Monday, June 2, 2008

Starry Night

I love food themed shows. I give them all a chance, even if I'm not initially into the premise. Cooking shows, reality shows and competitions are all acceptable so long as the the central theme is cooking or food. I'm a die hard Top Chef fan and do my best to watch it even when I'm not home--which on a game night often means at 1 in the morning and slightly buzzed from post volleyball drinks. The new season of The Next Food Network Star premiered last night, and even though I've been less than thrilled with the previous few seasons, I had to watch. I've always felt like this was the home cooks' Top Chef--the show where we can all say "If I was there, I would have done this"--and not be completely talking out of our ass. After all, in past seasons there have been a great deal of self taught chefs and home cooks.

As this season's first episode began, all but one of the 10 contestants was introduced as either a food professional or a culinary school graduate--a very exciting change of pace! Another nice (and welcome) change was that each contestant had to describe their culinary point of view from practically the top of the show. In previous seasons we've had to watch as contestants insist that they should be the next Food Network star, and yet have no idea what they plan on showing people. In addition, they have little or most often, no on-camera experience. The first of the short challenges asked the contestants to describe their culinary point of view (in about a sentence) to the camera, with a choice of props that they could also choose to ignore.

The point-of-view challenges continued through to the second challenge, where the contestants were paired off and asked to make a joint dish, and an individual dish that represented their culinary point of view. Judging these dishes were the usual suspects from the Food Network corporate side, in addition to a few heavy hitters and well known Food Network stars like Bobby Flay, Giada DeLaurentiis, Masaharu Morimoto, Sandra Lee and the Neely's. Only one team received what can be considered praise or positive reviews and even those were not so strong. As we often see in the first episode of this show and certainly most cooking competition shows, all of the contestants were nervous and underperformed by making very basic mistakes (over salting, over sweetening, under cooking, and under spicing).

Overall I'd say I'm happy that the show has a few more cooking professionals than usual, however, I'd like to see a higher caliber of cooking going on. And for once, I'd like to see someone who seems to have potential in front of the camera. Even though I have yet to be a fan of any previous Next Food Network Star winners, and I'm still not crazy about how the show is going, I'm willing to give it a few more episodes before I give up on it. I won't give away who gets kicked off just in case you missed it!

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