Monday, July 28, 2008

The Next Food Network Star: Season 4, Finale (Spoiler Alert)

Go Big or Go Home

So it’s finally here. Whew, I’m so tired of recapping this show so I’m so glad it’s ending. But to torture me some more, the Food Network starts off the final episode not with the typical “previously” but with a three-minute summary of the entire season thus far. Argh! Oh, there’s Kevin, who was eliminated early on and my favorite. He would have totally made this season more fun if he stuck around. We see the train challenge, Spice Queen Nipa bossing people around, the famous fall by Lisa on the Coast Guard ship, and Jennifer breaking glass on the stove top. (I bet she cringes every time they air that clip.)

In case you’ve already forgotten, last week in Vegas we saw the judges wimp out and send all three into the finals back in New York without an elimination. I guess since America’s not voting, the judges didn’t care whether it’s a head-to-head battle or a three-way tie? Anywho, the show starts off with mini bios of the three finalists.

Lisa is a mother, wife, restaurant owner and designer. Hey, her husband is an executive chef already? And she designs stylish aprons? What does she need with her own Food Network show?

Adam is the guy who opened a restaurant with his brother and it failed and he’s now waiting tables. His could be a real rags-to-riches story if he wins. Why is he kissing his grill at home? Hey, his small kitchen reminds me of mines. We’re like two peas in a pod, Adam and me.

Aaron has really tiny kids. That’s what I noticed about him because really the mini bio doesn’t say much about Aaron. He says he believes in himself, which is all well and good. I think he needs to improve his fashion because he always looks like he just came back from a pool party.

Finally they start the intro music. Why even bother? Let’s get on with it already.

Opening scenes of New York taxi cabs racing by, then the three arrive all dressed up (except for Aaron) at the Food Network studios at the Chelsea Market. They’re greeted by judges Bob Tuschman and Susie Folgelson of the Food Network, who tell them that this is their final challenge. Doh. Susie looks mad as usual when she’s not talking.

The contestants learn that they have to produce a pilot of their very own show. Lisa says ohmigod in a whisper to Aaron like she’s so surprised. They will perform on Rachel Ray’s set, which initially I thought would be fancy when I imagined Rachel Ray’s talk show kitchen but turns out it’s her rinky-dink 30 Minute Meals studio. To help them produce their show, they get the help of longtime Food Network producer Gordon Elliott (whom I always get confused as that guy who hosted the "Lives of the Rich and Famous").

Elliott gives the three finalists time to think about their pitches, and they go off into their little corners and start scribbling notes, except for Lisa who is busy putting a lot of scraps and magazine tear sheets together like some design board presentation.

So she’s up first and she comes rolling into the room with a cart full of junk. She starts setting up her things and you can tell Elliott’s getting a bit inpatient. When she finally starts, she has created three concepts for her show and for each concept she’s put together a box of props, almost like a lunch box they would serve at your bed. It’s all very cute and interesting, but we’re not giving out A’s for crafts, Lisa, so get on with it. (BTW, if you haven’t noticed, cranky pants recapper is back for the finale. Ha!)

Her first pitch is for “Beautiful Basics,” which she’s been pushing all along with the combination of food knowledge and artistic flair. Second idea is called “Pure and Simple” and focuses on green living and organics, and third is “Fashion Feast.” (That’s probably pretty much self-explanatory.) Elliott likes “Beautiful Basics” and tells her to not be a smarty pants and pick basic ingredients so that the show is approachable to home viewers.

Aaron comes in next, and he’s all “hey bro” with Elliott. Aaron is all about the bold flavors and using herbs and spices. The name of his show is “Bold and Flavorful” or another weird idea “Leftovers Not Forgotten.” Elliott’s not feeling the vibe for either names, so he asks if he had a nickname on the show and Aaron says the other contestants called him “Big Daddy” (which I don’t remember hearing anyone call him that, but whatevs). Of course, Elliott loves this and calls Aaron’s show “Big Daddy’s Kitchen.” He should have a tiny assistant named Annie and then he’ll be all set.

Finally it’s Adam who comes up with “I’m Always Hungry in Philadelphia” (not to be confused with that basic cable show called “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”). Adam’s show involves viewer emails asking him questions on cooking, and Elliott proposes a live chat on the Internet during the show. Adam’s excited because he thinks his show can appeal to all the cool You Tube/Myspace/Facebook crowd who’s totally socializing online but not eating.

The three go into makeup to prep for the pilot, and Lisa is wearing a really bright fuscia dress. She arrives and Elliott kisses her hand (never trust a very tall, hand-kissing man with an accent) and the blond producer gives Lisa a run-through of her show. I don’t know how the contestants remember all these things. I can barely remember where to catch the bus each morning.

