Doreen Fang

Next Food Network Star 6 EP 9 – Review

I want to start off this week by apologizing to a young lady named Victoria.  She was the person who I mis-identified as stalking Herb a few weeks ago.  I have since met Victoria and have learned that her mass Tweeting the show was part of a contest and not the result of an unstable lymbic system.  In her own words she has, “won a hundreds of dollars worth of a gift cards to various delicious restaurants.”  Hey in these hard times who can blame her?  Now the marketing firm might that sponsored the contest will certainly need to rethink its methods in the future as their gimmick ended up alienating a lot the people they were trying to reach.  I guess that’s why they call it “new media.”  We’re all still learning.

Allez Cuisine!

aarti sequeira on WannabeTVchef.comLast week saw the first contestant eliminated that viewers actually liked.  Brad, by far the best pure cook in the show was sent packing despite having a better week than the suddenly unlikable Aria.  Another sign that this show is less about finding an actual star and more about generating three months worth of water cooler chatter.  It’s a shame, too, Brad was the type of host that could actually teach and inspire home cooks, something Food Network has little of these days.

Star Challenge: Alton Brown arrives to conduct the contestants in a double Star Challenge.  Two combatants go head-to-head while the other two provide play-byplay of the ongoing battle.  There sous chefs ar the four most recently dumped contestants.  The judges were Iron Chefs Bobby Flay, Cat Cora, Morimoto and Michael Symon.  There was no sign of last year’s Next Iron Chef winner Jose Garces.  Part of me laments Brad’s dismissal last week because he would have owned this challenge; the rest of me laments it because it means Aria is still around.

My thoughts:

Dzintra Dzenis – went home week 3.
Doreen Fang – went home week 2.
Alexis Hernandez – went home week 1.
Brianna Jenkins – finally went home week 6.

Aria Kagan – Time to go.  Please, FN, don’t send home a better contestant just to keep her around for people to hate like you did last week.  Aria is combative and is not knowledgeable at play-by-play.  He gets stuck with Paul as his sous chef.  Aria has Serena as her sous chef and the theme ingredient against Tom is bacon.  Aria almost fails to plate on time and her presentation is not good.  Her family style service is the opposite of Iron Chef quality.  She seems to forget that bacon was the secret ingredient on each dish.  Her food is a major fail.  Her presentation is fair but it is filled with making excuses for her presentations.  I don’t see how she can possibly hang on another week.

Herb Mesa – Herb had a another pretty good week last week.  In the 1st battle Herb squares off against Aarti in Battle: shrimp.  Herb’s Latin fusion shrimp come together easily and he plates in plenty of time.  Herb’s presentation was great and the food was terrific on the first two courses and so-so on the third.  All of the Iron Chefs were impressed.  Herb’s play-byplay is solid but his throw was terrible.  The Iron chefs loved Herb’s approach.

Serena Palumbo – went home week 7.

Tom Pizzica – Back to the penthouse!  Tom does a good job with the play-by-play.  I was a little surprised that Tom chose Brianna as his sous chef when Brad was available.  Bacon, if ever there was an ingredient better suited for Tom.  Upon hearing that Aria is doing French Toast he decides to do a savory version with bacon, chorizo and clam sauce.  That is so what I would have done.  I think it is brilliant if he can pull it off.  Tom first risk pays off for the most part.  He tries to do a steak with pork belly which usually requires hours of slow cooking but with only an hour and his 2nd dish is too tough to eat.  Then the savory French toast – another fail.  Tuschman called it the worst dish in the history of Next Food Network Star.  Ouch!  The concept was sound, it was his execution was the issue.  Susie said it was greasy.

