(This post contains spoilers)
I love competition shows- especially food competition shows. Last year, despite of the time format that I hated I really enjoyed Food Network Star. Following this season’s premiere I was still somewhat excited if cautious. I’ve liked Chef Chris Hodge since I first learned about the Hodge Podge Truck on The Great Food Truck Race a few years ago. Plus, I thought how could I not enjoy it? Some seasons just take awhile to take off. While I am enjoying this season somewhat there are a few personalities and conventions that are really not sitting well with me.
Two weeks ago, I was super excited about the episodes theme. It was a Burger Bash and the contestants were going to both create a signature burger and do a demo. Some of the food, especially Chad’s BBQ burger with fried green tomato, looked really good. While Damaris struggled with her presentation her pimento cheese burger looked good enough to convince me to like pimento cheese.I was unsure what I would think of the convention of the dials that the audience is equipped with. But, I think I like them. It’s really interesting to see at what point people either lose or gain interest in a chef’s presentation. I wasn’t crazy about Andres’ burger and I thought his comments about men not cooking were ill informed and rude. I didn’t agree with his elimination because I couldn’t understand how Danushka stayed! She seems like she doesn’t care, is rude and I would never want to hire her to be my chef. I also haven’t been impressed by any of her food. Also, as a woman, I don’t want to learn to cook from someone who talks about how small of a person they are. If I had a dial to show my like or dislike for her presentations it would always be set at zero. I was also confused about how the challenge actually worked. Did you give a person your token to “buy” their burger? Did you vote for the burger by giving them your token, after you had eaten it? I finally figured out that the audience received a burger by giving their token. They selected which burger that they wanted to eat after watching the presentations. I don’t know who is creating the challenges, but they somehow seem to be very predictable and seem a little muddled.
I came to last night’s episode still really frustrated that I would be inflicted with another week of Danushka’s rude comments and off-putting attitude. But, I tried to come to the episode with an open mind. I’m not a big fan of Chopped, it’s too frenetic and I think the food combinations seem too weird. I have no desire have someone cook food for me that tries to incorporate weird ingredients and make them taste good. I’m much too picky for that and I really don’t like the junk food items that seem so prevalent on that show. I don’t mind snails and exotic fruit, but I think there’s too much yucky junk food used in their challenges. I prefer simple ingredients combined well to make delicious dishes- save the Pop Rocks gelee and Cool Ranch Doritos foam for someone else.
The Mentor Challenge focused on the chefs cooking with a single mystery ingredient. The chefs were divided into two teams and Bobby and Alton judged their dishes. I was interested in learning about the different foods. I might not like eating strange foods, but I love learning about them. Stacey’s durian custard looked tasty, but I was most impressed with the cast iron vegetables with mango pickle that Damaris made. I was so happy when Damaris was a winner (and didn’t shimmy or act strangely at all this week) for the team she was on.
The twist for the winners of the Mentor Challenge was that they would serve as a judge on the panel for their team. Damaris was a really good judge. She was very composed and made some great comments. Rodney was still pretty bombastic, but I actually thought he did a good job. His style was definitely different from Damaris, but he still seemed both fun and knowledgeable. The first team had to use foods that could be found at a sporting event. I don’t like it when people are forced to cook with alcohol- some people can’t or don’t want to partake of it! Chad definitely deserved to be the winner because his hot dog and waffle dish looked tasty and received good marks from the judges. I really felt bad for the other team because they had to use applesauce, cheddar fish crackers, and fruit leathers and chicken nuggets- yuck! But, I was amazed at how good both Chris and Nikki did. Nikki’s spring roll looked delicious! I really like her personality and I think her P.O.V. is so interesting. I would love to watch her. Chris did a great job with his chicken cake and his sauce really looked good, too.
I was very relieved when Danushka was eliminated. Her food was really uninspiring and I can’t imagine wanting to watch a show she was on. I hope that she has success with her personal chef business, because I don’t think being on television suits her at all.
