I'm probably letting myself in for more heartbreak by watching this show. What if I fall in love with someone and then they're yanked off the air prematurely...as can happen on these nitwitted reality shows? I’ll give it a try..
We have seconds-long vignettes of each of the FN stars hopefuls. The only thing that interests me is their interaction with current Food Network “Stars”. I don’t even like that title for these newcomers. Who knows if they’ll be a star or not?
Kelsey comes in first. Cute. In college, she had her own cooking show.
Kevin wants to bring romance and fun back to the kitchen. What does that mean? He says almost as an aside that he’s an author of a "coupla" cookbooks, he owns a "coupla" restaurants. If he’s doing so well, WHAT is he doing here?
Shane – 19 years old?!! Private chef, graduated from the CIA at 18. Impressive. I like him. He started cooking as way to lose tons of weight, so he has a mission. Good for him.
Jennifer – Executive Chef, who has a four year old. Oh gosh, is this another Antonia clone, where her kid becomes her identity? Women, forget about your kids, just for a second. (I say that as someone who was…IS joined at the hip to my kids…at least I would be, if they let me.) That’s WHY I say this. Leave your kids at home! I don’t wanna hear about them. And believe me, nobody else does.
Cory, comedian. Immediately unlikable. She was a catering manager for MANY hotels in New York City. Why? Because she couldn’t keep a job?
Jeffrey – Caterer. He sounds down to earth and not desperate to take the center stage yet.
Adam – He says something about improvisational theater and 15 years experience in kitchens. That last thing is good. Wait a minute, it says Restaurant Server under his name! Not that that’s not a noble profession, but I thought he meant he had 15 years COOKING experience. Is he trying to get one over on us?
Yuck! Lisa, already I hate her. Big sunglasses. Her bangs are annoying, they're unattractively short. She says she owns “a fine dining” restaurant. Only people from the sticks call it that…
Aaron, 31 years old. Hospital Caterer. He could be a sleeper. I like him. While these other people pretend to be cooks, he actually has a job COOKING and goodness knows hospitals need good cooks. Way to go.
Nipa is a self-taught cook. Give me a break. Is that code for she thinks she’s too good for cooking school? She’s annoying.
Bobby Flay walks in. His presentation is a bit stiff. What’s with the fancy schmany term “selection committee”? Is he afraid to call them judges, so we don’t think this show is a complete rip-off of Top
Chef?* He introduces them.
Susie Fogelson, Vice President of Marketing and Brand Strategy is there. Eh, she doesn’t bother me one way or the other. She does use bad English, though. She's looking for SOMEONE to hone FN’s brand, as well as THEIR own brand. Sorry, that should be HIS or HER own brand.
And Bob Tuschman is the other judge. He’s amiable. He’s Senior Vice President of Programming and Production. Why is he in charge of BOTH? Shouldn’t the programming be taking up all his time? I guess on a smaller network, that’s how they roll.
After a quick toast from Bobby, Alton…yick…walks in with tie askew and hair messed. “He greets the contestants, saying “We know you can cook.” How does he know that? He tells them their first challenge will be to sum up their culinary point of view directly to the camera, using any food props they wish from a large selection.
Jennifer, single mom: “Keep it simple, I don’t have all day.” She should have stopped right there. That would have been a snappy, perfect one line explanation of her mindset. She had to ruin it with mommy talk…(she is NOT going to let us forget that!) Alton, correctly, had the same reaction.
Jeffrey picks up bacon: “Hi, my food is all about my classical French training combined with soul food. There’s going to be a lot of pig.” I like him. He’s comfortable.
Aaron: “I’m here to teach you how to take herbs and spices….blah, blah, blah.” Alton, helpfully, (see I can be fair, even if I don’t like someone) suggests, “Oh, so you’re the Spice Guy?”
Nipa, holding a piece of ginger the size of a baseball bat, says, “I want to teach the world that ethnic food is approachable.” Alton says Cut. He should have let her drone on. She’s kind of full of herself.
Shane, sweet Shane….”I take timeless techniques and modern ingredients to make easy at home and French inspired food without the attitude.” That’s a bit wordy. How about French home cooking without the attitude?
Adam says something or other which is way too long as he holds a half gallon of milk. He takes a BIG swig at the end. Funny bit…It turns out to be cream. He’ll probably get a gig hosting one of those travelling around shows. He has a good funny nice vibe. An everyman type of guy.
Cory is a professional performer, we keep getting reminded. She freezes in front of the camera. She blows it. Totally.
