MGD 64

Food Network Scorches Summer with Heat Seekers

Robert Irvine Returns with Season Two of ‘Restaurant: Impossible’
Plus: 5 New Episodes of ‘Food Network Star’ and 6 Daytime Season Premieres

NEW YORK – June 16, 2011 – Summer‘s heating up on Food Network with two new series, seven new seasons and five premiere episodes of its number one show, Food Network Star. It’s raining men in the series premiere of Heat Seekers as Aarón Sanchez and Roger Mooking take the country by storm in a sizzling search of the nation’s spiciest food beginning Friday, July 22nd at 10pm, and two cacophonous New Jersey sisters get down to baking business in the new series Tough Cookies (WT) premiering Monday, July 11th at 10pm. Summer fun doesn’t stop there as Robert Irvine returns to save the day in season two of Restaurant: Impossible premiering Wednesday, July 6th at 10pm while the suspense builds and contestants dwindle in premiere episodes of Food Network Star on Sundays at 9pm. Things are getting busy “In the Kitchen” with six daytime season premieres, and the action continues with countless premiere episodes of Food Network favorites including Iron Chef America and Food Network Challenge. Join the Food Network conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

FEATURED SERIES
·         Premiering Sunday, July 3rd at 9pm –“Diners, Drive-Ins and 4th of July”
In this 90-minute episode, the ten finalists must prove that they can entertain and cook. Guy Fieri explains that each finalist will take part in a taping at Mel’s Drive-In. Then, it’s all fireworks as the contestants put their spin on American classics using MGD 64 as a special ingredient for the Fourth of July All-American Food Festival, and the finalists must take the stage and serve as the live entertainment for the day.
·         Premiering Sunday, July 10th at 9pm –“Food Truck Face Off”
Tyler Florence divides the nine finalists into groups challenging them to create and brand a unique menu for a lunch truck. They must film an advertising spot promoting their truck and then serve mobile meals to viewers they inspired, but contestants have to put their best foot forward as consumers can only visit the truck they liked best.
·         Premiering Sunday, July 17th at 9pm –“Dinner Party for Wolfgang Puck”
In this double elimination episode, Bobby Flay charges the eight finalists to create a signature dish and helps them shine before each finalist demos their dish in front of the selection committee. Later, Bobbyreveals the next challenge where the remaining finalists must host a dinner party for Wolfgang Puck and create a menu with only the ingredients and supplies in the house. HGTV’s Sabrina Soto makes a guest appearance to help the finalists get the house dinner party ready, and Puck arrives with the judges to help decide which six finalists will head to New York City to finish the race to become a Food Network Star.
·         Premiering Sunday, July 24st at 9pm –“Ina Garten and Rachael Ray”
In this episode, the six remaining finalists arrive at Food Network headquarters in New York City and are greeted by Ina Garten and Bobby Flay. She challenges them to create unique cupcakes that best represent their personalities. Next, contestants are floored when Rachael Ray joins them via satellite and informs them they must put on a live demonstration on the Rachael Ray Show. Each finalist puts their twist on a traditional dinner dish hoping to impress the live studio audience and Rachael Ray herself.
·         Premiering Sunday, July 31st at 9pm –“Comedy Roast”
The five finalists begin this action-packed episode scouring the stores of Chelsea Market in New York City searching for the “Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Bobby Flay then directs them to describe how this dishimpacted them. Next, the finalists prepare a signature roast dish that gets roasted by guest star comedians Gilbert Gottfried, Aubrey Plaza, Anthony Anderson, Louie Anderson and Judy Gold.
SERIES PREMIERES
Tough Cookies (WT):Premieres Monday, July 11th at 10pm
Food Network heads down the shore this summer for the new series Tough Cookies (WT), following sisters Susan Adair and Linda Brand and their loving, squabbling, multi-generational family as they run Crazy Susan’s Cookie Company in Ocean City, N.J. Crazy Susan’s isn’t your average bakery – Susan is a mad genius, cooking up crazy new concoctions every day, and their cookies are as popular as the beach in this town. They have their hands full with lines out the door and phones that never stop ringing – all while baking and managing their employees, who are mostly family members.
Heat Seekers: Premieres Friday, July 22nd at 10pm
