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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My review of this season of The Next Food Network Star.

I watch a few cooking competition shows I admit it. It is limited to Top Chef, one of the various spin-offs of Top Chef and The Next Food Network Star. TNFNS has aired a few episodes for this season already so I will do a review blog on it and I will update it as each new episode airs.

These past two winners were the ones that I was really rooting for. I really liked Melissa D'Arabian and Aarti Sequaria. Aaron Macargo Jr. was also one that I was personally rooting for. So I hope this one goes well in terms of the winner.

Format of the show: In each episode, there are two parts: A camera challenge and a star challenge. During the camera challenge the contestants are given a challenge to make something good reflecting their culinary POV and present it to the camera. For example, last week's Camera Challenge was to take a Hershey's candy, make a dish out of it and present it to the camera and how it related to their POV in 60 seconds. A winner is chosen who often gets an advantage of some sort in the star challenge (like getting to pick something first) Then, they have a star challenge where they usually divide into teams and do a big challenge. For example, the last challenge was to split into teams of 6 and make desserts for a party of 150 people including the judges. Then a winner is selected and a loser is sent home.

The Judges:
Bobby Flay: This guy has the most experience out of any of the judges. He has around 7 Food Network shows and too many restaurants to count. As such, I find that many competitors are in awe of him. For a very good reason I admit. His standards are high but that is very fitting because you need to be the best to succeed in this show.

Bob Tuschman: Bob is one of the judges that is instrumental to impress. He is in charge of all of the programming on Food Network. he is pretty much as high as you can go in the Food Network hierarchy. As such, he also has very very high standards.

Susie Fogelson: the Senior Vice President of Marketing,  Creative and Brand Strategy. Another Food Network high ranker that needs to be impressed. I have to imagine that her and Bob are the ones you really need to impress. Yes you need to really really impress Bobby too, but he isn't in charge of marketing and programming. They are. Again, not to take away from Bobby. Like the rest of the judges, she has very high standards and expects those standards to be met.

Giada De Laurentiis: She acts as the mentor to the competitors. She is often the one who explains what the challenges are for the week. she helps them a long just a bit but in no way does she hold anyone's hand. She's still a tough judge to impress.

The Competitors:

Howie Drummond: Howie is a radio host for Alice 105.9. Being from Colorado I listen to the show a bit. I like Howie and I really wanted to see him succeed. His POV for the show seemed to be a good one: average Joe cooking. He could have added a very relatable element to The Food Network because he would have been relatable to a lot of people because he was just an average dude cooking. It could have been great. But his cooking unfortunately didn't match his radio talk show hosting skills and he was the first one booted off. It's really unfortunate. I was pulling for him.

Juba Kali: He seemed a nice enough guy. His POV was 'Food Made Simply' but unfortunately it took him too long to get his POV across. That coupled with him not doing well in front of the camera meant he was booted off of the show second.  He wasn't such a bad guy though. There are two parts to each show: A camera challenge and a star challenge. Normally a contestant is eliminated after both, meaning one per episode. Juba was eliminated after a camera challenge.

Katy Clark: She was a very nice person she just didn't do very well in front of the camera. The judges weren't incredibly pleased with her food either. However, she was passionate about it. Plus, and I love seeing this, she was eliminated but when she was eliminated she was incredibly gracious about it. I'm sure it was not fun to be eliminated but when the next thing you say to the judges after your elimination is "Well with a big smile I say thank you" with a big smile, it shows that she has character to spare. I really liked that.

Alicia Sanchez: From minute one she had problems. Not of her own doing even. Any cooking mistakes she made was her fault like the rest but she had some additional stress to deal with. From the very first second they met one of the competitors (who I will get to in a sec) decided that she would do her very very best to make Alicia's life miserable. No reason. This particular competitor pretty much hates everyone else but for whatever reason she targeted Alicia. Then to top it off, during the first camera challenge the judges said that they didn't like her accent (it's what they said but not what they meant at all) so, she had to do her next camera challenge believing that everyone hated her accent. Ultimately the judges kinda rescinded on that remark and as such she absolutely nailed her next camera challenge. She gave a good relatable personal experience. She made a dish with truffles on it and described a first date of hers where her date took her to a restaurant and put truffles on her dish. She then recalled that the date was a total jerk. She ended her story by saying the most brilliant burn I have ever heard on that show "I guess it does take a pig to find truffles" Burn. Ultimately her high levels of stress and lack of focus in the kitchen meant that she was eliminated. But I think the next person I will talk about had a little something to do with that. Not entirely mind you, but it didn't help.

Penny Davidi: Let's play a game of Never Have I Ever: Never Have I Ever seen a person on any TV show (keeping in mind I have not seen Jersey Shore thank God) that is so malicious, vindictive and just plain cruel. The worst part is is that if you ask her about her behavior she will almost see it as something to be proud of. She hated Alicia from minute one. I have no friggin' clue why. If her cooking wasn't good she would have been axed a long time ago. To be honest, if she had gone with her original POV of "cooking sexy" or something like that (basically, bringing sexy back to the kitchen) she's be gone or would be very soon). The judges basically told her that they thought it was a ridiculous idea (in not so many words). Since then her POV has been 'Middle Eastern Mama'. However, what she fails to realize is that she does not have a snowball's chance in Hell of winning. The judges know she is a jerk as does everyone who has seen the show. I can almost guarantee that her first few words in the next episode will deal with gloating that Alicia is gone. In fact, her first few words this episode were about how stupid it is to make friends on the show because you only get stabbed in the back. The ridiculous part is that she hasn't said a selflessly kind word to anyone yet. She will never get a show. Food Network watchers want to see hosts like Rachel Ray and Paula Deen. Someone who they would love to meet in real life because they come across as incredibly nice people. No one is going to watch the show of a self-proclaimed malicious jerk. I get the feeling that if I went over to her house for dinner she would make snide insults to my wife and kids (not that I have them yet) for no reason The minute she screws up badly she's gone. She's gotten to the point where it's plainly obvious that she is milking her jerkiness for all it's worth. She knows she will be a memorable person on the show  by being a jerk. The 'I'm only around because people love to hate me' thing will only last for so long. People will get annoyed when she isn't gone soon. I've seen 6 seasons of Food Network Star and I have never seen anyone like Penny and I still enjoyed the show a lot. You don't need a person like her to make a great show.

