Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Next Food Network Star-Week Two

As each week progresses of The Next Food Network Star, we get to see more of the personalities of the finalists. Sometimes, the initial impression was off base, but more often than not, that first vibe is accurate.

The show opened with the nine finalists filing into the Food Network Kitchens to find covered platters on the counter and a guest from Esquire magazine, Ryan D'Agastino. The contestants lift the cover of the platter in front of them and two ingredients that must be incorporated into a dish. Some of them just sounded wonderful together and made sense, others made you scratch your head. Examples:

Beef and Peanut Butter (Debbie, the Korean inspired cook got these.)
Pistachios and Pork Tenderloin (Jeffrey)
Chicken and Maraschino Cherries (Melissa)
Bran Cereal and Lamb chops (Katie)
Coffee Beans and Steak (Eddie)
Ground Beef and Dill Pickles (Brett)
Porterhouse Steak and Maple Syrup


As a viewer, I had to wonder if these happened to be random, based on who was standing behind a dish or if they were told the order they had to go in, because the healthy cuisine person got the bran cereal and the Asian/Southern fusion cook got the beef and peanut butter. Gimmes in my book.

Now, some of these inspired instant ideas from both Ed and myself, but when these challengers are on the spot, they probably had a hard time deciding. Like Melissa's Chicken/Maraschino combo? I would have grabbed some goat cheese and blended it with the cherries in a food processor for a sweet/savory filling, stuffed the chicken breasts with it, then pan fried the breasts.

Each contested had to do a two minute presentation to the camera-an improvement over earlier competitions. Get them comfortable ASAP to weed out those who can't relate to the audience if it isn't people in front of them. Some showed great promise, others seemed stilted or forced. Brett was over the top once again, but the judges appeared to enjoy it.

Katie stumbled, serving raw lamb chops. Melissa ran out of time, so the cherry sauce she'd planned to serve didn't make it to the plate.

The winner of the challenge was Eddie, and he got the greatest praise of his dish from Susie "If a date made this for me, I'd run away with it." His recipe will be featured in Esquire.

Another day, another magazine. The nine are now taken to the Hearst Building, to the Good Housekeeping kitchens, where they meet Rosemary Ellis, Editor in Chief. This challenge is to create a meal around one of nine holidays.

Good Housekeeping's audience is women with families, so tasty and easy are definitely things to keep in mind. Unfortunately, that is missed by a few of the contestants.

Eddie, by virtue of winning the Esquire challenge, gets to pull the holidays from a stocking and choose who gets to get each holiday:

Melissa-Mother's Day
Eddie-Valentine's Day
Michael-Halloween
Katie-Earth Day
Debbie-Mardi Gras
Jamika-New Year's
Teddy-Labor Day
Brett-April Fool's Day
Jeffrey-Groundhog Day (WTF? Who celebrates THAT?)

Good Housekeeping provides props and the meals are presented on trays, which each person brings into the dining room to introduce to the judges.

The holidays made us think of traditions, like a barbeque for Labor Day, Jambalaya, Etouffee and Gumbo for Mardi Gras, Earth Day having green foods and April Fool's just cried out for making something that looked like something else.

In the kitchens, some people were frantic, while others calmly went about their preparations. Jeffrey decided to make Mexican food for Groundhog Day, while my thought was Ground Hog, make something with ground pork.

Melissa was a little frazzled in the unfamiliar kitchen and was in a time crunch, so Brett offered to help plate up and Teddy joined in, since they were both done. She'd cooked her meal, it just needed to be plated-she even had one done as a template when the guys jumped in.

In the dining room, once again, some shone and others missed the mark. Debbie took the Mardi Gras holiday and made spicy dumplings. The judges liked the flavor, but commented that there were far too many ingredients. What did dumplings have to do with this holiday? Debbie's warm and comfortable presentation probably helped her out.

Melissa's Mother's Day brunch hit it out of the ball park, with a scrambled egg bake and french toast. All agreed that the dishes were tasty, they wanted the recipes and that Melissa understood the audience they were trying to reach. Melissa once again was warm, engaging and accessible.

Katie's meal once again faltered, with the beans being declared awful by the judges. Once again, my comments from last week were in my head-hospital food is NOT tasty. She seems very sweet, she must have really wowed them in her audition and the semifinal in person audition-where is that now?

