Sunday, May 25, 2008

Can They Make The Next Food Network Star?

It seems like I’m barely getting to the end of Top Chef Chicago when more recaps are on the horizon for moi with the fourth season of “The Next Food Network Star.” I’ve been watching this show from the beginning, and some of you know that I submitted an application video for season 3. (No call backs, thank you very much.)

But 10 other people think they’ve got what it takes to star in a Food Network show (and possibly become a bona fide star like Guy Fieri of Season 2 but not Amy Finley from Season 3; I don’t think the network is even rerunning her “The Gourmet Next Door.”).

Probably recognizing that they have to pump up this series given the popularity of “Top Chef,” the Food Network this year is placing Bobby Flay in the position of host and permanent judge ala Tom Colicchio. I think this is a smart move because since Emeril left, Flay has been the de facto face of the Food Network, appearing on multiple shows like “Iron Chef America” and “Throwdown” as well as numerous reruns of past shows programmed throughout the day. Flay has been a frequent judge in “The Next Food Network Star,” and I’ve always found his advice more helpful and constructive than those that came from people like Giada De Laurentiis.

So the show launches exactly one week from today on Sunday, June 1 at 10 p.m. on The Food Network. (Check local listings.) Check back on Monday nights for my recaps. And to get you started, here’s a rundown of the 10 finalists this season:

Aaron, 36, executive catering chef, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Aaron is a big guy, and his theme is “big and bold.” Originally from Camden, N.J., you can expect to see a lot of flavor in Aaron’s cooking. And I bet quite a bit of BBQ. His negative is that he cooks at a hospital and when was the last time you had a tasty meal at a hospital?

Adam, 30, actor and waiter in Philadelphia. Aiiiiiie, an actor in a reality show? What are the odds? OK, at least he’s upfront about it. But still, you can bet a lot of viewers will probably wonder how credible he’ll be front a food show, and people like Adam is why a lot of foodies have been so down on the Food Network shows, emphasizing personality over skills. Adam says he started a BBQ joint with his brother, but that business wasn’t very successful. Ooops, so far his food creds aren’t that hot. At least he’s easy on the eyes and as a performer, you know he’ll make for good TV drama.

Cory, 45, stand-up comic based in New York. Oh my, Season 4 is turning out to be some audition for Star Search. First an actor, now a stand-up comic. Cory has been featured on “The Last Comic Standing” and Craig Ferguson’s talk show. So really, it’s going to be a tough go for viewers who are hoping to see some innovative cooking. But OK, I’m not going to count Cory out because at least she says in her video bio that she has a culinary degree and had a catering company for years before she decided to follow her passion for comedy. So maybe she’s a comic who just happens to cook really well. I guess we won’t know until we start watching. But if she doesn’t make me laugh in the first episode, then I’m not going to trust her cooking.

Jeffrey, 43, food service management. I don’t really know much about Jeffrey other than he looks pretty tall in his photo. I can’t seem to find his video bio on the Food Network site. How odd? I wonder if he was a last-minute addition? Anywho, he’s from White Plains, N.Y. and is in “food service management.” He kind of looks like the cooking professor, doesn’t he?

Jennifer, 32, executive chef at Geppetto’s and Brigg’s Corner Restaurant. She’s a self-taught chef who did a stint with the military and now cooks at an Italian restaurant in Providence, R.I. She’s a mom doing this competition for her daughter, and she supposedly put her life on hold hoping that she’ll win this thing. She gave up a lease on her home and joined the show. So if she doesn’t get the job in New York, she won’t have a home to go back to. I wonder where her daughter is?

Kelsey Nixon, 23, assistant culinary director from Utah. She’s like the David Archuleta of TNFNS. One of the youngest contestant, she also looks too perky for the rest of America. Which is why we want David Cook! But at least Kelsey teaches cooking classes so she looks like she does have some credibility in the kitchen. She actually went to school specifically to become a cooking show star. Is there a degree for that? She’ll probably be the most smooth in front of the camera because she’s had her own college cable cooking show. So she might go far if her perky attitude doesn’t annoy everyone.

Kevin, 39, executive chef of East Village Tavern and Bowl in San Diego. This guy probably has the most cooking credentials, but that doesn’t really say much given the backgrounds of the contestants above. But Kevin owns a couple of restaurants and does a cooking segment on the local radio. His focus will be bringing back romance to the Food Network, so cooking for singles. Hey! Wait a minute! That’s my idea!

Lisa, 32, co-owner and chef of Suze Restaurant of Dallas. This former beauty queen looks like she should be on Project Runway instead of the Food Network. But no, here she is. So you can bet we’ll hear the word “design” associated with Lisa pretty often during this show. And in the previews, she looks like she has one of the most major and messy kitchen accidents in the history of TNFNS.

Nipa, 35, marketing manager. The token Asian in the group, Nipa is from India and Minneapolis, where she has two kids. She looks like she has a lot of personality, and if she can make Indian food look fun to cook, then I’m all there because I rarely cook Indian food or go out to get Indian food. She definitely will have the most unique show not currently seen on the Food Network, but she might get homesick for her kids and we know how that has been the downfall of a many past family contestants.

Shane, 20, actor and owner of LA catering company. Another actor turned chef, I guess. Shane used to star in a show on Nickelodeon, playing the fat kid, but as you can tell he’s not fat anymore. He credits that to good cooking. Now, his video bio says he’s 19, but his bio on the Food Network site says 20, so he’s probably aging faster than most people. Still, he has a culinary degree and plans to show off some French style cooking. I wonder how long before he gets a gig with “Days of Our Lives”?

Here's a preview video for the season:

The Next Food Network Star premieres Sunday, June 1, at 10 p.m. Learn more at the Food Network Web site by clicking on the banner below.


Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to your updates!

Anonymous said...

No call backs for you?? SHAME on them! You are totally made for a cooking show. Bide your time, I say -- one of these days you just might have one of your very own. You've even got the title for it already! Contestant? Pfui! No need to go that route -- I say just head straight for the top. :-)