‘Next Food Network Star’ Hopeful Orchid Paulmeier Shares What’s Next for Runners-Up

Orchid Paulmeier, Season 7 contestant on "The Next Food Network Star," owns One Hot Mama's on Hilton Head Island.

“The Next Food Network Star” winner will be announced Sunday, but what about the runners-up? Former contestant Orchid Paulmeier shares with Magazines.com what could be next for them.

Have you been watching Season 8 of “The Next Food Network Star”?

Orchid Paulmeier has, and she’s got a different take on it than the rest of us. Thanks to competing herself on Season 7, she has an idea what the runners-up are in for when the show ends because she’s experienced it herself.

“They have so many cool things and opportunities ahead of them,” she said. “And there’s a cool bond ahead of them too.”

Paulmeier has kept in touch with many of her fellow contestants, who’ve had similar doors open for them as a result of appearing on the show, and they’re attempting to plan a reunion.

Unlike some, the self-described Food Network fan (even before her “Next Food Network Star” run) approves of the new setup. On her season, the judges’ panel selected the overall winner, while a separate online contest crowned one selected by the viewers. “The Sandwich King,” Jeff Mauro, won both, but Paulmeier finished second in online voting.

That came as no surprise, as the personable Hilton Head Island, S.C., restaurateur made it about halfway through last season before her surprise elimination—several tabbed her as the front-runner to win it all.

What did her in was not her cooking, which frequently got rave reviews, but her being overshadowed by some of the bigger personalities in the group.

What did she learn from it all? “That I have to be more aggressive,” she said. “I’m so used to being in comfortable surroundings—I’ve been on the island for 19 years now. But I’m definitely more willing to put myself out there these days.”

Aside from the booming business she’s doing at One Hot Mama’s thanks in part to her Food Network appearance, Paulmeier is making stops in ten cities on the Southern Women’s Show circuit, and has gained entry into the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival, the inaugural Atlanta Food & Wine Festival and the exclusive Palmetto Bluff Culinary Festival in nearby Bluffton, S.C.

“It’s really opened up a lot of opportunities,” she said of the show.

At the heart of her success is her restaurant, which she credits for getting her on “The Next Food Network Star” in the first place. Shortly after the first show aired, she said, “It literally doubled business. We’re still feeling the effects now.”

She’s had to hire more people as a result, not to mention she’s often recognized and customers ask to take pictures. The show has especially helped bring in tourists, reaching them in ways the restaurant hadn’t before.

When Paulmeier graciously exited “The Next Food Network Star” upon elimination, she promised viewers they had not seen the last of her. As she continues to network, she’s hoping to push a pilot to get on one of the cooking channels and is exploring the possibilities of franchising.

“I’m constantly trying to find out what opportunities are out there,” she said.

The winner of “The Next Food Network Star” will be announced on the Food Network on Sunday, July 22 at 8 p.m. Central/9 p.m. Eastern.