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…
It’s hard to believe, but we’re on our eighth season of Food Network Star, and this year, the competition began a little earlier than usual, premiering last week in the middle of May. Our old friends Bob Tuschman and the incomparable Susie Fogelson are back, as well as the show’s mainstay of mentors — Bobby Flay, Alton Brown, and GIada De Laurentiis. However, this time around, things are a little Voice-y. Flay, Brown, and De Laurentiis each mentor a team of prospects who go head to head in a variety of challenges (so far we’ve seen a Restaurant Wars-esque battle and a NYC food tour). Each week, the winning team receives immunity, while one person from the other two teams is selected to battle it out for a reprieve. This means cooking a signature dish (often with some sort of twist), presenting it to camera, and then finally pleading to “The Network,” which is the imposing new name given to Bob and Susie.
At its heart, Food Network Star remains the same show, and even with the format changes, it still remains one of the best reality competitions out there. Of course, what truly sets it apart (aside from the icy presence of Susie Fogelson) is knowing that the winner of this series will soon be a regular on Food Network, and as such, we as the audience feel rather empowered in forming our opinions about these people (thank goodness that this season will allow for a viewer’s choice). Since one of these jokers will soon be joining the ranks of Ina, Alton, and, gulp, Aaron McCargo Jr., I feel like it’s important to take a look at the field of contestants and assess their strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a look, shall we?
While perusing the reader comments on a foodnetwork.com recipe tonight, I came across the above submission.
Serious wine FAIL.
Anyone who’s been reading this blog for the past few years knows that I absolutely love Ina Garten and her show, Barefoot Contessa. Back in the day, the series, which airs on Food Network, focused on Ina assembling some sort of casually sophisticated meal for her friends, many of whom tended to be gays with fixations on things like flowers, the color orange, or old windmills. It was a perfect mix of good food and light narrative. How bad can that be?
Over the years, Barefoot Contessa has developed a quiver of buddies that have become utterly endearing to us viewers. There’s Ina’s adorable husband Jeffrey, there’s best bud Frank, the wily TR, dapper Miguel, sweetly fussy Michael, ornery Barbara Lieberman, choreographer Susan Stroman (affectionately known as Stro), the ladies of Calypso, lovable assistant Barbara, and of course the one and only Anna Pump. These are just a few of the many faces in Ina’s Hamptons universe, and one of the main appeals of Barefoot Contessa is watching Ina interact with this Simpsons-esque stable of characters — all while teaching us great recipes.
Somewhere along the way though, things began to change. Her theme song went jazzy, the term “Back to Basics” was appended to the show, and guest stars (not guest characters) became the norm. The show slowly moved away from endearing vignettes and instead refocused on a regrettable new feature, “Ask Ina.”
Don’t get me wrong: I still love Ina with all my heart, but it’s time for an intervention with the producers. We need to get Barefoot Contessa back on track. After the jump, a few humble suggestions for Food Network…
Sandra Lee, Food Network star and First Lady of New York, has many detractors. Most assail her utterly disgusting recipes (Kwanzaa cake anyone?) and others her sing-songy delivery. Well, Sandra Lee haters, we now have more grist for your mill. Outtakes of the flaxen cook attempting to get through a shoot have surfaced. They’re replete with cursing and boob clutching, and quite frankly, the video actually makes me like her. If this were the Sandra Lee we could see on TV — all boozy and foul-mouthed — I’d be all about it, despite her dubious recipes. What do you think?
The video has already been taken down from YouTube and Vimeo; so catch it on Eater while you can…
Lisa VanderPump isn’t the only person at Villa Blanca making a splash on TV. The restaurant’s executive chef Francis Dimitrius recently appeared on Food Network’s Extreme Chef, the show which tasks chefs to brave the elements and concoct a meal in just thirty minutes. Francis, who Lisa VanderPump told me on Sunday was almost a cheftestant on Top Chef, has luckily survived his stint in the wild and recently answered some email questions from me about theExtreme Chef, Villa Blanca, and the Housewives.
Check out the interview after the jump…
It’s summer time, which means we’re already three episodes deep into one of my favorite reality shows ever, Food Network Star (née The Next Food Network Star). So far this seventh (!) season has been pretty excellent, but could we really expect anything less from something involving the inimitable Susie Fogelson? The cast is wide and varied, and with any luck, we’ll actually wind up with a winner we’ll want to watch — something the show has yet to achieve for me. Sure, Melissa D’Arabian is aiight, and Aarti Paarti is genial enough, but I’ve yet to set a season pass on my DVR for a winner’s program (certainly not for anything involving Aaron McCargo Jr.).
With the season still young, let’s take a look at the cast — both those remaining and eliminated — and see who we want to win, who will win, and who just full on are terrible. Analysis after the jump
Summer is officially here (in an unofficial sense), and that means it’s time for The Next Food Network Star. This year, however, the execs have rebranded the show as Food Star, which I imagine is to keep it in line with sister channel’s Design Star. Seems unnecessary to me, but what do I know. When it comes to marketing, I defer to the inimitable Susie Fogelson, who will be back once again to cast cold but loving judgment on all the wannabe stars.
As usual, we have a motley crew of contestants, and hopefully this year, we’ll get a winner who we can actually embrace (but then again, why start now?). As long as we’re not stuck with Fieri 2.0, or worse… the second coming of Aaron McCargo Jr..
The series premieres on Sunday, but in the meantime, check out the video above for a nifty trailer.
Me showing my support of Ina during these trying times.
The Ina Garten scandal continues! After news broke that the beloved cook had refused to visit wee Enzo Pereda as part of a Make-A-Wish request, Ina made an about face and not only called Enzo, but invited him to her set. But guess what? The little punk turned her down! That’s right, after all that — after his family went to the media and complained about Ina’s indifference and their son’s broken heart — they rejected her offer, saying “I don’t want to put my son through all these emotions. We’re better off just leaving everything the way it is.”
These people are awful. If they didn’t want to put their son through all “these emotions,” they shouldn’t have aired their dirty business out in the press. And what sort of “emotions” other than pure JOY and WONDERMENT would come out of letting Enzo visit Ina’s set? So what if she rejected him twice? It’s all very passive-aggressive, and I can’t help but feel that the Peredas are merely out for publicity. Why else would they have leaked this to the media in the first place?
Listen, if Ina Garten comes calling, you do NOT turn her down. I don’t care if you’re a little boy with cancer or not. That would be like adding coffee to chocolate and NOT commenting on the real depth of flavor! It would be like folding egg whites and NOT reminding us that it’s classic French technique. It would be like using saffron and NOT TELLING US THAT SAFFRON IS THE STAMEN OF CROCUSES!
Hmmm… this is all so insidious and crafty — clearly BARBARA LIEBERMAN is behind this!
Full, awful story here (thanks Boop)
LAME. Ina Garten caved into peer pressure. After having whipped up stiff peaks of controversy last week by not visiting a Make-A-Wish boy, Ina has now agreed to call little cancer-stricken Enzo. And here you all thought she was a heartless beast. Clearly she just wanted to vet out Enzo first, much as she does with eggs. You never know when you’ll get a BAD cancer child!
To read more about Ina’s change of heart, check out the story here.
Thanks to jashba for the heads up!