Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Next Food Network Star - I'm Still Waiting To Be Dazzled

Adam exclaims a little too enthusiastically, if you ask me, his admiration for Tyler Florence upon seeing him come striding out. Tyler tells the contestants that their challenge this week is to do a 60 second video on a specific cooking technique. The finalist that does the best will have his or her video on the FN website.

It’s not clear initially if they get to choose what they do. No they don't. Each challenge is hidden under a cloth. It appears as if they only have a few seconds to look at it before they begin.

Adam has to “break down” an artichoke. OMG. He’s all the over the place. Finally, he squeezes a lemon, with the juice spurting everywhere. Tyler gives him an A for funny, but said he was really sloppy and, of course, he didn’t accomplish the task.

Aaron gets to slice a pineapple. Hurry up, he’s going so slowly, but he’s not doing that badly. No…he was too slow Tyler said. He has to learn to cook and talk at the same time.

Kelsey has to French a rack of lamb. She explains it well. Her technique is good. Tyler liked her energy. She made a point of being more low-key than her usual obnoxious, over-energized self.

Shane is a bit boastful
…just what I said last time about looking down on this whole thing. He has to OPEN a coconut. I think he’s doing great. He says he has to find the soft spot; he whacks a nail into it with a hammer and tries to pour out the liquid. But none comes out, just as the buzzer goes off. Tyler was impressed, if not by his expertise, then by his energy.

Nipa has to clean fresh squid. She tells Tyler she has no idea how to do it. Oh well. She giggles while she’s doing it. It’s clear she has no clue what to do. Tyler grimaces the entire time. He’s too nice, when commenting on her performance, which included neither an authoritative approach NOR expertise, which was supposed to be the point of the whole thing.

Lisa trusses a chicken. I HATE her super wide scarf as a headband. Tyler says she’s not engaging with the camera. And she didn’t get too much done.

Jennifer has to shuck an oyster. OY! On camera, she says she would ATTEMPT to show that. That’s not good. But even worse, she said that oysters make her sick. AGAIN she apologizes in front of the camera. She is sooo going home. Tyler is much nicer than he has to be. He tries to help her and tells her she has a great personality and that the most important thing to communicate.

The winner is Kelsey. Nipa glares. She is a witch, sorry Wiccans, a bitch.

That challenge was ridiculous. There was no learning, no coaching, no preparation. Let’s be honest about why we watch these shows, at least in part. If we have anything at all to do with food, I think it’s because we plug ourselves into the various challenges.

We try to figure out how WE would do. Naturally, we judge others far more harshly than we would judge ourselves. Honestly, I would have sucked at most of these, especially with 2 seconds to prepare.

But the thing that I object to is that none of these challenges is a valid test for having a show on The Food Network. Of course, you would PREPARE for your show. You would, at the very least, know what you were doing in advance. You would have a chance to bone up on your technique, shuck a few thousand oysters or read up on different methods of doing something. Even just cooking dinner, I may consult 5 or 6 recipes. If I’m writing a recipe or teaching a class, that research gets multiplied MANY times. That’s why this is so dumb.

They obviously aren’t listening to me because their next challenge is another real winner. Michael LeDuke, the senior executive chef of Red Lobster (now that’s “fine dining” - as Lisa would say- at its best), explains it. They have to develop a simple fish dish which will appear on Red Lobster’s menu, if they win the challenge.

Um, I would think that the LOSER’S dish would appear on the menu, but that’s just me. Okay, okay, I admit I have NEVER been to a Red Lobster. Their commercials look gross though.

The contestants pick their fish and they also get a bunch of junky ingredients – grape jelly, marshmallow fluff, Fruit Loops, stuff like that – that they have to include in a second fish dish. Nipa again looks ill. She says she’s never touched a dead fish before.

They cook. Nipa prays for a miracle. She uses as little of the fish as she can and throws most of this big mother of a fish away. Okay, Jennifer was bad, but Nipa is definitely going home. Everything out of her mouth is negative.

