The Lone Survivor
Previously: Since it’s the finale, we’re treated to a retrospect of the past glorious weeks, including scenes of Debbie getting whacked in the eye, Tyler Florence asking Teddy if he really is that over-the-top (answer: yes), Katie serving up raw food, Jamika being pissed, and someone disrespecting Italy.
Then we get a reminder of the two finalists: 1) Jeffrey, waking up with his bushy hair and the winner of many challenges. He’s clearly the front runner, although he’s tripped himself up the last few weeks, and 2) Melissa, who Chef John Besh calls an “artisan” and who is pushing the underdog angle like it’s never been used before.
We start out not in New York but in Los Angeles where we enter the lovely home of Jeffrey Saad. (It’s so weird hearing their last names after weeks of just knowing them by their first name.) He has adorable children, and they’re all in a group hug. I’m totally envious of his large kitchen and his home that looks like it’s straight off the pages of Dwell. There he is making crepes with his daughter, Isabella, so he doesn’t look like a liar about how he says he cooks with his daughter. He’s also into Tae Kwon Do, so we get to see him making some high kicks. Oh, now he’s sparring with a little kid, maybe his son? I think he’s just worried not to get hit in his privates because you know you’re vulnerable when around short kids. (Guys, you know what I mean.)
Jeffrey looks like he’s a high-powered real estate agent or something, but he tries to boost his food creds by saying he used to own a restaurant. Then we get a shot of him being very LA when meditating on his balcony.
Now we’re in Keller, Texas, and Melissa the Mom is definitely a mom because she has tons of kids. And they’re all girls. The oldest is 4 and the youngest are twins who are 1 and a half years old. Melissa talks about how her mom died when Melissa was in her 20s so she was raised by her sorority sisters. She likes to hang out with her girlfriends, who also have babies, and Melissa looks like she’s pretty bossy in the kitchen. Not really sure what Melissa officially does for a living because they just say she volunteers for the city of Keller’s economic development board, which doesn’t sound as high-powered as Melissa often talks about. But I guess a long time ago she was a career woman, then she had babies and now she’s at home. Not really the best Jane Fonda-having-it-all story, but this is the Food Network.
After I guess a few weeks to refresh themselves with their families, the two finalists are back at the Food Network’s headquarters in the Chelsea Market in Manhattan. OK, so I’m going to just put it out there and wonder if any of you agree, but doesn’t Melissa look pregnant? She seems to have a slight bulge in her midsection and after seeing all her kids you know she’s fertile!
Anywho, Jeffrey and maybe-knocked up Melissa meets Alton Brown, the in-house know-it-all of the Food Network, who tells them that they have to produce their own pilots and, lucky them, he’s going to be their director. They break off to another studio to start writing out their ideas before their one-on-one consultation with Sir Brown.
Jeffrey is up first and he pitches his “Cooking Without Borders” concept that I’ve described as akin to Doctors Without Borders. Sounds like a charity show. Alton sums up Jeffrey’s idea, and Jeffrey’s like “you get it!” and Alton’s response is “yeah, I get it but I said it in a much more concise way that your pitch.” Then they talk about titles and Alton throws out “Ingredient Smuggler” because Jeffrey likes to travel and bring back spices, and I think that’s the worst name for a show. Sounds so illegal. It’s like Jeffrey’s going to be cooking with cocaine.
Melissa meets with Alton next and her title is “Cuisine Copine” or something like that, which Melissa explains that “copine” means friend in French and Alton nixes that title straight away because he hates the French like all Americans should. She talks more about her idea of coming up with solutions to help women survive the kitchen, and Alton comes up with the idea of a survival guide. Melissa says something about giving “lifestyle solutions” and Alton is all impressed but with his look I can’t tell if he’s sincere or being sarcastic. Oh, Alton.
The two finalists are then off for their photo shoots and interviews with the editor-in-chief of Food Network magazine (I’ve never seen the magazine at stands). Then they head to lunch where they just can’t stop smiling. Jeffrey shares that he’s surprised Melissa’s in the finals, but that could also be a sign of how all the other contestants tripped up so badly along the way.
Commercials. Wow, there are lots of commercials for new shows on the Food Network. There’s the “Next Iron Chef” in October (how many Iron Chefs do they need?) and Brian Boitano kicks off his skates and puts on his kitchen mitt to serve up food. Prepare for a lot of jokes from the German judge.
Melissa the Mom gets made up for her pilot. She looks really serious, and when she walks to the set she walks like she doesn’t want to move so she won’t mess up her hair. Girl, you have so much hairspray I don’t think you have to worry about that happening anytime soon.
So she’s going to be making her rustic lemon-onion chicken dish, and she’s going to do it in four steps—a technique she says she created but to me looks like any French technique of pan-frying and de-glazing. She starts off by looking at the wrong camera and stopping herself. Then she flubs up some of her lines or gets intimidated by all the cameras. Finally when she just has one take left (isn’t it always the last take?) Alton Brown tells her to be herself. So of course she nails the final take for her pilot “Kitchen Survival Guide” (I like that title better than “Ingredient Smuggler”). Alton says there’s a movie star inside Melissa, which makes me wonder why she’s not going into acting then instead of peddling chicken?
It’s time for Jeffrey to film his pilot and he comes in looking tall. I notice he’s always wearing jeans. Maybe that makes him look extra tall. I love jeans. Anywho, he says he’s making a harissa steak sandwich, and that’s so funny because I started cooking with harissa just a few months ago after picking up this North African spice from the spice store in Oxbow Market. I use it on chicken.