Aarti Sequeira – Had real confidence issues last week and came seriously close to going home.  In the 1st battle Aarti lucks up by getting Brad as her sous chef to take on Herb in Battle: shrimp.  Aarti shakes things up by going Spanish with one of her dishes.  Jose Andres would be proud.  But alas there is no cucumber for her gazpacho so she substitutes with coconut oil – risky.  She barely gets her dishes done, mainly thanks to Brad.  Aarti’s risky gazpacho works and her second course goes over, too.  Her third dish is Mexican-Indian fusion and Mike Symon says it’s the best thing he’s tasted in three years of judging NFNS.  Aarti struggles at the commentary but handles the cut-aways smoothly.

Darrell “DAS” Smith – went home week 4.

Brad Sorenson – went home week 8.

Paul Young – mercifully went home week 5.

In case you haven’t suffered through enough NFNS drama, Adam Gertler, Sunny Anderson, and (the person who should have won NFNS 4) Kelsey Nixon host a rap up show on the Food Network web site called After Party.  It really isn’t noteworthy other than the fact it is hosted by two former NFNS contestants and a Food Network Star who is less qualified than any contestant in the history of Next Food Network Star.

A small prediction – like Samson, Tom will stay strong as long as he doesn’t cut his hair.

Stats:

“In it to Win it” Quotes – 0.

Number of people crying – 3 but can I really count Herb anymore?

Number of WTF moments – 2

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 of Battle Shrimp: Aarti Winner Battle Bacon: Tom

Updated “gotta go” list: Aria.

The finalist who will be going home is . . .

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Aria

jose andres

Next Food Network Star 6 EP 8 – Review

If you are just now starting to watch the Next Food Network Star I’ll catch you up on what you’ve missed.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing of substance has happened on the show up until this point.  So with seven episodes down we are finally down to the people that everyone has known from day one had a legitimate shot.  Seven weeks worth of ratings fodder, seven weeks getting rid of contestants that should have never been in this contest to begin with.  Seven weeks it has taken to get to a point where people might actually be sad to see someone leave the show.

Herb MesaLast week we saw our first truly idiotic challenge when each contestant had to make dinner incorporating Kellogg’s cereal.  They must have said the word “Kellogg’s” a hundred times.  Apparently that segment was filmed before the big Kellogg’s recall last month.  One of my problems with both Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen is that the challenges are moronic.  Don’t give people stupid ingredients and then expect them to make it something magical.  Give them great ingredients and turn them lose.  The cereal challenge was stupid; it was “Top Chef stupid.”  Hopefully there won’t be anything that goofy this week.

First Challenge: Each has to present a signature dish with their Culinary POV.  THEN Giada had them prepare the dish with their least favorite ingredient.  Then there families bring them that ingredient.  There were lots of tears (except from Brad which is ironic).

Star Challenge:  Eva Longoria Parker makes an appearance and of course it leaves most viewers thinking, “I wonder what she is promoting?”  Well, it turns out she is a partner with Todd English, one of the great chefs in America, on the restaurant Beso.  Todd explained that the challenge was to create a dish that represents an emotion that was randomly assigned to them.  This is one of the dumbest challenges I have ever heard of.

My thoughts:

Dzintra Dzenis – went home week 3.
Doreen Fang – went home week 2.
Alexis Hernandez – went home week 1.
Brianna Jenkins – finally went home week 6.

Aria Kagan – Dzintra, Paul and Brianna were so obnoxious that we missed some of the early signs of Aria’s snake-iness.  Without the distractions from those contestants her classless attempt to sabotage Aarti has seen her go from fan favorite to the lone name on the “gotta go” list.  She has gone from a firm second place on the FN fan poll to a distant fourth.  Worse, Aria has garnered a whopping 77% of the votes as to who should go home this week at Kristen Hoetzel’s Cooking with Mickey. 1st challenge: her presentation went well and food was good, too. But her forked tongue was showing.  2nd challenge:  She drew the emotion of “melancholy” but by was allowed to swap it with Herb so she ended up with “joy.”  Aria cuts it so close that she doesn’t even taste her food.  Her energy is low and her food was terrible.  Her word should have been “karma.”