*update* Well, now she's gone. She had great food but tanked every camera challenge. I will say that I'm surprised to see her go this early. She still made great food. I fully expected Christ to get eliminated this week, but Penny over Jyll surprised me a lot. I'm not sorry to see her go and neither was anyone else judging by what they were all saying after she left. 

Vic 'Vegas' Moea: This is another guy who had a rough start. for the first two challenges he didn't put everything on the plate. You don't need to be genius to understand that is a bad thing. However in all fairness the second time was not his fault. It was just an unfortunate kitchen collision. However once he actually got food on the plate the judges were generally very pleased. He is doing better in front of the camera too. But I don't see him taking the whole thing. He could though. He is not out of it yet. You don't know who is going to get eliminated until it actually happens. This guy has some potential.
*Update* He got to the top 3. But he was just a little too weak in the very end. It's too bad. I would have loved to see him take the whole thing.

Whitney Chen: Is it just me or does she look a tad like Rachel Ray or someone like that? It's just me? Darn. I think she said she used to be an engineer. What a switch. I like her. She seems to have a nice personality. She did alright in one of the recent challenges to (and by that I mean she won). She has potential but not an incredible amount. However that's not to say that I don't like her and if she succeeds a lot in the next few weeks more power to her.

*Update* Yeah, she didn't do well enough. She was too inconsistent and didn't have the camera personality that she needed. I liked her well enough though.

Susie Jimenez: Her culinary POV is 'Latin with a flair'. It has potential but it, in theory, could be dangerous. Two other contestants are doing ethnic based shows and there are already others on the network such as Aarti Party. She needs to step up her game. With two 'ins' and a 'low' it isn't looking good. I don't expect her to last incredibly long on the show. But like I said with Vic, you're not out until the judges call your name. She could still surprise us. I just doubt it.

*Update* She got second which didn't surprise me too much. However, many runner-ups have gotten their own shows so don't count her out of the running yet. My bet is that she will eventually get her own show.

Orchid Paulmeier: In every reality cooking show like this, there is always one person who sets themselves above the group from the first challenge onwards. Orchid is that person here. With a pair of wins here and never having been on the chopping block, she has the most potential at the moment. As such Penny 'go-for-the-throat' Davidi tried to eliminate her the minute she got power. It didn't work and Katy got out instead. This is a tad of a tangent but I gotta say that it's not like I've never seen anyone try to get the frontrunners out before. But the malicious glee Penny has while doing it has set a new low for that behavior. Anyways, Orchid is easily one of the top people right now and her food combined with her ease in front of the camera mean that she will probably go very far.

*update* Well, she had a great start but crashed and burned. she just didn't have a dominant personality. Thus, she was eliminated in week 6.

Mary Beth Albright: She had a clunky start but she has a win under her belt meaning that she probably deserves to be there. It's still only week 4 though. She does okay in front of the camera but it needs a bit of work. She has potential, but she's going to have to pull ahead fast to stand out or impress me.

*Update* She had a great camera personality but she didn't deliver on her food well enough in the last few weeks. But she got very far so props to her there.

Jyll Everman: Right now (with the exception of a camera challenge win) she seems to just be there. While that may work for the beginning few episodes it certainly will not work soon. she needs to step up her game a lot. A camera challenge win means she has potential but I would like to see more of it. If she doesn't show it she will be gone soon.

*Update* Gone. If you say to the judges when they ask you what your POV is when you are in the final 6 and you have no idea you get the axe. she totally failed this week which was no surprise to me.

Justin Davis: His POV is 'Date Night' I love the idea. It would make for an excellent show if it was done right. However, he just seems to be there. He's done nothing major to catch my attention and his one win was a group win (not that there's anything wrong with that at all. A win is a win). he needs to step it up. By week 7 or 8, (maybe earlier) the pretenders will be gone.

*update* week 5 elimination. I am not surprised at all. He didn't strike me as someone who would go extremely far anyway.

Justin Balmes:  Well, he is gone now. His wooden personality in front of people on top of making the critical mistake of saying his food is bland before people even taste it means he got the boot. it's almost a pity, if he had had good food last week Penny might have been gone.

Jeff Mauro: With a pair of wins he's emerging as a potential star. With a sandwich based POV, it might take a bit of work to make that the best but if he can pull it off, he will do very well. He could make it to the top 7 or 8.

*update* He took the whole thing. He had a strong, and most importantly original, POV from week one and he took it all the way. I am not upset about this. He is a great guy and I am glad that he took the whole thing.

Chris Nirschel: He has a win (group effort) and a near loss. but everyone on the show will have their ups and downs. He's done nothing major to put him ahead of the others. he's just 'there' right now but I don't see him going too far.

*update* His immaturity and being uncomfortably over the top combined with him compulsively apologizing for food before the judges even tasted it meant that he is gone now. Plus, his 'balls' idea for the food truck competition was one of the worst I've ever heard.

Alrighty then. I will update this each week with my thoughts on the latest episode.

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