’s because they’re a coveted Family tradition, with recipes being passed down from generation to generation.

So, why didn’t I make a fish ball?

Well, for that very reason. Spaghetti and meatballs is a dish that embodies my New Jersey Italian culture, and its a dish that my family would be so proud to see me make on TV. We even have a unique name for it, “biasta sugu,” which I knew would make for an interesting story in my 30 second presentation. It’s something I wanted to share with America, and this was my golden opportunity.

I learned my meatball recipe from my mom, who learned it from her mom, and I’ve changed and perfected it to my tastes over the years. The idea of making a non-traditional fish meatball just didn’t feel right to me.

Sure, I live on the coast, and I grew up in a fishermen’s family. But what people may not realize is that even fishermen don’t eat fish at every meal. In fact, the only tuna we had growing up came out of a can. The giant bluefin tuna my family caught were NEVER brought home for us to eat. Those bad boys were often sold to Japan for a nice chunk of change. If anything, we got to keep the bycatch: lobsters, scallops, clams, flounder, etc.

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Uncle Mark with the catch of the day

When my grandfather went away on long fishing trips (sometimes for months at a time), my grandma was left to raise 5 kids on her own. She did whatever she could to put food on the table, often making what she knew. And she knew biasta sugu. It’s what her mom made, it’s what her grandmother made, and it’s what my grandfather requested when he came home after months of eating nothing but seafood on the boat.

Biasta sugu is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods, because it brings back memories of warm family love. It’s flavorful, familiar, and filling; often with lots of leftovers to eat throughout the week (BONUS!).  It’s a family tradition, and I stand behind the meatball I made (which, ahem, for the record, Bobby and Jet both said was ‘moist and flavorful’) wholeheartedly.

The “gnocchi,” however, are an entirely different story. I do not stand behind those. At all.

So, lets talk about the pasta, or, the biasta as we call it.


You guys, I know.


It was SO DUMB. I couldn’t believe I was that girl who forgot the MAIN INGREDIENT!


Thanks to my father-in-law Dave for this little gem

Well, here’s my defense. The Food Network Star kitchen is about the size of a gymnasium, with pantry and cooking supplies scattered throughout. You don’t know where anything is, and you’re trying to keep track of everything you need in your head. I was very focused on getting the right ingredients for my “one hell of a meatball.” I’m proud of my meatball, and I wanted to do it justice!

I looked for the pasta early on. I didn’t see it, and time was running out. Feeling panicked, I said to myself, “OK, move on and come back to it.”  I ran around that kitchen like Usain Bolt trying to find everything I needed.

I heard Alton start to count down the final seconds so I sprinted back to my station. As soon as I landed, I saw the pasta in the other baskets and my heart sunk into the pit of my stomach.

“Ohhhh NOOOO!!!”

How could I let this happen??

I really don’t know, it all went down so fast.

But I did let it happen, and now, I have to deal with it.

pasta 1

I found the pasta! It’s at the Margate Farmer’s Market

My first thought was to try and sell the dish without any pasta. Low carb! But I wasn’t feeling confident, and Alton kept squawking in my ear about how bad I’d screwed up on the whole no-pasta thing. Had I only grabbed a variety of back-up ingredients, I could have made pasta out of flour and eggs, or even vegetables.

But nope. Naively, I only grabbed the ingredients for this stupid meatball.

I scratched my head and looked in my basket.  Somehow, I’m going to have to try and make this work.

So I mixed together what I had: some breadcrumbs, pecorino Romano, chopped parsley, and eggs, until I got a dough like consistency. I rolled it out into logs and cut them into little gnocchi-like dumplings.

How would I cook them? Boil?

Ick, no.

I opted to fry them. Because, well, everything is better fried.

They came out crispy, but dense and oddly textured little nuggets. I threw a few of them on a plate with a meatball and called it spaghetti. I was pretty embarrassed to serve something so bad and to call it something that it really wasn’t- to Bobby Flay and Jet Tila of all people! But, this was Cutthroat Kitchen, and I didn’t really have another choice.


Just look at all this pasta!

I was disappointed in myself for not picking up pasta, but I was proud of how I overcame the obstacle and made the best of my resources. In the last episode, Alton talked about turning liabilities into assets, and it was something that really stuck with me.

Life isn’t perfect. It never turns out the way you think it’s going to, and there will always be things that go wrong. You can either let them destroy you, or you can take matters into your own hands and figure out a way to make them work.

Losing my mom to ALS when I was 22 was the saddest, most devastating thing that’s ever happened in my life. But over the years, I’ve learned to channel that experience into inspiration. I could go on and on about how it helped me overcome many obstacles, and how it pushed me to get to where I am today. But I’ll save those details  for a later post.