Herb Mesa – Herb had a good week last week.  1st Challenge: presentation was not good and the food failed. 2nd challenge: Herb’s emotion was “melancholy.”  Herb’s mafungo didn’t set up right but he was prepared and pulled it out.  Eva liked what she saw in Herb, her eyes tore him apart.  His presentation was good.  Bobby said it was Herb’s best dish to date.

Serena Palumbo – went home week 7.

Tom Pizzica – Penthouse to the cellar.  After clawing his way to the top, Tom fell way off last week.  In fact, it was his worst week to date.  1st. challenge: Great presentation. Great food. He was easily the best in the 1st challenge.  2nd challenge: Tom’s emotion is “jealousy.”  Seriously.  His presentation started great and then got better.  His food impressed both Bobby and Todd, forget the other people – those two guys know great food.  The best single performance of the season.  Back to the penthouse!

Aarti Sequeira – I know Bob Tuschman breathed a sigh of relief after Aarti regained her form climbing right back into the diver’s seat again.  1st challenge: Great presentation but the food did not score highly. 2nd challenge: She struggled to pull her dish together.  Her emotion? “Fear.”  Boy was that prophetic.  She was afraid she had over cooked her rice, she was afraid she didn’t have the recipe right.  Not her best performance.

Darrell “DAS” Smith – went home week 4.

Brad Sorenson – Brad had another good week though far from his best.  He is still a front runner.  1st challenge: Nice but not great presentation. 2nd challenge: Brad’s emotion was “surprise.”  I told you this was a stupid challenge.  Brad feels like his steaks are under done.  Brad’s presentation starts fine but dovetails until Eva asks him when he lost his virginity.  She bailed him out.  No one mentioned the steaks but the other food did not score highly, just fair.

Paul Young – mercifully went home week 5.

In case you haven’t suffered through enough NFNS drama, Adam Gertler, Sunny Anderson, and (the person who should have won NFNS 4) Kelsey Nixon host a rap up show on the Food Network web site called After Party.  It really isn’t noteworthy other than the fact it is hosted by two former NFNS contestants and a Food Network Star who is less qualified than any contestant in the history of Next Food Network Star.

The final four are headed to New York City.

Stats:

“In it to Win it” Quotes – 0.

Number of people crying – 5 (eight if you count Aria’s kids and Susie).

Number of WTF moments – 2 and both involved Aria.

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

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

Winner(s) 1st Challenge:  Aria, though Tom was much better.  2nd challenge: Tom

Updated “gotta go” list: Aria.

The finalist who will be going home is . . .

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Brad

Next Food Network Star 6 EP 7 – Review

Well, we’re finally out of ratings fodder. We are down to two dark horses (Serena, Aria) and four legitimate contenders in Herb, Aarti, Brad and Tom.  Two of the worst personalities Food Network has ever recruited (Brianna and Paul) are finally gone.  I wish both of them well and certainly hope the glimpses we got of both were due to editing and pressure rather than their genuine approach to life.  On the fan voting Aarti has a significant lead but Brad has been making a move.  Oddly enough Doreen Fang, who was eliminated in week 2 is fourth in the fan voting; chalk that up to her faithful Twitter following.

There was a Jeffrey Saad sighting today as last year’s runner-up joined Bobby Flay on his weekly series, Grill It! with Bobby Flay.  Although I have no complaints with Jeffrey losing out to Melissa D’Arabian last year at the same time I personally prefer his food-without-borders POV to D’Arabian’s busy-mom-on-a-budget.

Brad Sorenson on WannabeTVchef.comFirst Challenge:  Speaking of last year’s winner, Melissa shows up and challenges this year’s contenders to make dinner with a gaggle of breakfast cereals.  FN wasted no effort on clever product placement for this challenge.  Even Herb made sure to say Kellogg cereal not just cereal.  The contestants only had 20 minutes to contrive and execute their dishes.

Star Challenge:  Aarti is the team leader as the contestants must work together to throw a supper club party for 40 hard core foodies.  Aarti decides to throw a party that is a taste of the diversity of L.A.