Oh, they’ve also been told they have to prepare these 2 dishes for the judges and 30 “Coastees” on a Coast Guard cutter.

Kelsey starts with a tilapia fish cake with chipotle mayonnaise. And she also makes macadamia crusted tilapia with a white chocolate cream sauce. She talks about some queer daddy/daughter date she used to go on, but the food looks good. Red Lobster guy likes it. So does Michael “New Iron Chef” Symon. He’s sitting in for Bobby this week. Susie, Bob and the Coastees liked it too.

Adam’s next. To start off on a funny note, he falls into the room. Everyone looks at him likes he’s insane. They are completely stone-faced. I think his 2 halibut dishes look good. Apparently after tasting, the judges don’t agree. “Miscooked” and “train wreck” are two of the comments from the guest chefs.

Jennifer is friendly. She says it’s an honor to serve the troops. But then she apologizes AGAIN for her dishes – Fruit Loop Mahi-Mahi and Beer battered Mahi-Mahi. Susie gives her the evil eye. Jennifer SHOULD apologize for her English “I should have DID some panko crumbs with it.” She realizes how badly she did and then she gives us a sob story about how at home she’s confident; it’s just HERE that she’s not.

Full-of-herself Nipa says she has the ability to mix awesome spice blends. Her presentation is not bad for her Tandoori Trout and Trout marinated in grape jelly. With a recipe like that, see how pointless this entire exercise is? Then she gives them a free Bollywood dance lesson. I liked that, some folks didn’t. The judges say the flavor was ok, but she was obviously not comfortable working with seafood.

Preparing her dishes in the galley, Lisa slips in her Pucci shoes and gets sauce all over her 300 dollar blouse. Honestly, that’s what she gets for dressing like that. In front of the tasters though, she’s quite humorous about it, and, then, she gets weepy talking about her brother in Iraq. The judges like that. Red Lobster guy did not like her dishes – Arctic Char marinated in coffee and hoisin glaze and an Arctic Char tartare.

I’m annoyed at Shane. He keeps referring to sole as “sole fish”. Iron Chef Michael really likes the taste. He and Chef LeDuke loved BOTH dishes – sole with orange liqueur and cream and panko crusted sole served on top of a parsnip, marshmallow fluff purée.

Aaron is really low key. Michael says his cod dishes - one with cola - are really overcooked. Red Lobster guy says they're awful. Bob says he’s not getting any of his personality coming through. Well, I would have thought that he was among those who picked these finalists, so why didn’t he pick better ones for goodness sake?

Oh, there’s a commercial for Sunny on a new series. That’s nice. it's called "How’d that get on my plate?" Does that mean she’ll be visiting slaughter houses and poultry factory farms? I hope not, although Sunny seems strong enough to have the stomach to expose places like that. Does that mean that she’ll have 2 shows? That would be great. Back to the show…

In the strange way they have of going back to the first challenge again on this show, the judges said that Lisa needed to connect with the camera. Bob tells her that Chef Leduke said her tartare missed the point of the challenge to create a simple dish. They like the presentation a lot.

Michael likes Shane’s confidence on his video, and strangely, his marshmallow fluff dish.

Susie says Adam’s video was amusing and informative. Michael hates his food and says he spit the crepe out and that the halibut was really bad. Susie hates Aaron’s falling presentation.

Susie tells Nipa her video totally lacked expertise. Bob says her giggling felt disrespectful to him. Michael says her dishes were ok.

Bob says Kelsey found a great energy in front of the camera. In other words, she wasn’t a sappy ball of smarminess. Michael likes her dishes. So did Chef LeDuke.

Susie says Aaron’s video wasn’t good, and that his food was disappointing. She doesn't like his presentation either.

Next, Bob says they loved Jennifer’s beer battered mahi-mahi, but she got ripped for the oysters-can-kill-me video. She cries, naturally.