Lisa starts filming and it’s all very kinetic and I’m all agitated just watching her. She’s demonstrating a black cod dish with sabayon, which she explains is an Italian custard. (BTW, I make sabayon whenever I make tiramisu and it’s hard to tell when it gets to the right thickening point, but it’s all so good and pretty.)

It looks like she doesn’t really finish on time, and Elliott makes her do it again and she hardly looks at the camera. The next take Elliott tells her to go crazy like she’s talking to her girlfriends. I still think she looks rushed, but Elliott seems happy and gives her a high-five. (BTW, her sabayon looked unusually bright yellow.)

Commercials. The Food Network is doing a Hell’s Kitchen-like reality show called Chef Jeff Project. It’s supposed to be a culinary boot camp so be prepared for a lot of screaming, but this time without an accent.

It’s Adam’s turn to film his pilot and he’s dressed in a simple brown shirt and jeans. His set has the added flat-screen monitor because he’s going to be talking with a viewer named McCall(sp?). (They made it seem like she’s a viewer, but she could totally be a production assistant for the Food Network pretending to be a viewer.) Anywho, “McCall” supposedly has the roast chicken blues and is bored making the same old roast chicken recipe (I love roast chicken and never get bored making it) so Adam is coming to the rescue with his spice-rubbed beer roast chicken.

Adam gets a bit nervous (and neurotic actually) about all that he has to do for the show and wonders if he’s bitten off more than he can chew. He starts talking and gets a bit freaked out by all the questions that McCall is shooting at him. (See, she’s a ringer, I say.) At one point, Elliott yells at Adam to wash his hands with soap after he touched the chicken because he just washed his hands with water. They do a few more takes and it looks like Adam is getting calmer and he lets some of his humor flow in. I actually like how he’s interacting with the “viewer” so it’s not just him talking and it seems kind of new age with the technology. When he’s done, Elliott tries to give him a high-five but Adam still has chicken hands so he does a little “bump” instead.

Last is Aaron who comes in all loud and jovial, but once he has time to think about what he needs to say before the camera starts running, he looks like a deer in a headlight (Elliott’s words). Aaron actually looks like a zombie. Oh my, this can’t be good.

Aaron is making jerk rib eye with honey plantains, and his voice sounds odd as he’s talking, almost like he needs to clear his throat. Elliott tells him to slow down but then he keeps flubbing his lines. It sounds like he’s done more takes than the other two and he always looks scared right before filming. In the end, Aaron feels like something’s missing from his shoot but Elliott tells him he did great.

Now’s it the finale in front of a studio audience. Lisa is wearing a really gold shiny dress and Adam looks nice in a blue, long-sleeve shirt. Aaron is Aaron. Bobby Flay is there as the host and he’s holding these note cards, which is really odd because I never see him look down at them. So the note cards make him seem more like a host of a game show or dating show as he introduces the three finalists.

The judges Bob and Susie are also there, and Bob doesn’t look very dressed up. They show the finalists’ friends and family and then Bobby asks Gordon Elliott how the contestants did. Of course, he says all three did great and it will be a “hard decision” for the judges to make.

Bobby introduces the past contestants and the parade of rejects begin with Kevin running in like some mad man, Corey, Jeffrey (who gets a lot of cheer for some reason from the three finalists), Nipa, Jennifer, Shane (who also gets a lot of laughs from the finalists) and Kelsey, who throws kisses at the three.

Bobby introduces the pilot, starting with Lisa. And you know, after editing, her show is really good. She doesn’t seem as frenetic as during filming, and I like what she’s cooking. Plus, she tells these interesting stories about fishing with her dad or making sabayon as a 13-year old. Lisa is smiling really big as she watches herself, and the audience laughs a few times. When it’s over, the crowd cheers and Adam and Aaron look screwed.

Bob Tuschman says Lisa was confident and showed a depth and range of culinary knowledge. Susie says she was multifaceted and that there’s so much to market with Lisa. (Susie’s always thinking of ways to whore people out, huh? Dang marketers.) Bobby says Lisa is unpredictable but in a good way.

Commercials. You know what? 409 isn’t that strong that you can shoot through a wall. I can barely get it to rub off the mold stains in my shower. (What? Like you don’t have the same problem.)

Next up is Adam, and Bobby asks about the name of his show. Adam says it’s his online user name, and that he wants to talk to people around the country. He makes a joke at Elliott’s expense and gets a nice laugh before his pilot begins.

In the pilot he’s really relaxed and he seems to have a nice interaction with “McCall.” People laugh at his jokes and his odd chicken humor, even though that chicken looks burnt because of the spice rub. It’s all fun and entertaining but I have to say it seems to lack much content.

Bob says it was a joy to watch, and Susie says she was blown away and that she learned so much. Really? Is sticking a beer can up the butt of a chicken some new technique? Bobby says everyone probably wanted to taste that chicken.

