Monday, June 15, 2009

NFNS: Season 5, Episode 2

Sent Packin’ Home for the Holidays

Previously: The contestants arrive and are thrown into catering mode as they throw a party for the Food Network’s 16th anniversary. Katie talks to Ted Allen about his digestive track, and Eddie needs to bring it so he can brought it as promised. Tonight: Giada DeLaurentiis spreads the holiday joy and Melissa is a loose canon in the kitchen. That feeds into drama in the judgment room.

You know, it’s only been a week and I already forgot all these people’s name. Thanks to the opening I know we have Teddy, Melissa the Mom, Michael a Go-Go™ (because he’s global cuisine), Brett, Debbie, Edward (Eddie, really), Katie, Jeffrey, Jen (goner) and Jamaican Jamika.

Opening scenes: Wow, that’s some pretty hard rock music playing on the Food Network. We know, you want to attract the tweens. But can you turn it down?

The contestants wake up and arrive at the Food Network kitchen where there’s a row of shiny domed platters. In comes Bobby Flay and Ryan D’Agostino, articles editor at Esquire magazine. (I wonder if he’s related to all those D’Agostino markets in New York? Food must be in his blood.) Bobby says their challenge is to bring food to life in the rapidly dying industry of print journalism. D’Agostino says the winner of today’s challenge will be featured in Esquire magazine, and Michael is quick to point out that he’s not the “Esquire man.”

Bobby says under each domed platter are ingredients that are typically found in the pantry of the Esquire man. They lift off the domes and I was sure they’d find condoms and negligee, but instead there are a lot of different cuts of meat and supposedly odd-matching ingredients like pistachio, pickles, and maple syrup.

They have 45 minutes to whip up a dish and they all start grabbing ingredients and cooking. Each of them starts talking about what they’re planning to make and they all seem pretty straight-forward. Katie grabs some cereal and says that’s how she’s going to make her rack of lamb healthy, while Brett is going to make hamburgers with pickles on the side. I can already hear the judges complaining how he’s not incorporating it into the dish. I would have chopped up the pickles and made a cole slaw topping that goes with the burger. It’s not that original, I’ve seen Bobby Flay do it before. But it’s better than just saying, “um, yeah, I opened the pickle jar and placed them on the side of the dish.”

Speaking of garnish, Melissa the Mom also has a similar problem with her ingredient, which is maraschino cherries, which is really a garnish too. She at least chops them up and blends them into a sauce for her tajine.

Michael is making some kind of Colombia coffee rub for his pork chop, and he’s really into doing that Jersey accent where he says coffee like “kwaffey” like those ladies from the Coffee Talk time on SNL.

Katie cuts into her lamb and it’s rare. And we’re not just talking about some pink here and there. I think I just heard it go “baaaah.”

You can tell the time crunch is really affecting a few contestants who are still getting used to cooking under pressure, especially Melissa the Mom. She didn’t even have time to throw her maraschino cherries into the sauce and instead when time is up she plops two cherries on top of her dish like they were ice cream sundaes. What’s even worst is that she doesn’t even bother to cover up and actually tells the judges later that, yeah, they look like sundaes, don’t they?

When time is up, Bobby tells them they now have to do a one-minute presentation in front of the camera and for some reason Eddie is jumping up and down like he’s either really jazzed about the prospects or he really needs to use the bathroom.

Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson join Bobby and that Esquire editor to watch the presentation, and up first is Jumpin’ Eddie. And you know what? He’s a totally different person. He actually comes off energetic and personable, and not the drone that he was last week. He talks about his steak and fat for flavor and appealing to the manly man readers of Esquire. The only comment the judges have is Tuschman calling Eddie “twitchy” but he can dial it down for broadcast. (“Twitchy” is the new favorite word for judges to describe nervous contestants, I’ve noticed.)

Melissa the Mom is next and her sundae plates look like a mess, then she starts talking about how it’s so simple that you can feed it to a baby or a toddler. I don’t know what kind of Amazon children she’s raising but I don’t think any baby would eat through all that meat. All the judges are baffled, and Tuschman says the food has no flavor.

