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Despite lack of suspense, Fieri a food star at home

The suspense wasn't killing too many people Sunday night at Russell Ramsey's Chop House.

The crowd that gathered at chef Guy Fieri's Santa Rosa restaurant to watch "The Next Food Network Star" was already well aware, thanks to a mix-up on a network Web site, that Fieri had advanced to the finals of the popular reality-TV program.

But that didn't stop them from coming out to support Fieri in his quest to win his own cooking show and see him trounce the competition again.

"I love to come to these because Guy tells you all the behind-the-scenes things that happened," said Jack Levar, who manages advertising for Fieri's three Sonoma County restaurants.

Levar called Friday's accidental release of the finalists "a big fiasco," but said he didn't think it would hurt ratings. "I think people are still going to watch the show anyway because they are going to want to see how well he does," Levar said. "He's one of a kind."

Fieri said he was thrilled with the community support he's received, including the message on the marquee of the Roxy Theater reminding people to watch the Sunday night show.

"When the movie theater puts it on the marquee, you gotta love that," Fieri said.

It is now up to viewers to decide who wins the whole enchilada: the spiky-haired Fieri, whose signature dish is cayenne pepper-laced Rhode Island calamari; or self-taught Los Angeles chef Reggie Southerland, whose signature dish, according to the Food Network Web site is - get this - pea soup.

You be the judge.

Voting runs through Thursday. The final episode airs Sunday.

Details on how to vote - on the Internet or by cell phone - are available by going to www.foodnetwork.com.


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