Posts tagged ‘Adam Gertler’

NFNS 5: Why Should I Watch?

On June 7th, the Food Network kicks off it’s fifth season of the Next Food Network Star.  My question to the Food Network is Why should I watch?  I mean, your track record is dubious to say the least.

Season one was historical in a couple of ways.  It was the first such contest of it’s kind.  Second, the winners were a gay couple which, too, made it ground breaking.  Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh are bright and talented caterers from Chicago.  Their winning show, Party Line with the Hearty Boys, was not very entertaining but that wasn’t as important as the standards set by that first season.

Season two yielded the only Next Food Network Star winner to ever actually become a Food Network star, Guy Fieri.  And a star he has become.  Those TGIFriday’s commercials speak to the California culinarians mass appeal.  He has hosted Guy’s Big Bite, Guy Off the Hook, Ultimate Recipe Showdown and another show you may have heard of, Diner’s Drive-ins and Dives.

Season three is where things started getting – what’s the word? -oh, yeah, suspicious.  JAG would have won, should have won, but for the last minute revelation that he had exagerated his resumé.  This resulted in an 11th hour return of recently booted Amy Finley who, given a second chance, ended up winning the contest (just like in a Hollywood script).

Why is this suspicious?  Having been through the NFNS process I know how thorough their background checks are.  Honestly, it’s easier to slip something past the FBI than it is The Food Network.  With that in mind the idea that FN hadn’t bothered to check the accuracy of resumés just doesn’t wash.  I do know this, the inncident was huge for the ratings.

Season four the shinannigans were even more outlandish.  A stand-up comedian who was so unfunny it was actually painful, a boorish elitest who described anyone who has ever eaten boxed macaroni and cheese as “white trash” and a chef who was scared of fish and stayed weeks too long because she was pretty and satisfied a missing demographic at TFN, Indian cuisine.

There were two contestants who blew away the competition every single week.  Shane Lyons and Kelsey Nixon were both perfect packages, however the judges (Bob Tuschman in particular) kept harping on their youth.  It didn’t matter how well they performed, they were too young to take seriously.  That of course begs the question, why let them into the contest at all?  Nixon, by the way, won TFN’s fan poll on their own web site in a land slide.

After eliminating the two best contestants, in succesive weeks no less, we were left with the trio of Liza Garza, Aaron McCargo Jr. and Adam Gertler.  Garza arrived as a foppish diva with serious cooking chops who, more than anyone else on the show, listened to the judges and turned herself into exactly what they alleged they were looking for.  Gertler was good on camera but had limited culinary skills.  McCargo was a passable cook but was terrible on camera; still is.

In an episode designed to whittle it down to two ccontestants McCargo, who had been a model of mediocrecy, bombed.  He bombed hard.  In fact, it was without a doubt the single worst performance in the history of the show.  Adam was okay and Garza blew the doors off the studio.  Easy choice right?  Boot the guy who bombed, right?  Nope, the judges decided to change the rules and bring all three back for the finale.  Aaron should have been gone but given a second chance brought home victory (just like in a Hollywood script).

Then there was the slip on the web site.  Apparently, some web geek accidentally revealed the outcome of the show days before the final episode was to premiere.  The web fiasco turned into a boon as fans who had tuned out because of the questionable antics (the elimination of Kelcey Nixon, especially) tuned back in to see if the web screw-up was a deception.

Rumors swirled about the controversial outcome.  Many allege that recent complaints about the snow white line-up of the Food Network had led them to tilt the board in favor of a person of color.  Others suggested that McCargo’s personality was so amiable that FN brass just fell in love with the big man with the even bigger heart.  One thing seems certain, the judges had decided the winner weeks before the contest actually ended.  Why else manipulate the rules to keep McCargo in the contest?

The past two seasons have proven that regardless of the show’s title it’s goal is anything but finding the Next Food Network Star.  The casting calls for this season were only done on the west coast and the east coast therefore it should not suprise anyone that all of the contestants save one are from major cities from those regions; more than half are from LA or New York.  Hmm.  So again I ask, Food Network, why should I watch?

