Alice's Howie Drummond is the first contestant off The Next Food Network Star

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Howie Drummond, an Alice 105.9 personality, was one of fifteen contestants to start off season seven of The Next Food Network Star last Sunday. Drummond, who lives in Highlands Ranch, had experience in professional kitchens, had owned his own now-closed tapas place, and had plenty of experience in front of cameras. He even had a game plan: Be the guy who cooks at home and is likable on camera, but isn't really a culinary pro, then wait until the other contestants let down their guard -- and dazzle the judges with A+ recipes.

It seemed like he could be a serious contender.

But things didn't work out as planned: Drummond got booted during the season's premiere. "I was a little shocked at that, actually," he says. "I think about what I could have done differently. I have some really great recipes that I should have pulled out earlier."

After studying the sixth season of The Next Food Network Star, Drummond figured that his on-air personality would keep him around for at least a couple of episodes. "I was just really confident that I could get out two or three weeks without pulling out my great stuff," he says.

But this season, judge Bobby Flay wanted a winner who could really cook. And the gummy gnocchi Drummond made in the two-hour premiere, a recipe he'd tried only a handful of times before, just didn't cut it. The contestants this round are better cooks than last season, Drummond notes, and while he's cooked in professional kitchens, he's never been to culinary school -- nor would he call himself a chef.

Drummond flew back to Denver a week ago, after filming the finale in New York City. But although just the first episode has aired so far, "a lot more people recognize me," he says. "Even though I've been on a local show and radio for years, people are honking and waving at me in the street now. But I don't necessarily think a year from now, people will still say, 'Oh, hey! There's that a-hole.'

"I wanted to take my career to that next level. Fame or shame, it's all the same game. When you're on a national TV show, people know your name and people are talking about you," Drummond says.

While he says he doesn't regret going on the show, he thinks that a few of the other contestants do. Apparently the drama is ramping up, and tears will join the cast for quite a few more episodes.

Another Coloradan did survive the first episode: Aspen-based caterer and cooking teacher Susie Jiminez. "I love Susie," Drummond says. "I think her cooking is fantastic. I think she's a star, but I can't allude to how far she's gotten." That's because the contestants sign legal agreements to keep quiet until the shows have aired. "There's nothing pretentious about her," he continues. "What you see with Susie is what you get. And I think that's going to take her a long way."

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