My thoughts:

Dzintra Dzenis – went home week 3.
Doreen Fang – went home week 2.
Alexis Hernandez – went home week 1.
Brianna Jenkins – finally went home week 6.

Aria Kagan – So far more personality than skill and there is already too much of that on the Food Network.  Best quote of the night was hers, “I’m not that smart.”  Her food proved it.  Her presentation ran too long.  In the 2nd challenge Aria made a comment that she wanted to make Aarti crack.  I hate it when people try to bring other people down because they aren’t good enough.  Just admit your limitations and move on.  Aria is now firmly on the “gotta go” list.  She chooses carrot soup for her 2nd challenge.  Aria sabotaged Aarti’s presentation by interrupting her and the judges were not pleased.  Turns out sweet smiley Aria is just another snake in the grass.

Herb Mesa – Food Network is milking his emotional roller coaster so I doubt he gets the boot.  Herb’s 1st challenge went well both in food and presentation.  Herb does a traditional flan for his 2nd challenge.  Herb proved himself a true leader but it hurt him in the end as his flan was a little over cooked.  His presentation was great but his food failed.  The thing that killed Herb was not buying the right pans for his flan when he had the chance.  Susie schooled him on that.

Serena Palumbo – This is likely her last week on the show.  1st challenge didn’t go well.  Bad presentation – well weird is probably a better word.  Serena does a traditional Italian dish for the 2nd challenge.  Serena struggles big time to plate her dishes.  Her presentation is back to being 90 MPH again.  Hard to tell who did worse tonight her are Aria although Aria was clearly less likable.

Tom Pizzica – Is he the front runner now?  Seriously?  Maybe not as his 1st challenge presentation ran long and had no energy but the food was good.  For the 2nd challenge Tom goes Thai.  Tom starts taking short cuts and adds too much soy sauce to his dish.  Uh, Tom, they rarely use soy sauce in Thai food, dude.  Also “homage” is pronounced oh-modge not hom-udgh.  Not his best week, back to the Tom that doesn’t care again.

Aarti Sequeira – Two bad weeks in a row but her saving grace is that Bob Tuschman really, REALLY wants an Indian show on the flagship network?  Aarti nailed her 1st presentation and her food was good.  The party is back on.  For the second challenge Aarti prepares a green curry dish.  As usual Aarti’s presentation was lights out and her food was a triumph.

Darrell “DAS” Smith – went home week 4.

Brad Sorenson – Not only did he have his best week last time around but he had the best week of any contestant this season.  The presentation on the 1st challenge started well but he got sidetracked.  His food on the other hand was a home run.  He does spiced rubbed lamb with ragu for the 2nd challenge.  He mis-times his food but Herb is there as a good sous chef to help out.  His presentation starts fine but derails a bit towards the end.  Thanks to Herb’s help he nailed his lamb.  Honorable mention to Brad on the best quote of the night, “It’s a lot of fun when the bone sticks up.”  Though funnier it wasn’t as honest as Aria’s quote.

Paul Young – mercifully went home week 5.

Two weeks ago I proclaimed it a two horse race between Herb and Aarti but if you asked me now I’d say that it’s between Aarti, Tom and Brad.

Stats:

“In it to Win it” Quotes – 0.

Number of people crying – 1.

Number of WTF moments – 1.

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:  Aarti  2nd challenge: Aarti

Updated “gotta go” list: Aria and Serena.

The finalist who will be going home is . . .

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Serena

Next Food Network Star 6 EP 6 – Review

The remaining contestants got to experience life in the Rat Pack as they visited Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs crib.  Is there anything cooler than a swimming pool shaped like a piano?  Yep, architecture that makes it so that when the sun starts to set the shadows form the keys of said piano.  Thanks to Ted Allen for posting that morsel of trivia and a picture on his facebook page.

Aria Kagan on WannabeTVchef.comFirst Challenge: A display in expertise – they had to create a unique party bite.  30 minutes to cook and a one minute to present.  The winner gets a series of 60 second spots offering entertaining tips for the Cooking Channel.

