Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Next Food Network Star - And The Winner Is...

Hah, not that fast. I had to sit through the whole thing...

We have a quick wrap-up of the season. We get a quick bio of the three left. We see Lisa’s aprons, which look like they come from Victoria’s Secret. Adam is up. We see the spot of his restaurant that closed. (Boo-hoo) He did say one interesting thing. He said he didn’t mind serving food, but he just wanted it to be HIS.

We see Aaron at home. He wants to motivate youth and encourage them to have more self esteem. It’s not cockiness, he says, it’s confidence. Interesting, if he had shown MORE confidence this season, there would probably be no contest. I still think it will be him, though.

The three arrive at the Food Network studio. Bob and Susie greet them. This will be an AUDITION to end all auditions, Susie says. They’re doing a pilot on RR’s set. They get to work with Gordon Elliott as their producer. I like him a lot. I loved Doorknock Dinners. He looks a bit gaunt. I hope he’s ok. Maybe producing for the Neelys has taken away his appetite.

The three each have to present a pitch to Gordon. Lisa’s not a one trick pony, she says. (Yeah, there are LOTS of things people hate about her.) She wants to use lots of props. She presents THREE pitches to Gordon. I’m not sure that’s a good idea. One is something about green cooking, another has to do with fashion. Huh? Gordon likes the beautiful basics one the most. He says healthy looks beautiful and is stylish.

Aaron’s next. Uh-oh. He doesn’t really have any concrete ideas. Gordon asks what others call him. He says Big Daddy. They grab onto that and that’s the end of the pitch meeting.

Adam’s idea is called “I’m always hungry in Philadelphia”. He wants people to send in recipes from the web and he’ll do his spin on them. Gordon decides, “You talk to people live on the web.” That’s the end of it and it seems they have a complete idea for a show. Strange. Gordon says he’ll see them on the set. I’m guessing, I’m hoping that A LOT more went into their preparation than what we see.

OH MY, Lisa is wearing a FUCHSIA dress on RR’s ORANGE set. She’s not doing that well. She doesn’t finish the dish. She keeps looking down at her sauce and not at the camera. She ended up better than she started, but it wasn’t that great.

Adam is next. “The magic of the internet is coming into his kitchen.” He seems comfortable. No. Please, no, don’t do well. He is nervous about all the steps in the recipe. He starts off well.

His internet caller is “peppering him with tons of questions” and it’s getting his timing off. I like that Gordon tells him to wash his hands with soap (he rinses them) with soap (he keeps rinsing them), WITH SOAP! Finally he uses soap.

He wasn’t that bad. I have to say. Not good enough for a show, but that never stopped them before.

Aaron is anxious. “I’m known as the Big Daddy in this kitchen.” Yes, he sounds good! Good job. Oh, he forgot his lines. They start again. He makes mistakes. They do quite a few takes. Last take, Gordon says. We haven’t even seen ONE. We see a bit. He’s okay. Aaron says he feels like crap. Gordon says he did a good job.

WELL, if the winner is based solely on these pilots, then Lisa is probably out. They CAN‘T give it to Adam, They CAN‘T give it to Adam, They CAN‘T give it to Adam, They CAN‘T give it to Adam. I hope not anyway.

We see them getting ready for the finale. How did they do that, if it’s live? Oh, I guess the part where they see the pilots is pre-taped.

Bobby introduces the three finalists. Lisa’s first. Bobby REALLY smiles when he says Aaron’s name. He manages not to sneer for Adam.

Lisa has great legs. Do her chances go up? Gordon looks more filled out. Bobby introduces all the other finalists, who will also be watching the pilots. Gosh, I really hated a lot of then. Kelsey looks 10. Nipa’s smiling.

Lisa’s pilot is first. Beautiful Basics. Hiiiiiiiii, she says. She’s doing Black Cod with Zabaglione. She’s personable. Bobby is smiling...A LOT. She whisks egg yolks over boiling water. NO ONE is going to do that. I hate to say it, but why couldn’t she do a blender version? She tells us twice that she first made this at 13. Susie is nodding. “Accessorize the fish” with the zabaglione, says Lisa. Not bad, not bad at all.

Lisa says it was an amazing experience. Bob and Susie really like her. Bobby says she’s unpredictable in a good way. Why, because he found he didn’t hate her?

Adam goes next with “Hungry In Philadelphia”. He makes a joke and says once Gordon got used to the studio, he was fine to work with. Har-har.

