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?
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
It’s certainly a good June for food TV fans. We’ve got Top Chef Masters wrapping up (sniff), Top Chef: DC gearing up, and now The Next Food Network Star amping up. Yes, the oft-overlooked but no less awesome Food Network series is back, and unlike those two other esteemed culinary competitions, this one features a component that viewers at home can actually pontificate about legitimately: star power. That’s right, this show is more than just cooking. It’s about personality and taste-level and discerning who we want to see staring back at us on umpteen pots and pans in Target. I’ll be honest: it’s neat watching the would-be celebrity chefs put together a meal, but the real thrill is watching them either soar in front of the camera or crash and burn in an avalanche of stammers, tears, and pit stains. And let me assure you that we had plenty of that on last night’s two hour season premiere. There were some epic disasters, and I truly felt bad for some of these people who embarrassed themselves so thoroughly. (But I didn’t feel that bad.)
After the jump, I’ve compiled a list of everything I loved about the premiere. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts too…