Bob says soulfully we have to say good bye to someone. PLEASE this week, could it be more than one? I vote for Susie, Bob and Michael. This challenge was ridiculous. The best thing they could have done with those ingredients is to throw them overboard. THIS IS NO TEST of anything.

Chef Symon says that Chef LeDuke has picked a winner and it’s Kelsey. He chooses her white chocolate dish, which we’re told will be on the Red Lobster menu. It’s just what I like eating in the summer – fish and white chocolate.

Lisa is also moving on (in other words NOT going home) and Shane too. They get dismissed. Jennifer cries (AGAIN) when explaining why she’s there. She’s safe.

Suddenly Aaron comes up with his personal story. He says his son ran away. Huh? Then what are you doing here? Go find him. Oh, I guess he’s kind of an adult. Actually, I have no clue. They just threw it out there. He’s safe. It’s between Adam and Nipa.

Adam vows to change his ways. (What is this - a cooking competition or rehab?) Nipa is totally full of herself.

Obviously, between the two of them, it has to be Nipa going home and…it is. She is unfazed by being voted off the island. She’ll go back to Nipa-land, where she’s the center of her own universe and she doesn’t have to listen to anyone or touch dead fish.


Cynthia said...

I agree with your evaluative comments among them, the reasons we watch these shows.

What I have found so far, granted that I have only watched 2 episodes this season but I am not exclusively referring to this season... they are giving the contestants challenges that teach some of them nothing and they are asking them to do things, that even if they did not learn at home or in another cooking job, that surely would would have been able to pick up from a cooking show on say somewhere like, I don't know - THE FOOD NETWORK!!! only, the Food Network does not put on such instructional and educative shows, yet they want to test people on such skills. And the thing is, their programming is targetted exactly to the people who are the contestants on this show.

The other thing that they don't seem to understand or grasp or acknowledge is, how food is sold in America (and I am not saying that it is a bad thing, I am just saying that it is a fact) a lot of things are pre-cut, shelled, diced, pureed etc already, so where are they to learn skills such as filleting a fish, cracking open a cocout, grating a coconut, etc. It is only those select few who want to cook from scratch and prepare ingredients from scratch that will have some idea how to get these things done.

Dhanggit said...

i love reading your comments on these contestants :-) i hope french tv will do a french version of this show soon !!

Adam said...

Great job breaking the show down for us. I watch it on Sundays, but overall I'm not impressed with the contestants. They are given lessons and advice, but no one applies that advice, (maybe besides Kelsey, she toned herself down). Not of them seem really stand out. Plus, it seems like every week someone is crying. I know food is emotional, but get a grip guys.

And what ever happened to the winner of last season? Did she even get a show?

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Coffee out the nose on your Red Lobster comment. Yeah. I agree the loser should have the Red Lobster menu item. I'll admit to not having eaten there either, but come on, chain restaurant + yucky seafood? If there is one thing that I don't think should be mass produced chain-restaurant style, it's fish.

Speaking of bad equations, chocolate+fish?

I can't believe Nipa never touched a dead fish in her life. I don't even eat fish and I've handled them. That is definitely someone who should not be showing TV viewers how to cook.

Annie's New York Eats said...

LOL a the comment that you really wanted to send Bob and Susie home. Oh, so do I! In his blog Bob seems like a pleasant, funny guy, but I can't stand the mock-therapeutic approach of the judges here--"How did that make you feel?" "What do YOU think of your performance?"--as creepy as a cop asking you if you know why you were pulled over.

I am doing an ep-by-ep blog of this show as well. Find me at http://www.annienewman.com

Anonymous said...

Red Lobster is awesome! I used to pick to go there on my birthday sometimes, when I was a kid, because I loved seafood, and my family did not, but it was my birthday so they had to do what I said.