The pilot starts with Adam saying that he’ll take your favorite classic dishes and put his own spin on them. His parents are gazing adoringly at him. He measures out 1½ cups brown sugar for one chicken. I hope there are no diabetics in his audience. He uses smoked paprika.

He pours out half a can worth of beer into a roasting pan. He crams garlic and herbs into the remaining beer in the beer can and shoves the chicken on top. That’s not a terrible idea.

He takes it out of the oven. He tastes it and he doesn’t do a bad job at all. He looks very comfortable in his interaction with the viewer. Susie says he nailed it. Does this just show that anyone can be made to look good with a talented producer? Even Bobby says it made him want to taste the chicken.

Aaron is last. “I’m gonna make you want what I got”, he promises us. Okay, Big Daddy. He makes a jerk seasoning blend. He puts a steak in a big hot pan. He fries plantains. They look gorgeous. I have to say he’s not quite as comfortable as Adam. He plates the steak on top of collard greens and finishes it with plantains. He tastes. “THIS is what Big Daddy is talking about. All the flavor in the world, baby.” He gets the biggest applause. I’m not sure why. Aaron admits to being nervous, but says he liked the pilot. Bob and Susie give him great reviews.

IF based solely on the pilot, I would have to give it to Adam. I mean it. I really liked that shoving of stuff in and on the beer can. Of course, when he’s done with that recipe, he may not have anything else to show us.

Lisa did okay, but her recipe was just not something that anyone would make. People are not going to use 6 egg yolks in a sauce for fish. So no, I don’t think she will take it.

Aaron, I liked him just fine. I would watch him and I think he has a lot of great recipes to share. Lisa’s I can get from Mastering. I don’t think Bobby will let Adam win, I just don’t, no matter how good this performance was.

The judging begins. (Did we ever find out why the judges refuse to call themselves judges and insist on SELECTION COMMITTEE?)

Bob says they got the right three people and that Adam was easy to watch. Bobby liked his technique. Susie says he blew her away. Bob says Aaron had confidence. Susie says you can’t manufacture that level of passion.

Susie says the zabaglione seemed accessible. Bobby says he finds her intriguing. Bob asks who can start tomorrow working on a show?

The judges come back out. Bobby says Lisa, Adam, Aaron - one of you will become part of the Food Network family. They introduce the president of the Food Network, Brooke Johnson. She says TOMORROW they will start on their show, which will go on the air in ONE WEEK. Crazy.

Lisa says it’s been awesome experience. Aaron says it will be a challenge he’ll never forget. Adam says this is a life he wants. Bobby says the winner is…AARON MCCARGO Jr. His wife and sister rush up. That’s nice. Lisa gives him a really nice hug. His wife and sister told him he was going to win. “It wasn’t an easy road”, he tells the camera. “Never give up on your dreams”, he continues. How did they do a camera interview with him if this is live? Bobby thanks us for watching.

WELL! I don’t want to brag and say that Aaron was an early pick of mine, but…The truth is there were precious few appealing possibilities and Aaron has been likable the entire season.

I wonder if this will encourage the folks who vet the initial contestants’ entries to look for more cooking skill the next time. They really dodged a bullet and I think one could even say that they engineered Aaron’s win…which is perfectly okay with me. I guess whoever the judges wanted to win was going to.

I'd like to thank you all for being with me these last 9 weeks. I think we deserve a celebratory swig of something or other to commemorate our Sunday nights being free again...To Aaron! To Us!


Mike said...

WHAT A JOKE! The only reason Aaron won was because hes is black. The network is obviously playing into the ever popular politically correct America,s hand. They need to reach more of the minority demographic, hence a black winner. His pilot was dumbed down, poorly executed and just plain bad! As affirmative action has introduced millions of unqualified minorities to the workforce, the Food Network has now joined the same ranks.

Sue said...

I’m sorry you feel that way. You couldn’t be more wrong. Sometimes what one person calls being politically correct is just accurately reflecting what the audience and society at large wants.

And that is not what’s going on here. I felt Aaron was the best choice to be the winner and I thought that from the beginning. Yes, his pilot was not the best, but it was good enough for them to declare him the winner, thank goodness. Happily, the judges pulled together everything they had seen in Aaron over the course of the competition and they knew he was the right choice, which is why they included THREE finalists. They did not choose him for his color. They chose him because he was the best person for the job. I said it last week – Lisa wasn’t particularly likable and Adam can’t cook (although we did learn he had a bit more skill than he showed over the last 2 months.)