Jamaican Jamika presents her porterhouse steak with whiskey and molasses glaze and she’s so good. She comes off really warm and friendly and smooth — ooops — spoke too soon because she forgot what she was going to say, now she’s struggling with her words, oh, the time is running out. Oh no this is terrible I can’t NOT watch. She basically wraps it up with some more mumbling and then gives off an exasperated flubbing noise at the end. Bobby, the only guy on the judges’ panel with on-air experience, feels for her. But the judges do say the dish tastes good.

Jeffrey is up next and he’s super casual and calm, and he really talks about food like sex. You really want it, and you want it NOW! But in the end, he never shares anything about himself and that’s what Susie jumps all over.

Next is a Guy Fieri-wannabe as Teddy comes on really loud and strong, thinking loud and strong means a lot of personality but all it seems like is a kid trying to get attention at a party. And I still don’t get his tagline of “the mind of a chef.” WTF is that supposed to mean? I don’t want to hear from the mind of a chef if I’m not a professional chef. Bobby says he wants Teddy to stop yelling at him.

From weird to weirder, Brett comes on and tries to show his personality but he also talks really slow and mouths his word like he’s talking to an 8-year-old. I’m not even sure what he made, but Bobby thinks Brett is goofy in a strange funny way. Of course, he mentions how he didn’t incorporate the pickles into his dish and just left them as garnish.

Michael does his presentation and he’s all colorful and expressive in his “This is Pride Month” way, but then he’s done and the stage director tells him to stretch because he has 20 seconds left. Then he acts all befuddled and just basically says gibberish and then, time.

Debbie does her thing for men, and she’s very upbeat and smiles a lot. She made a Korean barbeque dish, and the Esquire editor thought it was tasty but not really creative since they’re just skewers.

Then Katie comes on with her rare lamb. She comes on and talks about healthiness again and more about antioxidants and everyone’s eyes glaze over. I guess she was trying to distract them from looking at the raw lamb. Did she even cook it?

The Esquire editor names the winner, and he picks Eddie, who jumps up and down and screams. Bobby says he brought more of himself this time around, and now Eddie knows the trick to winning is to drink a lot of liquids and not go to the bathroom before a challenge. Let’s see if he can keep that up.

Commercials. Hey, hot Asian guy in the Impreza Subaru commercial. I love hot Asian men! ;-)

The contestants arrive at Hearst Tower in Manhattan, and everyone knows that Hearst is the media empire that owns a whole bunch of magazines. Wow, that escalator and interior of the building looks like a castle. I’m so jealous, I want to work there.

Then we see them walk through the offices of Good Housekeeping, so everyone’s guessing the challenge has something to do with that. Of course, Melissa the Mom is all excited because she’s probably been reading Good Housekeeping since she was 7. (I actually used to read the magazine too. My older sister subscribed to it and I always flipped through it looking at all the food. Even then I liked the idea of pretty food, and no, I didn’t read the sewing articles.)

In walks Giada DeLaurentiis and a woman named Rosemary Ellis who’s the editor in chief of Good Housekeeping. Ellis brags that the magazine has 25 million readers (most of them from the previous generation) and she tells them the winner of this challenge will be featured in the June edition.

Everyone gets excited, and Giada tells them the challenge is to bring to life a holiday celebration. But I was thinking they all had to do a Christmas dish, but turns out each will have their own holiday to feature. Jumpin’ Eddie, having one the earlier challenge, gets to assign the different holidays to his fellow contestants and he was totally nice about it matching people mostly in alignment with the holidays.

This is how the assignments went:

Debbie: Mardi Gras

Michael: Halloween

Katie: Earth Day

Brett: April Fool’s Day

Eddie: Valentines Day

Teddy: Labor Day

Melissa: Mother’s Day

Jamika: New Year’s Eve

Jeffrey: Groundhog day (I think he got the short end of the stick, although Brett is pretty close with April fool’s.)

