Review: Kelsey’s Essentials

Kelsey's Essentials with Kelsey Nixon

I finally got a little more quality time with the Cooking Channel so I am attempting to review several of the shows I have not seen.  This time around Kelsey’s Essentials.

Never before has a person been so deserving of their own cooking show.

On Next Food Network Star 4 Nixon was the stand out contestant week in and week out.  Though small in stature she was head and shoulders better than every contestant on the show.  She won more challenges than all the other contestants combined.  Yet, mysteriously she was sent home three episodes from the end.  It wasn’t a case of having one bad day since she did at least as well as the other Wannabe TV Chefs in that week’s challenge.

The reason offered by the judges?  She was simply too young to be taken seriously as a TV chef.  She was 23 years old.  Four years older than Bobby Flay was when he became executive chef at a hip Manhattan restaurant and roughly the same age he was when he started with Food Network.  The age thing just didn’t wash.

That season was won by Aaron McCargo Jr. who, even on his A game, was the sixth best contestant on the show.  But rumor is the Food Network brass had fallen in love with the lovable big guy and decided he was the winner before shooting began.  I don’t know if that’s true but it makes better since than anything else out there.  Nixon had to go because she was simply too good, never mind the fact that she was running away with the fan poll on the Food Network’s own web site.

Kelsey Nixon of Kelsey's EssentialsKelsey marks the fourth entrant to NFNS 4 to get their own show.  The first was 26-year-old Mary Nolan who the judges were so impressed with that they gave her a series without having to compete.  Get that now, 23 is too young but 26 you get to skip the line and go right in.  I don’t recall that three year span being that important to my development as a person.  Nolan’s show was gone after one season.  McCargo still has his show plugging along for his small but devoted following and runner-up Adam Gertler has had two shows with the network, both prime-time series with great ratings.

So after taking Kelsey’s Essentials for a test drive I can say that what we saw on NFNS 4 was the real thing.  She is still the best.  Her knowledge and energy are spot on.  Watching the show I was amazed at how solid her technique was.  The knife was an extension of her hand, whisk in hand she effortlessly put together a lemon curd and all the while maintaining a warm relationship with the camera.  Just like on the Star she was flawless.

In short, Kelsey’s Essentials is a fulfillment of the promise that was ignored by the judges on NFNS 4.  It is easily one of the best stand-and-stir’s on TV and Nixon is a confident and inviting host.  If Cooking Channel isn’t careful they may have a star on their hands.

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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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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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