And for the record, affirmative action has enabled MANY disadvantaged people to succeed in goals (that they have a complete right to possess), which they otherwise would have never been able to accomplish. I am actually discouraged by the curtailment of affirmative action in recent years. Whether it’s in school or in the workplace, a more diverse population helps everyone and if you looked around lately, it’s what our world looks like today.

Plus, Mike, let’s remember this is the FOOD NETWORK. Don’t worry, Aaron having a television show isn’t going to impact YOUR life…or maybe it will. And that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

I won't go so far as to say that Aaron won because he was black, but he wasn't the best choice to be the winner.

You yourself, Sue, acknowledge that his pilot wasn't the best. AND, his performance last week was by far the worst, at least 7 times worse than the next worst. His buffet choices were poor and his presentation was excruciatingly awful. He needed to knock it out of the park this week to make up for last week, and he didn't do it.

Anonymous said...

I thought Gordon Elliot looked really bad but I believe it was his make up. He looked as if he'd been make up at the mortuary.

Skye said...

Hi Sue!

I have been reading your blog for quite a while now (secretly at work on my lunch break - I have to be sneaky and bypass our internet filter to do so) and it never fails to be rewarding! Good job on your pick for FNS. I'm not particularly impressed by any of the contestants but for me watching people cook and learning new recipe's is a big hobby of mine. I will continue to read and laugh and I am looking forward to the next season of Top Chef!

Have a great week! :)

sarah said...

It wasn't a live show . . . that's how the clips ended up there last week that revealed the winner . . .

Anonymous said...

I just looked up a review of Adam's old restaurant, because I really want to like him. And do, except they ripped on his food so much, I wouldn't have watched his show. I know it's only one review, but if he'd been able to cook what he knew, it seems he would've done better. Because he did great at the end, when he could cook what was him. Funny, though, the review says his mac and cheese was bland. Maybe he revamped it after that review. Or maybe lobster really just makes everything taste better!

j63 said...

I agree with Mike. TFN's goal is obviously to appeal to minority or youth oriented viewers now regardless of talent. Though none of the three final contestants were striking, neither is low brow Rachel Ray or any of the former next food network stars. I don't watch any of their new shows, all minority or trendy selections, and for any of us w/any true high brow and gourmet lifestyles, as I've seen other people say in blogs, we need to pass on the Food Network, and return to PBS to enjoy fine chefs experience, technique, and reputation.

Jobeth66 said...

Not for nothing, but I won't watch Aaron's show. Not because he can't cook - but because he can't *speak*. Now, the steak/collard greens/plaintains was something that absolutely didn't interest me - but he could cook it. However, do you know until the put his name up on the screen, I didn't realize his last name was "McCargo"? I thought it was McArdle. He has a mushmouth, and can't articulate.

However, I hated Lisa. Couldn't stand her. Pretentious, obnoxious, and just simply someone whose show I wouldn't watch at all. But you know what? I'm trying to find that recipe for the black cod with zabaglione, because that IS something I will make, it sounds scrumptious.

I wanted Kelsey to win. I think she could've done a great "How to Boil Water" type show aimed at young adults/college students.

Aaron was a joke. I got the feeling at the beginning of the competition that they were angling for Nipa. When she had her meltdown and self-destructed, they fixated on Aaron. There's nothing wrong with diversity on the network, but then why bother with the pretense of a series? He *bombed* in Vegas. His throwdown was terrible (he didn't even know HIS INGREDIENTS!) and his buffet was awful (not to mention his intro to the room). The only reason he got pushed forward as one of the three was because they'd already decided they wanted him to win.

Nancy said...

It's taken me 24 hours to get over the shock. I can't imagine Aaron being ready to host a show in a year, much less a week. What a joke. I agree the choices were pitiful but I think I would have watched Lisa because she seemed to be able to cook. Aaron's slaughter of the English language is enough to put me off. Can't wait till next year - not to watch but to read Sue's wonderful writing.

KAMILLE said...

I have to agree with some comments here about Aaron. I really have enjoyed watching this guy, b/c he truly is a congenial person. I would also love to go to his house and sit down to meal with him. However, what bothers me the most is how discriminatory the judges (SC) are about their elimination process.

I'm bothered at how they make up the rules as they go and don't set up a clear expectation for the contestants. I mean--when you watch Top Chef they send you home based on how you did "that week," it's not cumulative. I appreciate it.

I agree based on pilots--Adam's was the best. His idea was also good; however, I don't think he has enough expertise to be answering questions to someone live.

Second best was Lisa and I really think she would have been the best pick overall. I see how people's views of her have really been stunted due to the very first episode. If she never came out talking about her clothes or her reaction to Kevin, then I think more people would like her. She brings more to the table, in terms of viewing.

