net food network star

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.

Food TV Baffles Me Sometimes

Originally posted on July 25, 2008.

Hello, I am Stuart, and I’m a foodie.

Where do I start?

Last week’s Iron Chef: America:  I have been blogging this show for quite some time now and I have never seen any challenger capture the imagination of the public like Gabrielle Hamilton.  The hits I get on her are amazing.  I hope TFN is paying attention, they may have accidentally found the Next Food Network Star.  And Bobby Flay’s sous chef Renee ain’t bad either.  I should know I thought five years ago that Anne Burrell needs her own show.  Are you listening Tuschman?  I got the sight.

Which now brings me to all of the turmoil of NFNS:  Fixed!  Aaron had one of the worst performances of anyone in the history of the show last week and now (thanks to a network blunder) we know that he is the winner.  Fixed!  Well, actually Mary Nolan was the real winner.  Fixed!  She got a show and didn’t even have to compete.  And oddly enough Kelsey Nixon, the brightest face to come on the network in a while got axed (presumably to make sure Aaron would win).  Fixed!

SARCASM ALERT: But TFN was on to something with Mary Nolan.  My stats on her are off the chart.  She’s a solid fit for the network, but apparently a lot of you love her.  I like her, she’s nice, but Kelsey has star (Rachael Ray cross-over star) written all over her.  Instead of calling Aaron McCargo’s new show Big Daddy’s House they should call it One And Done.  Out of the ten chefs they had to choose from they went with the guy who was horrible on camera.  No wonder the winner’s show never gets picked up for a second season.  Except for Guy Fieri.  I see why Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen smoke NFNS in the ratings.  Sure they are just shows about people screaming and there is little actual cooking to them but you at least feel that they find the best person in the end.

NFNS: FN Website Accidentally Reveals Outcome

Originally posted Friday, July 25, 2008.

By Pegasus News wire

Food Network website accidentally reveals outcome of Next Food Network Star

Rut-ro, someone at the Food Network’s head’s gonna roll: On Thursday night, its Web site accidentally, prematurely revealed the outcome of the The Next Food Network Star, whose finale is on Sunday, July 27, three days away.

Here is a photo of one of the three remaining finalists on  <em>Next Food Network Star</em>, which just coincidentally  happens to be Aaron.
Here is a photo of one of the three remaining finalists on Next Food Network Star, which just coincidentally happens to be Aaron.

The boo-boo was caught by Nancy Nichols at D Magazine, who got a tip from a commenter and hit the site, where she found exit interviews with the two losing contestants and a clip of the “Winning Moment”, wherein the winner was revealed.

A commenter noted a pull-down menu with a new show called Big Daddy’s House. Does anyone need another hint of the identity of the winner?

By 1 a.m., the Food Network site had been scraped, then rebuilt to hide the evidence.

It’s the perfect capper for a show that had become an absolute whipping to endure. It attracted local interest only because Dallasite Lisa Garza, co-owner of Suze, was a contestant. But the show forced viewers to withstand the increasing ickiness of Food Network executives Bob Tuschman and Susie Folgelson. There’s a reason people who are behind the camera are behind the camera. And last week’s episode, where contestant Aaron was inexplicably allowed to continue on to the finale despite his poor performance, reeked of stacked deck and pre-determined outcome. Oops, hope that isn’t too much of a hint about who the final winner is.

Posted by T.G.

If this is true then Aaron McCargo Jr. wins the Amy Finley Express Ticket To Nowhere.  Finley has said that she didn’t want to do anymore Food TV because she felt that people didn’t think she belonged there.  I think a year from now, McCargo may feel the same way.  I hope he is as noble with it as Finley has been.  I mean, Aaron wasn’t bad, he just wasn’t good.  This contest is not about finding the Next Food Network Star.

Here are some screen captures of the site before TFN fixed it:

Review: Big Daddy’s House

Originally posted on August 5, 2008.

What can I say about the premiere episode of Big Daddy’s House starring NFNS winner Aaron McCargo Jr?  There was nothing special about it.  The same problems that plagued Aaron during the contest are still there – he is hard to understand, seems fake when he tries to force energy, and he still is not friendly with the camera.  His kid was cute, though.

The menu was nothing special.  He coated chicken tenders with crushed tortilla chips.  That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone do that . . . again.  Seriously, any idea that has ever graced the pages of one of the those $1.00 cooking mags at the check out of your local grocer has no place on the Food Network.  Plus, TFN already has one show that derives its menu from those, Semi-Homemade.

At one point, he spent about 15 seconds with his back turned to the camera while he fished through a utensil drawer talking to the back-splash.  Not all of it was Aaron’s fault.  The editing seemed choppy.  Maybe they did the best they could with the takes they were able to get, I don’t know. It felt like a rookie show, with a rookie host, and a rookie production team.  Aaron took a pot of steaming broccoli off the stove and when he removed the lid he let out a whoop like he had just popped the top on a boiling vat of Cajun crawfish.  Steamed broccoli is tasty, but there is little about the steam to get one excited.  This was a classic case of Aaron trying to force personality and it just came across as strange.

I will venture to say that Aaron actually gets more than six episodes.  FN will try to spin the show as “well received” and allege that it “earned” a second season.  This is only window dressing because there has been so much made of the shady nature of this year’s contest and the fact that they have only found one true star in four tries.  And who knows, it may get better.  Giada was a little hard to watch at first, too, but now she is a star.

The bottom line: I’ll watch it if nothing else is on, but it will not earn a slot in the old DVR.

UPDATE: Despite poor reviews and worse ratings Big Daddy’s Kitchen has been renewed for 13 more episodes.  Read HERE.

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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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