It’s the Fourth of July episode, and the contestants were clearly pre-warned of that. Despite the fact that this was pretaped back in May or thereabouts, several of them have red white and blue accessories on. Giada robotically declares Fourth of July to be a “classic American holiday where we celebrate with picnics all around the country.” So those decades of Food Network calling this the biggest grilling holiday are just lies then?
No, it’s because there’s a picnic basket prop out on the floor. But this “picnic” nonsense is really just to pick teams via napkin color, before they get to the “cook out competition.” This turns out, is the main competition of the day. The teams are:
- Team White: Jay, Michelle&Rosa: Two front runners&one not.
- Team Red: Dom, Rue&Emilia: Struggle Team
- Team Blue: Eddie, Arnold&Alex: Two memorables& a forgettable.
Bobby and Giada send them shopping at an unbranded supermarket that will most likely be their local Whole Foods. Then it’s on to Will Rogers State park for the actual cook out. But first, more hawking of the Branded German Engineering fleet of vehicles of last week. Food Network Stars in reasonably priced cars!
Continue reading Food Network Star 11: Teams Red White and Blue
Our finalist travel to the studio in a fleet of branded white cars. But not cars big enough to capture three people in one shot, like they used to. Those SUVs are just not the trendy thing any more. And “trendy” is the name of the game today. The first challenge: photographing food. Thirty minutes to make a dish, and then snapping a picture like one would for posting on-line. Note that the word “Instagram” is never mentioned, despite being the clichéd place people post their food pictures, just generic “social media.” Someone must have turned down the chance for the branding opportunity. Perhaps it’s just not trendy.
Since many of these chefs are either food bloggers or have been pushing themselves on social media for years, most of them are confident in their ability to master this challenge. Those who are less confident are those who are already circling the drain–Sita, who would have gone home last week if not for Matthew’s well time smirk, and Emilia, who couldn’t smile if they paid her. I am amused that the contestants aren’t given cameras to take their photos, just smartphones, with the logos covered up. Branding opportunities, people! They’re just not trendy.
But of course, not just the picture will count–there’s also taste and the contestant selling their dish to Bobby and Giada, by telling a story about it in a 30 second improv. The judges call up the dishes in order by best looking photograph to worst. Eddie gets picked first, followed by Jay, Dom and Arnold. Emilia gets picked last. (Alex and Rue don’t get picked at all.) Of the top three, Dom was most improved in presentation, so he wins a leg up in the main challenge.
Continue reading Food Network Star 11: Short Lived Trends
As long-standing reality shows fall away, Food Network Star continues to morph and adjust with the times. During the height of these sorts of reality competitions, we would have up to 16 contestants, 90 minute episodes, and high-profile guest stars. Now, having seen the writing on the wall as the shows that inspired the channel to create this product in the first place are either gone or going, the contestant list is leaner, the editing tighter, and the reason to get you to tune in just as much about the current star power on the network then it is the contestants.
Speaking of tighter editing, Bobby and Giada are already in front of us reminding everyone that this is a show looking for a blend of cooking chops and personality. (And though the latter is perhaps more important than the former, having food authority is key to the network’s self-image, so don’t discount it.) I miss Alton Brown. I’m not clear if he decided not to come back, buoyed by the success of his live shows and Cutthroat Kitchen, or if the slim lining of the production decided they really only needed two judge/mentors. Alton was the last hired in that capacity, promoted during the ill-fated one season decision to attempt to ape the format of The Voice. So perhaps he was first fired? His prickly personality and superciliousness also made him a polarizing figure on the panel. Still, I’ll miss the contestants having to go through his ringer every week.
Right now, though, the contestants are about to go through a mini challenge where they have to describe themselves in 30 seconds. These are the impressions they leave us with:
- Rosa: Statuesque, Southern Italian
- Arnold: Does drag on weekends
- Sita: Former TV producer, makes Italian Soul
- Jay: Food blogger, Southern Teddy bear
- Michelle: Armenian Latin Fusion Mama
- Dom: He’s the NYC Mac&Cheese Truck guy
- Eddie: Former football player, Personal Trainer
- Emilia: French Culinary World Fusion Food
- Christina: Doesn’t take criticism well, big ego
- Matthew: His pithy snarky responses to the others were far better than his trainwreck presentation
- Rue: Southern African cuisine
- Alex: Another Sandwich King
And then it’s on to the main challenge, where they get a second chance to make a first impression, and perhaps the ones who didn’t mention anything about their cooking (Arnold, Eddie, Christina, Matthew) can correct that oversight.