They all start grabbing props for their tray and start cooking. Good Housekeeping sure has a beautiful kitchen. They must make mega bucks. Everyone starts talking about what they’re making and it’s not really a surprise. But the people who have the tough holidays like Jeffrey and Brett are actually just ignoring the theme and pretty much just making a dish and forcing a story to back up the holiday. I predict that’ll blow up in their faces.

Teddy is really trying to show he has personality in this show, so he’s doing this weird dancing while he’s cooking, and he also dances while doing his background interviews. Now I’m taking Teddy off my list as the lead contender. I predict he’ll stay for another couple of weeks but will be eliminated. So far my lead contenders are Jamaican Jamika and Jeffrey.

Melissa the Mom, just like last week, is having problems using the industrial oven and equipment and she’s scrambling around like a tornado. Brett, who’s generally commanding a kitchen staff at a hotel, feels like he needs to help her out to finish prepping her dish and he and Teddy pitch in since apparently they’re done with their dishes. But instead of helping, the two are basically yelling at Melissa about what to do next. Even Jamaican Jamika comments that the two guys should respect Melissa more.

Commercials. Best Buy, are you the only electronics store around these days? I miss competition.

Brett and Teddy are still yelling at Melissa, and then time is up and the two guys hug each other like they just scored a touchdown. Meanwhile, Melissa is up first in her presentation so she goes to another room with all the judges and the Good Housekeeping editor and another one named Susan Westmoreland, who I guess is the food director.

Here’s a recap of Melissa’s presentation and the rest of the gang:

Melissa’s Mother’s Day dish is breakfast in bed with oven-scrambled egg dish she created. They like the food but thinks she needs to harness her energy so she won’t scare off audiences.

Jeffrey’s Groundhog dish was some Mexican food because he says it was springtime like ground hog day. Nobody gets it and he admits there’s no connecting, but everyone smiles and they think he’s charming. Hmm, if I was making something for Groundhog day, I would make a salad with root vegetables to play on the idea that groundhog, being underground, eats all this stuff.

Jamaican Jamika makes collard greens and corn bread of her New Year’s eve traditional Southern celebration and everyone loves the food and she comes off really smooth and friendly. And she talks a lot about her family traditions and you know the Food Network looooves that shit.

Katie’s Earth Day celebration was roasted shrimp with white beans and she kept rambling on about the health benefits that everyone got bored, plus the food had not flavor.

Commercials. Wow, that HP printer commercial with the peacocks is so graphically beautiful. Well done. (applause)

Teddy’s Labor Day dish is potato salad and crab cakes, ala summer beach food. He does this weird thing about the crab talking to him, making voices and that creeps out Bobby.

Brett does this really good fake out for his April Fool’s thing, and tells the group that he’s going to quit the competition and yells “April Fools.” I have to say, that was some good acting and the judges really fell for it. It got them all to laugh but they all don’t get how the holiday is connected to his mom, and then everything unravels from there.

Debbie makes Korean mandu for her Mardi Gras celebration and she talks about family (points for her) and smiles a lot. Giada likes the filling but the editors thought the recipe might be too complicated.

Michael wears a witch’s hat when he comes in with his Mexican salad dish for Halloween and when he takes off the hate he has this fiery coloring in his hair. It’s wild, like his presentation but everyone likes him as the funny guy. And he emphasizes that he’s the Good Housekeeping Woman (since he’s already established he’s not the Esquire Man).

Jumpin’ Eddie comes in and he apparently forgot to drink liquids because he’s back to his old boring self, making a board presentation and saying some stupid thing about the magazine’s demographics and how women eat differently than men. Then in the end he does this weird message to his girlfriend, wish her a Happy Valentine’s, which I’m sure it’s probably not and it seems almost forced.

Commercials. I’m sure many people have already talked about Rachel Ray selling dog food. Oh Rachel. What were you thinking? I know you love dogs and all, but really, endorsing dog food? Did you make it in 30 minutes?

It’s dark outside so that means they’re all back at the apartment and waiting to go to judgment. What is that big picture of two red pear-shaped blobs on that painting? It’s so distracting.

