'Food Network Star' Season 9: Bobby Flay helps launch another culinary search

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Bobby Flay clearly doesn't have a problem with rival TV chefs, since he's actively involved in discovering some of them.

Along with fellow culinary personalities Giada De Laurentiis and Alton Brown, the celebrity cook returns as a mentor and judge when the Food Network contest "Food Network Star" starts its ninth season Sunday, June 2. Twelve new competitors will face a variety of gastronomic challenges, with viewers' votes factoring into the eventual decision of who will win his or her own Food Network show.

"Giada, Alton and I all have different sensibilities in terms of what we're looking for," multiple Emmy winner Flay tells Zap2it. "The people I gravitate toward have a serious obsession with food; they just don't want to be on television, but they're passionate about what they do and how they live their lives every day. And if it doesn't involve food in a real, genuine way, I'm not interested."

With his belief in "Food Network Star" confirmed by his continuing involvement in it, Flay reasons the show has "a two-pronged effect. It's a great show that viewers want to see; they get to root for their favorite finalists and obviously create their own opinions on who should stay and who should go. And we also get the chance to add somebody to the (Food Network host) roster, and that's what's really nice. Besides good viewership, we get a good result out of it as well."

Pitting several contenders against one another is an effective way to do that, Flay says from experience.

"I compete on 'Iron Chef America,' and I had a show called 'Throwdown' for five years. Food and competition seem to go hand in hand these days, but I love the fact that this isn't a train wreck show. There are some missteps because the challenges can be very difficult, but Alton and Giada and I always say, 'Man, we would never be able to get a job like this.' I give these people a lot of credit."
Photo/Video credit: Food Network