Jeffrey didn't really connect his mexican stuffed avocado meal with Groundhog Day, but it was well received. He's still got that laid back, mellow thing going on.

Teddy, worked too hard at presenting, his surf and turf for Labor Day really didn't translate, but they said it tasted good. He's really hard to read, but both times he had to present were painful to watch.

Eddie went way into TMI territory, stating that the meal they were enjoying was the same one he'd prepared for his girlfriend for their first Valentine's day when his roommates were out for the night. Then, to make a little announcement to the camera at the girlfriend? Sorry dude, you've got a few minutes to impress the judges, NOT your girlfriend-use them wisely!

Jamika
came in and blew a horn announcing the New Year. She shared a story of the traditions surrounding the dishes, Spicy collard greens and corn bread. Jamika sweated the fact that these were two side dishes, but the raves in that room made it clear that she has championed her cuisine AND has genuine charm that will take her far.

Humor is tricky to pull off and I felt Brett missed the boat. He brought in his tray, announced that he had decided to leave the competition, then said "April Fools". He made a meal that he said was inspired by mom, which had a judge stating "We just got two Mother's Day meals." and Bobby Flay complaining of shell in his lobster.

The last contestant, Michael, enters the room in a Witch's hat, which he removes to show his funky dye job. (until now, it was hidden under a military style cap.) He is witty, the food piqued their interest and one of the Good Housekeeping people said that Michael understands their reader well. This is exactly what he said when they found out what the challenge would be.

As the episode draws to a close, it is elimination time once again. Jamika is announced the winner of the Good Housekeeping challenge, as her presentation was the epitome of bringing food to life.

Melissa is commended for her meal, and then Brett gives Teddy's arm, saying "Good job" and trying to get him to speak up to say what Brett wanted to say. Teddy declines, and Giada asks Brett if he'd like to speak up. Brett says to Melissa "Teddy and I helping you really saved you." (No, moron, those plates may not have been garnished, but the food is what matters, not the garnish). Teddy is asked if he would like to say something, and he is somewhat diplomatic "I am not here to throw someone under the bus."

Until this point, it seemed clear that Katie would be the one going home with two extremely tasteless dishes. Eddie had made them very uncomfortable in talking about the girlfriend at Good Housekeeping and I wasn't sure who the third would be.

The first week, the contestants were charged with having integrity and Brett just threw that out the window. He was all about showboating and misrepresenting his role in assisting another contestant to get her out and had made several comments throughout the episode about "Melissa doesn't have the training WE do", as if to imply that you have to be trained to be good.

Meanwhile, it seemed pretty clear that he was trying to play on her one weakness, because she has everything else they're looking for. I got the vibe that Brett was very threatened by Melissa's likeability.

As soon as he made the scene, Ed and I looked at each other and said "That's it, he's gone." It wouldn't have mattered if he won both challenges. We'd have to wait a few minutes to find out.

The bottom three were Eddie, Katie and Brett. Katie was instructed "You have to bring more flavor to the party", which told us she was staying. When she was the first of the three to be told she was safe, it was only a question of how long they'd make Brett wait to find out he would not be moving on.

Not long, as it turns out. He was the next one called, then told he was going home.

Honestly, I think it was the right choice. He was brash, he was condescending and someone who pretends to be a team player while waiting to stick a knife in someone else is not what Food Network needs.

Apparently, according to Bob Tuschman's blog, they were irritated at the fact that he made what HE wanted, not what he was asked to do in either challenge. As a show host, that's not what he would be paid to do.

On to next week. If Katie has another week like this one, she will be the next one to get cut. Part of me hopes she can make healthy food interesting...

3 People talked back:

ligirl said...

Ooh, ooh, SPOILER ALERT! I MISSED it on Sunday and I think it repeats on Thursday...should I read your post or not? The suspense is killing me...

ligirl said...

Gaaaaah! OK, I broke down. Good job, though! A nice synopsis, but not enough to make me not want to bother to watch the repeat, anyway!

Janna Bee said...

I'm so glad to see Brett go- what an ass! Plus I wanted to keep Eddie around for a little longer since he is easy on the eyes. I am predicating Jamika to win it- she has such a likeable, easy personality and the judges love her food.

Also, I hope Teddy goes home next week. I think he is as big of an ass as Brett.