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Food Network Star, Healthy Appetite and Celebrity Cooking Showdown

Guy Won!!! (This also stands as my first prediction about the show that was right.)

So now that it’s over, I have to comment on a few things as well as a few other shows on TV…


The Next Food Network Star
The show’s format was the typical realty-show formula with judges, challenges, critiques, the usual fare. One of the judges (sorry, the ’selection committee’), Bobby Flay, actually works as a personality on television. Susie Fogelson, marketting guru, was a one-note wonder who continually harped on the contestants for not promoting the show and not connecting with the audience. All well and good, but she consistenty referred to ‘The Next Food Network Star’ by just ‘Star’ in a bit of abbreviated marketspeak that was sometimes hard to follow. Pots and kettles. What about Bob? Bob Tuschman is your typical VP who has a face made for radio. Despite that, I couldn’t help but like him, though he too fell victim to one-note wonder-ism… ‘more personal stories’, ‘more personal stories’, ‘more personal stories’. I’d have liked to see him try and develop a different type of connection for each of the contestants — the network is already filled with people sharing how each recipe intimately affects their family.

My only other complaint was the ‘elimination room’. This appeared to be a set recycled from early an Dr. Who episode with worse lighting. For the place that has wonderful sets elsewhere, this looked cheap cheap… they could have just as well done the elimination in the FoodNetwork Kitchen.

For reality shows though, it was pretty good. The major difference is that on this reality show, with only a couple slight exceptions, everyone was nice. Soooooo nice. Granted they filled the cast with very likeable characters, but even behind the scenes, the competitive nature was there but it was tempered by camaraderie. Even when they weren’t all that nice (Nathan!) they were still nice. But it wasn’t done in a ‘we’re trying to be nice’ way — I get the feeling that generally, at the Food Network, they’re a bunch of nice people trying to do good and make money at the same time, and often, I feel, in that order.

(Side note to that: Why does Bobby Flay, a personally proclaimed ‘I hate gadgets’ guy, shill gadgets on his BBQ shows?)

Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger
I perhaps need to give this show a chance because I was seriously not impressed with the first episode I watched (episode 3, for those so concerned).

So I ‘get’ the premise — you can still eat healthy and it can taste good. That part I understand.

The first show’s ’story’ (bet Bob is proud) is how Ellie Krieger’s husband invited people over TWICE during the week for dinner. She has to prepare two meals and still go to work. I for one certainly understand how difficult this is, but…

The first meal consisted of a Green Velvet Soup which was a really great way to start (looked delicious, haven’t tried it yet). Then the second course (Only Two Courses – we were constantly reminded of her ‘rule’ for weeknight dining) was crab cakes. Interesting choice for a main course but we’ll go with it… until she fixed two for each person at the table.

A small bowl of soup and a couple crab puffs is a sure way to ensure your guests will be stopping at the very unhealthy McDonalds on the way home in order to offset the hunger pangs.

The second night she prepared a dessert which wasn’t really ‘healthy’ but it wasn’t totally unhealthy either. It was an ‘alternative’ provided you ate well otherwise.

Her ‘main course’ however was just a store bought roasted chicken…

At this point you’re not really ‘cooking’ two meals. One and a half, sorta, with the majority of her food being purchased since the rest falls into the appetizer or dessert category.

Ellie herself seems a bit uncomfortable in front of the camera, but like all new shows, I think it will be a while before she gets her ’sea legs’ so to speak. If anyone remembers the early Giada shows, she actually looked angry. They each come into their own, but I’m not holding up high hopes for this show.

Celebrity Cooking Showdown
The only redeeming bit of this show was Cat Cora who in all things remains both talented, quirky, spunky and adorable.

Everything else? Rubbish. A trainwreck of celebrity cooking-meets iron chef-meets XTREME sports.

First off, even if you’re going to have stars who have $10,000 a week makeover and ‘do bills, put them in some comfortable clothes to cook in. High heels, no hairnets… ugh!

Then there was the background noise; even real arena sporting events in enclosed domes don’t make this much noise. And people were cheering… for what? Oooh she turned a burner up! (Granted, this may be a momentous event for people who have every meal brought to them.) They could have well just plopped a white noise generator in the background and it would have sounded nearly the same.

And the host, Alan Thicke – who, based on this shining example, should have retired after growing pains – was terrible to watch and worse to listen to. He knows nothing about cooking and what he was reading off of queue cards indicated that those who were writing for him didn’t know much either. And with the audience noise in the background, they had to crank his mike up.

I’d have rather heard the constant drone of the crowd.

They also threw ‘challenges’ at them like missing ingreedients which they had to retrieve from the pantry. Each celebrity could also call in their ‘trainer’ chef a couple of a times as a sous chef to help them out… I’d rather have watched the real chefs duke it out (though when they finally did, the result was not very spectacular either).

The judges were some guy without a personality and some woman who wore enough costume jewelry and had a voice low enough she was the ‘other guy with the personality’.

And the kicker? The final vote was done by the viewers. That’s right, just by visuals alone. People complain about how TV is all flash and no substance, cooking is almost the opposite (though I do love a good presentation and plating…). The food could have been rancid and inedible but boy if it looked good, it would win! (Though I have my doubts that the voting was done on anything that was related to the actual cooking for most of the votes).

If this is the quality of TV we get regarding the culinary arts, leave the foodstuff to the Food Network. They know how to do it and respect the art.

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