Sometimes we make mistakes in life. Sometimes tragic things happen with no explanation. But life goes on, and you have to make the best of the cards you’ve been dealt. Even if it means bluffing a little.


Oh no, they killed Kenny! You bastards! Source: http://bit.ly/UaKFya

Which brings me to Kenny. I was particularly sad to see him go, because he always helped me keep things in perspective while on set. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the whole grandiosity of this show, but Kenny was always there to bring me back down to earth. While many of us were agonizing over the details of the competition, Kenny was in the other room taking a nap.  He is an incredibly smart and successful businessman, but he doesn’t take life too seriously. He has a great sense of humor, and is always quick to poke fun at himself.  I like people like that.

It’s very difficult to balance a life of hard work and success with having fun and keeping a laid back attitude.  It’s something I’ve struggled with a lot in not only my real life, but especially during my time on Food Network Star. It’s not an easy balance to find, but Kenny totally has. I doubt he even realizes it, but he’s been a huge inspiration in trying to channel more of that balance into my life.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode, when we head to YouTube HQ to make some rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreally funny viral marketing videos.

Read Kenny’s super classy Exit Interview.

Watch a Recap of Episode 3, and a Sneak Peak of Episode 4

Read Emma Frisch’s Episode 3 Recap

Season 8 Winner, Justin Warner’s Rebel Recap

Watch Kenny battle Luca and Chad in this week’s episode of Star Salvation.

Top moments and photos from this episode


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the many faces of Coley, once again, courtesy of Dave Gaffney

Hey guys!

Episode 2 is now under our belts, and I’ve got just a few things to say about it.

The best part about episode #2, by far, was that I got to watch it at a bar in Brooklyn with a few other Season 10 cast members, a couple FNS alum, and even some old friends from home (we go WAY back).

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bizarro world family <3

Man, ok. So, like.. think about this: You have to teach Alton Brown to cook one of his own recipes.

But you’re not teaching the normal Alton Brown. Not the one that you know has a vast knowledge of food and cooking techniques.

Nope. You get to teach an Alton Brown that’s playing an over exaggerated, klutzy novice cook.

Not as easy as you might think.


one minute to look over the recipe Source: http://bit.ly/1pesJ2u

When it was my turn, I knew I had some good information to give, but I was just soo dang nervous. Being up there, teaching this celebrity chef, who you KNOW knows more than you, and trying not to sound dumb.


When I watch now and hear myself speak, I cringe at how obvious it is that I am purposefully trying to curb my Jersey accent.

It sounds stupid, and weird. Like, I think I’m Madonna or something.

Sometimes when I leave my South Jersey bubble, people comment on my accent and it makes me a little self conscious.

Because, well, I’ve never thought the local accent here is exactly the prettiest. Moving to Louisiana gave me a bit of an accent identity crisis. But I’ve been living back here for seven years now, and I’ve definitely got a bit of that South Jersey slang back.

But man, I gotta get over it. Because I just don’t sound like myself when I try to curb it.

I need to own my Jersiness.


Fancy seeing you here, Alex! Source: http://bit.ly/1pesJ2u

The same thing happened in the elimination challenge. I was trying to do the best I could to make up this dish on the fly, to teach it and give tips, and to tell stories without leaving a second of dead air. It took every bit of concentration I had, and I wasn’t exactly having a blast while doing it.

Seriously though, my hat’s off to Lenny, because he was craaacking me up with his one liners. He was super entertaining AND informative in the kitchen.  It was very impressive.

I, on the other hand, was just nervous. It was stressful. I was a hot mess in my head, but was doing everything I could to keep cool as a cucumber on the outside.

It worked! I didn’t seem a mess.

I just seemed boring.


the invisible robot & lady robotta, aka squid & guacamole

One thing they didn’t show in my segment, was when I talked about how cous cous reminds me of my older brother, Frank.

Frank has autism, and only enjoys a very limited number of foods. And cous cous just so happens to be one of them, so I always keep it on hand to make when he comes over. I was really hoping they would show me talk about my brother on tv- he would have gotten a real kick out of it!

Luckily I can talk about him here and no one can edit it out.

Hey Frank!!

Anyway, I guess I didn’t look like I was having much fun, because, well, I wasn’t.

Sometimes in life, you need to be reminded to have more fun.

It sounds silly, but like my girl Emma said, “that’s great advice, thank you.” ;)


This was a really tough challenge and I think all of us left that day thinking “wow! If this was the SECOND challenge, then what the hell do they have in store for us next?” It doesn’t seem like the challenges can get a whole lot harder.

When Luca walked through the door in elimination we were all SHOCKED, as you could tell by my reaction. He had KILLED it in the first week, so it just didn’t make sense that they would get rid of him so soon. Even if his performance was really bad, we all thought the mentors saw enough promise to give him another chance.