Commercials. That Sears Kenmore Elite commercial with the little boy and his knit cap is soooo cute. I’m getting hooked on this Kenmore Elite line.

Bobby asks Aaron about filming his pilot and he says it was challenging. Then they show “Big Daddy’s Kitchen” and Aaron comes in with a big HEY, almost booming to me. He seems kind of pushy with his script, telling people that they will love doing something. I don’t like it when people say I will love something so much. What if I don’t? Then who’s accountable, Aaron? He goes through the demo of his meat dish, and it’s OK but he doesn’t mix in any personal stories like Lisa did. Plus, I’m starting to realize it’s hard to understand Aaron because he almost has a lisp or something.

In the end, Bobby asks if he would have done his pilot differently, and he says he would have ate more. I admit, that is witty.

People are really loving Aaron’s pilot and they really laughed a lot during the showing, which surprised me because it wasn’t that funny. I just think people were laughing because they love Aaron like a big old simple guy, like a buddy. Anywho, Bob says he was funny and generous, big and bold. Susie says he owned it.

Now deliberations. Bobby says the judges are going to go off and decide in a couple of minutes the next Food Network star. WTF? They’re going to decide someone’s future in two minutes? You know that’s just TV speak, because I bet those audience members sat for hours waiting for the judges to come back with their decision.

Commercials. I don’t understand that awkward Comcast Digital voice commercial with the guy who can’t really talk to his brother. Weird.

The three judges are sitting around going over each person, and of course they have good things to say about all three. Bobby says he’s rooting for Aaron but he also would watch Lisa’s show. Bob says all three could have their own show, but who can start tomorrow? So based on that, who do you think they picked? (I guessed Lisa, but I was really rooting for Adam.)

Bobby’s about to announce the decision, and the three finalists look weird, especially Adam who looks like he has dry mouth. Bob Tuschman introduces Brooke Johnson, the president of the network who comes out every year in the finale but I always think she’s a scary-looking lady. (I’m just shooting my future chances at a Food Network show left and right, huh?)

Brooke Johnson says the winner will have one last challenge, which is to start filming his or her own Food Network show the next day so it can air in exactly one week. (Again, this is like the whole two-minute thing. Who believes this was actually filmed last week? This was probably filmed months ago, so the winner actually has had months to come up with the first episode. I can see through the curtains, lady. You’re not fooling cranky pants here.)

Bobby asks the three to comment one last time and we get the typical (start the violins) comments about experiencing an incredible once-in-a-lifetime event (Lisa), learning more about oneself (Aaron) or confirming one’s life passion (Adam).

Then Bobby, still holding those damn note cards that he never looked down at, announces that the winner is Aaron. Wow, I am totally blown away. Aaron? I totally figured Lisa would be the one to win. But I guess Aaron is probably the better cook because the judges all seemed to love his food early on.

I don’t know if Aaron really has the TV personality to sustain his own show. Of course, his family is totally jumping like crazy and he’s totally happy with hugs going all around. There’s a weird blip in the tape and I bet that was one of the Food Network editors stressing out that he inserted the wrong episode where Aaron was named the winner just to throw off the scent, but now he can’t take it back. Ah, that explains it.

Aaron talks about doubting himself but keeping it real and the typical “follow your dream” comment. What’s funny in the closing minutes is that these machines are blasting out gold confetti and it makes this loud sound that makes Shane jump like he was spooked. He’s so sweet. I would have watched his show.

Aaron’s new show, “Big Daddy’s House,” (I guess he was too big for just the kitchen) airs this coming Sunday at 1:30 p.m. on the Food Network. Like they say, check your local listings. Photos courtesy of the Food Network Web site.


David K. and Ann C.-K. said...

I think the Food Network got it all wrong. Aaron is way too nervous on camera and is most definitely not ready to produce a show right away. I think Adam has the best personality and the most intriguing pilot idea, but I think his food doesn't look as good as the other two. Lisa shows some promise but I'm not sure people want to watch French cooking techniques. Pan fry a steak in butter -- that's what'll win every time.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I was rooting for Lisa to win in the final round. Her energy is both scary and fascinating to watch at times. When she does open up and enjoy herself somewhat, watching her perform is more enjoyable.

V.Streit said...

Out of them,i'm glad that aaron won.Lisa would get old after awhile plus I don't care too much for her look. It seems like most of the food network celebs were awkward when they first started their shows and began to warm to the camera after awhile. Aaron seems like he would do great. He has a warm personality and has a background just like everyone else. Although, i'm not sure if he will last. It seems like the only food network star that has lasted is guy fieri. I think the magic is in his hair.

Anonymous said...

I like Aaron; I just hope the FN doesn't make him become a pardoy of himself, which they have been known to do.

My personal fave was Lisa, because I think I could actually learn from her.

Good luck, Aaron. I'll be surprised if we even remember you next year at this time.