KID IN A CANDY STORE

Review: Sugar High

I have said it more than once.  I’m tired of dessert oriented shows.  I know that a lot of people dig them but for a savory guy they just don’t cut the mustard.  As humorous and charming as Adam Gertler is I really can’t get into Kid in a Candy Store.  I love Cooking Channel’s Unique Eats but it’s spin-off Unique Sweets bores me.  The same for Top Chef  and Top Chef: Just Desserts.  And don’t get me started on Cupcake Wars (worst show on TV).

Sugar High DuffThe one dessert show that I did like was Ace of Cakes which wrapped production last winter.  Let’s face it, Ace was the best and everything that’s come out since is trying to capture the magic at Charmed City Cakes.  But I didn’t dig Ace because of the mind-boggling cake sculptures, although they were cool, I liked it because of the staff at the bakery.  They were very interesting and funny people, devoid of onscreen drama.  Especially the adorable Katherine Hill. Purrrrr.

When a friend at the Network hipped me that Duff had a new show coming out I approached it with mixed feelings.  I, like most Food Network viewers, like Duff a lot.  He is one of the most recognizable stars in the food TV universe and one of the most likeable as well.  But at the same time it was sure to be just another dessert show.  Duff is great but it was his interaction with his staff that made Ace so much fun.

Imagine my surprise when I watched the premiere.  Duff makes an extremely good food/travel host.  It was still Duff, but there is a polish and professionalism to his voice-over narrative that makes him exceedingly approachable.  It isn’t silly nor over the top.  All of the voice-over work is so good it makes me wonder why he hasn’t made a career out of documentaries and commercials.  The voice was Duff, but then again it was someone new.

Then came the interaction with each featured vendor.  There was the old Duff. The joking, the crazy laugh, the quirky sense of humor; it was all there.  So now we have the best of both worlds.  The new, mature host Duff and the old, playful, cake blower-upper Duff.  What a terrific blend.

But what about the content?  It’s still just dessert right, glorified bowls of sugar?  Not for me it wasn’t.  The producers have done a great job of lining up vendors with personalities that compliment the host’s.  It made me care about desserts.  In fact, I’m adding Venice Beach’s Schulzies Bread Pudding to my “must do” list on my next trip to LA.

108 bread puddings?  Are you kidding me?  To me bread pudding is the perfect dessert food.  It can taste like whatever your favorite desserts is.  It’s easy as all get out to make, makes use of left-over ingredients (gotta watch that food cost) and it has tradition.  It has all of the things people look for in a great dessert – complexity of flavor, contrasting textures and luxury that can only come from sugar and saturated fat.  If you ever see me on a reality cooking competition you can bet my dessert course will be breading pudding.  Or Key lime pie.

Okay, back on topic.  I cannot believe how enjoyable I found the show.  Would I like it better if it were Ribeye High?  Probably, I never get tired of seeing a perfectly cooked medium-rare piece of meat,  That being said, I’ll be tuning back in to Sugar High and for me that’s high praise, especially for a dessert show.

Sugar High airs Fridays at at 10:30pm/9:30c on the Food Network.

Duff Returns to Food Network on a Sugar High

Duff Goldman of Sugar HighThe only pastry-oriented show I have ever really liked was Ace of Cakes.  Sadly it went off the air a few months ago.  Well Duff is back.  On August 8th Food Network premieres his new food/travel vehicle Sugar High.  I wonder if this is to replace Adam Gertler’s Kind in a Candy Store or if there is enough of a demand for dessert-programming to warrant another show. I’d kill a drifter if it took the place of Cupcake Wars or Tough Cookies.  Food for thought.  Here’s the 411 from the Food Network:

Duff Goldman, best known as the pastry mastermind behind the popular Food Network show, Ace of Cakes, is exploring a sugary curiosity. His new show, Sugar High, takes him on a cross-country trek to capture the sweet secrets and tasty techniques that keep the cookies from crumbling in the top bakeries around the nation. Premiering August 8, this six-episode summer feature will showcase the best sweet spots. From diners and curbside snow-cone machines to food carts and boutique bakeries, Duff will prove that decadent desserts are anything but ordinary.

Follow Duff as he stops for chilled bread pudding on the Venice boardwalk in California, pull up a seat at a roadhouse in Dallas for s’mores and have a slice of apple strudel in Chicago that is reminiscent of something you’d get in Europe. He also returns to down-home style with traditional rice pudding at a dessert boutique in Philadelphia.

Tune in: Monday, August 8 at 10:30 p.m. Eastern/ 9:30 p.m. Central

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.

