Well, the latest great season of Food Network Star is rapidly drawing to a close with viewers getting to select a winner on this upcoming Sunday’s show, and for the first time ever, I must admit that I truly like all the final contenders. If you haven’t watched last night’s episode, beware: spoilers ahead…
Anyway, the group is now down to Michele (Team Bobby), Yvan (Team Giada), Justin (Team Alton), and Martie (Team Alton, surprise!!), all of whom filmed pilots that we then screened in the final quarter of last night’s episode. How’d they do? Pretty well, actually. For weeks, it has seemed like this has been Justin’s competition to lose, but quite frankly, the field may be more competitive than previously expected. Here’s a rundown of each finalist and their pilot:
Martie Duncan, Martie with the Party
Premise: Martie Duncan teaches us how to throw an awesome party.
Pros: Martie is sweet, warm, and lovable. She’s a natural in front of the camera, and even if she’s a chatterbox, editors are always standing by. Plus, her recipe — a citrus marinated shrimp — looked very tasty.
Cons: The idea of a party show doesn’t feel super fresh. We’ve seen it before. Plus, the name recalls a previous winner’s pilot: Aarti Party. At the end of the day, while Martie is totally cool, this feels like it may just be another show aimed squarely at the Paula Deen demo.
Yvan Lemoine, Family Style
Premise: Yvan cooks family style.
Pros: Yvan is the most telegenic of the group, and he seems like such a nice guy. Plus, his sweet corn mac and cheese looked kind of awesome, even if it did have shades of Sandra Lee to it.
Cons: I love Yvan, but he’s just not a natural in front of the camera. His voice gets crazy high, and he often seems like he’s running out of air. Even worse, the lilting pattern of his speech makes him sound like he’s addressing little kids. It’s totally bizarre considering how low (and dare I say sexy?) his voice can be while calmly speaking during his interviews. If only he could have grafted the latter personality onto the former.
Michele Ragussis, My New England
Premise: Michele brings New England cooking to the masses.
Pros: Michele is great. She’s so warm and friendly, even when she’s allegedly being serious and gruff. I like her, I like her dishes, and I like pilot. In fact, I actually felt like My New England was the best pilot of the bunch. Her recipe had me salivating, and I dug the way she interacted with the guy at the lobster place she visited. Most importantly of all: Michele brings expertise and authority to the table: I trust her, which is super important. Mix that and likability, and you have a serious contender.
Cons: The only serious con I can think of is that I just don’t know how much New England cuisine there is to sustain a full series. Listen, I love me some chowders and lobster rolls, but after five episodes, won’t we be kind of out of material? I guess that’s the Food Network’s problem, not ours.
Justin Warner, Rebel with a Culinary Cause
Premise: Justin shows us funky new takes on recipes and ingredients.
Pros: Justin is an original. He’s likable, he’s cool, and he always does super interesting things with his dishes. He’s been the one to beat all season long, and he would bring something totally new and quirky to Food Network. I trust his taste, and I’m excited to see what he comes up with.
Cons: I have to admit: I did not love the pilot. I actually thought it was the worst of the four. Maybe that’s because I’ve never been a major Good Eats fan, and Rebel with a Culinary Cause certainly borrowed plenty from that show stylistically (Alton Brown was the producer after all). To me, the pilot was aggressively quirky instead of casually cool. Instead of serving us the next Michael Voltaggio, we just got Alton Jr.. Additionally, the aspic caesar salad didn’t really capture my imagination. I’m sure it tasted great, but I expected more from Justin.
So now I’m torn. I’ve rooted for Justin all season, but I can’t say that I would actually watch his show if this is what it’s to be like. Quite frankly, I think Michele might be my dark horse candidate. She’s likable, she’s capable, and her taste-level seems high. Consider my vote CAST.
What do you think? Vote here.