Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Next Food Network Star Better Know How To Sell

Adam realizes he has undercooked food two weeks in a row. He has to work on that. The contestants leave the house to meet up with Bobby.

He wants them to demonstrate their culinary points of view with a potato. They have to actually express themselves THROUGH the potato. The next thing you know they’ll be asked to create a dish using the Stanislavski method. Nipa is happy…about the potato, not about Stanislavski.

These are the potato dishes the contestants came up with:
Rasa Valu Batata Nu Shak
Oh!!!!! I LOVE THAT. Just kidding, I have no idea what she’s talking about.

Bacon Wrapped Potato

Bacon Cheese Fries
Okay, clearly Adam is going home.

Mashed Potato Grilled Pizza
Kid-friendly that the whole family will enjoy, she says. I don’t object to that. At least, it’s succinct.

Remember my friend A? Her family used to live in Rome and they've told me about that kind of pizza. I think it’s weird, but they swore it was good…Maybe the potatoes weren’t mashed though.


Pancetta Potato Gratin
She pronounces Graaahhh-tehhh-nnn like gruhhh-ton.

Mushroom, Leek & Potato Soup

Poached Potato With Smoked Trout
That sounds so fussy, like something you'd have at a “ladies lunch”. “I’m taking you on a journey through the art of fine dining with beautiful basics," she says again. I didn’t mind that last week. This week it’s annoying.

Sophisticated Home Fries. Uh-Oh. He’s in trouble.

They have one minute to tell the camera what their dish means to them in front of “the selection committee.” It’s good they don’t have to do it front of each other.

Adam starts. He’s kinda funny. Bobby is just thrilled that the potatoes aren’t raw.

Nice smile. “Potato Gratin: Have it after you’ve taken an exam.” Huh? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Susie says she doesn’t buy the whole presentation and that it was phony. Go Susie! Bob and Bobby hate the undercooked and poorly cooked gratin.

Boring, boring, boring. But maybe he can learn to be a better presenter. Bob said he didn’t think the dish said “sophisticated soul” and that Jeffrey didn’t tell a personal story.

A little stilted, not smiling. They like the dish. For someone who pretends to be so unsure of herself, she’s quite full of herself.

Bobby loves his potato dish so much, he says he wants to put it on his menu in Atlantic City. Bob wants him to connect with the food more. What does that mean? Is he supposed to wear it? I thought he was sweet.

Good presentation. Lousy soup. Bobby: "The texture’s kinda weird." Bob: "Remember the library paste you had in 3rd grade?" Shane! You went to the CIA, for goodness sake.

Completely confusing presentation. Susie says it was a weird dish.

She says her dish is a “blue collar potato dressed to kill.” I like that line. OH she finishes before one minute. They criticize her a lot. I think she actually did ok. But they wanted to hear a different story.

They organize this episode very strangely. The cooks (WHAT should they be called?) are not officially evaluated on their potato recipes until the end of the episode at the same time as the next challenge. That’s confusing.

The next task is to create a packaged food product that reflects their pov. If that doesn’t speak to the current direction of the Food Network, I don’t know what does. I guess they only want people who can shill their own products.

50 food buyers come in to taste their products. Kelsey is slightly vomitrocious. She says it’s not just about the cooking, but about the empire the next food network star can create. I promise you that the biggest empire builders - Emeril, Mario, EVEN RR - didn’t start out (well, maybe Rocco did) with their eye on a huge food enterprise and becoming a star. They started out COOKING, cooking, cooking and then everything flowed from that.

The products:
Adam G’s Smoke It Please BBQ Rub served on Smoked Chicken

McCargo’s Autumn Apple Cider Vinaigrette served on mesclun salad

Nep’s Sweet & Spicy Peanut Seasoning served on peanuts
The Whole Foods buyer thought it was pointless. It only had 2 ingredients. Dumb, dumb, dumb, but the judges and buyers don't hate it.

All In 1: Sweet, Spice and Everything Nice served on Sloppy Joes
Her smile is fake. Bob says she’s pushing too hard, but Susie likes the product.

Cherry and Cognac – “Cherri-gac” with a silent G (then get it out of there) Steak and Meat Sauce served on flank steak
A slightly unpleasant buyer tells him to get a new name. I don’t disagree, but she could have been nicer.

Shane does seem to be holding himself above this whole thing. (Me too, but HE’S the one in the competition.) Also he hasn’t proved yet that he can make fabulous food. I thought he was going to be a wunderkind, but not so far.

Ooooh, he has no answer when the Harry & David guy asks him what his material costs were.

Basil Balsamic Orange Marmalade served on Phyllo with Brie
The Williams-Sonoma buyer liked it and her marketing ideas. Okay, Lisa, go work for them.

The Soul of Jeffrey Seasoned Salt served on Catfish
Now THAT is a horrible name. it sounds kind of cannibalistic.

He seems clueless as he presents his product to the judges. He keeps saying “Did you enjoy it?” And they keep not answering. Then the unpleasant buyer – she turned out to be from Harry & David – said his was the least marketable product.

Jenny Lynn’s 3 Cheese Cream Sauce served on pinwheel pasta
She’s sort of nervous talking to the judges and Bobby is actually glaring at her. I’m not kidding. Look!