Seeing Luca go home was yet another wake up call. Suddenly we all realized that it didn’t matter what happened in the last episode. This competition is about progress, and if you screw up today, you don’t get a shot at tomorrow.

Well, at least on the show. You still get a shot at real life.


boys in the bottom source: http://bit.ly/1pesJ2u

Luca truly is the kind and genuine soul that you see on the screen, and we were all sad to see him go. But, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also a bit relieved. This guy was a big threat, and we all felt like we now had a better chance of winning as a result of his elimination.

Little did we know, he gets another shot!

Luca learned quickly from his mistake and nailed his performance this week in Star Salvation. Could he be the one to come back into the competition?!

Stay tuned to find out.

Vote for your fan favorite HERE.

Watch a video recap of Episode 2.

 Read Emma Frisch’s recap.

Read Season 8 Winner, Justin Warner’s Rebel Recap.

Watch Luca compete on Star Salvation.

View top moments from this episode.

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do OR dine? We’ll take both, thanks.


what are we all doing here?! Source http://bit.ly/1jXcGyh


What a whirlwind these past few days have been. Trying to process this whole ‘being on national television’ thing is a lot harder than I thought.

But it’s cool.

I mean, this is something that I’ve always wanted to do.

Finally getting to watch the premier of Food Network Star was a giant release of emotions. It seems like forever ago that I flew out to Los Angeles to begin filming. I’ve been waiting for the season to start airing for so long, and now it finally is. Having been a fan of the show for years, watching myself as one of the contestants now is just too surreal.

Each week I’ll be chiming in here on my blog to recap my thoughts and emotions after each episode airs. I’m here to fill in some of the gaps and give you guys the scoop on how it felt every step of the way.


I stick out my chin when I get excited. Source http://bit.ly/1nTxNJT

I was so anxious to meet my 11 fellow competitors. I had thought long and hard about who they would be and what they would be like. When I walked through those double doors, I was just thinking, holy mackerel! I’m actually on Food Network Star.

I’ve been a fan of this show for so long, and  every year I’d contemplated auditioning. But I always chickened out, until last year I applied on a whim. I never thought I’d actually make it on, but I did. And now, here I am watching myself on the show, and it still doesn’t quite seem real.

As I mention in the episode, you have to be a little bit crazy to do reality TV. Looking at all of my other competitors, they all seemed so accomplished, so interesting, so smart, so fun and unique… Man, they all just seemed so good! You immediately start second guessing yourself and what you bring to the table. You start sizing yourself up with everyone else and it gets super intimidating.

We had all come prepared with a 30 second speech ready to go. But what you can’t prepare for is the magnitude of the production, the intimidation of the mentors and fellow competitors, and the fact that this is going to be shown to millions of people across America.

There’s definitely an added level of pressure.

Watching the other contestants do well gets you totally psyched out.  The amount of people and cameras and lights everywhere are absolutely blinding. You’re a little bit star struck.


fuhgeddaboudme? No way. Source http://bit.ly/1nTxNJT

It’s super easy to screw up.

And a lot of us did.

Myself included.

I had a speech prepared and memorized for that very moment. But the mentors went on and on about how being too rehearsed can come off as sounding phony (unfortunately a lot of the feedback gets edited out for time purposes).  This got me a little freaked out, so at the last minute, I bagged my speech and just winged it.

But my nerves got the better of me. Before I knew it, my 30 seconds were up, and I realized I had just babbled a bunch of nonsense.

Alton said he had already forgotten about me.

Ouch! That was rough to hear.

So right then and there I swore I wouldn’t let this happen to me ever again.

Like, forever ever.

I was determined to show the mentors and America that I am lots of things, but forgettable is absolutely, positively not one of them.


Was something funny? Source http://bit.ly/1tMIefz

I had to hone in on what it is that truly makes me unique, and I realized it’s my relationship to the sea. I’ve lived at the Jersey shore, the eastern shore of Maryland, and in the bayou of Louisiana. I’ve always been drawn to that laid back coastal lifestyle, and the simple, flavorful cuisine that always goes hand in hand.

But I didn’t want to be pegged as the fish girl. The idea of having to make seafood for every single challenge seemed lame. I think coastal cuisine is about so much more than just seafood, and it can be accessible to even those who don’t live near an ocean. My definition of coastal cuisine is something much more broad. It encompasses the entire lifestyle: little fuss, super casual, but always fun and flavorful.

Walking into the food star kitchen for the first time was absolutely bonkers. My cooking strategy was to keep it really simple. I knew that working in this kitchen was going to be challenging, so I wanted to choose a dish that would not only taste good, but be really easy to execute.

