Axed 'Next Food Network Star' Chef Surprised At Elimination, Roots for Debbie

Twenty-eight-year-old Michael Proietti was sent packing on the last episode of The Next Food Network Star, barely making it to the show's final four contestants. The flamboyant "global a go-go" chef was eliminated when he revealed, perhaps unwisely, that he couldn't deal speaking directly to the camera. He later revealed that he was just joking, and he admits being surprised at the elimination.

"I was, yes - in the elimination room, that is," Michael told The Examiner. "I did not see it coming. I had a great time with the Miami challenge, and I really don't think I was focused on the big picture. When I watched the episode back I understood a little better."

Michael did make the "I hate cameras" comment to the judges in Miami, which he later took back. "I was really just saying it in jest. It was meant to be a joke -- love the crowd, hate the cameras. I was working that room! I could have easily adapted to cooking in front of the cameras, just as I adapted to cooking in a stressful environment. I made the comment, and I do not regret it. That is just who I am."

And while not a lot of Next Food Network Star fans are exactly fond of fellow contestant Debbie Lee, Michael revealed that he was rooting for the Korean restaurant consultant. He also refutes all the rumors that Debbie Lee is a liar.

"She is an amazing human being. I think she got a bad rep with the editing of the show last week. She did not mean to come off the way she did. When you are on the show sometimes, you just don't think everything through. It is so hectic. She is a fabulous chef and a great lady. Much love to her!"

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