Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Next Food Network Star

It ain't all comics and games at the Edco homestead, I love to cook and have been a long-time Food Network devotee. They are currently running "The Next Food Network Star" which is a self-explanatory reality show. Like most reality shows, the early weeks are full of chaff a and drek, and it's only in the later weeks where things start a-cookin'.

The best thing about the show is its genuine goal: to find that next host, that next personality-- and the needs are damn specific and must fit into a narrow list of constraints. As the show goes on, contestants rise above traditional reality show whoredome and are sincere as can be for the opportunities being presented. Spats and catfights are minimal, and time in front of the judges is downright humbling. Also unique to the genre are the judges, which consist of two producers and a random existing Food Network personality. It is not the identies that are unique, but the methods. The judging is straightforward and every show ends with observations and evaluations that are real, constructive, and usable criticisms. Coupled with praise when applicable, it's refreshing to see the show rise above the mean spirited destruction employed by so many other reality shows.

As the show nears its finale, here's my take on the finalists:

Amy Finley
Often burdened by self doubt, nerves, and jitters, Amy is still appealing to watch and has mucho culinary chops. Wether she can find her center and quell her fears of success is one of the nail-biting draws of the show as it enters the final phases. As for a potential show on Food Network I see something along the lines of Emeril as she definitely goes the gourmet route more than the casual chef. But can she really command the screen presence needed alongside other Food Network hosts?

Rory Schepisi
I love Rory, and would totally watch her show that was born out of this competition. Oddly Rory was second runner up on another little known reality show "Popularity Contest," and it was that series of events that lead her to move from New Jersy to Texas and open a restaurant. Which I suppose lead to an inclination to hit the Food Network version? Unlike the usual throng of reality show fame seekers, Rory comes across incredibly genuine and grateful for being on the show. Plus her food shows promise of being good when viewed outside the tight constraints of the show challenges. She has flustered on camera but she warms up quickly and at times seems a natural. And I can't help but mention she's rack-tastic. During one challenge, Amy even states on camera "It doesn't hurt that she's stacked."

Joshua Adam Garcia
"Jag" as he is known, is perhaps the most technically proficient chef, something that has got him far. The shows producers oft note of his troublesome temperament, but that does make for good TV. I like Jag alot and would probably enjoy his show, even if it was on the heavy gourmet side. Tho it's been stated that the network is looking for hosts who can teach everyday cooking, I'm sure that's something Jag can grow into if he really wanted, but I'd personally like to see him go all out. Food Network doesn't really have a show that's balls-to-the-wall top chef cooking, and I'm talking outside of the spectacle that is Iron Chef. Now that I think of it, Jag would be a fantastic addition to Iron Chef America!

Paul McCullough
Paul is my odds-on winner of the show. While easily flustered by the camera, his energy is always there. His food is appealing and he talks the talk, clearly knowing his methods and ingredients, if not a bit on the flamboyant side. But it's entertaining, and through the course of the show Paul improves by leaps and bounds, which I think is the gateway to finding that spark that lets one carry a show. I think his style and food is a more accessible, alternative offering to Michael Chiarello's Napa upper crust "Easy Entertaining" vehichle but with the same philosophy. For food skills he still competes with Jag and Amy, tho for pure camera appeal, Paul's only competition is Rory. Since Food Network has a throng of female hosts, another male is predictably favorable. And amongst Emeril, Chiarello, and Guy Fieri, Paul adds a needed diversity (and not just the obvious).

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