'Next Food Network Star' premiere sizzles

Net says younger viewers upped show's ratings

The fifth season of "The Next Food Network Star" got off to a hot start Sunday.

The reality show, which follows aspiring chefs and ultimately awards the winner his or her own series on the Food Network, bested all series premieres in the Food Network's history with 2.2 million total viewers (up 16% over the season four opener).

Including encore airings, the total viewership for the episode was 4.5 million (up 22% from season four's premiere), with 2.3 million in the 18-49 demographic tuning in.

The median age of viewers for the network has lowered significantly in recent years, and an increase in younger viewers helped to push the premiere to a new record, the network noted.

The series has maintained its momentum since last season's finale, which had the largest audience of any telecast in Food Network history with 4 million viewers.

However, last season's winner, Aaron McCargo, Jr., has seen low ratings for his own show, "Big Daddy's House," in keeping with generally small viewership and short runs for past "Next Food Network Star" winners.