NFNS Update – Nothing Settled

July 21, 2008 at 1:59 am 12 comments

As I alluded to in my Bold Prediction yesterday, the Next Food Network Star contestant who got sent packing was, drum roll please, no one.  I am truly lost as to what the goal of this show actually is.

The two challenges were to record a 30 second spot for your own show and then prepare a Vegas style buffet for a group that included serious chefs and not-so serious performers. We’ll look at each contestant and their performance.

Aaron McCargo Jr.:
For his 30 second spot, Aaron had to walk the floor of a casino and then stand at a craps table while he delivered his lines.  Aaron did really well for a change.  His last take had everything it needed.  Danger element: he had to throw a pair of dice without taking out anyone’s eye.

For the buffet, Aaron went against the obvious of big blow out meals, his strong point, and instead opted for simple, everyday food.  He was assisted by former NFNS contestant Jennifer.  For his presentation he did something indefinable.  To this day I don’t think anyone, Aaron included, knows what the hell that was.  What ever it was, it stank, oddly enough his menu failed to resonate either.  Tuschman described his menu as “thin.”

Adam Gertler:
For his 30 second spot, Adam had to walk across the stage of an empty theatre and deliver his lines.  Adam did well at this, as he should being a veteran of the stage.  Danger element: he had to escort two showgirls without anyone pulling a hammy.

For the buffet, Adam decided that it was time to prove to the committee that he could cook so he put together what he called his Smoke-tacular!  He was assisted by former NFNS contestant Shane.  For his presentation Adam stripped all personality and humor from his demeanor as he explained his menu which went over well and even included the most popular dish of the day, smoked bone-in pork chops.  More on Adam’s menu later.

Lisa Garza:
For her 30 second spot, all Lisa had to do was get strapped into a harness and make like Peter Pan through a three story wine tower.  The clips they pieced together left one with the impression that she never even managed to get her three lines out.  On the upside she looked fabulous in the sleek black jumpsuit and matching boots.  Danger element: Not falling to her death.

For the buffet, Lisa was in her element going all out with her kind of panache and style which fully captured everyone’s idea of a true Vegas buffet.  She was assisted by former NFNS contestant, Kelsey.  Lisa had a few problems with her menu; she mis-figured how much fish she would need and the ovens cooked inconsistently so she ended up burning some of her crown pork roast.  Still her display was stunning.  For her presentation Lisa brought the house down with a custom written blues ditty that, if nothing else should put her into the finals of next year’s American Idol.  She has better pipes than most of their contestants.

When they pieced together Lisa’s promo it was easily as good as Adam’s.  In fact, Lisa was surprised how well it came together.  Aaron still was the winner of the 30 second spot challenge, but not by much.

Lisa’s presentation blew the doors off Adam’s Ben Stein imitation and Aaron’s thing.  Her buffet display was also light years ahead and was the only one that offered the variety of foods one expects at a casino buffet.  Aaron’s food was mostly pasta dishes which did not go over well with the judges or the others in the audience especially when you add in the fact it had little flavor.  To prove that he could really cook, Adam smoked a bunch of meat.  Smoking is an art to say the least, but this was a cop out menu.  If you understand the basics of smoking then it is easy for anyone to put out a flavorful menu without really knowing how to cook.  I really think Adam should have been penalized for his approach not praised.

During evaluation Bob Tuschman said about Aaron’s buffet challenge that he has had seven great weeks and one bad one and shouldn’t be sent home for that.  Correction, Bob, Aaron has had seven okay weeks and one bad one.  Bobby Flay told Adam that the presentation for the buffet was his to win but he was flat.  Unfortunately, guest judge Guy Fieri got one of the overcooked cuts of Lisa’s pork roast and it came up in the evaluation. 

Considering all the elements of the episode Lisa was clearly the winner.  In fact, this contest should be over now.  There is little doubt that Lisa’s promo would have gone better had her challenge been on the same level of difficulty as the other two contestants, something like sitting in an easy chair holding a remote.  It is safe to say at this point that the three best contestants in this entire contest did cook in the buffet challenge, unfortunately two have them have already been 86’d, Kelsey and Shane.  This point was further driven home when the committee was uniform in its desire to have one contestant that combined the style, on screen persona, and cooking chops of the remaining three contestants.  They did, her name is Kelsey Nixon.