For chefs Aarón Sanchez and Roger Mooking, Heat Seekers is a tongue-testing odyssey to discover the most delicious and dangerous spicy food in the country—and figure out why it’s so much fun to eat. This season Aarón and Roger travel to Miami, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Santa Fe, Chicago, Seattle, Charleston and Los Angeles in search of outrageously spicy creations. In each city, they discover the secrets of everything from broiled crawfish and buffalo frog legs to fiery ribs and seafood ceviche, and then subject themselves to a test of who can handle the heat. What results is either tears of laughter or tears of pain, but usually, it’s both.
SEASON PREMIERES
Primetime
Restaurant: Impossible: Season 2 premieres Wednesday, July 6th at 10pm
·         Premiering Wednesday, July 6th at 10pm –“Dodge City”
Robert heads to Harrisburg, Pa., to save Dodge City, a Wild West themed restaurant. Robert challenges the staff to create an original dish, and the design team races against the clock to finish the restaurant’s new look before the grand opening.
·         Premiering Wednesday, July 13th at 10pm –“La Stanza”
At La Stanza in Philadelphia, Robert finds an old-world Italian restaurant being run by the owner’s daughter and on the brink of failure. He jumps into action brightening up the dining room and updating the menu while also training an inexperienced manager.
·         Premiering Wednesday, July 20th at 10pm – “Sweet Tea”
Robert travels to Chapin, S.C., in attempt to save Sweet Pea by improving the freshness of the food, quality of service and restaurant décor. With just minutes until opening, Robert puts the staff through a grueling boot camp to shake the bad service in a last attempt to save this restaurant from complete failure.
·         Premiering Wednesday, July 27th at 10pm – “Country Fare”
Robert’s mission is clear when he arrives at Country Fare in Stafford, Va., a neighborhood diner with inedible food and a repulsive kitchen. After teaching the staff basic cooking skills, he focuses on a much-needed design overhaul.
Daytime
Aarti Party: Season 3 premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 9am – “Summertime and the Cookin’ Is Easy”
Down Home with the Neelys: Season 10 premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 11:30am – “Food Spell”
Secrets of a Restaurant Chef: Season 8 premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 12pm – “The Secret to Lobster Rolls”
Barefoot Contessa: Season 5 premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 1pm – “Summertime Easy”
Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d’Arabian: Season 5 premieres Sunday, July 3rd at 9am – “Italian Inspiration”
Cooking for Real: Season 10 premieres Saturday, July 9th at 10am – “Taking My Lumps”
ON-AIR SPECIAL
Sunny’s All-American Celebration: Premieres Saturday, July 2nd at 10am
Sunny Anderson shows us that behind every great soldier is a good meal. It’s a very special personal and patriotic journey for Sunny as she travels to Ft. Bragg, N.C. and Fort Lee, Va. to look back on her time in the military, celebrate men and women in uniform, reconnect with her active duty family members, and show viewers why food is often the glue that holds military families together.
ONLINE CONTENT
Pull out a checkered tablecloth, fire up the grill and look no further for perfect all-American recipes at FoodNetwork.com/july4. Food Network fans get party-perfect recipes like Guy’s 4th of July Cocktail, Alton’s Fried Chicken and a new favorite, Flag Cake, from Ina Garten.
NEW EPISODES
In addition to the above new series, seasons and specials, Food Network premieres all new episodes of:
Food Network Challenge: Premieres Sunday, July 3rd at 8pm – “Star Wars Cakes”
Food Network Challenge: Premieres Sunday, July 17th at 8pm – “Chocolate Myths”
Food Network Challenge: Premiering Sunday, July 24th at 8pm – “Smurf Cakes”
Iron Chef America: Premieres Sunday, July 24th at 10pm – “Flay vs. Christensen”
Iron Chef America: Premiering Sunday, July 31st at 10pm – “Symon vs. Johnson”
Daytime: 5 Ingredient Fix, 30 Minute Meals, Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction, Giada At Home, Guy’s Big Bite, Mexican Made Easy, Paula’s Best Dishes, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee
Primetime: Chopped, Cupcake Wars, Extreme Chef, Meat & Potatoes, Outrageous Food, The Best Thing I Ever Ate

Next Food Network Star 6 Rehash

NFNSThe finale to Next Food Network Star Season Six is tonight so I thought I would put together an index of posts to remind us just how we got here:

Next Food Network Star 6 Finale

next food network starWhy does it seem like this season has been going on for years?  Maybe because this was the weakest field of NFNS contestants to date.  Of the twelve seven never stood a chance and an eighth was at best a dark horse.  So that means there were only four legitimate contestants in the whole contest: Aarti, Brad, Tom and Herb.  With the finale upon us three of those four remain – Aarti, Tom and Herb.

