NFNS 5 Finale

August 3, 2009 at 3:19 pm 1 comment

They finally got it right. For the first time in three years the two best contestants made it to the finale. Was Melissa a better choice than Jeffrey? I’m sure that question will occupy many a forum for quite some time.

For me, I would have preferred Jeffrey’s show. He is the consummate technician. No one in this show was a better cook than Jeffrey Saad. His creativity, his execution and especially his knowledge appealed to me. But I am in the industry so I do not look at food television the same way home cooks do. I want something new.

Melissa represents a proven cooking show format. It has been a cornerstone of the Food Network’s programming from its conception. It is the quick-and-easy-recipes-for-the-family-on-the-go format. First it appeared in the form of How To Boil Water, then continued with Sarah’s Secrets, Thirty-Minute Meals, Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller, Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee and Jamie at Home to name a few.

It is my belief that Melissa d’Arabian will excel in this format. Her background and her spunk make for an engaging host. She has a lot to teach the home cook and occasionally even a grizzled old veteran like me. I wish her the best of luck.

This is not the last we have seen of Jeffrey Saad either. Alton Brown was right, both contestants were stars in the making. Jeffrey has two built-in audiences, culinary professionals and women. Every female judge beamed whenever Jeffrey spoke, nowhere was that more evident than in episode 8 in Miami.

When Jeffrey walked into the dining room to present his three-course meal all of the women noticeably sat up in their chairs, especially Susie Fogelson. Her body language betrayed her physical attraction as she turned her chair to face him and crossed her legs kicking her foot directly in his direction. The half moaned, “yes” she uttered upon his entering the room was a more tangible clue. Even during the final episode Fogelson stared glassy-eyed at the screen as Jeffrey’s pilot played. Perhaps we’ll see Saad bringing a little youth to sister network Fine Living.

Throughout the contest I, like many others, took the position that if Debbie Lee won I would not support her show and would likely wash my hands to NFNS as well. In chat rooms around the web the prevailing question was , “Why do they keep Debbie when she’s such a snake?” Then it came to me that there was no way they were going to give Debbie a show. They have seen her underhanded ways since the first episode and knew that their audience would not like her. In fact, they were betting that people would hate her and hate is a powerful emotion. It compels people to watch a TV show just to see the person they hate get theirs. Did it work? Who knows.

Interest in the contest is notably down from past years. It did not find its way into very many water cooler discussions.  Very few of my foodie friends bothered to watch this season; many were put off by the seedy outcomes the past two years. The numbers of people reading my blogs of each episode is drastically down as well. Of course that could just be a reflection on my skills as a blogger. Is it possible that the public’s interest in all reality cooking shows is waning? Top Chef: Masters is not bringing in the Nielsen ratings that its blue collar forerunner has.

The one great irony of this season for me was that the winner was from Keller, TX. Why is this important? Because the casting calls for this season were limited to either East Coast or West Coast cities. If someone from the middle of the country wanted to attend an audition they would have to travel halfway across the continent. If you’re going to make that kind of sacrifice they’d better give you a show. Right, Melissa?

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1 Comment

  • 1. Shareen Kobus  |  August 22, 2009 at 9:08 am

    I must say that I agree with you completely on your assessment of this years choices and the recent past two year’s winners – I stopped tuning in to the entire foodnetwork as they did not appeal to me in the least. Melissa’s time slot is weak; I remember when the two men who won a few years ago had this same slot; I miss them, they were very likeable and has some terrific concepts. I wish both melissa and Jeffrey every success and hope to be inspired with their creativity and love for life and family…refreshing in the difficult time we are living in. thanks for the blog – love it.


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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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