Food Network May 2011 Highlights

Press Release from Food Network:

Food Network Crowns Cake Cavalier on ‘Last Cake Standing’ Season Finale and Names BBQ King in New Series ‘Best In Smoke’
Season Premieres: Paula’s Best Dishes, Guy’s Big Bite, Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, Chopped
On-Air and Online “In the Kitchen” Theme Weekend: Mother’s Day

NEW YORK – April 21, 2011 – This May, Food Network smokes out the Guy Fiericompetition with a series premiere, a season finale, four new seasons, a Mother’s Day theme weekend and countless new episodes of hit shows. Viewers get a tasty primetime package on Sunday, May 8th from 9-11pm with the Last Cake Standing season finale at 9pm and the Best In Smoke series premiere at 10pm – it’s a lineup not to be missed. New episodes of fan favorite daytime shows honor mothers around the world with the Mother’s Day theme weekend on Saturday, May 7th from 7am-2pm and Sunday May 8th from 7am-12pm with complementary ideas and recipes at www.foodnetwork.com/mom. Food Network fans will also enjoy four season premieres: Paula’s Best Dishes (April 30th), Guy’s Big Bite (May 1st), Chopped(May 3rd) and Diners, Drive Ins and Dives (May 9th). Join the Food Network conversation on Facebook and Twitter.
FEATURED FINALE
Last Cake Standing: Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 9pm –“$100,000 Cakes”
After five grueling weeks pitting talented pastry chefs against each other in intense cake battles with crazy twists, the final cake designers are ready to create an unforgettable wedding cake for an engaged couple. The cakes must be inspired by one of the themed wedding rooms at the world famous Little White Wedding Chapel. Just as the competitors think that they are have completed their final task, one more awaits: make a cake that tells the story of their one hundred thousand dollar dream. At the end of this marathon competition, one winning cake designer receives $100,000 and bragging rights because they have the Last Cake Standing.
SERIES PREMIERE
Best In Smoke: Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 10pm
Hailing from cities across the United States, six of the best barbecue masters meet in New York to face off for a $50,000 grand prize and the right to claim the title of Best In Smoke. Hosted by Bryan Caswell (season three contestant on The Next Iron Chef), this competition tests the competitors’ endurance and skill as they take on multiple challenges in a day with limited resources and cook for vastly different audiences. From barbecue desserts to single bite hors d’oeuvres, no food is off limits. Contestants show off their personal style and quick wit throughout the competition, but a final mad dash to three separate venues around Manhattan and Brooklyn will determine which competitor will be awarded the coveted title of Best In Smoke.

·         Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 10pm –“Best Bite in BBQ” (*Note special time)
Host Bryan Caswell kicks off the competition by challenging the six teams to create their best “single bite” for the judges. Once the clock starts, it’s an all-out scramble to the meat truck, and the competitor who cooks up the best “single bite” wins immunity from elimination and joins the judging panel for the next round. Then, the competitors devise the ideal BBQ hors d’oeuvre for an upscale art gallery opening. The fate of the finalists hangs on the opinions of the gallery guests who decide which competitor is safe from elimination.
·         Premieres Sunday, May 15th at 9pm – “Unorthodox BBQ and Birthday Party”
The competitors must create a BBQ-inspired salad and dessert from pre-determined ingredients, so only their skill will separate them from the pack. After two hours of cooking, the judges’ favorite gets a special advantage going into the next competition. For round two, the competitors have three hours to whip up an appetizing BBQ snack for a children’s birthday party, but the twist is no burgers or hot dogs allowed. At the party, each kid picks their favorite dish to decide who will be safe from elimination.
·         Premieres Sunday, May 22nd at 9pm –“Vendor Wars”
The four remaining competitors take it to the streets, operating vendor carts and serving up hot BBQ to tourists. For this challenge, their assistants are off the hook, so competitors pair up and work together in teams. At the park, the tourists purchase their choice BBQ dishes with tickets. The team with the most tickets wins and will participate in the final judging of the other team, while the competitor with the least tickets will say goodbye.
·         Premieres Sunday, May 29th at 9pm – “Season Finale”
The final challenge tests the limits of the remaining competitors’ culinary knowledge, as well as their stamina, by having them cater three different events in one day. Each location will showcase a different element of the New York lifestyle including ballparks, Broadway and bars. Each finalist must feature brisket in at least one of their meals, which can take up to twelve hours to cook. After catering three distinct events, the most well-rounded pit master is named “Best In Smoke.”
SEASON PREMIERES

·         Paula’s Best Dishes: Saturday, April 30th at 11am ET/PT – “Fantastic Fiesta”
·         Guy’s Big Bite: Sunday, May 1st at 10:30am ET/PT – “Guy’s Lean Green Chili Machine”
·         Chopped: Tuesday, May 3rd at 10pm ET/PT – “The Icing On The Steak”
·         Diners, Drive Ins and Dives: Monday, May 9th at 9pm ET/PT – “Bar Food And Bon Bons”
FOOD NETWORK “IN THE KITCHEN” THEME WEEKEND

“Mother’s Day” (Saturday, May 7th from 7am-2pm and Sunday, May 8th from 7am-12pm)