Many Tweeting the show and commenting on blogs across the Online have stated that they don’t really see anyone in this year’s cast that they think they could watch.  In fact that seems to be the prevailing thought with most fans of the show.  True there may not be another Guy Fieri in this group but for sure none of the final three are Aaron McCargo Jr or Amy Finley either.  And let’s be honest, other than Guy, no one really watches the shows of NFNS winners.

Here are my thoughts on the final three contestants:

Aarti Sequeira on WannabeTVchef.comAarti Sequeira – She has the most star potential.  She brings something to Food Network that they have never had, an Indian chef.  That is important because Bob Tuschman really wants an Indian show on the “big network.”  But more than that Aarti has proven she has range.  Throughout the competition she not only showed the flexibility of Indian cuisine but she also proved proficient in others having won challenges with Mediterranean, Spanish and Mexican dishes.  Just think, Food Network hasn’t had a chef who’s specialty was an Asian cuisine since Ming Tsai.  That was over a decade ago.

Herb Mesa on WannabeTVchef.comHerb Mesa – He is an immensely passionate person.  His love for his family is something that I think everyone will take away from this season.  In a country were many parents only go through the motions of parenthood, Herb attacks it with zeal.  He is also a talented chef but unfortunately I think that the direction he wants to go, healthy food, is one that the Network has tried on many occasions with little success (see Kathleen Dahlman, Ellie Krieger and Juan-Carlos Cruz before he became a murder suspect).  However, I think Herb’s point of view would make a highly successful show on the right network.  I believe he is tailor made for Planet Green.

Tom Pizzica on WannabeTVchef.comTom Pizzica –What a fricking wild card!  When Tom is on he is another Guy Fieri – humorous, stocky, funky hair and bold food.  When he is off he just flat out sucks.  Aarti I’d like to meet at a food bloggers conference, Herb I’d love to cook with but Tom . . .  Tom I want to grab a beer with.  He seems like the guy who’d sit through a marathon of South Park and then put in the movie.  One thing is for sure, in his best challenge he made a potential employer out of both Bobby Flay and Todd English.  I’d say he is already a winner.

Who do I think should win?  After what we’ve seen this season I would have to say that Aarti has earned the win but not by much.

Who do I think will win?  Again it is hard to go wrong with Aarti.  Herb and Tom, though entertaining, do not bring anything new to the Network where as Aarti brings something they’ve never had and desperately want.  Remember last year the race between Jeffrey Saad and Melissa D’Arabian was very close so ultimately, in my opinion, demographics decided the winner.

Thanks for playing:
Alexis Hernandez – went home week 1.
Doreen Fang – went home week 2.
Dzintra Dzenis – went home week 3.
Darrell “DAS” Smith – went home week 4.
Paul Young – went home week 5.
Brianna Jenkins – went home week 6.
Serena Palumbo – went home week 7.
Brad Sorenson – went home week 8.
Aria Kagan – went home week 9.

There was no real mystery in the final challenge; it’s how they always wrap things up.  Each contestant shoots a pilot for their show concept while some Food Network star acts as the director.  This year it was Rachael Ray.  I highly doubt that the final challenge has ever really determined a winner.  There’s the usual curtain call of former contestants and the seriously over played, mellow dramatic, extended pause before announcing the winner (seriously reality TV producers, that trick has gone stale).

So without further eloquence I would like to congratulate The Next Food Network Star . . .

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Aarti Sequeira
Aarti Sequeira on WannabeTVchef.com

Congratulations to Aarti. Hopefully for season 7 I’ll be in her shoes or at least some that are similar to hers only in a size 13 extra wide. Until next year NFNS’ers!

Past NFNS Finale Foul-ups

This Sunday night is the final of season six of the Next Food Network Star.  The finalist are Aarti, Herb and Tom but I’m guessing you already knew that.  The fact that the show has only produced one legitimate star in it’s first five tries has not stopped viewers from tuning in each week to follow the ups and downs of the contestants vying for the chance to be the second.  NFNS remains the number one rated show on the Food Network.