Kelsey is going to teach us how to be comfortable in the kitchen. Not bad.
Kevin: his romance thing again…
Lisa grabs tons of stuff, holds it awkwardly and blathers on about the three C’s (don’t even ask) in a most pretentious way. Alton gives her a hard time, saying he didn’t understand a word of what she was saying. Maybe I like Alton now. “The branding challenge is a setback,” she remarks. What an officious twit.
What am I getting from this? That to have a show on the Food Network, you have to have a culinary philosophy that can be reduced to one sentence.
I’m not saying that’s a bad thing… It’s actually hard! What would mine be, I wonder? Get dinner on the table for H in such a way that he thinks I’ve been cooking all day...Their statements are important, because I have the feeling they’re going to come back to haunt them.
Next day dawns in the “carriage house” they’re all sharing. Lisa gets up early to do some pretentious visualization exercises.
They go to the beautiful FN kitchens. Gorgeous. Alton comes in. In teams of two, they have to produce 3 dishes – 1 collaboratively; the others individually. And they have 30 minutes to do it (not including shopping time). That’s just dumb. Could ANY of you, many of whom are experienced cooks, do that? I suppose I could if I had to, but one of the dishes would have to be plain yogurt with cumin sprinkled on top. The whole thing is just setting them up to fail, which is obviously the idea.
They go to choose their groceries. Lisa runs around store. Kevin can’t keep up. He tells her to calm down.
Nipa can’t find turmeric. How can she not find that???? Nipa is annoying, which is a shame, because she got me thinking about WHERE IS THE INDIAN FOOD ON THE FOOD NETWORK??
Nipa and Shane: Hers: Suki Bhaji (Curried Potatoes) His: Pork Tenderloin Theirs: Curried Squash Soup.
Shane’s prosciutto wrapped tenderloin looks VERY NICE!!! He likes a clean station. Next scene is the blender exploding with soup. They serve 9 plates for the judges and one for the “beauty plate”. Unfortunately, some of the pork isn’t cooked. That goes on the beauty plate.
Out in the dining room, they managed to get SEVEN Food Network stars in one room at one time? That IS exciting. What is Aunt Sandy doing there? The Neelys are there with Giada, Alton, Bobby, Morimoto, Bob, Susie
They describe their dishes. Oh hush, Nipa. She says she couldn’t find turmeric in NY. They taste. Pat likes the pork. Morimoto’s comment: This has not reached the level to serve a human being.
Giada didn’t get any curry taste. Neither did Sandy, but she was happy because she doesn’t like curry. Bob thought Shane was nervous around the real FN “stars”. Well, c’mon give the kid a break.
Kevin and Lisa: Hers: Poached Salmon. His: French Kiss Onion Soup. Theirs: Arugula Salad.
Lisa is chopping like crazy. “I did this and that and the whole thing in a beautiful dress and heels”, she says. Give me a break. Nobody cares!!! At least I hope they don’t. Lisa goes with her 3 C’s thing. The judges' eyes glaze over. Gina loves the onion soup. Bobby says the salad is too overdressed. Susie said she “didn’t articulate her culinary point of view very well". UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR. Closeup of Morimoto looking très confused.
Giada said she spoke in circles.
Jennifer and Adam: Hers: Glazed Carrots. His: Potato Gratin. Theirs: Kitchen Sink Meatloaf. The Glazed Carrots may be a bit jejeune and there is NO way that the meatloaf will be cooked. In fact, a lot of it isn’t cooked.
Kevin doesn’t feel good about his food. He says Morimoto is looking at him with piercing eyes, because he knows his efforts aren’t up to snuff.
Plus, I think they should have emphasized to the judges that you could use ALL 15 ingredients or a combination of what you have on hand.
They do ok in front of the judges. Jennifer raps about the mother thing. Gina seemed to like Jennifer. Giada said the potatoes were raw. Oh, Gina didn’t like the number of ingredients in the meatloaf. Bob LIKED her talking about her daughter. Susie says Adam is cool. Bobby said he wanted to “watch him or hang out with him”. Yup, Adam will walk away with some kind of ancillary show on the FN. Bob said Jennifer was appealing. They seem to like the people not the food.
Aaron and Kelsey: Hers: Orzo Salad. His: Cajun Salmon Sandwich. Theirs: Tomato Soup.
They do not have enough time. He takes charge. They still don’t have time. All the plates look different. Kelsey talks too much in general AND in front of the judges. I like him, she’s a nitwit. They say time ran away from them when different judges say they didn’t get various things.
