Shane Lyons

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.

Review: Kid in a Candy Store

Adam Gertler on WannabeTVchef.comThis is going to be a very short review.  Because the show isn’t any good?  No, not really.  It’s because the newest show from Food Network, Kid in a Candy Store, isn’t new.  Adam Gertler is just as charming as he was when he (and three other people) should have beaten out Aaron McCargo Jr. on NFNS 4.  It’s the format of the show.  There is nothing really new about it.

If you liked Food Finds, Will Work For Food, Unwrapped, Food Tech, Road Tasted (with either the Neely’s or the Deen’s), Man vs. Food, FoodCrafters, Unique Eats, Follow That Food or How’d That Get on My Plate? then you’ll like Kid in a Candy Store.  It is pretty much those shows.  Only it’s just about desserts.  I’m sure for those of you with strong sweet teeth it will be a fun variation of a tried and true formula with an amusing and talented host.  As for me, I’m not a big dessert guy.  My idea of the perfect dessert is a second cheeseburger.

It is certainly better than Cupcake Wars.

Be sure to check out this recent interview with Adam Gertler.

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Adam Gertler is a “Kid in a Candy Store”

Food Network’s new sweet treat, Kid in a Candy Store, is set to debut July 12 with NFNS 4 alum Adam Gertler playing the part of a real life Willy Wonka.  To help publicize the series the folks at FoodNetwork.com did a great interview with Adam that touches on his NFNS days and what he’s done since the show ended.  Here’s a taste:

Where are you living and working now?

Kid in a Candy Store Adam Gertler on WannabeTVchef.comI’m currently living in Venice Beach, Calif., which has led to much ridicule from my East Coast friends for being a “sellout.” I will accept this moniker in exchange for the weather and being six blocks from the beach. I work (if one could call it that) all over the country in any given city on any given day.

What have you been up to since NFNS?

I began my Food Network show, Will Work for Food, right after NFNS4, and I feel like I’m still stuck in the whirlwind. I did a special for FN called Extreme Sweets, followed by a series of “Freaky” specials for Fine Living Network, including Freakiest Festivals, Freakiest Foods and Freakiest Vacations. These have all been travel shows mostly involving the world of food throughout the country.

I recently participated in episodes of Food Network Challenge and Chefs Vs. City, both of which were incredibly fun and educational experiences. Most recently I began working on Kid In A Candy Store for The Food Network. This is a show where we travel the country to discover the most delicious, creative and unusual desserts out there, which reminds me I have to call my dentist today and schedule an appointment.

What was your favorite thing about being on NFNS? And your least favorite?

I met some friends that I plan on having for the rest of my life. I got to bring the two things I love to do most in this world together and somebody put it on camera. It would be an understatement to say that being on the show was a life-changing experience. My least favorite thing about being on the show was watching the mistakes that I made on TV and just kicking myself. I often found myself saying, “Dude, did you really just do that?”, “What were you thinking?”, “Why weren’t you thinking?” and many other incredulous reactions to my behavior.

Do you keep in touch with other finalists?

I do still keep in touch with several of the finalists from my season. In the past few months I’ve hung out with Lisa Garza, Kevin Roberts, Shane Lyons and, of course, Big Daddy himself, Aaron McCargo Jr., who is just the coolest, truest, most talented dude. I’d be on his team any day.

What was the funniest/coolest/weirdest (or worst!) incident to happen behind the scenes?

READ THE REST

NFNS 4 Marathon

Originally published December 31, 2008.

Well, it is News Year’s Eve and Food Network is passing the time by showing the entire fourth season of NFNS.  Now everyone who didn’t get to see how Kelsey, Lisa and Shane got screwed can watch it for themselves.  This way they can watch (SPOILER ALERT!) Aaron McCargo and wonder the same thing the rest of us did who watched the first time, “How the hell did this guy win?”

They also get to see Tuschman string Nipa along three or four episodes simply because there are 3 billion people in India, a virtually untapped market.  Granted Nipa is beautiful and very good at her cuisine but OMG!  I belive that “Nipa” is the Klingon word for deja vu.

You can now relish the quick exit of Kevin Roberts who referred to people who eat boxed mac and cheese as white trash in an interview in the push leading up to the beginning of the season.

Then there is Cory, the professional comedian, who wasn’t funny or even pleasurable to watch in anyway.  During her exploits in the first episode all I could think was there are thousands of qualified chefs (self included) who didn’t even get a casting call but you run over to the set of Last Comic Standing and say, “You, Cory, have you ever cooked anything before?  You have?  Cool come be on our show and make people laugh.”

Let us also not forget Mary Nolan?  What you don’t remember her from NFNS?  That’s because FN execs were so blown away by her interview that they just gave her a show without having to compete.  She was the actual winner of NFNS 4.

But my heart will always go out to Kelsey Nixon who blew away the competition every week and got let go because she was only 23 and Tuschman just didn’t think audiences would buy her as a food expert.  BTW, Mary Nolan was only 26.  During the season Food Network maintained an interactive fan poll and Nixon was far and away the big winner there.  Even today with FN rerunning the whole dog and pony show the hit to my site have been overwhelmingly from people searching the name Kelsey Nixon.  The stats?  Kelsey 21 hits, Big Daddy 5, Lisa Garza 4.

Oh and Adam Gertler who proved to be a poor cook but a great personality is getting his own show, Will Work For Food which will air in prime time as opposed to winner McCargo whose show Big Daddy’s House is buried in the no-man’s land of seldom watched Sunday morning programing.

And with NFNS 5 just around the corner I wonder what ploys we will have to endure this season in the name of ratings.

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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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