A special guest arrives. It turns out to be Martha. Kelsey and Lisa start squealing, especially Kelsey. I can’t think of anything that Martha would like less, but I have a feeling that she’s going to like Lisa’s dippy product.

Kelsey admits that the way to impress Martha is NOT with a Sloppy Joe.

Some of Martha’s thoughts as she tasted:
Shane’s needed salt and had limited use.

Nipa’s peanut in the title was misleading.(Nipa, of course, thought she loved it.) Martha “didn’t get it as an important product”.

Jeffrey’s presentation was okay, but his product had no taste. (That’s probably not a good thing.)

She commented on the orange peel in Lisa’s product. Does that mean she thought it had too much? She thought she was knowledgeable about food.

Jennifer is chatting too much and making too much explanation. M didn’t think she’d be provocative enough to have a show of her own.

Aaron’s dressing was good. Pleasant presenter.

Kelsey should have given her a fork. (That’s MY comment, not Martha’s, but she looked around for a way to eat it.) She said to the judges later, “I don’t eat that kind of food.” M thought Kelsey was "very perky". Oh, goodness. Susie asks her if she’d watch a show with Kelsey and Martha pauses and says, “I don’t know how long. “

Adam’s singing and harmonica playing is REALLY stupid, but Martha giggles at the end. She said she likes his singing and his chicken was good.

Bobby thanks her.

The judges call the contestants in to evaluate the potato challenge AND the product challenge.

The judges’ reactions:
Shane’s potato dish was bad. No passion in presenting product.

Adam served undercooked food before. He said he was going to leave the raw foods movement behind. Bobby said that was awesome. This time his food was okay.

They didn’t like Jennifer’s mashed potatoes pizza, (Eh, what do my friends know anyway?) and her presentation didn’t make sense. Her jarred cream sauce was tasty, but they don’t like how she apologizes for things.

Lisa’s presentation started great and then ended too fast. Susie said it was “beautiful” how she told Martha how she worships her. I thought it was an yucky moment.

Nipa’s potato dish was good, but her energy level is too low. Her product was too simple. Yeah, I’d say so…It was cayenne pepper and sugar and she served it on peanuts. Whoopee! Nipa said the secret was the PERFECT balance of the two ingredients. Her dishes always seem to contain a large pinch of hubris.

They loved Aaron’s potato dish, but they wanted him to share something personal. They all like his salad dressing.

Jeffrey’s Home Fries weren’t memorable and he didn’t do well in front of the camera. The buyers didn’t like the salt.

Kelsey’s potato gratin wasn’t cooked. They liked her Sloppy Joes, but Martha didn’t. THEN Susie said her presentation was verging on “almost annoying”. OH MY. Kelsey winces. WHY DID THEY CHOOSE HER then to be a finalist? I have to check out her audition tape. It couldn’t have been much different. Actually, why did they choose any of these folks?

Who goes home? First the one that did the best job in the potato challenge is Adam and he’s safe. The buyers said the best presentation (and product) is Lisa’s and she’s safe. Martha liked Aaron’s the best, so he’s safe. Nipa and Shane are safe.

That leaves Jeffrey, Kelsey and Jennifer. Kelsey cries as she tells them that the she’s applied every year to be on this show. (Couldn’t she take a hint?) She gets to stay.

Jennifer or Jeffrey? Jeffrey or Jennifer? (Nah, Heidi's nowhere in sight and they don’t say that.) I think they’ll kick out Jeffrey. And…yes, it is Jeffrey they’re sending home. Too bad. Next we get to hear Jennifer’s sad story about how she gave up everything to be on this show.

This focus on the hosts becoming a brand is the problem with the Food Network today and thus with this show. It’s about marketing, it’s about boobs, and it’s about selling potholders and pots. Doesn’t it have to start with the FOOD?


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I still haven't had a chance to watch this yet. It seems like the contestants get more unqualified every year. They don't even have a show yet and it's already about the branding?

I have to laugh that each season there seems to be one unique ethnic cook so they can have some kind of token, so they can show that it's not all about white bread cooks. Of course that person ends up going home.

Let's see how long the winner's show lasts this time around. FN gets the good ratings for the TNFNS, so I'm sure they don't care that much if the winner succeeds or fails.

Anonymous said...

That bugged me about this episode as well. People buy Emeril's seasonings because he's Emeril. You can make his bam seasoning at home, the recipe is in his cookbooks. They don't even have signature anythings yet, how can they make up a product to sell.

Sue said...

Hey Rach,
You are sooooo right about the contestants being less than stellar. You would have thought there would have been a more qualified pool of people from which to choose. I didn't realize that about the token ethnic one.

This show really does make me appreciate Top Chef. Those people (for the most part) really are skilled chefs.

Cynthia said...

I did not see the previous episode, this is the first one I saw. Nipa can really pout eh?

Frankly, I think that the judges expect too much from these people right away. I think that it is unfair to expect a perfect on-camera presentation when it is your first attempt or that you may have never been in front of a TV before.

Sue said...

Hi Cyn,
I agree. That's why this entire show is so frustrating sometimes. Not one of them is ready for primetime. What about a show called "HOW To Be A Food Network Star"? They could actually coach them and help them, instead of making them look like fools.