When I saw the tuna, I knew I had to use it. My grandfather, uncles, great grandfather and great uncles were all in the commercial fishing business for giant bluefin tuna. It was the perfect personal connection. Kenny and I both lunged for it. Luckily, there was enough for the both of us.

wicked tuna

Pop-Pop(far left), Uncle Mark, giant effing tuna, Uncle Skip, and Uncle Mike

I opted to do a sesame crusted tuna because it could be served cold (so temperature wasn’t an issue), and because its a pretty simple dish to make. Slice the tuna into strips, coat in mustard, coat in sesame seeds, quickly sear, chill, slice, skewer. Reduce soy sauce and sugar with ginger, garlic and chiles to make a spicy soy glaze.

This was far from my most impressive dish, but I knew it would taste good and connect with my POV, which was all I really cared about.

I thought REALLY long and hard about my speech for the red carpet. I knew I had to clearly define my POV and show the judges that I truly am a contender in this competition. I refused to be forgotten this time around.


star de la mar! Source http://bit.ly/1tMIefz

I was wicked proud of my Star De La Mar line. The judges seemed to like my food too, and I was stoked.  Not only did I make it through the first round, I made it through as one of the top 3. What more could you ask for in episode 1?

Well, you could ask for never having to send anyone home, but that wouldn’t make for very good TV.

When Donna was eliminated it came as a huge wake-up call to all of us. Between filming the first episode, promo interviews and photoshoots, we had all been together 24/7 for a solid week. And in that week, we had all gotten to know each other. We bonded over our love of food, and the fact that we were all crazy enough to be on a reality TV show. In such a short period of time, we had all become this weird, bizarro-world family.

Donna is a special lady with a real passion for what she does- which is educating the masses on how to make healthier choices, and reach not only their weight-loss goals, but their feel-good goals. Donna is full of knowledge and is able to deliver it in a fun and entertaining way. If you live in the NYC area and are looking for ways to incorporate more nutrient dense foods into your diet, you should definitely look into taking some of Donna’s classes and seminars.

And to my sweet friends Emma and Sarah: Man, being in the bottom sucks, but especially in the first episode. It’s not how any of us wanted to start out. But sometimes, being on the bottom can motivate you to really focus on what you need to do to succeed. Both of these girls are fighters, and I hope they let America see the true gems that are hiding inside.


elimination is the pits. Source http://bit.ly/1tMIefz

Sunday night I held a giant premier party at Boogie Nights, a retro-themed night club in Atlantic City. I still can’t get over the sheer number of people who came out to support me on my big night. It was so awesome and humbling to see some of the people who came.

My great aunts and cousins flew in from Gloucester, Massachussettes- I had’t seen them in ages, and they are very special to me. Chaser’s Auntie Em drove up with some friends from Wilmington, North Carolina. Steven & Nicole Horn, producers of The Chefs Kitchen and Best of the Best, drove down from Philadelphia. Family came all the way from Cape May and Princeton. There was a great showing from our friends at G Dock, and the gals of SJWN. Former teachers, mentors, bosses, coaches, coworkers, clients, colleagues and employees. My crazy awesome friends. My dad, my brother & my grandma.  My incredibly special close family (you all know who you are). Family friends that span generations. Even Pierre, the guy who used to cut my family’s hair as a kid.

Special shout out to my cousin Danielle for helping me get pretty for the night. She and her sister, Jen, got me this awesome cutting board engraved with my name and #foodnetworkstar. Seriously, its such a cool gift. And then there was Michelle, who brought a chef coat and a sharpie, and spent the whole night walking around getting everyone to sign it. How great is that?

I’m honestly just so blown away by the outpouring of love and support. It truly means the world.

That’s right, I wore the same dress to my premier party Sunday night that I wore on the show.

I’m like the Kate Middleton of reality tv, you know, recycling outfits like this.

Not really.

I actually just got really frustrated dress shopping, so I took the easy way out.

Don’t judge.

I’ll be back next week to discuss what happens on this Sunday’s episode. Don’t forget to tune in at 9pm/8c!

Questions? Leave them in the comments section below, and I’ll be happy to answer them (if I can).

Watch the season premiere in full on hulu or amazon 

Don’t forget to vote for me each week in the Fan Favorite Star Poll!

Watch the post-show recap with a special sneak preview of next week’s episode!

Read Emma’s blog recap, then watch Sarah’s vlog recap!

12 Doe-Eyed Hopefuls: Read season 8 winner Justin Warner’s rebel recap

Watch Donna compete against Season 9 fan favorite and Philly local Chad Rosenthal, and Season 8 fan favorite Martie Duncan in the first episode of Star Salvation.


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