And the last FN Star winner had a show one, we watched it once. It was fine. But remember, they had actually kicked her off, and she wasn't supposed to be in the finals, except they had to bring her back after they clipped Jag for his lies. So why would they promote a show, for someone they didn't want, even though the viewers voted for her to win.

Emiline said...

Still haven't watched this.

Amy Finley did have a show. I'm not sure if they renewed it or not. She has been writing and creating recipes for Bon Appetite every month, and I've been enjoying those. They're very simple family-type recipes.

Sue said...

You are so right about how some Food Network shows, and certainly this one in particular, are designed to appeal to exactly the kind of nitwits that they’re getting as contestants. Apparently, they want them to be magically trained like Bobby Flay AND as personable as…I started to say Rachael Ray, but I didn’t want to start a riot.

All the pre-prepared, cut in advance, frozen, freeze-dried, canned and practically pre-digested food is exactly the reason why it would be nice to have more instructional shows. Basic cooking skills are always useful and, really, do we need to watch the Food Network to make a new friend?

Hi Dhanggit,
Thanks! Why do I think that the French version would be at a much higher level? They’d probably test their knowledge of the mother sauces and make them sniff out wild mushrooms in a forest.

Hey Adam,
The contestants do seem particularly ungifted. But I'd certainly cry too, if I had to the stuff they have to do.

Last year’s winner was Amy Finley. Her show was called The Gourmet Next Door, I can’t say I ever saw it, and now it's too late, because it’s already off the air.

Hi Rach,
I’m happy I contributing to cleaning out your sinuses. The whole challenge was gross and pointless. I absolutely believe Nipa never touched a dead fish. I don’t think Miss Nipa ever did anything she didn’t want to in her entire life.

Hello Annie,
Welcome! I also thought all that stuff verged on psycho-babble. Weird.

Well, Amy,
Then you know a lot more about Red Lobster than I do, but is it possible that your opinion is tinged by the sanguine memories of childhood?

I’m not sure I knew that Amy Finley had been thrown off and then brought back. Of course, it makes sense she didn’t last long.

Tracy said...

I agree with pretty much everything you said. My favorite comment was about Lisa getting what she deserves by wearing those clothes in the kitchen. AMEN!

I thought the first challenge was incredibly unfair. I could break down a pineapple in about a minute, and maybe an artichoke -- but a squid? I don't think I've even seen whole squid for sale. And if I had been in her shoes, I would have giggled out of nervousness, not disrespect. (Geez Bob, maybe take yourself a little less seriously?) Even though I don't think Nipa would have lasted long, it still was unfair.

Second challenge, same thing. Would you EVER, in your entire Food Network career, have to do that sort of thing? Even the Iron Chefs are told their ingredients in advance -- they say they are told that it could be one of two ingredients, but I'm not sure I buy that.

Sue said...

Hey Trac,
That's what makes this show so ridiculous, and I guess why several of the winners have been so ill-equipped at hosting their own shows - Guy Fieri being the notable exception.

We Are Never Full said...

i've only seen 5 minutes of this show, but i read your whole post and thought it was hilarious. it also reminded me why the food network seriously sucks!! RED LOBSTER!?!?!??!? ok, now it's completely obvious who they are pandering to...advertisers.

nasty, i just threw up a little in my mouth thinking about 1) going to red lobster and 2)eating fish w/ chocolate sauce. check, please!

neilw said...

I have been boring my wife complaining how the challenges are so utterly inappropriate this year. They seem designed to make the contestants crash and burn. That's not fun to watch, at least for me.

The thing I find most baffling is that they specifically find these contestants who are not chefs, and are not (some at least) classically trained, and then they expect them to be Iron Chefs. Did they think a self-trained Indian cook would know how to clean a squid? If you want them to be "authoritative", then choose finalists who are authoritative. Good grief.

Oh, with regard to the fish w/chocolate: one of Richard Blaise's shining moments on Top Chef this season was his salmon with white chocolate/wasabi sauce. Everyone loved it, though no one could quite believe it...