Next Food Network Star 6
Well, folks, it’s that time again. Time for yet another wannabe TV chef to climb the culinary stairway to heaven. Time for yet another barrage of tests geared to test the nerve of the most seasoned spatula wielding warrior. And, if history holds, another season of contrived drama and judging that leaves viewers scratching their heads. It’s time again for the Next Food Network Star.
This year’s finalists: Dzintra Dzenis (Austin, Texas), Doreen Fang (Los Angeles, Calif.), Alexis Hernandez (Clarksville, Ind.), Brianna Jenkins (Atlanta, Ga.), Aria Kagan (Hollywood, Fla.), Herb Mesa (Atlanta, Ga.), Serena Palumbo (New York, N.Y.), Tom Pizzica (San Francisco, Calif.), Aarti Sequeira (Los Angeles, Calif.), Darrell “DAS” Smith (Los Angeles, Calif.), Brad Sorenson (Austin, Texas) and Paul Young (Chicago, Ill.).
A quarter of the contestants are from L.A. and another is from New York City. You know what that means don’t you? Actors. More precisely actors who’ll do anything to be on TV. “Cook? Uh yeah, I can cook. I’ve waited tables at Ruby Tuesday, Cheesecake Factory and the Olive Garden. I’m mad qualified to be a TV chef.” Three of the contestants are actually NOT from the East or West Coasts. That’s an improvement from last year when only one of the 12 contestants (eventual winner Melissa D’Arabian) was not from either coast. In fact, last year the Food Network didn’t even offer Middle America any place to audition.
Of course the legacy of NFNS is nefarious to say the least.
Take season one. Don’t remember it? Don’t worry few do. It’s wasn’t a hit. The winners, Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh, were celebrated not for their abilities but because they were the first gay couple to host a national cooking show. Though Smith and McDonagh are capable cooks and genuinely likable their show, Party Line with the Hearty Boys, was not well received. It lasted only six episodes. Food Network eventually brought the Hearty Boys back to film thirteen more episodes but it again failed to capture an audience.
Season two is famous for producing Guy Fieri. That season, too, was not a major success but Fieri’s emergence put NFNS on the map. Guy’s personality was so big he simply could not be ignored. His show, Guy’s Big Bite, remains the only true hit to come from the contest and Fieri the only true star it has produced. Fieri has hosted three more shows for Food Network, a gaggle of specials, a game show for NBC and the now infamous commercial campaign for fern-bar chain TGIFriday’s.
Season three is when the fireworks really started. One competitor, Joshua Adam Garcia (aka JAG) stood out from the crowd, think Guy Fieri with less bling and more substance. But an eleventh-hour disclosure that JAG had misrepresented his military service saw him disqualified which allowed recently eliminated Amy Finley to return and eventually win season three. It was like a Hollywood fairytale; a little too much like a Hollywood fairytale. Today no one remembers The Gourmet Next Door but they do remember JAG. The application process for NFNS is very thorough, applicants to the FBI don’t have their lives so closely scrutinized. It’s unfathomable that Food Network only found out about JAG’s history just before shooting the finale. Something was rotten in Chelsea Market.
Season four was even worse. This time there were two competitors who were legitimate contenders and a third who showed potential. None of them won. One competitor who was clearly not cut out for hosting a TV show, Aaron McCargo Jr., eventually won but only after a load of controversy and a contest so obviously rigged that Don King was embarrassed. McCargo’s show, Big Daddy’s House, remains in the network’s line-up but in a poor time slot. Ratings are low and the show is believed by many to be a refusal to admit they made a mistake. Another competitor from that season, Kelsey Nixon, remains one of the most popular talents in network history.
Season five, last season, was a little more tame. There was a competitor who cheated, lied, sabotaged her fellow competitors and was wholly unlikable. She of course remained until the second-to-last episode, a tired device of reality TV shows – the person you love to hate. In the end the panel chose the two people who had stood out since day one, Jeffrey Saad and Melissa D’Arabian, either was a solid choice. But instead of getting her own show as the contest promised, what D’Arabian got was an old vehicle that had been laying around the Food Network studios for a couple of years, $10 Dinners.
So that brings us to season six. I have to go on record that I loathe this show. Not because of my normal disdain for reality TV. No I dislike NFNS because it is such a farce – Food Network is not all interested in producing a star, Fieri was just dumb luck. The only thing that Tuschman and company care about is that the ten or so episodes of the competition do well in the ratings. I am morally offended by all of the shenanigans.
I have an idea for the network – all of those NFNS contestants who should have gotten their own show but didn’t, the Kelsey Nixon’s and JAG’s and Jeffrey Saad’s of the world, why not give them shows on the Cooking Channel? It’s a hell of a lot better than the past-their-prime shows being imported from other countries to avoid having to film new ones. There is so much outsourcing going on at the new channel that it’s like calling a 1-800 number. Does anyone there speak American?
So, will I watch NFNS 6? Yes.
“Why, Stuart?” you may ask. “Why watch a show you clearly do not like?”
Because you, dear reader, do like it and as the Wannabe TV Chef it is my job, nay my duty to talk about it. Check back each week for stats and recaps.
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