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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.


“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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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.


“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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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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