KENILWORTH, NJ – Daryani Santana, a Kenilworth resident and restaurant owner, will bring a taste of Jersey to the Food Network on “Guy’s Big Project.”
Santana, who owns Cha Cha Cuban with her father, is one of 10 contestants to appear on Guy Fieri’s newest reality show, which offers contestants the opportunity to present their ideas for food travel shows. The winner’s idea will be developed into a series for the network.
“Because I own a restaurant, I want to go to little hole-in-the-wall, family-owned restaurants around the country,” Santana said. “I think that when you go to these places, you’re part of that family’s traditions and love.”
Family is clearly important to Santana, who mentions the love for food that her parents share.
“I come from a foodie family,” Santana said. “My family always watched ‘Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives [one of Fieri’s other TV shows]’. I always thought Guy had the perfect career because he could eat amazing food and meet people and see what they do.”
Although there’s not too much about the show that Santana can reveal just yet, she said her favorite moment was cooking a family recipe on air.
“It was very meaningful to have the Food Network, Guy Fieri and all of America see what I grew up eating,” Santana said.
What did she grow up eating?
“100 percent Cuban food,” Santana said.
To make the experience even better, Fieri, known for his platinum hair and exuberant personality, was a great person to work with, Santana said.
“Guy is a dope guy, no pun intended,” Santana laughed. “He’s truly a great human, exactly who you see on TV. The other contestants were equally great and I truly believe it’s because Guy hand-selected everyone. He really, really cares about all the contestants. The show really comes from his heart.”
According to Santana, food is just one of her passions. At David Brearley High School, which she graduated from in 2008, she was always involved in multiple projects.
“Anyone that knew me in high school knew that I was always an overachiever," Santana said. "I was class president, yearbook club and a multitude of other projects."
She also shared a lasting impact from her high school years.
"My first-ever cooking class was at Brearley with Mrs. Schneider,” she said.
After graduating from Kean University with a degree in communications, she started working as a TV host for a multitude of networks, including Music Choice, Dish Network, and Revolt TV.
"I’m so outgoing, I love to be in front of a camera and this is what I want to do. The entertainment industry does not come with an instruction manual. You really have to just go in and work hard.”
The entertainment industry fits naturally for Santana, who said her personality and diversity, along with her unique idea, is what landed her the spot.
“I felt like I added much-needed diversity to the show,” Santana said. “I’m the only Latina cast member. And when you’re from Jersey, you have your own magical personality.”
Santana will appear on "Guy's Big Project" starting Nov. 5 at 9 p.m. on the Food Network. The series will run for six episodes.