They all walk into the judgment room and I don’t know why they’re all smiling. Giada is there with Bobby, Bob and Susie. Then they go over each person’s positives and negatives. They like Jeffrey (charmer), Debbie (even though Giada called her Korean mandu “won tons” which is Chinese) and Jamaican Jamika.

But they didn’t like Katie, who keeps talking about healthy stuff that everyone is soooo tired of it, even herself as she cries about how she’s trying to get the unhealthy Kathy inside her to come out.

Susie tells Eddie that he shared too much information in his presentation and was a bit insincere about the demographics, prompting him to apologize to all womankind. Other people who made fools of themselves were Teddy and his weird talking vegetables and Brett’s awkward April food’s presentation. Bob Tuschman asks Brett if he really wants to be on TV, and he says his friends suggested he apply for the show.

Then Bob talks about “mommy mayhem” with Melissa, which again makes me think he reviews the daily tapes and knows how the contestants are working in the kitchen. She admits she’s still feeling a bit overwhelmed but the judges say they like her food. Then there’s this awkward moment where Brett is nudging Teddy to say something, and finally Giada gets them to spit out, and mostly it’s Brett who says that he and Teddy had to help Melissa finish her dishes.

It does come off that Brett is implying that Melissa isn’t doing the work from beginning to end, and she looks like she was just ambushed by Brett. Bob asks Melissa if she’s really making her own dish, which is a big leap from Brett saying he helped plate her food to Melissa not cooking. Melissa says Teddy and Brett did help her but she did cook the food. (Teddy through all of this doesn’t say anything because he doesn’t want to “throw anyone under the bus” but you can tell by his expression that he does feel like he contributed to Melissa’s success.)

Commercials. State Farm, congratulations on a great commercial. I’m talking about the “I’ll be There” commercial. Yeah, it’s predictable and gimmicky but we watch commercials for these emotional tugs, don’t we?

Susie names the top three, Debbie, Melissa and Jamaican Jamika. Giada says the winner is Jamika. All three are safe. Other finalists are Jeffrey, Michael a Go Go, and Teddy. They all leave, and Melissa the Mom is still seething about the ambush by Brett.

Left behind is Katie, Brett and Jumpin’ Eddie, but they’re dismissed as the judges need time to talk behind their backs. Basically they say Eddie is passionate, but is hot and cold with the presentation. Brett is likeable, but Tucshman doesn’t know who he is, and Katie’s constant healthy food pitch is forcing Bob to crave ice cream and fudge.

The three return and Bobby says Katie is safe. She almost cries again. Susie tells Brett that he’s leaving today, and he seems OK about it. He says he’s a stronger person, but not sure if he really showed the real Brett. Too late now.

Since Jamaican Jamika is the winner, the next morning she goes to Good Housekeeping’s headquarters to develop a recipe to feature. I thought it was supposed to be the holiday dish, but they create an easy weeknight dinner. Jamika makes grilled salmon and puts it over a huge bed of spinach, and I think that’s pineapple that she’s placing around the fish. I hope it tastes better than it looks. I guess you can find out more in this month’s issue of the magazine.

Next: Ty-Flo makes an appearance and everyone goes ga-ga over the Barefoot Contessa (I don’t blame them). Debbie can’t trust one of her teammate and there’s more drama in the judgment room.

The Next Food Network Star airs 9 p.m. Sundays (and repeats at the same time Thursdays) on the Food Network. Check your local listing. Photos courtesy of the Food Network Web site.

Previous posts:
Episode 1

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great recap! Brett was a real creep for ambushing Melissa Mom the way he did, and I'm glad his bipolar butt is off my tv.

I think Katie would have a good show if she could stop the dated implication that "healthy" equals "boring". Many of us want to cook with fresh, new ingredients. She seems to have the knowledge, but doesn't know how to sell it.

I think Jimaka (sp?) is lovely and calming and I would enjoy her show. I like Jeffrey, too, and he's obviously a good sport. The others, at this point in the game, are not making much of a positive impact.