NFNS 6 EP 1 – Review

One Of You Will Be Going Home Tonight

NFNS' Doreen Fang on WannabeTVchef.comTwelve wannabe TV chefs vying for the golden ring, six episodes of their dream show.  A gaggle of chefleberities.  Drama as far as the eye can see, some genuine and some contrived, but drama just the same.  It is time again for another season of the Next Food Network Star.  Bobby Flay is back as are Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson and they are joined buy several culinary stars from the Network lead by Giada De Laurentiis.

Giada is acting as mentor to the contestants and she is a perfect example what can happen to someone who gets a TV show on the Food Network.  If you saw the first season of Everyday Italian you would assume she got the gig because of her looks.  She was pretty to look at but laborious to watch.  Now she is a complete star.

After one episode here’s a brief bio followed by my thoughts on each contestant:

Dzintra Dzenis (Austin, Texas) – “a caterer since age 17, really knows her way around the kitchen. She graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris with a Grand Diplome, signifying mastery in both pastry and cuisine, and enjoys updating classic dishes with a flare of elegance.”  That resume sounds a whole lot like NFNS 4 contestant Lisa Garza.  THOUGHTS: A bundle of energy, that’s going to have to come under control.  She’s got that uber-rushed soccer mom-feel like last year’s winner Melissa D’Arabian.  Do the judge’s want that two years in a row?

Doreen Fang (Los Angeles, Calif.) – Doreen describes herself saying, “I am wildly passionate and in love with food.  I am a graduate of the California Culinary Academy (1997).  She owns a boutique catering business with myher business partner from culinary school.  THOUGHTS: Cute, but it doesn’t translate to the camera.  Doesn’t handle pressure well and lacks awareness of her surroundings.

Alexis Hernandez (Clarksville, Ind.) – After leaving his corporate job, Alexis followed his dream and received his culinary degree from Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies and has worked as a caterer. Currently working as a part-time food writer.  THOUGHTS: I’m not sure why he is a finalist, neither cooking nor personality are great.  Seems like a nice guy which goes a long way with Tuschman and Fogelson.  Twice NFNS has been won by nice guys who weren’t good on camera so we’ll see.  He’s on my “gotta go” list but maybe not the judges.

Brianna Jenkins (Atlanta, Ga.) – She graduated from the Ecole Supérieure de Cuisine Française in Paris and now serves as the executive chef and owner of her own catering company.  THOUGHTS: More flash than substance.  If you know that you can be “a diva sometimes” then get that character flaw fixed before other people have to deal with it.  The top person on my “gotta go” list.

Aria Kagan (Hollywood, Fla.) – Kagan’s cooking career began in her parents’ Elkin, Wis., restaurant. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, the young chef moved to South Florida to continue her education at FIU. She jokes that she’s still on the 10-year plan. Along the way, she worked as a pastry chef at the old Max’s Grille in Fort Lauderdale and taught at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Miramar.  THOUGHTS: Sweet and genuine.  Knowledgeable and enthusiastic.  An early leader.

Herb Mesa (Atlanta, Ga.) – A restaurant-trained chef who worked his way up from dishwasher to director of catering and assistant general manager of luxury hotels.  THOUGHTS: Another early leader – confident, talented, attractive his loan drawback for me is that during his first cooking challenge he danced in the kitchen.  I love to have fun in the kitchen but there has to be a line and that line is dancing in the kitchen.  It is one of the most unprofessional things you can ever do.  Probably because I cannot dance.  Still, he’s a contender.

Serena Palumbo (New York, N.Y.) – A native Italian, she decided to start her own cooking show for you tube, Cooking In Manhattan.   The show’s goal was to teach how to prepare great food within the confines of a small urban kitchen. The show was an immediate  Youtube sensation gaining several thousand  viewers in just a  few months.  Cooking in Manhattan brought her international notoriety as Serena has appeared on CNN, BBC and most recently as one of the 12 finalists in the Next Food Network Star, Season 6 .  THOGUHTS: She’s the heat this year.  Saucy, gorgeous but it remains to be seen if she has the goods.  She tends towards narcissism and that puts her on the “gotta go” list.

Tom Pizzica (San Francisco, Calif.) – Graduated with an Associate of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts from the California Culinary Academy in 2004 and served as the executive chef and owner of a top Chesapeake Bay restaurant.  THOUGHTS: Just because you are unemployed doesn’t mean you should show up looking like a bum.  Trim the beard, wear respectable close, Tom.  Respect yourself and we will respect you also.  Until then you will be on the “gotta go” list.

Aarti Sequeira (Los Angeles, Calif.) – Aarti Sequeira is a fellow food blogger and a charter member of Good Bite, a consortium on some of the best food bloggers on the online.  She is the host of Aarti Paarti an internet cooking show that takes viewers on a playful romp through her tiny Los Angeles kitchen.  The only contestant I knew of before the show started.  THOUGHTS: great energy, great smile, she just needs to shore up the cooking. A contender.

Darrell “DAS” Smith (Los Angeles, Calif.) – He trained in the culinary arts at Atlanta Technical College, and specializes in new American cuisine. Originally from Detroit.  Came in with a lot of confidence, borderline too much.  When his first dish didn’t turn out right all of the confidence was gone.  I’m on the fence with DAS.

Brad Sorenson (Austin, Texas) – Graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. At the age of 22, Brad opened Black Creek Bistro as executive chef, which became a top new restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.  THOUGHTS: Youth already playing a factor for the 25 year old.  Crumbled under the pressure of the camera.  Too bad, he may be the most talented cook of the bunch.  On the fence with him as well.

Paul Young (Chicago, Ill.) – Graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando and later worked as a cooking instructor, sauté cook and executive sous chef in Chicago and Milwaukee. A former improv comedian.  THOUGHTS: I thought FN wold have learned from previous attempts at turning a comedian into a TV chef that it doesn’t work.  No energy and way too much confidence.  We’ll see where it goes.

Why was this episode two hours?  60 minutes of NFNS is already too much NFNS.  I don’t care about their back stories.  I certainly don’t care about their shtick.  I want someone who can first cook an interesting meal and second inspire me want to make an interesting meal.  Everything else is just childish drama.  I could have lived without having to endure the whole fake debate over Dzintra’s eye.  That might have been a good place for a commercial break.  Even watching  Tony Heyward trying to convince us that BP is doing all they can is preferable to that synthetic bit of garbage.


“In it to Win it” Quotes – 0.

Number of people crying – 2.

Number of WTF moments – 5.

Who should win based on what we’ve seen so far: Aria

Who will win based on what we’ve seen in the past: Aarti

Winner(s) first week: 1st challenge: Herb & Aria.  2nd challenge: Individual Aria.  The team challenge was won by Team Gray (Aria’s team) and therefore they were all spared getting the boot.

The finalist who will be going home is . . . Home Page


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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
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