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
With the network shows all coming to a close, and the finales of the rest all up this week, it must be time for summer reality programming. In that realm, returning once more to our TVs, is the always fun and entertaining Food Network Star. One of the few veterans from the early 2000s reality craze that’s still going strong, Food Network Star is also one of the very few of these sort of talent searches that can boast that nearly every winner has made a career on the network, if not beyond.
Kicking off June 7th (on Food Network, natch!), there are changes to the all-star judging line up. Alton Brown, judge these last few years, will not be returning as a full-time judge. (This also probably means he won’t live tweet along with posties, like he has in years past.) Instead, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis will have a rotating special guest judge every week, some of whom are pulled from the network regular roster (Duff Goldman, Sunny Anderson, etc) and some who appear as judges on other shows (Richard Blais, David Alan Grier, etc.) Star Salvation, the companion web-only show will also be returning. The format hit upon last year of regular Food Network Judge and Former contestant will be retained, with Alex Guarnaschelli and Season 7 winner Jeff Mauro doing the honors. No word on if there will be returning contestants from prior seasons competing against this seasons contestants, but if they’re keeping the judge’s format, it’s a good bet they’ll be keeping that too.
Check out the contestant list and the promo, after the jump.
Continue reading Food Network Star: Season 11 Cast List
It’s our final episode of the season. You’ve seen the pilots. If you cared about who will be rewarded with a thirty minute show on Saturday mornings, you voted. Now it’s time to sit through 55 minutes of filler while we wait for the results to be announced and the confetti cannons to fire.
We start with scripted banter in the car as the finalists pull up to the Chelsea Market. The taping of the finale is already underway. Bobby does the hosting honors, as he has since Marc Summers took his leave of the program. Giada then forces us to sit through a ten week recap that mainly consists of the Mentor’s reactions to things. In case those at home watching hadn’t been paying attention, they wouldn’t really learn anything from this recap what happened over the season.
As for the rest of the filler, we’ll take it bullet point style, as we always do.
Continue reading Food Network Star X: Finale
It’s the final regular episode of the season. This week, the format is a little different than the usual mini challenge followed by larger challenge. Instead it’s more like two thirty minute episodes stuck together.
Our four finalists meet up with the full mentor panel at Gotham West Market. There they are told, despite what the adverts for this week suggested, not all of them will be cutting pilots. Instead all four of them will cut thirty second promos, right here in a demo kitchen in the market set up for such a purpose. Those promos will determine which of the top three will be allowed to make pilots in the back half of the hour.
Since this is the last challenge of the season before making promos, it’s fitting that all three mentors are on hand to watch the taping. Nicole goes first and natters on with meaningless phrases like “Coastal Cuisine.” What is coastal cuisine? Sarah’s taping is edited to look like a disaster, but I get the sense she actually nailed it. (On the other hand, Those crazy thing about Texas, they’re all true? So it’s full of racists rabid evangelicals who want to shoot all the brown children dead and force women to back into the kitchen barefoot and pregnant? Perhaps that’s not what you meant for me to think Sarah, but…. Yeah.) Luca is so pretty, who cares what he’s saying? Actually, Alton cares, a lot. So much so, Luca is the first one he stands up and starts working with in order to make sure he’s coming across on camera properly.
But the real disaster of the day is Lenny. And I quote: “Like I’m speaking in tongues.” What is wrong? Why is he freezing up? He’s been this big character all season, and now suddenly it’s like he’s embarrassed to be that person in a promo. It’s very disappointing. It’s heartening to see Alton is trying to speak Lenny’s language in order to get him comfortable. In fact, all the mentors are encouraging.
Continue reading Food Network Star X: Take Me To the Pilots
This week our contestants are in New York City, having conquered both LA and Vegas. New York is the home of the network, so I’d expect us to spend lots of time in their own kitchen studios. But that is not to be, as this week’s challenge is doing live television on The Rachael Ray Show.
Live cooking demos on morning shows have been a staple of Food Network Star from the very beginning. It was the last challenge prior to filming pilots all the way back in the first season. Since season three, which coincided with the début of Rachael’s program, the competition made her that morning show stop. It says quite a bit that in the retooling of this competition to focus less on guest starring every big name on the Food Network roster, the Rachael Ray challenge has emerged back on the schedule in the same place (right before filming pilots) with very little alteration.
But first we have a mentor’s challenge. The selection committee is going to send our Top Five out to their favorite spot in the Meatpacking District let them have a “Live from the Chelsea Market” experience. Our contestants are each assigned a shop to visit, and then sent down with a small production team to await the show throwing it to them. Luca and Nicole do nice jobs with Lobster and Ice Cream respectively. Lenny is determined that he, as a cowboy, knows nothing about Yogurt, and in doing so wills himself to failure. Sarah stares blankly at the camera after being told repeatedly she is live. (She manages to save herself by being ridiculous once she does start talking, and makes Giada bark laugh.) But the saddest sight is Loreal, who crashes and burns due to Giada’s utter failure to teach these guys how to do the “Best Thing I Ever Ate” schitck a couple of weeks ago–at, of all places, a butcher’s shop. Not good for the Butcher Babe.
Continue reading Food Network Star X: Rachael Ray’s Dinnertime Dilemmas
This week, the production is still out in Vegas. With only six contestants left, it’s time for one of the most dreaded challenges of the season–the group meal.
Team competitions are a standard reality competition trope. It also prepares our competitors for the reality of Food Network’s line up, where the faces of the Network Brand are regularly thrown together in random configurations, whether it be judging panels, competitions or doing terrible talk show knock offs like The Kitchen. Take the shows we’re watching, for instance. Bobby Flay is clearly an arrogant douchebag. Giada is a cold mean girl. Alton is supercilious. Yet, as the mentoring team, they give us the impression they get along great, and are part of a larger happy family of Food Lovers.
Well, today Giada and Alton are giving that impression. Bobby Flay still refuses to come to Vegas, leaving them to present today’s challenge: Each contestant will be sent to a Foodertainment site in Vegas, and come back with knowledge to put towards making a Team Foodertainment experience. The experiences each contestant are assigned range from a $777 burger to a $1000 sundae. Since Giada failed to teach anyone how to do “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” in last week’s challenge, the advertisement for these experiences falls flat and the interview asides describing these meals are underwhelming. (Except for the Sundae, which is described as “Vegas in a dessert” and looks it.)
Continue reading Food Network Star X: Gods and Goddesses Help No One
This week, the focus was on overcoming Food Network’s biggest drawback. Namely, that they are cooking food on television–food the viewers at home cannot taste or smell. A required skill of the winner is the ability to describe the food they are making so we at home know what we’re missing.
The Top Six meet Giada and Alton at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. (Bobby is off this week, opening yet another restaurant in NYC.) But before we can get to the challenge, we have the reveal of the Star Salvation winner who is returning this week.
It might seem odd that the contestants are surprised to learn about Star Salvation. But each contestant, as they arrived, expressed surprise at the second chance. (This despite the fact that the this is the second year of doing it.) Besides, it was such a different sidecar of a series this year, I’m not going to hold it against them. Next year though, contestants have no excuse.
So who is the returnee, Luca or Reuben? It’s Luca, of course. Reuben wasn’t going to be sent right back in, not after Luca survived all those weeks on the webs series. From the first week Luca was on Salvation, it was fairly obvious the show planned for him to return, especially when Food Network’s twitter tried to drum up how “shocking” and “controversial” sending him home was in the first place. (It really wasn’t.)
Welcome back, Luca! Everyone looks so thrilled to see you!
Continue reading Food Network Star X: Token Vegas