Jeffrey does his shoot and he’s making mistakes, and Alton the director just looks at him with a confused look on his face. Then he stops Jeffrey to tell him that he didn’t smile once in the whole take. Then later on Jeffrey calls some yellow tomatoes onions and Alton has to correct him like Jeffrey couldn’t figure that out later. Of course, on the very last take, Jeffrey nails it and finally delivers although I feel like since he’s so tall he does look at times like he’s bouncing because he’s crotched over a bit. But he’s happy and he goes and hugs Melissa.
Commercials. Oooh umami. Kikkoman, you didn’t invent umami, OK. And just using your soy sauce alone won’t create umami.
It’s time for the finale show and Jeffrey and Melissa are all dressed up and waiting to go on. There’s cheering and then Bobby Flay introduces the show, starting with the judges Bob Tuschman and Susie Folgelson. Then the two finalists come out and the front row of the audience looks like a daycare with all of Melissa’s kids.
Tuschman tells the two that Alton Brown called after filming their pilots and said that either one could be a star. Yeah, what else is he going to say? “Yo, Bob, dump the blond chick because she can be a bit frenetic” or “Bob, it’s your boss Alton. That Jeffrey guy needs a haircut.” Not going to happen.
Then Bobby introduces the rest of this season’s cast and we get Jen (who was kicked off first and we never hear from at all during this show), Brett, Eddie (who doesn’t hug Melissa), Teddy, Katie (who kisses Bobby), Michael (who kisses Bobby), Jamika and Debbie.
Bobby asks Jamika what’s it like seeing everyone again and she says something about a dysfunctional family. Then we see a clip of everyone and their quirks, like how Brett calls everyone Bubba and Katie dances like a goof, which oddly enough we never saw during the course of this season. (I guess the editors were trying to protect us.) Melissa apparently likes to talk about lactation and Eddie just likes to talk and talk and talk. Finally, Jeffrey is a big ole winker.
Bobby talks about how the contestants have to live together in a townhouse so that introduces another clip package of them living like college students at a dorm. Katie and Michael say they’re the best of buddies, and there’s a bromance between Teddy and Eddie. Melissa says she’s close to Jeffrey because they’re both family people.
Now we finally see the finished pilots from beginning to end. Melissa is up first with her “Kitchen Survival Guide” and she looks really short behind the counter. Her four-steps are pretty easy to understand, and she gives a lot of suggestions for people to personalize the recipe. But I wonder if I can stand listening to her voice continuously for 30 minutes? It’s a bit grating. But I’ve gotten used to worse in the voice department (i.e., Rachael Ray and Paula Deen). What’s weird is she cooks her chicken for just 3 to 4 minutes on each side, and I think that’s undercook for chicken. But she never shows how she cooks it any more, so people might have a lot of undercooked chicken if they follow Melissa’s “easy” steps.
Of course, everyone loves the pilot. Bob calls her poised, Susie says she learned something every second, and Bobby says the dish looked tasty.
Commercials. Guess which food movie’s commercial is showing now? That’s right. J&J. Thank God it’s finally starting this weekend.
Now it’s Jeffrey’s turn to show off his pilot, which again, has the worst name for a food show IMHO. Jeffrey seems a bit goofy when he starts off. He’s making a steak sandwich and squeezing harissa out of a tube. I didn’t realize this is how it comes because I bought mines as a spice that I have to mix with olive oil. He’s blending his into some mayonnaise to create a spread for the sandwich. Overall, it’s a very quick demo and looks pretty easy to make. In the end, though, it sounded like he said get some “harisso” instead of “harissa.”
Bob and Bobby seem really polite with their reactions, but Susie is all smiles. You can tell she really loved it, calling it “flawless.”
Now it’s time for the decision, but of course Bob asks once again for each contestant to give their final plea. This is like a court case with closing arguments. Melissa says she’s the dark horse but would be happy if the Food Network picks up BOTH their shows (you know one will end up as a Web series). Jeffrey stands up and is like the true pitchman giving his final pleas to give him a show so he can take the Food Network to the next level.
Bobby, Bob and Susie get up to deliberate while the studio audience just sits and wait. I wonder how long they actually waited and if there were munchies passed around?
During the deliberations, the judges do the typical “oh, this is such a hard choice” blah blah blah. I get the sense, though, that Bobby wasn’t that thrilled with Jeffrey because his comments about him seem really tempered. Bob does the business perspective and says that millions of women will relate to Melissa, and I think that’s her biggest advantage. I can see Jeffrey’s show more on the Travel Channel.
A few minutes later they march out and Bobby announces the decision. What’s weird is that all three judges are now holding cue cards. It’s not like they have that many lines to remember! Susie introduces Brooke Johnson, the president of the Food Network, who does the same joke about how there’s no rest for the weary because they have to do a show in one week, but you know they probably filmed this months ago!
The two finalists have a chance to say final thoughts but mostly thank their family, and then Bobby gives the “crown” of the Next Food Network Star to … Melissa! Meh, no surprise. I figured she was building up to this while Jeffrey faltered a bit at the end. Even though I think I would watch Jeffrey’s show just to learn about new exotic spices, I think Melissa is more comfortable to watch. She really is like your big sister (who’s probably knocked up!).
So that’s another season of star-making at the Food Network. Melissa’s show is now being promoted as “$10 Dinners,” which is boring (I liked “Kitchen Survival Guide” better) but I guess more apropos for this economy. What’s odd is that my TV Guide doesn’t show her show this Sunday. I guess the Food Network withheld the listing so no one could leak who won, but if you want to tune in, her show “supposedly” premieres Sunday, Aug. 9, at 12:30 p.m. And I’m outta here and so happy to get my Sunday nights back!
Photos courtesy of the Food Network Web site.
Relive the whole season with my recaps:
Monday, August 03, 2009
The Lone Survivor