Posts tagged ‘adam’

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

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

NFNS: We Have a Winner!

Okay, so who won isn’t the news going into tonight’s finale.  Unless, the leak was a hoax or they re-taped the ending pretty much everyone knows that Aaron wins, but no one knows why.  Did he win any competitions?  I don’t think so.  He survived through attrition.  Other, more qualified candidates were booted for conjured reasons.  Shane: we know we criticized you in the beginning for acting too mature for your age but you’re too young.  Yeah I get that one, panel – no one ever wants to watch a show about a child prodigy, right Doogie Houser?  Plus it isn’t like someone dropping two and a half boy-band members in just three years isn’t inspiring and worthy of a long career is it Jared Fogel?

I’m sorry, Kelsey, but between your gorgeous smile, fantastic food knowledge, unbelievable energy, genuine passion, and the fact that you have won more challenges than all of the others combined we just can’t see you as a food expert.  What was that?  Sunny Anderson is a DJ and Sandra Lee doesn’t actually cook; she reheats?  Their different, you’re just too young.  What?  Mary Nolan is 26?  Well, uh, er, hmm, oh yeah, those extra few months of life are very important – you’ll see.

Of course Nolan is the real winner of Next Food Network Star.  She got her show and didn’t even have to compete.  I wonder if she had been in the final three in place of Lisa Garza if her promo would have seen her dangling from a string 30 feet off the ground.  I think not.  I still maintain that Lisa’s promo challenge last week was designed specifically to cut her out, but yet she won the final challenge in impressive style while Aaron bombed like nothing we have ever seen before.  Adam copped out with his smoked meat buffet, and a monotone soliloquy worthy of an Obama campaign speech.

There just wasn’t much talent this year.  There was Cory the comedian who wasn’t funny.  Kevin who re-defined jerk.  Jeffery who wasn’t memorable in any way, Nipa who was scared of fish, Jennifer who had the confidence of Ichabod Crane (not the Johnny Depp version), Shane, well Shane was pretty good, and Kelsey who was perfect in every way.  Then you have all three of the final pair – Lisa the poster child for lithium, Adam who cannot cook, and the winner Aaron who was never was really bad but at the same time never was really good either.  There were also some new things this year – Bob wrote a blog, Susie kept a vlog, and Adam Roberts (no relation to Kevin) found something to dish about.

I bet this is way more than Bobby bargained for when he agreed to MC this year.

July 27, 2008 at 1:47 am 5 comments

NFNS Update – Nothing Settled

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?

July 21, 2008 at 1:59 am 12 comments

NFNS: Bold Prediction

This Sunday is the second-to-last challenge of the Next Food Network Star 4 and I have a bold prediction.  In the previews for this weekend’s showing there is a clip of Susie Fogelson saying, “This is a first in Next Food Network Star history.”

In my review of last week’s show I mentioned that it looked as though Lisa Garza was being set up for failure.  This week each contestant has to shoot a 30 promo.  For Aaron’s promo he has to stand at a craps table, for Adam’s he has to stand on the stage of an empty theatre with a showgirl on each arm.  Lisa, on the other hand gets strapped into a cable system and hoisted three stories into the air and banged off a wine tower.  The difficulty and quite honestly the danger of Lisa’s challenge is light-years beyond what the other two have to go through and thus is a little suspicious.

Let me say this, when you’ve only done a show three other times, I should think that “firsts” are a regular event each day.  That being said my prediction is that the infamous “first” is . . . no one will be eliminated.  Lisa is the heart of what draws people to the show.  The love/hate aspect of her personality is far more compelling than Aaron learning to be comfortable on camera or Adam learning to cook.  So that’s it, a three way tie.

UPDATE: It’s over and I was right, a three way tie.  And I have no idea why?  I’ll have more after I watch the show again, but in my opinion one chef won the competition tonight and the other two should already be gone.  My NFNS update will contain a few fireworks so bookmark iit or subscribe.

July 18, 2008 at 3:01 pm 1 comment

NFNS: Vegas, Baby!

 NOTE: I have added links to TFN’s page with recipes for the show.

Paula Deen joined Bobby Flay, Adam, Aaron, Kelsey, and Lisa for dinner at Bobby’s Mesa Grill Las Vegas before they got back to the competition. Lisa was star struck. Her moments when she is in the room with the likes of Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, and now Paula Deen are absolutely precious. If we could see more of this Lisa she could be hard to beat.

