Sunday, August 10, 2014

Disappointing Food Network Star Finale - Lackluster Lenny Wins … but Isn't a Culinary Star

Well, this is two years in a row that viewers of the Food Network Star competition have voted for a really mediocre personality. Last year it was Demaris Phillips, whose "new southern" cooking was the wrong choice in a world that should be moving away from the Paula Deen mentality. Has anybody really watched Demaris' show? Cooking southern at heart (on the road to a heart attack) is not what I want to learn. And this year, shocking as it is to people with refined tastes and high culinary standards, the choice is "cowboy chef" Lenny McNab.

Granted, Chef Lenny is a "nice guy," and he is a reasonably skilled chef. There were many times that he helped out his teammates, and he certainly knew food as well as any of this year's finalists. But, as I noted last year after the Food Network Star finale, Chef Lenny is not - and never will be - in the same league as chefs like Bobby Flay and Tyler Florence and Geoffery Zakarian and Ming Tsai and Alex Guarnaschelli and, even, Alton Brown (whose behavior in this season indicated he clearly knows everything about food and has utter contempt for anyone who isn't a food dictionary like he is). Lenny is, and excuse my elitist attitude, simply uncouth. He is a bit crass and unsophisticated, and his knack for saying the wrong thing simply makes me uncomfortable. Can you imagine attending a high culture food and wine event like the Aspen Food & Wine Festival, and after discussing cuisine with Bobby Flay or Emeril Lagasse turning around to greet Lenny? It's simply not a very appetizing option.

Of course, this decision tells us a lot about the direction the Food Network is going - and it's not in the direction of good taste. And, perhaps it's the competition mentality which led us down this road. It's a road that has led the Food Network to become the Guy Fieri Show - and some argue that Guy's bombastic personality has ruined the Food Network. While that's a bit of an exaggeration, I don't disagree that a TV network constantly focused on food from "Diners and Dives" is not exactly elevating our culinary discussions in this country. While the Food Network still maintains some excellent evening programming with Chopped and Restaurant Impossible, it is more inclined to seek really low-class E-Entertainment sensationalism like Cutthroat Kitchen and Restaurant Stakeout.

So, I offer sincere condolences to Chef Nicole Gaffney and Lucca Della Casa. It had to be tough to lose in that manner. And, by the way, I completely disagree with the manner in which the Food Network eliminated Nicole first and then made her sit there between the other two and wait to learn who won at her expense. That was a pretty classless act, in my opinion. Nothing would have been lost by simply doing retrospective looks at all three and then announcing the winner from the three. So, sorry, Nicole. You deserved better.

And, to the Food Network: I will never watch Lenny's show, I am losing interest fast in the Guy Fieri obsession, and I am a little put off by how truly "commercial" and gossipy your evenings have become.  America has a complicated relationship with food - and you could elevate it or cheapen it. So, far it's seems you are much more about "Network" and much less about food.


Anonymous said...

nah. you got it wrong. lackluster would be either of the other two.

mmazenko said...

Oh, all three were lackluster. But at least Nicole and Lucca had a little tact and class. It was a ho-hum season for the second year in a row - which indicates that the concept is probably worn out by now.

Anonymous said...

Lenny McNab is anything but a kind, humble person. I have proof but it's not safe for work due to the amount of foul language and sexist, mean comments Lenny makes. I wonder how long he'll keep that fake accent as he is from New Hampshire. And how long can he last before saying something lewd to one of his Food Network staff?

Anonymous said...

ARGH! Lenny is a train wreck and an uncouth slob!
It should have been Lucca or Nicole.

I'll gleefully watch his show at least once, because I want to see for myself what a mess it will be!!!

Anonymous said...

Don't really see the point in disparaging the South and southern food. Don't like it, then don't eat it. You think classical French food isn't high in calories and fat? Italian with all it's pasta? It's all about moderation and exercise, but yeah Lenny was a poor choice.

Roger said...

You make some very good points in your rant above but man is your snobbery showing pretty hardcore. While I agree that Lenny can definitely make things uncomfortable he was my choice to win this competition. With Lucca a fairly close second, though I really disliked his show idea.

Tell me though, do you truly think fine dining when someone say "Jersey Shore" to you? Personally I think of that stupid reality show and am instantly put off and want nothing to do with it. While I think she was okay on camera her idea for a food show was not a good choice.

mmazenko said...

If having standards for tact and manners is snobbery - then I guess I'm a snob. I can't fathom how anyone would have voted for- Lenny - but then I can't imagine how anyone eats at McDs or Applebees or watches shows like Jersey Shore and calls it entertaining. Lenny's behavior with things like the belly flop or the movie monster bit was just crass. And any man who works in food service and literally combs his beard/mustache in public has very loose ideas about manners. And, if you disagree, you might consider looking at the controversy over Lenny's comments and behavior in the past:

This guy has some pretty inappropriate behavior in his past. And that was pretty obvious to many people throughout the show. If you like him, you can have. I would never want to live in the same neighborhood or attend social events with someone like him.

Just not my taste.

Unknown said...

You are right Lenny will never been like Bobby Flay or the others you mentioned. But do we need another super chef like Bobby Flay? Let me explain. I am a fan if triple D with Guy Feri and I actually saw my teenage nephew watching it and he has no desire to be a chef. It just is entertaining. Guy Feri is entertaining and has a magnetic persoanlity that Bobby Flay or any of the other chefs you mentioned can ever obtain.

However, I think Lenny McNab may have some of that too. And, it is therefore my opinon he will be a big star someday. So I am in total support of the Food Networks decision. What Food Network needs more of is people like Lenny and Guy not Bobby Flay.

mmazenko said...

Wow ... couldn't disagree with you more, Larry. Lenny is mediocre at best, and his manners leave a lot to be desired. Guy is actually a talented chef whose "cooking" show is impressive. But the loud, flashy showcase of often mediocre food on DDD is not what I look for in culinary programming. That's probably a big part of the problem in this country - low standards.

But, again, I don't eat at places like Applebees or find entertainment in low brow, crass humor like Family Guy. Apparently, many people do. And it shows in the way people lead their lives and parent their children. Sadly, the Food Network, at one time, had the ability to elevate people's taste buds. And someone like Robert Irvine does that all the time on Restaurant Impossible.

Lenny, and often Guy, do just the opposite.