Latvian caterer from Texas competes for cooking show on Food Network

Television viewers in the United States who tune into the Food Network cable channel might get to watch a Latvian-American caterer and chef from Texas win her own cooking show.

Dzintra Dzenis, 44, is among 12 contestants on the sixth season of “The Next Food Network Star.” Based this year in Los Angeles, the reality show pits the contestants against each other in various cooking and food presentation challenges judged by three Food Network personalities. Each week one contestant is eliminated.

Dzenis, whose first language is Latvian, runs her own catering business in Austin, Texas. She has been a caterer since the age of 17 and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Through her business, Plate by Dzintra, she teaches private cooking classes and hosts a supper club. She and her family recently returned to the United States.

“I lived in Paris for 20 years, and when we decided (my husband and daughter) to move back to the U.S., we wanted to select a place where food still has a chance to grow,” Dzenis told Latvians Online in an e-mail. “I mean, in cities like New York, Chicago or San Francisco food trends change faster than people can clean their plates.  Austin is a small-big city, the capital of Texas, and it has the highest amount of restaurant goers in the country. This is exactly the kind of place I can grow my business in. Plus Austin is beautiful, the landscapes look like a cross between Provence and Tuscany. Also, the people here are super friendly!”

Filming of “The Next Food Network Star” is complete, but there is no word yet if Dzenis won or was eliminated. The first show aired June 5 and the program continues into August. An estimated 2.5 million viewers saw the first show, according to Nielsen Media Research.

In the first show, Dzenis for her “camera challenge” prepared a chicken and potato napoleon with spicy tomato-sambal sauce, according to For her “star challenge,” she prepared a limoncello and meyer lemon sabayon with crispy macadamia cakes and candied lemon rind. Both recipes can be found on the show’s website.

However, Dzenis got undesirable attention when an injury to her eye brought her to tears and to the hospital, restricting her participation. Although she survived the first episode, Dzenis was left “hanging by a thread,” according to one judge.

Although her Food Network profile describes her specialty as “New American Fusion,” Dzenis said her Latvian background will be apparent on the show in a recipe from her mother. But, she added, “you’ll just have to tune in to find out what it is!”

Her favorite Latvian food is pīragi, Dzenis said. “I also love sauer kraut soup with ķimenes, potatoes and a nice fatty piece of stewed pork. Yum-yum!”

Dzenis thanked the Latvian viewers who caught the first show.

“So many Latvians from around the country watched the show last night, and they’ve been sending me e-mails and messages, cheering me on,” she told Latvians Online. “I appreciate it so much… so please keep watching the show and rooting for their little Latvian lady!”

“The Next Food Network Star” is seen Sundays on the Food Network at 9 p.m. Eastern (8 p.m. Central) in the United States. The second episode airs June 13.

Dzintra Dzenis

Dzintra Dzenis of Austin, Texas, is among contestants on the reality show “The Next Food Network Star.” (Photo courtesy of Food Network)

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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