Ultimate Recipe Showdown.

Cheflebrity Andreann Geise Takes On Notorious Manios Brothers

Known to millions of Food Network viewers for her work on Ultimate Recipe Showdown, Chef Andreann Geise is a goddess of all things culinary.  It makes since that any restauranteur would tab her to lead their kitchen.  It seemed that Drew and Chris Manios had made an incredible hire at their Myrtle Beach discotheque slash Greek restaurant Mykonos.

Andreann GeiseA glance at Mykonos’ reviews certainly indicates that Geise was doing more than just lending her famous name to the Carolina eatery.  Her Ossobuco especially was generating buzz.  So why did owners Drew and Chris Manios not pay their chef for over five months?  Well, I guess that is a question for the courts to answer as Geise has filed suit against the Manios Brothers.

It seems odd that the brothers would go to the trouble of recruiting a chef with a Food Network pedigree and making her the center piece of the marketing campaign for Mykonos then not pay her.  Or does it?  When you look into the Manios history you’ll see that it may not be at all out of character.

Shortly after airing her grievances online, Geise’s Facebook page lit up with countless others relating their dealings with the Manios Brothers.  They have a dubious reputation including, but not limited to, an employee working security of the Manios’ seedy Club Kryptonite being gunned down on the job and the brothers purportedly refused to pay the medical bills.

So just what is the Manios’ reasoning for not paying their chef?  In an official response to the law suit the brothers claim that just holding the executive chef title at Mykonos is all the compensation anyone deserves.  Really?  Commander’s Palace or Nobu maybe but a no-name disco in South Carolina?  It’s clear to even the most casual of observers that any success Mykonos has enjoyed has been due to the talents and celebrity of Andreann Geise.

Chef Andreann for her part is resolute that justice be served.  She’s a tough lady who once stared down the barrel of a .45 in an armed robbery so I doubt she’s going away.  Perhaps the best thing for Drew and Chris Manios is to just pay her for her work.  After all, foodies are loyal to celebrity chefs and any perceived wronging of them may lead diners to avoid restaurants like Mykonos.

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.

2009 Heats Up the Ultimate Recipe Showdown

Originally posted December 8, 2008.

Guy Fieri returns as host of Ultimate Recipe Showdown as a new batch of home cooks step up and put their prized personal recipes to the “ultimate” test, premiering Sunday, January 4th at 9pm ET/PT.

With more than 12,000 recipes submitted from home cooks across America, Ultimate Recipe Showdown returns for another season of delicious competition as the top 24 contestants battle head-to-head for national glory. Hosted by Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives; Guy’s Big Bite), the series features six categories: Comfort Food, Burgers, Cakes, Hot and Spicy, Desserts, or Hometown Favorites. Each week, the judges crown an “ultimate” winner who receives $25,000 and the chance to have his or her recipe featured nationwide at T.G.I. Friday’s® restaurants.

Inside Look: Ultimate Recipe Showdown

Originally posted May 30, 2009.

We have all watched the many cooking contests scattered across the dial and thought, “I could do that.” And many more have wondered what it is like to go through some of those intense competitions like say, Food Network’s Ultimate Recipe Showdown.

Well Fed blogger Jenny Flake has done just that. Flake is no stranger to big time cooking contests.  She has competed in Build-A-Better-Burger, the esteemed Pillsbury Bake-off and has even appeared on Food Network six times in the last five years.  Flake is so comfortable in the spot light that noted Pheonix-area food writer Jess Harter has suggested she get her own show.

On February 8th Food Network aired the dessert competition of season 2 of Ultimate Recipe Showdown hosted by Guy Fieri and Jenny was there to dazzle the judges with her Roasted Banana Bread Drop Doughnuts. So what was the experience like?  Glad you asked:

Edible TV: You are a veteran cooking contest competitor, how was Ultimate Recipe Showdown different?

Jenny Flake: The Ultimate Recipe Showdown was different because we got to compete right in the Food Network Studios.  They actually made us a set right in the Iron Chef Arena.  I would say this was by far the best competition I have been to.

ET: Can you briefly describe the process from initial entry to showtime?

JF: The initial entry time was a period of about 6-8 weeks where Food Network was accepting recipes for the show.  When the contest closes, you wait for a couple months before you hear anything at all.

I remember them calling me in the summer during my lunch break at work saying I made it through the first cut for the dessert show.  At this time, they required us to submit an additional recipe that could be made from start to finish in 30 minutes that would also be prepared on the show in a speed round.  We also were asked to send in a 5 minute video of us preparing a recipe.

A couple weeks later up to I think a month, they called back and said I had made it as an official finalist for the dessert show.  At this point, we still had a couple months before the show.  In the meantime, there was paperwork to send in to get ready for the trip.

Showtime started the day before we actually went on set.  We had a pre-interview basically talking all about our recipes from start to finish.  The next day started bright and early at 6:00am at the Food Network Studios.  We got mic’d and waited for our cue to go set up our kitchens.  The set was incredible.  We had a full kitchen to work with and a “kitchen helper” to bring us everything we needed for both of our recipes. Right before we got started, Guy Fieri came and
chatted with us.

We had an hour and a half for our signature round then a half hour for the speed round.  The time went really fast, especially during the speed round.  Ingredients were flying all over the place!

Sitting in front of the judges was the most nerve racking moment of the day.  You are just hoping they say something positive.  Thank goodness I got very positive remarks from them, so although I was not crowned the Grand Prize winner, I felt good about both dishes that I brought to the judges.

ET: What emotions did you experience when you entered the studio for the first time?

JF: It was such an honor entering the Food Network Studios.  Right after stepping foot out of the elevator, you see the big Food Network logo onthe wall and are greeted with a security guard.  I think it really hit me thatI was there when they walked us through the test kitchens.  It was just likeI remember seeing it on tv.  It was hard to believe I was really working whereall of the great Food Network Chefs work.

ET: This is the question that has to be asked, how cool was it meeting Guy Fieri?

JF: Guy Fieri couldn’t have been nicer.  He was just as cool and down to earth as he seems on tv.  He spent time chatting with each of us, making us all feelcomfortable.  It was nice to know he is a genuine and kind person.

ET: How has the exposure from URS changed your life?

JF: I wouldn’t say the exposure from URS has changed my life, but I will say that it is an experience that will never be forgotten.  Every time I compete in a competition I always learn something new.
Meeting the other finalists, and improving on the comments that the judges give you are the things that I treasure from competition to competition.

ET: Can we expect to see you on future episodes?

JF: I will say yes, you will see me on future episodes!  It is by far one of the most exciting cooking competitions I have done.

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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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