Recap of past winners:

  1. Hearty Boys – back in Chicago running their catering business and using their six episodes of experience to teach others how to cook on TV.
  2. Guy Fieri – a bona fide star, host of four shows (and counting), and expanding his brand.
  3. Amy Finley – did her six shows and was rumored to have been offered a second season.  Now lives in France and has written for Fodor’s travel guides.
  4. Aaron McCargo Jr. – despite mediocre ratings and less than steller critical reviews of Big Daddy’s House he received a second season then was tucked away in a time slot that pits him against regular church services and the NFL.

June 7, 2009 at 9:06 am 1 comment

NFNS 4 Marathon

Well, it is News Year’s Eve and Food Network is passing the time by showing the entire fourth season of NFNS.  Now everyone who didn’t get to see how Kelsey, Lisa and Shane got screwed can watch it for themselves.  This way they can watch (SPOILER ALERT!) Aaron McCargo and wonder the same thing the rest of us did who watched the first time, “How the hell did this guy win?”

They also get to see Tuschman string Nipa along three or four episodes simply because there are 3 billion people in India, a virtually untapped market.  Granted Nipa is beautiful and very good at her cuisine but OMG!  I belive that Nipa is the Klingon word for deja vu.

You can now relish the quick exit of Kevin Roberts who referred to people who eat boxed mac and cheese as white trash in an interview in the push leading up to the beginning of the season.

Then there is Cory, the professional comedian, who wasn’t funny or even pleasurable to watch in anyway.  During her exploits in the first episode all I could think was there are thousands of qualified chefs (self included) who didn’t even get a casting call but you run over to the set of Last Comic Standing and say, “You, Cory, have you ever cooked anything before?  You have?  Cool come be on our show and make people laugh.”

Let us also not forget Mary Nolan?  What you don’t remember her from NFNS?  That’s because FN execs were so blown away by her interview that they just gave her a show without having to compete.  She was the actual winner of NFNS 4.

But my heart will always go out to Kelsey Nixon who blew away the competition every week and got let go because she was only 23 and Tuschman just didn’t think audiences would buy her as a food expert.  BTW, Mary Nolan was only 26.  During the season Food Network maintained an interactive fan poll and Nixon was far and away the big winner there.  Even today with FN rerunning the whole dog and pony show the hit to my site have been overwhelmingly from people searching the name Kelsey Nixon.  The stats?  Kelsey 21 hits, Big Daddy 5, Lisa Garza 4.

Oh and Adam Gertler who proved to be a poor cook but a great personality is getting his own show, Will Work For Food which will air in prime time as opposed to winner McCargo whose show Big Daddy’s House is buried in the no-man’s land of seldom watched Sunday morning programing.

And with NFNS 5 just around the corner I wonder ploys we will have to endure this season in the name of ratings.

December 31, 2008 at 8:24 pm

Will Work for Food Finally Makes It’s Debut

The Next Food Network Star season four finalist and charismatic foodie, Adam Gertler, attempts outrageous food-related jobs on Will Work for Food, premiering Monday, January 19th at 8:30pm ET/PT.

Adam Gertler shared his humorous take on food throughout season four of The Next Food Network Star. Now, he pairs his comedic timing with an adventurous spirit in the new series, Will Work for Food. The series exposes Adam to the world of little-known food jobs as he fearlessly puts his life – and mouth – on the line to try them all! Whether taking honey from three million bees, sculpting ice with a chain saw, foraging for truffles, or digging a wine cave, Adam will do anything in the name of food.

December 10, 2008 at 8:13 am 2 comments

Lucky 13 for Big Daddy McCargo?

As predicted here earlier, the Food Network has decided to go ahead and order 13 more episodes of Big Daddy’s Kitchen despite poor reviews and less than electric ratings.  Though the number 13 may have proven lucky for host Aaron McCargo Jr. many believe that the same cannot be said for Food Network viewers.   The show is in a timeslot targeted at the 327 people not watching the NFL on Sundays.  Meanwhile, NFNS runner-up Adam Gertler’s new show Will Work For Food is set to premiere soon in primetime.

Hmm, Aaron wins despite poor fan interest and his show gets buried by the greatest television juggernaut in history and Adam comes in second and gets a show in primetime.  The spin is making me dizzy.  For more on this and other Food Network scuttlebutt I encourage you to join Internet starlet Sarah East on her webcast FN Crazy.  But be forewarned, if you are a Rachael Ray fan, you may not enjoy Sarah’s particular form of wit.

