Monday, July 14, 2014

Next Food Network Star Sends Chris Kyler Home in Las Vegas

What happens in Vegas usually stays in Vegas. But on the Food Network's Next Food Network Star, caterer Chris Kyler will not be staying in Vegas, having been eliminated in the seventh episode after repeatedly failing to meet the expectations of his point of view. Chris is certainly an engaging personality and a reasonably competent cook. However, his plan to "elevate" comfort food for the masses never caught on, and he ultimately was sent home for being as inconsistent as his food, the overdone tenderloin being the last chance.

The loser could easily have been Sarah Penrod, the chef from Texas, who somehow comes across with a bubbly personality, but has never accurately met the expectations of her point of view about "Texas cooking." Whether she's mistakenly making a "Texas rub" pork tenderloin or trying to pair Texas and baby food, Sarah has regularly proved why she was eliminated in a previous season before ever making the finals. Sarah, in my opinion, is a less competent chef and personality than Chris or others who have been eliminated, but somehow stays around. She won't be the Next Food Network Star.

For my money, the clear winner at this point is the all-natural, easy-going, Farm-to-Table chef Emma Frisch. Emma has clearly had some hiccups, and she isn't an over-the-top personality like some. But she is the most consistent and competent chef. At the pool party in Vegas, she won over the crowd to be sure, but lost out in the chips contest because a bunch of young Vegas partiers didn't want to create their own satay. They wanted burgers to be sure - a fact that served Lenny well, but doesn't truly indicate that he was the best of the day.

And, Lenny continues to rub me the wrong way for a variety of reasons. First of all, any chef who regularly combs out his facial hair in public is a tad too … unsophisticated, if not actually disgusting, to be a culinary model. Lenny, that is simply gross, and you have lost a lot of favor with me for that. Truly, Lenny can cook. And his lamb burger presentation was something I would have tried for sure. That said, selling burgers to a Vegas pool crowd is about as tough as selling cheap beer at the ballpark. It really didn't prove he was the best - simply that people wanted burgers. Beyond that, the belly flop in the pool was … too much. While it may have been funny, Lenny needs to develop a bit of modesty and not unbutton his shirt (twice on this show!) and act as if people watching a culinary show want to, or should, see that.  I love Emeril and Mario's cooking and personalities - but I never want them to go shirtless. And they have enough class not to do that. Now, I understand the challenges of weight loss, especially in the culinary world, and I am not "fat shaming" him here. But, Lenny, don't take off your shirt in public …. ever.

Other contestants continue to be adequate. Lucca returned to the cheers of his fellow competitors … and the swoons of the female pool party guests, including the giddiest of all, Giada. But he won't be able to sustain a show in any reasonable way. Nicole continues to be pretty good, but made a foolish mistake in substituting prosciutto for sarrano ham … and inexplicably not telling the audience. What were you thinking, Nicole. It would have been an easy teachable moment. I think Nicole is a lot like Season 9 finalist, Stacey Poon-Kinney - polished and effective, but ultimately just not right for a show. Loreal Gavin is also just sort of not all there. She is entertaining enough - but I would never actually watch her show.

And, speaking of watching the winner's shows, have you ever wondered what happened to Season 8 winner and fan favorite, Justin Warner?  What ever happened to his show? The reality is that it seems the Food Network is not actually in the business of creating new stars or developing their shows. The "Show" to find a Food Network Star is actually the star - and ratings grabber - itself.  Truly, other than Guy Fieri, the show has never been designed to or succeeded at finding and producing talent. Truly, the Sandwich King has been reasonably successful. Jeff Mauro is truly a Food Network Star, and could be as successful as the network wants to make him.  But people like Demaris Philips or Arti or Justin or this year's winner are not being set up for a chance at culinary stardom. The Food Network is not as much about the culinary arts, as it is about a network making lots of money - a point well-researched and examined in the following book - From Scratch:

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