I am not alone in my suspicion that this show is not about finding the Next Food Network Star but rather putting together ten episodes of compelling ratings-driven reality TV.  If the winner accidentally becomes a star like Fieri has then it’s a bonus.  Let’s face it, they already found this year’s winner in Mary Nolan, who if you remember was offered her own show during the interview proccess for NFNS.  I will watch next week’s final but whomever wins I will feel that the best person did not and the resulting cooking show will be another one-and-done for the network.  Can you say Amy Finley?

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  • 1. Olivia  |  July 21, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Now why in the world was there a 3 way tie? I hate to say this but it sounds like they were afraid of booting Aaron off (which is the only choice they really had) due to NAACP coming down hard on ALL media (radio/tv/news/mags) that might discredit someone. This show was taped during that time frame. It’s a shame that this is what things have come down to.

    Let’s face it… Aaron bombed.. and Adam stepped up.. so why is the FNS doing this??? Did they give Shane another chance.. (not that he should have been granted one either here folks.. )

    Oh and if you watch the very end of the show where they give you hints for the next show.. you’ll see Aaron hugging Adam.. Adam back is towards the camera and Aaron is standing by Boobie Flay.. so do the math.. yep, you guessed it. Fear does amazing things.

    Let’s not talk about Lisa. She’ll do just fine on her own and Fine Living will scoop her up!

  • 2. mary  |  July 25, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    It was fixed. The winner is Aaron, that’s why he was not sent home.
    They posted it on there site last night but now have sinced removed it. go to they have a video on it titled food network scandal.

  • 3. wannabetvchef  |  July 25, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    You’re right. I posted that this morining, myself. I thought this season was a little fake. How could Kelsey Nixon get sent home?

  • 4. Dale Schneider  |  July 27, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    I can’t believe it Aaron? He can’t even speak, I will never ever watch his show. Adam was great as was Lisa. I guess you were right about the NAACP. Just give Bobby Flay an arena and he’ll jump on it. The only show I now will watch is anything with Ina Garten. They are so afraid of talent and comupances that they can’t stand it. They got rid of the Deen boys and replaced them with that strange couple. I also miss Cooking Live with Sara Moulton. That is kinda what Adam would have done. They don’t like talent obviously. Just like on Bravo’s last season of Top Chef when they let Dale go. Anthony “I have a big ego problem like Bobby Flay” Bourdain did even Tom said it was a mistake. Kudo’s to Food Network for letting Nathan Lyon go to Discovery Health. Just like Lisa will go to FLN and Kevin and Adam will find a niche. I just won’t watch this loser.

  • 5. Dale Schneider  |  July 27, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    By the way does anyone know how I can get in touch with Food Network to let them know my dismay?

  • 6. Olivia  |  July 28, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Hey Dale..

    Kudos to you! Well I must say, that you and many others have flooded their site to respond.. so here’s something that might help in writing to most likely the producer.. which I think was once again.. Gordon Elliot. Like does this dude now own FN with that schmuck Flay? Anyways here’s the 411;

    “To send a question or comment about our TV programs or their recipes, please visit the TV section to locate the show to which you’d like to send a message. Choose the show from the Show A to Z List . Then click on the email link for the show located in the left margin.”

    and just a side note, Hubby saw just one show of Paula Dean’s (egg nog mustache) and swore to never ever watch her again.

  • 7. LH  |  July 28, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Actually Amy Finley was offered a second season. She turned it down and instead moved to France with her family. Apparently the whole thing was more stressful than she thought it would be.

  • 8. Connor H  |  July 30, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    I don’t know about you guys, buy I’m frustrated because during the season they said they wanted to bring something new to the network, and Aaron’s new show is basically Down Home with the Neelys.

  • 9. mary  |  August 4, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    He has a new show debut on sept 30th. for You guessed it FN. It’s called will work for food a road type of show. i t was in his hometown paper

  • 10. mary  |  August 4, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    here is the link to the story about adam.

  • 11. Olivia  |  August 7, 2008 at 5:39 am

    Thanks Mary.. Let’s hope his show does well.

  • 12. NFNS 5: Why Should I Watch? « Wannabe TV Chef  |  June 7, 2009 at 9:12 am

    […] an episode designed to whittle it down to two ccontestants McCargo, who had been a model of mediocrecy, […]


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Stuart Reb Donald

Stuart is a celebrity chef and award winning food writer. Donald performs live cooking demonstrations and penned the cookbook Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor."



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