Star Challenge:  Ted Allen shows up to take the contestants to the former home of the Chairman of the Board.  The contestants have to reinterpret 50’s classics recipes.

My thoughts:

Dzintra Dzenis – went home week 3.
Doreen Fang – went home week 2.
Alexis Hernandez – went home week 1.

Brianna Jenkins – The general consensus among those Tweeting NFNS last week is that Brianna needs to go.  Brianna was whining about her 1st challenge.  Her presentation was bad and her food was too complex for a five year old’s birthday.  Then she whined about failing the challenge.  Then Brianna whined about the dish she had to reinterpret for the second challenge.  In fact she whined about her tuna noodle casserole so much that she burned her breadcrumbs.  Oh good, something more to whine about.  It was mind boggling just how bad she was tonight.  If she isn’t sent packing then I cry, “foul.”

Aria Kagan – Hanging on by a thread.  Though a fine cook, Aria is more personality than culinarian and there is already too much of that the Food Network.  Her 1st challenge presentation ran long and I thought it lacked energy but Tuschman loved it.  The food did not go over.  On the 2nd challenge she decided to rework pigs-in-a-blanket with out any pigs or any blankets.  She did buttermilk battered shrimp with caviar.  The judges liked the food but they also thought she failed to stick to the instructions.

Herb Mesa – I really think Herb is the best package for a TV star.  He had a nice week despite being robbed of a win on the 1st challenge last week.  His Twitter following is Beatlesque.  Herb’s 1st presentation was rough and the food failed.  For the 2nd challenge Herb’s reinterpretation of Beef Stroganoff didn’t go over but his personality soared.  Food Network is milking his emotional roller coaster so I doubt he gets the boot.

Serena Palumbo – She’s very likable but her time is running out.  Her presentation on the first challenge was a little long but the food was truly a winner.  Serena had to reinvent pineapple upside down cake for the 2nd challenge.  She did a dish she’d made for her father.  Her food was okay but her presentation was good.

Tom Pizzica – Coming on strong.  On the 1st challenge Tom had a great presentation and his food was good.  Tom’s 2nd challenge starts out rough when the lobster from his Lobster Thermidor starts sticking to the grill; he pulls it out though.  His presentation was a little too much but his food worked.  He made the all time best quote in the history of the show when he said, “I just like to play with myself.”  Of course it did not come out the way he wanted it to but by the time he realized what he said the giggles had started.

Aarti Sequeira – Not her best week last week but she’s still the odds on favorite.  Aarti had a good presentation in the 1st challenge until she wrapped it up too early.  Her confidence failed again in the 2nd challenge – although some of the guest judges liked her presentation it wasn’t her best.  Then her food didn’t score.  She was looking straight down the barrel of elimination for the first time.  How lucky is she that Bob Tuschman really, REALLY wants an Indian show on the flagship network?

Darrell “DAS” Smith – went home week 4.

Brad Sorenson – Still hanging in there.  Brad excelled in the 1st challenge – good food and great presentation.  Brad seems like a new man since winning the first challenge.  He remade Chicken Cordon Bleu and did a great job of it.  His presentation was quite good as well.  He not only had his best week to date but the best showing of any of the contestants.

Paul Young – mercifly went home week 5.

Two weeks ago I proclaimed it a two horse race between Herb and Aarti but they were both in the group of three staring down elimination.  But both should be safe because Brianna was so bad, but we’ll see.  If I had to pick the two top contenders now it would have to be Tom and Brad.  Of course there are still six weeks left so anything can happen.  Am I the only one who feels like this season is dragging on?

Stats:

“In it to Win it” Quotes – 0.

Number of people crying – 4.

Number of WTF moments – 1.

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

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

Winner(s) 1st Challenge: Brad tied Tom 2nd challenge: Brad

Updated “gotta go” list: Brianna or Serena.

The finalist who will be going home is . . .

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Brianna

Sinatra’s Palm Springs

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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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