EDGEWATER — Edgewater high school student and "American Idol" star Devin Velez missed one thing above all while competing in the national spotlight for three months in Los Angeles.
A home-cooked meal in his hometown of Chicago.
"It’s not that LA doesn’t have good food," said the 18-year-old, who had his first full day back in school Tuesday at the Rickover Naval Academy. "But LA doesn’t have good food."
Velez's final appearance, in which he brought judge Mariah Carey to tears, wasn't enough to keep him in the running for the top spot. He was sent home in eighth place.
His peers, teachers and family back in Chicago watched the show intently throughout the crooner's commanding appearances.
"Devin Velez is obviously the most notable and most exciting [academy student] from a national perspective," said Commandant Mike Tooker, an administrator at the military school. "And we are extraordinarily happy he was able to present himself in such a mature and respectful and talented way."
Velez, of Portage Park, said Tuesday in a conference room at the academy — dressed in his mandatory slacks and Navy-issued, short-sleeved khaki shirt — that he's grateful for the exposure and happier than ever to be home in Chicago.
"It’s been crazy," said Velez of being home and back in school, finishing up his senior year. "I love the fact that I go here."
His appearances on "American Idol" weren't free of controversy, however.
The teen delved into a Twitter feud with judge Nicki Minaj after she ordered Velez and the two other remaining guys in the competition off the stage after flubbing their trio performance of Four Tops hit "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)."
"I’m gonna act like I didn’t see that or hear it," Minaj told the contestants, which led Velez to fire back on Twitter and in interviews.
"I didn’t find her comments offensive," Velez said. "I just found them a little uncalled for. They were just really strong and I didn’t think they needed to be that strong."
"I love Nicki Minaj," he said. "I thought she was a great addition to the show and to this day I have nothing against her."
In the heat of the feud, Velez said Minaj's "Barbies" took him to task on the Web, while his "Devineers" rallied in support.
"In the end, I’m not going to be hanging out with the Barbies," Velez said. "I’m going to be hanging out with the Devineers — because those are my fans."
It's possible Velez's biggest fans are right here in Chicago.
"He's just so normal. I'm going to write down all my words for you," said Rickover teacher Anne Clancy in a second-floor hallway Tuesday. "He's just so real."