The challenge for Vegas had the four finalists squaring off into two one-on-one Throwdowns with the most accomplished cook in the contest, Lisa taking on easily the worst cook Adam, and Kelsey and Aaron who are both solid in the kitchen pairing for the second battle. This Throwdown had a twist – each had to prepare their signature AND their opponent’s signature dish in 75 minutes.

Lisa went with the French country classic cassoulet and Adam stuck with good old mac and cheese. Many folks may not know that macaroni and cheese is also a French comfort food first introduced to America by Thomas Jefferson. Adam had never tasted cassoulet which did not bode well for him going against Lisa. To add to the stress the contestants had to field questions from the judges and a “field reporter,” Extra’s Dayna Devon.  Susie Fogelson was rather subdued this week.

Adam was somewhat humorous in the interviews but never looked at anyone. Lisa was great – she made eye contact and spoke from the heart. It was shocking when Paula confessed to hating Lisa’s mac and cheese especially after she told Adam that she loved his lobster mac, a dish she had never enjoyed before.  For those of you scoring at home this brings the total now to two things Adam has prepared that were edible the other being chili cheese fries. Lisa brightened when the judges gushed about her cassoulet, Paula loved it, Bob Tuschman told her that it tasted like it had simmered all day, but Flay knocked her out when he proclaimed it the best he had ever eaten. Adam’s cassoulet did not go over well. As odd as it sounds, if this challenge came down to personality and camera presence then Lisa would prevail.

Kelsey and Aaron then took their 75 minutes to prepare chicken Parmesan (Kelsey’s signature) and stuffed pork loin (Aaron’s best dish). Kelsey was adorable when she referred to Aaron as “Big Daddy.” Aaron’s struggles to be warm on camera surfaced again but he did do a slightly better job though he failed to cook and talk at the same time. Kelsey was going great until she brought up culinary school again; something that Tuschman has scorned her about repeatedly and the look on his face showed his distaste. Both struggled to get their two dishes done which leads one to believe that the loser of this challenge is the one who goes home. Aaron actually forgot to do Kelsey’s dish until there was less than 20 minutes left and Kelsey over cooked her tenderloin. Kelsey clearly took the personality part of the challenge. Aaron’s “Big Daddy” chick parm was actually better than Kelsey’s designer version. Aaron edged out a win in the cooking aspect.

Going into judgment I would have to say Lisa was the overall winner and that most likely Kelsey is headed home. But what do the judges think? I mean they sent Shane home last week when Lisa clearly did the worst job on the episode. Will their prejudices continue to influence their decisions? If so Adam may be history.

Surprisingly the panel was not impressed with Lisa’s on camera performance – which I thought was great but they did agree that it was better than Adam’s. The panel also reinforced that they brought the final four to Vegas because they wanted to raise the stakes, to see people gamble big which is what Kelsey did, and then they ripped her a new one for it. Kelsey has repeatedly done whatever the panel asks of her but for some reason Tuschman is never happy with it. She says that it is beginning to make her over think things and as a result she has lost touch with her “culinary point of view.” After this week’s evaluations I really do not know what the judges are looking for and honestly, I am not sure that they do either. Going into the final decision I have now idea who is gone but considering Bob’s dislike for Kelsey I am still thinking that she is toast.

Big Daddy was the first to get to stay (huh?). Then Lisa which leaves us with two: Kelsey and Adam. Both are great on camera but only one can cook (Kelsey) while one cannot (Adam). So naturally they sent Kelsey home.

Kelsey, Shane, and Lisa were the only three people in this contest that truly had star quality and two of them got sent home . . . in successive weeks . . . when there were others who did not perform as well as they did. I have already thrown my name into the hat for NFNS 5 but now I am unsure. What I have seen this season makes one wonder.  After last week’s episode Sunny Anderson (Cooking For Real, How’d That Get On My Plate) predicted an all male final – was she prophetic, or was it informed foreshadowing?  Funny, during her exit interview, Kelsey predicted the same thing.  Watching the extended previews for next week’s challenge it looks like Lisa is being set up for failure, but we shall see.

I frankly think that they need to take a look at what they want out of this competition. Look at their track record so far – they are 1 for 3. Only one winner of the Next Food Network Star has actually become a Food Network Star, Guy Fieri (who guest hosts next week). If Lisa goes home then it will be between Big Daddy and Adam which means they will likely be 1 for 4. So are they actually trying to determine the Next Food Network Star or are they only looking for controversy and headlines and the ratings that come with them? At this point I sincerely don’t know but perhaps they should consider changing the title to the Next Food Network One Hit Wonder.

July 13, 2008 at 10:47 pm

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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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