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Andrew Schumacher seems like a regular guy. He lives in Carroll Gardens, is married, has an 11-month-old daughter and has a job in "the city," but he is not your typical Brooklynite.

The 26-year-old medical school applicant-turned-cook has landed a spot as a finalist on the reality TV show, "The Next Food Network Star."

"My wife has been my biggest inspiration," Schumacher said of spouse Carrie’s support of his career switch. "She got me into cooking; she got me into trying all these different foods that I had never had, like sushi among other things. When she was in grad school, I would be at home cooking dinner for her and once she saw how much I liked it, she encouraged me. I came to New York to go to culinary school, and she made the journey with me. It’s been unbelievable."

Schumacher and Carrie met in their home state, Iowa, where both attended the University of Iowa. Once Schumacher was sure about his career choice, the two moved to New York, where Schumacher attended the French Culinary Institute. He then got a job as a line cook at AIX, a restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, but was forced to quit when it was clear his dream job of being a chef in the city wasn’t going to pay the bills.

After Schumacher got a job as a logistics manager at the New York Blood Center, he then got his break as one of the eight finalists for the Food Network show. During filming, he had to spend three weeks away from Carrie and their baby Sierra, in a situation that was very surreal, he said.

"It’s kind of like a retreat," said Schumacher of "Next Food Network Star," where he shared airtime with superstar chefs Mario Batali, Masaharu Morimoto and Bobby Flay (pictured above right with Schumacher). "The thing about the show was everyone on it was an extrovert personality, so there was a lot of energy but no animosity. There was a lot of downtime when we were in the [waiting room] - for what seemed like forever - and it made it a little nerve-racking. Overall it was a great experience and everyone genuinely liked each other."

On the season premiere, Schumacher is perceived by the judges as proficient and skillful with his food and recipes, but a little out of touch and impersonal with the television audience. As one of his first challenges, he prepares a dish using his favorite ingredient, pork, a meat that Schumacher believes is symbolic of his Midwestern roots and is also complementary to many other foods.

Schumacher’s lips were sealed about the premiere’s finale, so readers will need to tune in to find out if he escapes elimination and makes it to episode two.

Currently, Schumacher is focusing on his Manhattan-based business, Nappants Catering. (The word "nappants," chosen by Schumacher and his partner Chef Kevin Bradley, means "perfect consistency" in French.)

"The success of a French chef is judged by how he can make a sauce," Schumacher said. "Nappants is symbolic for the quality of work that we do here, reaching the perfect consistency."

"The Next Food Network Star" season two premiere airs Sunday, March 19, at 9 pm on the Food Network. Nappants Catering is located at Broadway and 88th Street in Manhattan. For more information, call (212) 877-2233.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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