It's also good that they have Aaron starting to work on his show first thing, b/c Amy F. didn't start hers until months later. I think this led to less people staying tune to see how she'd do. I will watch Aaron's show to see how it goes, but probably won't watch much--but we'll see!

AndiePandie said...

I actually thought Lisa was going to take it until I saw the pilots. Adam's was awful and the concept wasn't one that interested me. Lisa's was just okay but she did come across as snotty and pretentious. Aaron's I thought was the best. It introduced new ingredients (sorry but I would be willing to bet most people don't have much experience with plantains) while pairing it with something well known. Making it a comfortable thing for someone to attempt. He does have a bit of a mush mouth but when he's comfortable it goes away. And when he gets to practice what he's doing (like all of the chefs!) he can handle himself. I think they picked the right person.

Anonymous said...

one thing that i have not seen mentioned is the fact(as i see it)of the disrepect shown to other contestants by these so-called judges from fn.i will not watch such a farce again.

Rick said...

I have to agree with Mike on this one. Aaron is a likable guy but clearly Adam had a better pilot and was more entertaining throughout the whole season and Lisa has more food knowledge. I felt slightly cheated as I bet Adam and Lisa do. If they are supposedly looking for the best person then they should pick the best one and not insult the audiences intelligence. If they want to target a certain demographic then just hire a host who will attract the intended audience and not string us all along on the pretense of a genuine contest. I'm not sure I would watch this show again.

Emiline said...

Wow, these comments are interesting.

Did not watch the show, but thanks for the great recap. Congrats to Aaron! I'm sure it was well deserved.

Sue said...

I think the judges felt exactly the opposite of the way you did. In their eyes, Aaron didn’t have “to knock it out of the park this week”.

Actually, he just had to be GOOD ENOUGH to justify them making him the winner. If he had been really, really bad, it would have been more problematical to have declared him the winner.

I agree with that, because I knew he was the best choice and I wanted him to win. I’m not saying he is 100% ready or qualified to have his own show, I’m saying that of the folks there, even from the beginning, he is the best choice.

Good, I like Gordon. I want him to be hale and hearty.

Hi Skye,
Thanks for your dedication to my blog, but, between you and me, I’m not sure it’s worth getting sacked over. BE CAREFUL!

I’m with you that this wasn’t a great group to begin with. But I LIKE Aaron and that’s an important first step. No matter how much someone knows about cooking, if you can’t stand watching them…there is no point in giving them a show.

Hi Sarah,
I know, but why did they promo it as Find out who wins LIVE!? Or did I just imagine that?...which is entirely possible.

Hi Amy,
That was a smart thing to do! I thought that review had, in general, VERY GOOD things to say about the food. It does sound as if the people running it, were basically just sophomoric Peter Pan types, who wanted a place to hang with their friends.

Hi J,
Look around. It’s not just the Food Network’s audience that is “minority or youth oriented”. It’s society, it’s our workplaces, it’s our country as we become more and more diverse. And thank goodness for that. That beautiful patchwork is what makes America and what makes it great. “And the home of the brave…” lalalalalalala.

You’re funny. Many young people I know have “mushmouths”. It’s impossible to watch “The Hills” without putting the closed captioning on. (Please don’t even ask WHY I would watch such a thing, but LC is cool, although I can’t understand a word she’s mumbling into her handheld video audio WIFI device.) I’m assuming you weren’t insinuating that his mumbling was due to his race. I think it may be more of a regional variation in his speech pattern.

I also hated Lisa all along, but then when I felt she was mistreated, my heart opened a bit for her, but I still wouldn’t watch her.

Kelsey was cute, granted, even though I found her a bit vomitrocious. But I really feel that she had nothing to teach me. Let her get a bit more seasoned. Let her have a real cooking job and learn on her feet.

I agree the judges had already decided Aaron should win and I think they had good reason for that.

Hi Nancy,
Have you recovered yet? I felt the same way when Adam kept coming back week after week. I was incredulous!

Thanks for the nice words. Don’t wait until next year to visit me again, though.

Hey, Kamille,
I’m happy that I have the ability to change my opinions on the turn of a dime. I don’t care what the judges (SC – you’re funny) did or HOW they got to their final decision, I’m just glad it was Aaron. Yes, in this case, I’m a member of the ends justify the means club.