That is strange because of the history of, let’s say, questionable endings to some of the past seasons.  The first two seasons went OK, not much controversy but in season three the fireworks started.  Set the way back machine:

Season one was historical in a couple of ways.  It was the first such contest of it’s kind.  Second, the winners were a gay couple which, too, made it ground breaking.  Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh are bright and talented caterers from Chicago.  Their winning show, Party Line with the Hearty Boys, was not very entertaining but that wasn’t as important as the standards set by that first season.

Season two yielded the only Next Food Network Star winner to ever actually become a Food Network star, Guy Fieri.  And a star he has become.  Those TGIFriday’s commercials speak to the California culinarians mass appeal.  He has hosted Guy’s Big Bite, Guy Off the Hook, Ultimate Recipe Showdown and another show you may have heard of, Diner’s Drive-ins and Dives.

JAGSeason three is where things started getting – what’s the word? -oh, yeah, suspicious.  JAG would have won, should have won, but for the last minute revelation that he had exaggerated his resumé.  This resulted in an 11th hour return of recently booted Amy Finley who, given a second chance, ended up winning the contest (just like in a Hollywood script).

Why is this suspicious?  Having been through the NFNS process I know how thorough their background checks are.  Honestly, it’s easier to slip something past the FBI than it is The Food Network.  With that in mind the idea that FN hadn’t bothered to check the accuracy of resumés just doesn’t wash.  I do know this, the inncident was huge for the ratings.

Season four the shinannigans were even more outlandish.  A stand-up comedian who was so unfunny it was actually painful, a boorish elitest who described anyone who has ever eaten boxed macaroni and cheese as “white trash” and a chef who was scared of fish and stayed weeks too long because she was pretty and satisfied a missing demographic at TFN, Indian cuisine.

Next Food Network StarThere were two contestants who blew away the competition every single week.  Shane Lyons and Kelsey Nixon were both perfect packages, however the judges (Bob Tuschman in particular) kept harping on their youth.  It didn’t matter how well they performed, they were too young to take seriously.  That of course begs the question, why let them into the contest at all?  Nixon, by the way, won TFN’s fan poll on their own web site in a land slide and is to this day one of the most popular talents in the Food Network stables.

After eliminating the two best contestants, in successive weeks no less, we were left with the trio of Liza Garza, Aaron McCargo Jr. and Adam Gertler.  Garza arrived as a foppish diva with serious cooking chops who, more than anyone else on the show, listened to the judges and turned herself into exactly what they said they were looking for.  Gertler was good on camera but had limited culinary skills.  McCargo was a passable cook but was terrible on camera; still is.

In an episode designed to whittle it down to two contestants McCargo, who had been a model of mediocrity, bombed.  He bombed hard.  In fact, it was without a doubt the single worst performance in the history of the show.  Adam was okay and Garza blew the doors off the studio.  Easy choice right?  Boot the guy who bombed, right?  Nope, the judges decided to change the rules and bring all three back for the finale.  Aaron should have been gone but given a second chance brought home victory (just like in a Hollywood script).

Speaking of Lisa Garza she recently announced that she has signed a contract for her own cooking show.

Then there was the slip on the web site.  Apparently, some web geek accidentally revealed the outcome of the show days before the final episode was to premiere.  The web fiasco turned into a boon as fans who had tuned out because of the questionable antics (the elimination of Kelsey Nixon, especially) tuned back in to see if the web screw-up was a publicity stunt.

Season five was a little more tame with the exception of contestant Debbie Lee.  Considered by many to be the most vile and despicable person in the history of reality cooking shows, Lee cheated, back-stabbed and sabotaged herself all the way to the next-to-last episode. At least that’s how it appeared after a few days in the editing room anyway.  Melissa D’Arabian won and as her reward was given a TV show called $10 Dinners.  Which oddly enough was not the show concept that won her the NFNS title.  Coincidentally there was a national casting call back in 2008 for a cooking show called $10 Dinners that was surprisingly similar to the show D’Arabian now hosts.

So that brings us to season six and who knows what stunts, if any, Food Network has up it’s metaphorical sleeve.

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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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