September 24, 2008 at 11:35 pm 11 comments

NFNS: After the Fall Out

UPDATE: Big Daddy’s Kitchen has been renewed for 13 more episodes.  Read HERE.

It’s been roughly a month since the controversial ending of The Next Food Network Star.  The fall out was tremendous and everyone (self included) has their own opinion.  A few facts:  Aaron McCargo Jr. was named the winner and his new show Big Daddy’s House premiered a few weeks ago to less than steller reviews.  Adam Gertler has been given his own show, Will Cook For Food which premieres in September in one of the coveted primetime slots with Ted Allen’s Food Detectives as a lead in.  Lisa Garza, who remains the most seached for NFNS contestant on Google, was last seen doing personal apperances for Texas-based Whole Foods Markets.  Kelsey Nixon was the overwhelming winner of the fan poll on Food Network’s own web site and has since married Robby Egan – Aaron went to the wedding.  Kelsey has also retooled her web site, for those wanting catering and cooking classes.  Shane “Cheesey Mac” Lyons, a former child star is currently working as a private chef.  The others have enjoyed their 15 minutes.

FN giving Adam his own show, in primetime no less, is a clear indication that they know they made a mistake.  I’m waiting to see if Lisa also ends up with a deal.  Likely it would be on sister network Fine Living where it appears she is a star in waiting but there are rumors of a possible deal with Bravo and oddly enough HGTV.  Kelsey and Shane are the two that really got shafted in this whole deal.  The final should have been between them.  Despite the fact that they were head and shoulders better than anyone else on the show they were both sent packing for the same reason – they were too young.  If Bob Tuschman had such a problem with their age then why have them on the show to begin with?  And if age is such a factor why give 26-year-old Mary Nolan a series without even making her compete?

Aaron’s show is mediocre at best and at times is just flat out hard to watch.  Clearly my tastes are different from many in the country; Barfefoot Contessa remains popular and I have absolutley no idea why?  The same can be said for Semi-Homemade Cooking.  But from what I have read most viewers feel the same as I do about Big Daddy’s House.  Now, I will watch Big Daddy before either Ina or Sandra, but I’m not setting a reminder for any of the three.

I think they found the perfect vehicle for Adam.  He loves food and has a talent when it comes to BBQ, but I am not convinced he can actually cook, at least not on a level to justify having a cooking show.  Not yet, any way.  If I’m Adam, I spend my spare time hanging out in Hyde Park.  A travel show will be great for Adam, it will give him a chance to show off his talents.

My guess is that ten years from now Lisa and Kelsey are both stars, Adam too.  Aaron will make the move to public television and open a highly succesful restaurant in Jersey that assures his family of a comfortable life.  I would not be surprised if Shane washes his hands of television all together.

August 22, 2008 at 3:19 am 9 comments

Big Daddy’s House – No Surprises

What can I say about the premiere episode of Big Daddy’s House starring NFNS winner Aaron McCargo Jr?  There was nothing special about it.  The same problems that plagued Aaron during the contest are still there – he is hard to understand, seems fake when he tries to force energy, and he still is not friendly with the camera.  His kid was cute, though.

The menu was nothing special.  He coated chicken tenders with crushed tortilla chips.  That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone do that . . . again.  Seriously, any idea that has ever graced the pages of one of the those $1.00 cooking mags at the check out of your local grocer has no place on the Food Network.  Plus, TFN already has one show that derives its menu from those, Semi-Homemade.

At one point, he spent about 15 seconds with his back turned to the camera while he fished through a utensil drawer talking to the back-splash.  Not all of it was Aaron’s fault.  The editing seemed choppy.  Maybe they did the best they could with the takes they were able to get, I don’t know. It felt like a rookie show, with a rookie host, and a rookie production team.  Aaron took a pot of steaming broccoli off the stove and when he removed the lid he let out a whoop like he had just popped the top on a boiling vat of Cajun crawfish.  Steamed broccoli is tasty, but there is little about the steam to get one excited.  This was a classic case of Aaron trying to force personality and it just came across as strange.