Whether it’s a special breakfast in bed or a brunch with friends, Food Network chefs share their favorite family recipes for Mother’s Day. Food Network offers up premiere and encore episodes of daytime favorites designed to help moms stay out of the kitchen and let their loved ones treat her to a day of delicious dishes. Online at www.foodnetwork.com/mom, Food Network serves up recipes for crustless quiche and gives viewers a look at photos of fan-favorite chefs and their moms.
·         Big Daddy’s House: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 9am – “It’s All About: Classics”
Big Daddy is bringing back the classics with a fit-for-a-king meal including a Shrimp Fra Diablo Appetizer, Chicken Francaise, Red Sangria and White Sangria.
·         Mexican Made Easy: PremieresSaturday, May 7th at 9:30am –“Mami’s Day Brunch Party”
Marcela serves up the perfect Mother’s Day menu with a Fruit Bowl with Mex-Granola, Chicken Enchiladas, Chorizo Hash Browns and Pecan and Caramel Candies.

·         5 Ingredient Fix: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 10:30am – “Breakfast in Bed For Mama”
Claire makes a special brunch for her mom including Chocolate Hazelnut Stuffed French Toast, Turkey Fennel Sausage Patties, Mint Lemon Syrup, Granola Topping and Hot Vanilla Malted.

·         Paula’s Best Dishes: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 11am – “Breakin’ For Breakfast”
Jamie and Bobby Deen are in the kitchen today cooking up a delicious breakfast feast for their mom including Easy Blueberry Skillet Cake, Cream Cheese and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast with Strawberry Syrup, Fruit Salad with Cream Cheese Pecan Topping and a Piña Colada Smoothie.
·         Down Home with the Neelys: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 11:30am – “Let’s Hear It For The Moms!”
Pat and Gina cook up Quiche Tartlets, Sweet Potato Hash, Watermelon Salad and Flowers for Mom Cocktail for Gina’s mom and their dear friend Brenda.
·         Secrets of a Restaurant Chef: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 12pm – “The Secret To Beef Bourguignonne”
Chef Anne Burrell breaks out French recipe tricks for her favorite Beef Bourguignon and Palmiers cookies.
·         Dessert First: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 12:30pm – “Blue Ribbon Pies”
Anne Thornton’s mom, Maureen, joins her to make Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie; Mama Thornton’s Peach
Pie; and Almond, Pear and Cherry Pocket Pies.
·         Giada at Home: Premieres Saturday, May 7th at 1:30pm – “Celebrating Mom”
Giada De Laurentiis invites her mother Veronica and sister Eloisa over for an outdoor Mother’s Day luncheon with Crispy Chicken with Rosemary-Lemon Salt; Sun-dred Tomato, Olive and Lemon Pasta; and Espresso and Chocolate Jellies.

·         Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day: Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 9am – “Make A Double Batch”
Rachael cooks up Double-Batch Classic Bolognese; Beer-Braised Chicken Thighs; Lamb And Rice Stuffed Peppers; Sausage, Kale And Lentil Soup; and Roasted Tomato and Roasted Garlic Puttanesca.

·         Hungry Girl: Premieres Sunday, May 8th at 10am – “Comfortably Yum”
Lisa whips up a HG version of a fan’s macaroni & cheese recipe as well as ‘Cue the Pulled Pork and PB n’ Chocolate Bread Pudding Bonanza.
·         Guy’s Big Bite: Sunday, May 8th at 10:30am – “Mama Fieri’s Sunday Roast”
Guy Fieri gets the stamp of approval from special guest, Mom Fieri, with his Family Style Pot Roast, Acme Buttered and Figs in a Blanket.
·         Cooking for Real: Sunday, May 8th at 11am – “Fish And Grits”
Sunny Anderson cooks up traditional southern fare including Catfish Nuggets, Creamy Cheesy Grits, and Simple Blueberry Apple Pie.

FEATURED NIGHTS AND MARATHONS
“Grilling Week” Kickoff(Sunday May 29th from 8-11pm)
Food Network’s grilling season officially kicks off with the Best In Smoke finale at 9pm followed by Iron Chef America “Battle Hot Dog” featuring Iron Chef Michael Symon vs. Cooking Channel’s host of Everyday Exotic, Roger Mooking at 10pm.
Bobby Flay’s Memorial Day Marathon (Monday, May 30th from 10am-4pm)
Food Network serves up a day full of outdoor fun and tasty recipes with back-to-back episodes of Grill It! with Bobby Flay and Throwdown with Bobby Flay. From specialty hot dogs and award-winning hamburgers to spicy competitions and fiery rematches, Bobby takes on all facets of grilling to get viewers ready to “throw down” at their own Memorial Day celebrations.
FOOD NETWORK NEW EPISODES
Food Network premieres all-new episodes of Iron Chef America, Food Network Challenge, and 17 additional primetime and daytime shows.

Daytime: 5 Ingredient Fix, 30 Minute Meals, Barefoot Contessa, Big Daddy’s House, Dessert First, Down Home with the Neelys, Mexican Made Easy, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee
Primetime: 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, Chopped, Good Eats, Kid in a Candy Store, Meat and Potatoes, Outrageous Food, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Unwrapped

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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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