One of the things I miss most about this season is seeing Bob and Suzy judging every week. If the show needs to expand back to be an hour and half long and we could regain Bob and Suzy- then I’m ready! I miss their expertise. The show seems a little less professional for not seeing them every week. I like Bobby and Giada and I love Alton. But, I feel like Bobby will keep anyone around for too long if he finds them attractive and Giada gets too emotionally involved to be objective.
I still like the show. I appreciate that we don’t have to deal with hook-up antics and the language is still much milder than it is on Top Chef. But, it feels rushed this season and I don’t like the judging conventions. I’ll keep hanging on for a couple of weeks because Danushka is finally gone. But, my interest is waning. I’m still cheering on Chris, Damraris and Nikki and hope that one of them will win!
Kari’s Rating- 7
Food Network Star has kept it interesting this past couples of weeks. Damaris is shimmying less, Danushka finally went home, and the judges are learning more about “pie style.”
Burger Bash had the contestants cook a burger and present to burger lovers at a food festival. Damaris did some awkward things during her presentation that scared people away from her pimento cheeseburger that looked delicious. Rodney presented an open-faced burger with a little bit of piecrust on the bottom that the judges didn’t like, and I didn’t understand. He seemed very limited by his POV. Russell won over a lot of people with his “Deadly Sins” burger that had duck fat and bacon on it. How easy is it to impress people when you’re just catering to culinary buzzwords of the moment? I don’t think he’s dangerous or cool. He just reminds me of that guy that everyone knew in college that presented himself as the most “evil” person ever, but secretly loved Captain and Tennille. Somehow Danushka could only convince 2 people to even try her burger, and still didn’t go home. In her presentation she defended her small sliders because she was a “small girl.” I don’t quite understand how anyone thinks that it’s a good idea to call their audience fat. Andres went home instead, strangely also for insulting his audience. He wants to help guys learn how to cook. What the judges think he should be doing is helping people eat healthy, since he’s lost so much weight.
Last night came “A Star is Chopped”, where the contestants had to work with a mystery ingredient, and then went on to have to complete a full scale challenge similar to what you see on Chopped. The contestants were split between Bobby and Alton as mentors, and went through the mystery challenge for a special advantage which turned out to be a spot on the judging panel for the Chopped challenge, and immunity of course. I was happy to see an aspect of last season’s team approach return. Damaris impressed Bobby, and Rodney won Alton’s eye by doing something that was very boozy, but didn’t have a piecrust at all! Both of these contestants did great evaluating things as judges, and Rodney is really starting to sand off some of his rough edges and become someone I would watch on television. I don’t know about his recipes, which may hurt him in the competition, but I would definitely enjoy watching him talk about food, much like I enjoy Guy Fieri. The moment of the night for me was when Bobby Flay surgically pried from Hodge the revelation that he had been a drug addict and alcoholic and that food had helped him turn his life around. Now we’re starting to develop an interesting POV here about how food can help people. Chad made an interesting take on chicken and waffles, and Viet’s Ramen looked like it would have been highly flavorful elevated frat boy fare. Thankfully Danushka finally went home for her hotdog rocket. In addition to sounding vaguely obscene, it didn’t look very good. She also earned the ire of the judges for frying something because she was bored waiting for her dish to be done. New Iron Chef and judge of Chopped Alex Guarnaschelli looked like she wanted to punch Danushka in the face. Danushka should have known better, because she’s actually been on Chopped before, and lost then too.
It turns out many of these contestants have been on Food Network before. Rodney probably breathed a sigh of relief at not having to cook for the Chopped challenge, because he lost on Chopped once before too. A lot has been made of Viet beating Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America, but Russell’s culinary “sins” apparently couldn’t stand up to Iron Chef Jose Garces. Nobody is mentioning that Hodge did great on season two of The Great Food Truck Race either. My biggest problem though is with Stacey. My problem with her isn’t that she’s some ringer that has done really well somewhere before, but that it turns out she’s a phony. She has the honor of most embarrassing first appearance of these contestants on Food Network. The restaurant that she talks about running appeared on an episode of Restaurant Impossible. She may present well to a camera, but her air of perfection, actually stinks!
Still loving the show though, and can’t wait to see more of these developing stars!
all images from www.foodnetwork.com