The judges liked Aaron’s Salmon Sandwich. A lot. Even Morimoto liked it.
As for Kelsey…OOOHH, Sandy liked her and says she was real; Giada scowled and said NO, I didn’t think she was real, I think she should tone it down. Food Network Star Fight! I’ll take Giada’s side anytime. Aunt Sandy probably saw a younger version of herself in Kelsey…
Cory and Jeffrey: Hers: Honey Glazed Salmon. His: Deviled Eggs Provencal. Theirs: Parsnip Potato Pancakes. Ewww, what a combination. It just occurred to me that somehow the other teams made food that went together. Not this team.
Jeffrey does very well. Cory stumbles again in front of the judges, especially when Bobby asks her if she’s going to be funny on her show. She says, in a most serious way, something about humor infused in it is a good idea. Salmon too sweet. says Pat. Susie says she seems tortured. Bingo! She’s not dumb, this gal. Cory should definitely go home.
Bobby says the decision is gonna be hard. Yeah, because there are so many people that SHOULD go home. It’s only 10:42. WHAT are they going to do for the rest of the hour? Maybe they’ll let us out early. PLEASE! Probably we won’t be that lucky.
They’re sitting together. Adam feels he could go. Lisa is in a beautiful dress (WHEN did she change?) They go in. Susie nods. AT WHAT??
They want someone with a “breakthrough personality and a unique food perspective”. Okay, I guess she better clear the room now. Bob tells us what the challenges were. We already know that! Move it!
Aaron and Kelsey first. They were a fav for people at the table, Bob says...EXCEPT, he said, Kelsey, your energy can be over powering. He told Aaron that he seemed to shut down a bit and that two Iron Chefs loved his food, so he should feel good.
Bobby says to Adam and Jennifer that it was a little unfortunate that the potatoes were undercooked. Bobby: “We all wanted to like it.” Susie likes that Adam is funny, but that the competition is also serious. Bob likes that Jennifer is a chef that doesn’t seem intimidating like one. Does he mean:
Lisa and Kevin. Bob says the salad didn’t work. Bob says Lisa baffled FN stars and that Kevin’s point of view was generic.
Cory and Jeffrey. The devilled egg was too salty and the salmon was too sweet. Bob said as far as presentation, those two were on the low end of the scale.
Susie talked to Nipa and Shane. Susie said she loves Indian food, but she found them light on spices. Nipa tried to justify it and then she says she felt completely comfortable around the FN stars. Bobby says that’s surprising, because he feels nervous every single time he goes on, BECAUSE HE WANTS TO DO IT BETTER! HAH! Take that!
Bob tells Shane to be a bit more youthful and more exuberant. That’s not who he is, Bob! Shane suddenly gets very emotional as he says he didn’t present food he was proud of. He cries as he says, “When you put out a plate, a little piece of you goes on that plate…It’s a huge deal.” SWEET.
I know JUST how he feels when meanies don’t appreciate your efforts. Susie says “Sorry.” I’m not exactly sure why. But they better not send that sweet boy home, those heartless curmudgeons. Shane, I’ll take care of you, hon. You can come and cook for me.
Oh goodness, 7 minutes to go. Can I stand the excitement? The problem here is that there are SO MANY people I don’t like. I don’t really want to watch most of them week after week. I don’t suppose they could do us a favor and send more than one home.
Bobby says Aaron is safe, so is Kelsey, Jeffrey, Kevin, Jennifer and Adam. They leave. Bobby says only 3 will move on. At first I thought he meant 3 will LEAVE today and I was genuinely thrilled. But no, only one goes home today.
Bob remarks that Cory seems to be unhappy; Nipa’s overconfidence is unbelievable, says Bobby. Susie says she wants to see Shane’s personality come through. Bob tells Lisa that she had a tendency to become very rigid and overpowering.
Anxious pause…First person who continues on is Nipa. “Yay, I’m still the spice queen.” She kinda didn’t get anything the judges said. The next person continuing is SHANE. YES!!! Lisa is moving on. Cory leaves. And now so can I. Wait! OMG!!!!!!!!!!! Robert Irvine is leading the next challenge. Now THAT'S AWKWARD! I wonder what Morimoto thinks...
*The sad thing, for the FN, is that The Next Food Network Star was on the air (06/05/05) 9 months earlier than Top Chef (03/08/06). Obviously, Top Chef has won that match-up…