I will venture to say that Aaron actually gets more than six episodes.  FN will try to spin the show as “well received” and allege that it “earned” a second season.  This is only window dressing because there has been so much made of the shady nature of this year’s contest and the fact that they have only found one true star in four tries.  And who knows, it may get better.  Giada was a little hard to watch at first, too, but now she is a star.

The bottom line: I’ll watch it if nothing else is on, but it will not earn a slot in the old DVR.

UPDATE: Despite poor reviews and worse ratings Big Daddy’s Kitchen has been renewed for 13 more episodes.  Read HERE.

August 5, 2008 at 7:15 pm 8 comments

NFNS: Big Daddy’s Cliché Kitchen

UPDATE: Big Daddy’s Kitchen has been renewed for 13 more episodes.  Read HERE.

So now I have watched the worst kept secret in history, Aaron McCargo Jr. is the Next Food Network Star winner.  Hence forth to be referred to as the NFNS winner because “star” seems an extreme long shot.  Boring.  My thoughts skew negative.  Aaron did the poorest of the three finalists last week and this week was no different.  Aaron’s pilot seemed like an exercise where he tried to incorporate as many cooking show clichés as possible.  Also, he did what he called “Jerk” seasoning, but it was no where close.  I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t Jerk – if it doesn’t have Scotch Bonnet peppers it isn’t Jerk.  As usual he was hard to understand and seemed to be at his best when he forgot the camera was on.  All and all, it was not a winning performance.

Adam’s concept was brilliant although I may be biased; I have been shopping a similar show for the past few months.  Adam was funny and entertaining, he stuck with the only thing he is good at, BBQ, but once again his expertise was drawn into question when asked why he put rosemary into a dry rub his answer was, “for flavor.”  Really?  I would have never thought that?  Lisa on the other hand was scary good.  I mean she seemed so natural it was like she had been doing this her entire life or least since ’93 when the Food Network first went on the air (like Bobby Flay).  Lisa also credited guest host/producer Gordon Elliot with helping her put her vision on film.  Nice move, Lisa, he’s an important man in this industry.  Gordon’s reaction to each during taping was an important factor on how things went.  He seemed to have to correct Adam and Aaron more than he did Lisa to whom he usually just said, “beautiful.”

Some other things caught my attention in the show.  When each contestant was introduced to the live studio audience, Adam and Lisa’s interaction with the crowd was suspiciously demur while Aaron seemed to already be in celebration mode.  Curious.  Also, it was interesting to see how loud Kelsey Nixon‘s ovation was.  It was clear that everyone on hand knew that she was the best.  I have been watching Google Trends all evening.  GT is a list of the hottest 100 keyword searches on the world’s most popular search engine, Google.  It is updated every hour and all night “lisa garza” has been searched more than “aaron mccargo,” and that friends is a direct indication of who the viewers want to see.  And not to be forgotten in this is the fact that TFN got their real winner of “Star” in the form of Mary Nolan

Lisa, I know we will see you again soon.  There is chatter about the Fine Living Network, a perfect fit.  Good luck.  It appears that she is doing ok already as she is on tour for Whole Foods, the Texas-based grocer.  This is from the web-based magazine SideDish,:

The Liza Garza Train stopped in Austin this weekend. She’s on a Whole Foods Market statewide tour (3 weekends in Dallas, 2 stores in Houston, and the flagship store in Austin this weekend). People stopped Lisa everywhere on the streets. At the Lamar store, customers asked for her autograph on anything and everything, including a wooden tasting spoon, as she did a cooking demo of cod with peach salsa. And she never once cried.

Adam, please consider two things, culinary school (just for some fine tuning) and trying out for Last Comic Standing, you are a riot.  I like the way your mind works.

Aaron, good luck with your new show.  I hope you prove all of your doubters (self included) wrong.  You are a good person and deserve to have good things happen for you.  And, hey, even if Big Daddy’s Kitchen only airs the six guaranteed episodes that is still six more than I have, and I am jealous.  Well, I do have a cooking show available on youtube which is more than most people.  Ok, I feel good about myself again.  Now I have to get ready for my phone interview in the morning with Food Detective host Ted Allen.  That’s right, I’m name dropping.

July 28, 2008 at 1:41 am 4 comments

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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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