Continue reading Food Network Star 11: Festival of Introductions
This is it everyone! Next week, the winner of Star Salvation meets the Top Six in Las Vegas. Who will it be? Will it be Chad, who has done a mighty job as The Chef From Another Season? Will it be Luca, whose early ouster because of his lack of camera skills shocked everyone? Or will it be Reuben, who was only ousted this past Sunday?
The real question for me–will the person who is sent back into the competition fare better than the one and done return of Lovely Jackson last time? Considering how much better the Salvation challenges were this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer was yes. (I also would not be surprised if our mentoring team were under strict orders not to re-eliminate the returning contestant right away, because twice in two seasons would be bad optics for the web series.)
Even if we have a one and done repeat, I want to commend the producers–they really have improved this side car of a web series by leaps and bounds over last year. Geoffrey and Damaris were a smart choice to play judges. But the real upgrade was changing it up from last year’s straight food tasting challenge to mixing in all the different facets of what a Food Network Star needs. After all, this show is not a straight cooking competition. (If it was, Christopher would still be in the running.) Also, when whoever returns to the show this Sunday does show up, they won’t be at a several weeks disadvantage to the competition they’ll be facing.
Tonight we have two challenges to get us down from three contestants to one.
Continue reading Food Network Star X: Star Salvation Finale
With the holiday this week, we’re running our Star Salvation recap early. Usually I leave it until Friday so everyone has had time to catch up, but one of the perks of recapping online content–no being locked into a schedule. It’s all about when it’s convenient for you.
This past Sunday, the show eliminated Christopher, our token “high end chef.” There’s one contestant every season who has superior cooking chops to the rest of the group. It seems to go hand in hand with said chef being several thousand foot candles short of the star power needed to actually cook on TV. To be fair to Christopher, he understood this was a shortcoming from the getgo. There was no anger at getting the boot on Sunday either–past contestants in his position have gone out muttering that they were the best chef in the competition by miles, how dare they get eliminated. There’s just so much more to working in Foodertainment than cooking.
The question I have today is does Geoffrey Zarkarian know this? On the show proper, Bobby Flay is always the one left standing arguing for the best chef in the room, regardless of star power wattage. It’s Alton and Giada who bring the balance. Damaris, having won the show, knows there way more than cooking that goes into this competition. (In her season, it was Viet Pham who could cook all day long, but in front of the camera turned to wood.) But Geoffrey is new to this process, and so far, he strikes me as someone who would be about the food first.
Continue reading Food Network Star X: Star Salvation Round 5
Sunday night’s episode of Food Network Star ended with the less-than-surprising ouster of Aryen after four weeks of not producing either on the camera front or on the food front. It’s time to see if she can redeem herself.
Aryen is the typical mushy middler contestant on Food Network Star. She’s someone with an interesting background, but was unable to translate that to the camera. Her food, which may be good in other settings, also failed to come off under the pressure and time constraints of the competition. Aryen is also typical of the mushy middler in other ways, that she constantly over estimated herself. She was always convinced her dish was a winner, even as Alton hated every bite. She didn’t notice when the others considered her threat so negligible that she wasn’t given a sabotage in the Cutthroat episode. She seemed to think she was doing well on challenges, even when her only real successful moment came when Lenny fed her the answers beforehand.
Perhaps Aryen will luck out. Today’s challenge for Star Salvation, like its counterpart episode of FNS this week, does not include a lick of cooking. It’s all camera work, which we already know Chad is weak at, and Luca is still working on. But then again, on Sunday Aryen had the howlingly clueless remark that she should be able to ace a camera challenge because she once did broadcast journalism in high school. Sher then proceeded to take selfies up her nose. Seriously?
Continue reading Food Network Star X: Star Salvation Round 4
Last week on Star Salvation, we had our first episode in which no one cooked anything. With one of our previous season ringers, eliminated, this week we will have two contestants from this season cooking against Chad, from season nine.
Now, to be fair, I don’t think Luca survived last week over Martie because there was no cooking involved. I do believe Luca can cook, even if I’m not sure the network necessarily needs yet another show that tells us how easy it is to cook Italian. On the other hand, the cooking question looms large for this week’s entering contestant, Kenny. There are many things I doubt about contestants this season on FNS. I doubt Sarah’s POV premise. I doubt Aryen’s ability to produce in this high pressure environment. But Kenny is the only one whose cooking abilities I actually question. Three weeks in and I never saw him make a dish that looked remotely appetizing, plus there was that little incident where he couldn’t make a basic gravy. This is his last chance to show us he wasn’t cast as fodder from the getgo. Otherwise, Chad and Luca should beat him handily.
Continue reading Food Network Star X: Star Salvation Round 3