Food Network Star Recap: July 3, 2011

It’s going to be a bit painful watching the opening titles for the rest of this season’s Food Network Star knowing that one of my personal favorites was sent home way too soon.

Yes, Justin B., the nine foot tall hobbit with the tat sleeves, eyebrows about to go to war with one another, and those creepy Coraline buttons in his ears crapped out on the horrifically forced Cougar Town catering challenge last week and was ordered to pack up his meat saws and drag hooks and skee-daddle-it back to Georgia butcher life.

In terms of food, Justin nearly always received high marks from the judges, but whenever it came to demonstrating a flair for describing his meals or displaying anything close to a vibrant and compelling personality… well, as my Jewish friend Michelle would say, “Oy! HIM we have to watch again??”

Was it really Justin B.’s time to go?  Wouldn’t FNS have been better served by ditching Frat Boy Chris at this point… a man whose every move seems to be more of a surprise to him than anyone else?  Or what about the other Justin… Justin D., who doesn’t have any cool tats or disconcerting ear wear and seems more defined by his wallpaper wardrobe than anything he’s actually cooked, done or said in the last five weeks of competition?

We start this week’s episode with yet another declaration from Middle Eastern Mama (formerly Bitch on Heels) Penny that she is “here to win,” as if it should be news to the viewers at home or any of the other nine finalists that a human being is actually competing on this show with the objective of beating other human beings.

Just once I’d like to see any contestant on any reality competition show openly admit to the camera, “I couldn’t care less about the stupid win. I’m just here because I have an insatiable ego and I wanted to see what I look like on television, further my career, make a few bucks and get laid more.” I could actually get behind a contestant like that (see Bentley on this season’s Bachelorette).

Does Penny really think that her pushy, intrusive nature comes off as “delightfully competitive” and “oh-so-viewer-friendly”?  What kind of massive personality car-wash would the executives at The Food Network have to put this woman through if she actually won and got her own show?

No, Penny’s days are numbered, I think we can all agree.  With each snotty remark and superior dismissal she passes along to camera, she’s getting further and further away from the “win” she proclaims to care so darn much about.

This week’s first challenge took place at Mel’s Drive-In on Highland Avenue in Hollywood, just eight tenths of a mile from where I live!  How I would have kicked myself for missing this tape day if Super Hobbit was still on board!  But since he’s not, as my Jewish friend Michelle says, “This I could take or leave.”

Our finalists were tasked with hosting their own segments of Guy Fieri’s Drive-Ins, Diners and Dives from show open, to staff interviews, to wrap-up and show close, with that cuddly bleach bombshell Guy providing tutelage the entire time.

Up first was Frat Boy Chris who you had to feel a little sorry for. Try as he might, Chris just could not figure out the concept of “blocking” – the positioning and movement of people on camera in relation to said camera with which they are supposed to be interacting.  You know… television.

“Here I am with the chef from Mel’s Drive-in!” Chris proudly announced… looking directly at the chef from Mel’s Drive-In the entire time.  The poor chef looked plenty confused, and seemed about ready to help Chris out with a, “Yep… you got it… here you are… with me… I’m the chef alright!”

But Chris didn’t seem to have the slightest notion that anything was wrong.  When Guy finally pointed out the mistake, Frat Boy could only offer up,  “Man!  The hardest thing about this is knowing where the camera is!”

Hey Chris… look about two inches to your left.

No Chris… your OTHER left.

To be honest, it didn’t really seem like most anyone came off particularly well in this challenge.  Orchid used up all the interview time talking about herself.  Susie fumbled over her words.  Vegas Vic lumbered in front of the camera with the grace of a beached grunion. The only one who really redeemed herself was Don’t-Forget-Me Whitney, who was awkward and charming with her interview subject and slightly more confident with a giant burger placed smack in front of her punim.  If this shot alone doesn’t earn her a pass from the judges to next week, there is no fairness in reality food television.

And couldn’t someone have been nice enough to tell poor Not-Bland Mary Beth about her hair?  Anyone?


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Food Network Star Recap: June 19, 2011

TV Food and Drink proudly presents “Phenomenal Foodie Failures,” the classic sounds from the cast of this season’s Food Network Star.  Sit back, dim the lights and re-live the moments that make you glad you have absolutely no involvement in this show whatsoever.

You get ’em all!  The zingers! The questionable admissions!  The pathetic pleas!  All here for the first time in a single blog post.  Who can forget these timeless classics…

“They were having a blast. They just forgot to make food that tasted good!”
Duff Goldman, Cupcake Wars

“I happen to be a connoisseur of whoopie pies.”
Judge Bob Tuschman

“You’re like a one year old horse that needs to be broken.”
Bobby Flay

“This dish was so shockingly bad in its execution… but also…  just as a decision!”
Judge Susie Fogelson

“I actually spit it out!”
Random Nobody Food Taster

It was a pretty brutal week for just about everyone… except for Giada De Laurentiis.  You can’t ever look bad standing next to a vending machine full of candy.
This week’s first challenge (creating savory meals using chocolate) was more a heavy-handed plug for every Hershey product under the sun and less an opportunity to create pleasing finished products.  Yes, I’m talking to you, Vic Vegas.  If the idea of combining chocolate and asparagus didn’t strike you as…. risky at least… the finished product should have tipped you off that you weren’t doing yourself, the chocolate industry, or the general appetites of humans everywhere, any favors.

