Next Food Network Star 6 EP 4 – Review

I feel comfortable at this point in saying that NFNS 6 is now a two horse race.  Sure Aria has flashes of brilliance, Serana has her moments and Brad is the best pure cook but let’s be honest this contest is between Herb and Aarti.  Aarti has an amazing warmth and more importantly brings the influence of Indian flavors that Bob Tuschman has been dying to put on Food Network for years.  Herb is the complete package – talented in the kitchen, good on camera, great with people and eye candy for the ladies who make up the preponderance of FN’s audience.

Next Food Network Star on WannabeTVchef.comWe also know that Brianna can cook but comes across as cold or rude.  Tom is working the lost puppy shtick and DAS has greatly improved.  Paul’s personality has just been declared a form of torture by the Geneva Convention.  So the question is, does he go home this week or do they keep him just so people can hate him?

Herb continues to tour the ATL with his live-webcast-watching-parties visiting a different Atlanta restaurant each week as long as he is on the show.  This week he live-casted from TAP: A Gastropub on 1180 Peachtree Street.  Also, each Friday, Aarti posts a sneak peak of the upcoming episode at the great foodie web site Good Bite.

From the news of the weird:  The recently departed Dzintra Dzenis (see last week’s recap) recently reached out to NFNS 4 finalist Lisa Garza via Facebook suggesting they meet, IRL. Dzintra saying, “Apparently we share a culinary point of view,” also took advantage of the posting to plug her website, Plate by Dzintra.  Check out the uncomfortably humorous exchange between Dzintra and one of Lisa’s fans HERE.

First Challenge: Bobby Flay gave the contestants a gaggle of chilies and instructed them to create a unique dish.  The winning recipe goes on the menu at Flay’s flagship restaurant, Mesa Grill.

Star Challenge: Three star chefs arrive (Susan Feniger, Eric Greenspan and Jonathan Waxman) to challenge the contestants to re-invent their favorite dishes.

My thoughts:

Dzintra Dzenis – went home week 3.
Doreen Fang – went home week 2.
Alexis Hernandez – went home week 1.
Brianna Jenkins – Which is more important – pretty or rude?  Good cook or bad personality?  Brianna won the first challenge and got her dish on Bobby’s menu.  Who saw that coming?  Boy did her ego noticeably grow.  Win or lose we know one thing about Brianna; she does not like Serena.  She needs to keep that under control lest it come back to bite her.  She also needs to stop referring to herself in the third person because no one likes that.  Her second challenge went well – great chicken but her waffle, well, waffled.
Aria Kagan – Has yet to repeat her week one success.  At this point she’s in the middle of the pack.  Sank again this week in the 1st. challenge.  Her second challenge seemed frantic and her food bombed.  She really isn’t a contender any more.
Herb Mesa – Herb continues to separate himself.  The only thing that could stop him now is himself.  So guess what happens?  That’s a little too coincidental for me where this show is concerned.  You don’t think Bob and Susie asked him to . . .  Nah.  Herb continued to struggle the second challenge; his food wasn’t good but he did touch the judges with his honesty.
Serena Palumbo – Please slow down, Serena.  Gives us a chance to fall in love with you.  She did it!  She slowed down.  Serena has learned her lesson about kitchen safety and is now going overboard with it, but I bet she doesn’t get stepped on again.  Serena’s Italian approach to fried chicken did not resonate well with the judges but at least she wasn’t talking 90 MPH.
Tom Pizzica – Last week was his best week but he is still fading.  They didn’t show too much of Tom’s food or presentation just a comment that he thought he had won the first challenge.  Tom did well in the second challenge.  Food was OK (it apparently tasted better than it looked) and his presentation was funny.
Aarti Sequeira – She’s got the chops, she’s got the look, she’s got the hook (Tushcman’s obsession with Indian food) but does she have enough to pass Herb?  Her first challenge was only grazed over in editing.  Her second challenge was a homerun!  She left her Indian comfort zone and ventured to the Mediterranean with lamb kabobs with homemade pomagranite molasses which impressed Bobby.
Darrell “DAS” Smith – Another good week but is his path is all uphill.  And it appears DAS head an icey patch as he slip back down that hill in both food and presentation.  DAS was slipping into his too cool mode again by inventing his own language.  He tanked his food knowledge by suggesting that filet mignon was a grade of beef rather than cut.  Epic fail.
Brad Sorenson – Another week where he shined on presentation but his food suffered.  He, himself, has said that his efforts to warm on camera have interfered with his cooking.  Back to the old Brad – great food, bad presentation.  Brad’s second challenge was really good.  Both the food and the presentation appeared tight.  His food especially was outstanding.
Paul Young – His personality is like nails on a chalkboard.  His cooking is bad.  What made Food Network cast him?  Oh yeah, because they knew people would hate him.  Paul’s first dish fell flat and his presentation was not there.  Could this be the week?  In the second challenge Paul was supposed to do steak with mac and cheese but he gambled and subbed in pork tenderloin instead with spetzle.  WTF?  Tuschman said he liked his re-stated culinary POV but his gamble was not a good idea.  WTF again.  Paul tanked and still didn’t get the boot?  This whole episode has me crying foul.


“In it to Win it” Quotes – 0.

Number of people crying – 2.

Number of WTF moments – 4.

Who should win based on what we’ve seen so far: Aarti

Who will win based on what we’ve seen in the past: Aarti

Winner(s) 1st Challenge: Brianna. 2nd challenge: Aria, Aarti and Brad.

Updated “gotta go” list: Brianna, Paul, DAS.

The finalist who will be going home is . . .

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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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