If, however, I had been rooting for Lisa (hard as that may be to imagine) I also would be very PO’d. Actually, that IS what happened with Dale on Top Chef. He totally should not have been sent home (based on his overall performance, which was superb), but old Tony Bourdain had no mercy. Even Tom C. said, from what he saw of the show when it aired, he would have made a different choice.

Excellent point about starting Aaron’s show immediately. Although, when we see it, we may decide that it was much too early.

Hi AP,
YES!!! I agree with everything you said.

Were you watching the same show as we were? What about the disrespect shown TO THE VIEWERS by having some of those losers on? That comedian woman, who was soooooo not a joke that she was a joke. Kevin? Respect? Huh?

Hi Rick,
They did not pick Aaron because he was black. They picked him because of all the sad choices they made for the finalists, he was the only one who could cook, was likable, could cook, wasn’t a wet behind the ears kid and, let me say it again, COULD COOK. Adam couldn’t cook until the last third of the season. Lisa wasn’t likable.

I take your point that there was a bit of a pretense that this was a genuine contest. But after all, no one claimed that this was a democratic, open and fair election. Oh, sorry, I was going back to 2000…In THIS case, the judges had the power and they exercised it fairly. And that’s that.

Hi Em,
I do have very thoughtful readers.

Jobeth66 said...

You’re funny. Many young people I know have “mushmouths”. It’s impossible to watch “The Hills” without putting the closed captioning on. (Please don’t even ask WHY I would watch such a thing, but LC is cool, although I can’t understand a word she’s mumbling into her handheld video audio WIFI device.) I’m assuming you weren’t insinuating that his mumbling was due to his race. I think it may be more of a regional variation in his speech pattern.

I also hated Lisa all along, but then when I felt she was mistreated, my heart opened a bit for her, but I still wouldn’t watch her.

Kelsey was cute, granted, even though I found her a bit vomitrocious. But I really feel that she had nothing to teach me. Let her get a bit more seasoned. Let her have a real cooking job and learn on her feet.

I agree the judges had already decided Aaron should win and I think they had good reason for that.

Absolutely not insinuating the "mushmouth" was due to his race - but it's not a regional thing, either - I live not far from Camden, and have family the next town over from Camden. And Adam is from Philly, which is just a quick trip across the river from Camden. It's just an affectation or mannerism he has and it makes it impossible for me to want to watch him. If I can understand what he's saying how on earth am I going to try to cook what he's making?

(And I've never watched The Hills. If my kids talked like that, they'd get ignored - I have 3 teenagers, so my money is where my mouth is there. :) )

I liked Kelsey, precisely because she WAS so all-American ra-ra girl. You can build ANY show around the right personality. She is young, eager to please, willing to learn, and she can cook - you can put her in any situation and build it. You can't "learn" personality and verve, which I think Aaron's on-screen persona is lacking.

Lisa? No. I might watch a show or two, and I really am going to make that black cod with zabaglione, but I wouldn't watch her on a regular basis. In fact, the ONLY FNS I would watch on a regular basis so far is Guy. Luckily for me, he's the only one of 'em that still has a show. ;)

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with're so right on the money (you should have your own blog). I also thought that Kelsey could have been the perfect new star for a basic cooking show appealing to a younger audience or beginning cooks. As it stands, there's no appeal for me with big daddy's kitchen. Perhaps whatever audience segment FN was targeting will watch, since it surely won't be me.

Sue said...

We’ve got to agree to disagree about Aaron and Kelsey. But I do agree with you on Guy. He’s clearly deserves to have his own - or two or three or four - shows.

Hi Anon,
Hey!!! Are you saying Jobeth should have her own blog, INSTEAD of me?!!!

As Aaron’s first show demonstrated, he’s a friendly nice guy who can cook and I DID learn a few things - I was reminded about the benefits of grapeseed oil. (I’ve only ever used it for the specific warm flavor it gives.) I had forgotten about its high smoking temperature AND I never thought to use tortilla chips instead of bread crumbs. Small things, perhaps, but useful to the home cook.

jackiecat said...

Sorry, nothing against Aaron, but the way the FN manipulated this just leaves a bad taste in my mouth! I will not reward them by watching the show or next years TNFN star. (however I will turn in to your excellent blogging of the show!)

I vote for Sue as the next food network star!

Sue said...

Hi JackieCat,

Thank goodness they made it happen so that Aaron won! Otherwise, we might have had to watch Adam. Oh wait, Adam lost and he STILL got a show. That's my kind of competition. Just give everyone a big prize...

And thanks Jackie for the nice words. I really appreciate it. Keep reading, even if you can't stand watching.