Monday, August 03, 2009

The Next Food Network Star - Finale

This week's episode of the Next Food Network Star starts with cozy scenes of our two remaining wannabes at home with their children. First Jeffrey and his lovely wife and their two kiddos. They cook together! He does martial arts! Then we see Melissa and her four squealing toddler girls, ages 4, 3, 1 1/2 and 1 1/2. Not surprisingly, those last two are twins. Looks like her biological clock went ballistic after years of climbing corporate ladders and annoying the business world with her voice.

Flash next to NY, where Jeffrey and Melissa are shown entering the Chelsea Market, home to the Food Network. In the FN kitchens, they meet Alton Brown.

Each of them will star in a fully-produced pilot production of a show, directed by Mr Brown himself.

Alton consults with Jeffrey and Melissa separately in a rather garishly-appointed Studio B.

Jeffrey utters the words "cooking without borders" for the final time. Alton puts the kibosh on that phrase and instead they go with "The Ingredient Smuggler" as the title of Jeff's show. See now, smuggling has all sorts of connotations, none of which are good. Some of which are even unsanitary. I just hope Jeffrey will be smuggling ingredients via his suitcase and not in his pants, or in the more traditional place: bodily orifices.

Next up, Melissa wants to call her show "Cuisine Copine." A Copine is a French BFF. At first Alton likes the idea, but then he realizes it's far too pretentious for the Food Network and flashes on Guy Fieri saying "kwee zeen co PEEN! heh! PEEN! I have one of those!"

No, you ARE one of those. But I digress.

Instead they go for the much safer, "Kitchen Survival Guide," which makes that room in the house sound like a war zone. But, I suppose if one has four toddlers screaming "Mommy, Mary is putting capers up her nose!" and "Mommy, can we get a real-life Ratatouille?" you might want to put down a few land mines.

I think Melissa has said that at least once every episode.

After the meetings, there's a photo shoot and a little Q&A, because the winner will end up on the glossy pages of Food Network magazine. Oooohhh.

That evening, Melissa and Jeffrey have dinner together and we hear Jeff say something very honest. "I'm surprised Melissa is still around. I thought she'd be eliminated in the first week."

You and me both. Lucky for her there was another boring blonde housewife 2.0 to eliminate.

The next day, Melissa heads to Studio A to film her pilot. Alton meets her and shows her around the clutter. Honestly - are there enough tchotchke in there?

To me, Melissa seems nervous and reverts back to her usual frantic state. I'm surprised Alton didn't slip her a valium. I was contemplating taking one myself.

Jeffrey is next. He starts out very businesslike and barely looks at the camera. Alton stops the proceedings and admonishes Jeffrey, "you smiled exactly zero times."

Well, maybe he had to pee too. Or perhaps he was smuggling his next ingredient in a rather delicate spot.

Finally, the ordeal is over and Alton can go have a good stiff drink. (Apparently Alton has been hitting the protein shakes. Did you see how sickly skinny he looked in the previews for the Next Iron Chef? Plus his hair looked extra-dorky.)

We next see the wannabes gearing up for the finale.

So here I'm thinking we'll be subjected to a good portion of the two pilots when Bobby brings out all of the rejected wannabes. Instead, we get a mini reunion. First, we see the quirks of some of the rejects: Brett has a nickname for everyone; Katie dances like a fool; Melissa likes to talk about lactation; Eddie just likes to talk; Jeffrey winks at everyone, including Michael Symon.

After that, we get a heartwarming montage on the friendships made during the taping of the series. Michael and Katie are BFFs! Eddie and Teddy have a rhyming bromance! Jeffrey and Melissa are great buddies too!

Gag.

Finally, they show a few moments of the pilots. Melissa first. Her show seems entirely too much like Rachael Ray, and Melissa's voice is similarly annoying. And she cooks boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Why, for the love of all that is holy, do we need to see yet another recipe for flavorless food?

Jeffrey's show, on the other hand, is something I wouldn't mind watching. He made beef, seasoned with the spicy North African condiment known as harissa, served on bread with sautéed onions and lots of spicy mayo. Real food with real flavor. Flavor? We can't have that on the Food Network!

But first, they have to ask Melissa and Jeffrey why they deserve to be the Next Food Network Star. Melissa insists she has a POV that only she can deliver, and like a good comedian, nobody can steal her material. Huh? You mean there aren't any other television cooks who make quick meals for harried homemakers?

Jeffrey jumps up and insists he was born to do this, that he's going to inspire people to make food a great part of their lives, blah blah blah blahdy blah blah.

At that, the selection committee runs offstage and leaves all of the wannabes alone with a studio audience. I'd love to know what happened out there while we had to see this:

They iterated it was a tough decision. The most difficult deliberation ever in 5 seasons of this schlock. The Selection Committee comes back on stage and introduces the president of the Food Network, Brooke Johnson. She tells Jeffrey and Melissa that one of them will have to come back the next day to start taping his or her new show which will air next week! "Next week" in magic TV time, that is. Who knows when they actually taped this episode.

And the winner is....

Melissa.

But you all saw that coming, didn't you? I know I did. Why pick the calm, mild-mannered, somewhat interesting, professionally-trained cook (Jeffrey) when you can have the brassy, hyper, large-toothed, home cook with an annoying voice? (That would be Melissa.) The Food Network knows that annoying somehow works for the LCD viewers, and to hell with the rest of us who would like to watch intelligent television.

Bah.

Anyway...in a few weeks, I'll be recapping Top Chef Las Vegas, so stay tuned!