I won’t take the imagery any further, and it probably goes without saying that Vic did not, in fact, win this challenge.


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Next Food Network Star Recap: June 12, 2011

I learned one thing watching last night’s first Food Network Star challenge: That Giada De Laurentiis really likes to say the word “pizza.”

“As you can probably tell, today is all about PEET-zah! Now, you will have one hour to make your PEET-zah!. It’s up to YOU to create a PEET-zah that reflects your culinary style! When you present to camera you must tell us a story that relates to your PEET-zah! The winner of today’s challenge will have their PEET-zah featured in Food Network Magazine!”

Now I realize why I haven’t been more successful in life. I’ve been saying “pizza” wrong all these years. No one ever told me I was supposed to put an emphasis on the PEET part of it it. So instead, I blew my youth publicly going around emphasizing the ZAH!  Boy, the laughs my friends must have had behind my back all these years. Well, we all learn when the time is right for us, don’t we? From now on, I’m leading a PEET-driven life. Thank you Giada De Laurentiis!

By the way, this challenge suddenly made Food Network Star so much more accessible to me. For once, I didn’t have to worry about not knowing a thing about reductions or braising, and I didn’t have to give a fake nod of understanding whenever someone on the show said “crème fraiche.” I may not be the most educated dude in the kitchen, but there’s one thing I know, and that’s how to make a PEET-zah!

Also, I think the reason the show introduced an early elimination this week was specifically to shed itself of Juba. Good looking? Yes! Youth on his side? For sure! Able to speak while standing still in front of a plate? I give you Exhibit A:

“Um… today’s pizza was um… an, a, an inspired dish… from ah, this half-priced… it was prepared, the sauce was p-p-p-prepared with tomatoes. It’s called the Triple… the Triple Holy Trinity because I used three different kinds of peppers, toasted pine nuts, clam juice and white wine!”

I’m not sure who I felt worse for… Juba, or Judge Susie Fogelson as she bit the insides of her cheeks to keep from laughing.

Actually, I think I felt the worst for Katy… this season’s Stepford Chef, or as Judge Bob Tuschman put it, this season’s “morning show host.”  Katy seems to have it all: the smile, the pluck, big hoop earrings that glisten with confidence.  Unfortunately, it all reads oh-so insincere.  She’s like the lady at the garage sale who seems endlessly interested in your life story while trying to get you to cough up a buck for her old VCR.  Katy’s “story behind the pizza” didn’t help matters much either.

“I had a Chinese worker stay with me a couple weeks ago and we made pizza, and she said it was the best thing she had ALL WEEKEND…. making pizza with me!”

Yeah, you read that right.

Suddenly, Katy’s pizza held no interest for me whatsoever.  Who was this Chinese worker? Where did she come from? And where did she go? Did Katy make the Chinese worker wear a pink helmet and goggles while she was in the kitchen?  Did she give her five minutes every seventy-two hours to pee and make phone calls to her loved ones?  Did the Chinese worker thank Katy for the totally awesome pizza by building her an iPad before she left?

This story could have been an episode all its own!


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Next Food Network Star Recap: June 5, 2011

Yes, I’ve often secretly fantasized about being a contestant on The Next Food Network Star.

At least I think it’s still called The Next Food Network Star. It’s possible this year Food Network has decided to have it just go by the shortened Food Network Star, though I’m still uncertain. The show titles say one thing, the commercials say another, and the the website contradicts both.

But that’s all beside the point. How I would love to be regularly put under a 45-minute time limit to come up with a “Sophistcated Breakfast,” or concoct a “Gourmet Concession Snack” to be presented at an NBA game, or make a seven-course meal using only what I find in the dumpster behind a South Central Pic-N-Save… but I think it’s most likely never to be.

Much like the themes on Frank Sinatra’s September of My Years album, my days of showing off youthful exuberance and exploitable ignorance are, hopefully, all behind me.  I have nothing left to contribute to the genre of reality television but a sneering superiority and the safety of judging those younger and more easily manipulated than I behind the safety of a laptop Mac computer with a vodka martini close at hand and an obese cat semi-conscious on the knit throw at the end of my bed waiting for me to hit the pillows and give him a cozy armpit nook in which to nuzzle.

I could have been a star, if only Food Network had exploded on the scene ten years earlier. But similar to the day I realized I was too old to ever be on The Real World, I’ll have to accept the fact that I’ll most likely never be able to cook for Bobby Flay, he with his endless incredulous sneering, and the nearly immaculately-visaged Giada De Laurentiis… ah Giada, no one effortlessly tumbles out the word “ricotta” the way you do.

So I merely serve to judge.  And judge I will.  If I can’t be a Food Network Star, I’m gonna do my damned best to make sure no else unworthy squirms their way through either.  And with that, I give you my recap of this season’s premiere episode of The Next Food Network Star… or Next Food Network Star… or Food Network Star.  Whatever.  Just be grateful I’m not making you read about Chopped!


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