Brigantine chef and Ambler restaurateur on 'Next Food Network Star'

Nicole Gaffney is a contestant on Season 10 of "Next Food Network Star."

"What have you got to lose?" Chaser Gaffney asked his wife, Nicole, as she toyed with the idea of sending in an audition tape to Food Network's Next Food Network Star.

"I mean, I've watched every single season," Nicole Gaffney, a personal chef from Brigantine, said recently. "I was gun-shy about applying. It's scary to do reality TV."

She said she was shocked to get a quick call-back "considering all the people who apply for it."

She and 11 others will be featured at 9 p.m. Sunday, June 1 on the premiere of Season 10. Alton Brown, Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay are back as mentors/judges.

The first episode, in which the dozen contestants are charged with whipping up nibbles for a Hollywood party, is available on demand now. (Warning: Ross Matthews, the unwatchable, unlistenable, inexplicably employed personality from E!, joins the panel for the premiere.)

Gaffney, 29, said she grew up "obsessed with food. I come from a big Sicilian family [of commercial fishermen], and every conversation always comes down to food."

She didn't initially want to go into the business. During college (communications), she waited tables and - being from the Atlantic City area - she said she realized that chefs at the casinos weren't very happy.

She said she bounced around, modeling, but fell into food because, "well, it is my passion."

She enrolled at Academy of the Culinary Arts in Mays Landing, but dropped out.

Rather than take a restaurant job, she hung out her shingle as a personal chef. "I prep meals in my clients' home - several at once - package them for the fridge or freezer and then go on my merry way," she said.

Also this season, Food Network is giving contestants from previous seasons the chance to wriggle back into the Next Food Network Star competition. First up on Star Salvation, being shown on the web, is Ambler's Chad Rosenthal, who owns The Lucky Well in the borough and was let go from Season 9. He is competing against Season 8 oust-ee Martie Duncan.