Weight Watchers International, in partnership with ABC's hit food and lifestyle show "The Chew" (weekdays, 1 p.m. ET), today introduced the six culinary professional finalists who will compete in "The Chew Search for the Weight Watchers Chef."
Beginning Wednesday, Jan. 15, the contestants will appear weekly on "The Chew" to showcase their skills in developing and preparing healthy, delicious dishes for a chance to win $75,000, and a one-year consulting contract with Weight Watchers as the Weight Watchers chef.
Two hosts of "The Chew" and a Weight Watchers representative will serve as judges as the contestants battle it out on-air in the tournament-style competition, leaving just the top competitors to face off for the grand prize in the finale, scheduled to air Feb. 19.
The six talented finalists describe their food philosophy as follows:
•Sophia Albanna (Houston) - Sophia's food philosophy centers on nutrient dense, diet-friendly meals that leave one feeling completely satisfied. She is pursuing a master's degree in nutrition to be a registered dietician. When she is not busy studying, she writes columns and leads at-home calls for a clinic teaching those battling obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and other heart-related diseases how to recreate dishes to be healthier.
•Lisa Fontanesi (Los Angeles) - Lisa's passion for cooking comes from family - starting with countless hours spent cooking and baking in her grandmother's kitchen. In tribute to her mother-in-law and father, who believed food and family belonged together, she created "Kidding Around the Kitchen"as a way to teach hands-on cooking and nutrition classes in local schools throughout Southern California.
•Diane Henderiks (Oakhurst, N.J.) - Diane is a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, personal chef, recipe developer and caterer on a mission to teach America how to cook and eat well. She travels the country sharing her nutrition and culinary expertise at top food and wine festivals. Her goal is for people to understand that cooking, eating and living healthier are all about lifestyle changes, not fad diets and quick fixes.
•Ryan Hutmacher (Chicago) - Ryan's culinary journey began with his own health transformation almost 10 years ago. After years of struggling with weight management, he sought to re-invent his eating habits and career, as well as his ailing health. It was around that time that he co-founded Centered Chef, a culinary studio in Chicago where clean-eating experiences are integrated into both social and educational platforms.
•Jacqueline Marquez (Miami Lakes, Fla.) - After roles on Telemundo's telenovelas, Jacqueline discovered her true passion for cooking and attended culinary school at the Iberoamerican Institute of Culinary Arts in Venezuela. After a lifelong battle with weight, she wanted to discover a healthier lifestyle and began reinventing her favorite indulgent dishes into healthier options without sacrificing the taste. Today, Jacqueline is the owner of a Miami-based catering company called "Salt & SugArt" that specializes in baked goods, cake designs and hors d'oeuvres for parties, company events and others.
•Michelle Richter-Dudash (Scottsdale, Ariz.) - Registered dietician, Cordon Bleu-certified chef and best-selling author Michelle creates mouthwatering recipes for busy moms struggling to feed their families nourishing meals while the clock is ticking. She is the author of the cookbook "Clean Eating for Busy Families." It's Michelle's goal to make clean, fresh and fast a part of one's everyday food choices.
From Nov. 18-Dec. 8, 2013, eligible culinary professionals were invited to enter the contest online by sharing their culinary resume and a short video describing how great tasting food can support a healthy lifestyle and demonstrate how to make an indulgent dish healthier.