Next Food Network Star 7 Premieres June 5

Well, kids it’s time again for Next Food Network Star, the show who’s name betrays its success.

Wow!  That sounds incredibly cynical doesn’t it?  Well, that’s how I usually start my annual NFNS diatribe by lamenting the show’s failure to produce actual Food Network Stars.  Perhaps it was that lack of production that yielded such a dreary response.  But just as likely it is born from the fact that I’ve auditioned four times without making the cut.  It is easy to chalk my attitude up to sour grapes but at the same time there have been some truly, truly retched contestants on the show.  You can make an argument either way.

Next Food Network StarI guess you could say that this year I’ve had a change of heart.  Perhaps it’s because my career is progressing nicely without the reality TV short cut.  Perhaps it’s the fact that Food Network is no longer throwing away the talent they discover on NFNS.

Everyone knows that Guy Fieri won season two but do you remember anyone else that year?  Of course not because Food Network all but exiled the rest of the cast.  Well, Nathan Lyon was also a member of that cast.  Like Guy, Nathan is one of the brightest stars in the TV chef realm as the star of Discovery’s A Lyon in the Kitchen and now PBS’ hit Growing a Greener World.  Lyon was a victim of the old winner-take-all approach the Network took to NFNS but he has still managed to establish himself as a player in the genre.

Then there was JAG.  That guy was so good, so energetic and so charismatic that he was a shoe-in to follow in the footsteps of Guy Fieri if not for some creative exaggerations on his resume.  JAG should have won NFNS 3.  But as I say, I’ve softened.  Perhaps it is because the Network has done away with the ratings stunts like that 11th hour disqualification of JAG or the mid-stream rules changes in season 4 to avoid eliminating eventual winner Aaron McCargo Jr.

Last year on NFNS 6 people complained that there were a lot of unwatchable candidates who should have never been considered for the show.  Quite true; I call those kind of candidates ratings fodder.  But on the other hand that cast also produced the strongest final four in the show’s history – Brad Soerenson, Herb Mesa, Tom Pizzica and Aarti Sequeira.

I was acquainted with eventual winner Aarti before her appearance on the show simply by running in the same food blogger circles.  We’ve shared a few Tweets back and forth but nothing too intimate.  I have not met Brad yet as he has been so busy with the roll out of his new venture the Silver Whisk Cooking School in Austin.  Tom and Herb I’ve been lucky enough to interview and I am proud to count them as friends.  Just this week I talked with fellow season 6 contestant Sarena Palumbo as well in order to catch up with her year post-NFNS.  I also had dinner recently with NFNS 2 winner Guy Fieri and I can honestly say he is a great guy.

So this season I’m likely to be a little less snarky than in years past.  I may even be a little nicer to the “villains” as editing tends to have as much to do with on-screen perception as does simply having an unsavory personality.  At the same time I will not treat the ratings fodder with kid’s gloves and unscrupulous competitors will be called out.  There’s an old saying in NASCAR, “if you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin'” but my belief is that if you have to cheat then were never good enough to be there in the first place.  Pack your crap and go back home.

So as we get set to start the biggest NFNS to date (15 competitors!) I invite you to introduce yourself to the contestants HERE and get a little more intimate look at NFNS 7 cast member Howie Drummond HERE.  You might as well check out the NFNS 6 Rehash HERE.

Oh, you may want to go ahead and bookmark my NFNS 7 archive (HERE) so you can keep up to date with everything that happens this season as it happens from the point of view of a genuine Wannabe TV Chef.  Let the flames begin.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less
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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