Sunday, June 07, 2009

Cooking Up Food Network Stars

Tonight is the premiere of the fifth season of “The Next Food Network Star.” (QUICK! Who won last year? Exactly.) And for the next 10 weeks, we get to see people scramble, judges choke on poorly made food, and if it’s anything like last season — a lot of tears! (I saw a preview of tonight’s episode and one girl was already crying.)

This might be a mistake, but I’m planning to recap this season again, just like how I said I would recap Top Chef only to have my Wednesday nights sucked away by the mundane and the superficial. Why do I do this? Short memory is my guess.

So check back every Monday night for my post on the most recent episode, and this time I’ll also be tweeting as I’m watching. (If you haven’t become one of my “followers,” you should do so now on the right.) If you’re Twitter savvy, I’ll mark my tweets with the #NFNS designation. Not sure how that works, but I’m sure you’re more tweetwise than I am and will see the benefit.

To help you keep score of what this season will be like, here’s my early thoughts on this year’s crop of contestants:

Brett August, sous chef at a New York restaurant. Brett is the tall guy, and looks like one with a lot of cooking experience. He plans to push the whole “simple cooking for the home cook” angle, which will be interesting to see him do coming from the restaurant business. (I feel contestants with a restaurant background always want to pretty-up their food and use lots of ingredients.) I’m sure he’ll bring a lot of New York ‘tude to the show but he seems a bit generic to me. Odds of winning: 100 to 1.

Debbie Lee, a restaurant consultant and one of three contestants from the Los Angeles area. I’m excited about Debbie, not just because she’s the token Asian for this season, but because she’s Korean and I’m on a Korean kick lately. I love trying Korean food and she already has a fun name for her potential show, “Seoul 2 Soul.” How cool is that? I would definitely watch her. She’s like my sister or someone I went to high school with. But not sure how she’ll do with the rest of America, so that’s why I give her odds, 500 to 1.

Eddie Gilbert, another guy from L.A. I’m totally confused by his bio and don’t even know what he does for a living. My guess is unemployed actor. His background (having worked for a talent agency) sounds like he’s just looking to be the next reality TV star because I don’t see him talking about food much. (He reminds me a lot of last season’s Adam Gertler.) He’s easy on the eyes, though, so he has that star quality and will probably be fun to watch. But Eddie’s the type of contestants who always get ripped by the Top Chef fans who say Top Chef has more food experts than the Food Network. Odds: 50 to 1 (because he’s pur-ty).

Jamika Pessoa, certified personal chef from Atlanta. Jamika! Weren’t you on the show already? Are you sure you weren’t on Season Two? Jamika looks so familiar, like we’ve seen her cooking sassy Caribbean before. She looks fun, but that’s not a good sign that she looks so familiar, like she’s a perennial contestant. And it does make me nervous that her favorite book is “Fabulosity” by Kimora Lee Simmons. Odds: 1,000 to 1.

Jeffrey Saad, restaurateur and food consultant from L.A. (I guess that’s where stars are born.) In the preview video, one guy calls Jeffrey a Greek god, I guess because of his height and good looks. I feel like he should be demonstrating something at the Home Depot and not Williams-Sonoma. He does seem to emphasize fresh ingredients, but I’m curious to see what his food chops are really all about. Right now he just seems like he wants to sell me something instead of cook me something. Odds: 1,000 to 1.

Jen Isham, sales manager at an Orlando Crowne Plaza. In her bio, Jen is trying to court the younger vote, saying there are only old people on the Food Network. (Yikes, I bet Giada’s not too happy to hear that.) Of course, her approach is all about party planning and social things like that, which in today’s economy sounds like a lot of fuss to do when you’re wondering what to put on the table just for your own family. Anywho, my bet is Jen will be the first contestant eliminated tonight. Odds: 1,000,000 to 1.

Katie Cavuto, personal chef from Philadelphia. She’s our token healthy eater. (They always have one granola girl.) I have a feeling Katie is going to provide us with a lot of laughs on this show, and tears (she was the one crying in the preview). The contestants with the healthy angle traditionally haven’t gone too far on this show because the food often doesn’t taste that great to the judges and they’re pigeon-holed from the beginning as bland. But I’m hoping Katie sticks around for awhile because I think she’s fun. Odds: 500 to 1.

Melissa d’Arabian, stay-at-home mom from Texas. I’m not really feeling Melissa, because her personality seems so precise and made up. And she looks like she’s from the 60s, but not the hippie side, the side that was home sewing dresses for their daughters school play. There’s always a mom on the show, and I’m sure we’ll hear about Melissa missing her kids. And she hates goat cheese, which already lost my vote. Odds: 1,000,000 to 1.

Michael Proletti, executive chef at an upstate New York hotel. Michael! Weren’t you on Project Runway!? Are you sure? Michael is going to add the “color” for this season with his colorful hairstyle and apparently colorful vocabulary like “shibazz” or something that sounds like that. Because he’s young, fun-looking, and a trained chef who uses Siracha, I think Michael will go far in this competition. The judges will definitely keep him to make the Food Network seem edgy. Odds: 25 to 1.

Teddy Folkman, chef and co-owner of a “gastropub” in Washington, D.C. I can’t really tell what Teddy’s personality is like because he wasn’t really showcased that much in the preview video, but I’m pegging him as the dark horse. He seems like the type that will fly under everyone’s radar and then come out and win at the end! He has a nice enough appearance for TV (clean-cut, TV-friendly blue shirt) and actual teaches cooking already. And this is the big arsenal in Teddy’s bag—he beat Bobby Flay in a Throwdown episode about mussels and fries. Now that’s some major creds. Odds: 5 to 1.

I’m glad it’s just 10 contestants and not 13 or how many they have on Top Chef. This means fewer people for me to track, and fewer weeks to get to the finale. Who's your early favorite?

Watch for my live tweets during show time and check back here tomorrow night for my recap of the premiere episode!

The Next Food Network Stars, airs every Sunday at 9 p.m./8 p.m. Central. Check your local listing for the Food Network channel.


Nate @ House of Annie said...

The real challenge will be to find that authentic personality who can grab back the declining viewership.

Jeff said...

I have never gotten into this show but I may just have to set the DVR for the hilarity.

Hmmm....I think I would vote for either Teddy or Michael too. The girls just seem so flipping fake!

Mrs. L said...

Cracking up over your comment about Michael being on Project Runway!