Monday, August 02, 2010

The Next Food Network Star 6 - Episode 8


We're coming down to the wire with the Next Food Network Star! Five chefs left should mean three more episodes - if the finale is a two-parter. So let's not waste any more time and find out who gets the boot this week!

First of course we have the obligatory scenes of the five remaining Wanna-bes grooming themselves. We get a shot of Aria looking rough without makeup and Herb whining that he misses his family, whom he hasn't seen in eight weeks. Ok, it's probably only 3 in real time, but the producers need him to give us the false illusion that they are filming only one episode per week. Right. Like the Food Network would shell out the $ to rent that schmancy house for two months. More likely the Wanna-bes would be bunking in Tyler Florence's garage for the duration.

At the Food Star Kitchen for one last set of challenges, the Wanna-bes find Ultra Brite "Smile of the Century Award" winner Giada DeLaurentiis grinning like a fool over the fact that after this week, the competitors are heading to New York and out of her hair. She pretends to be sad.


The final LA-based Camera Challenge is to create a Signature dish, one that reflects each Wanna-be's point-of-view. If they have one. Each contestant's station has a placard with the name of their potential show, "Aarti Party," "Big Chef," "Family Style," etc., except for Brad. He has a big question mark on his table.


The Wanna-bes have 45 minutes to cook, but after only a few minutes have passed, Giada is back in the kitchen to interrupt proceedings. She has a twist: each of them must incorporate their least-favorite ingredient into their signature dish. But...that's not all, folks! These hated foodstuffs will be presented to them by members of their family! So not only will their signature dishes no longer be signature dishes but also they will be seasoned with the salt of their tears. Awwww!

Aria's the first contestant in the Cry-o-lympics as her mother and 3-year-old son, Luka, emerge from the wings with a can of anchovies. She weeps, although it's hard to tell whether the tears are tears of joy from seeing her kid, or tears of pain from seeing the anchovies. And her tears set off Brad and Tom who start getting red-faced and sniffling, too. Babies!


Aarti is up next as her husband comes out with some yummy fresh okra! Tom gets his turn as his lovely fiancée comes out with white pepper. Then Brad, hater of Ranch Dressing, is brought some of the stuff by his little brother Alex. Finally, Herb's wife and two daughters emerge from the shadows with a dreaded can of peas. He is beside himself with joy.


Party-pooper Giada comes in and poops on the party by telling the families to get out while the Wanna-bes finish cooking.

Time's up! Now to do a 1-minute on-camera presentation.

Seeing his brother and the other relatives has made the proverbial lightbulb appear over Brad's be-hatted head. He's decided that his POV should be about the journey he has been taking as a chef, rather than about the end result. He calls his show, "Culinary Quest," and presents risotto made with Ranch dressing instead of cream. The Selection Committee love his new POV but think his presentation is still on the stiff side.

Aria made a potato pizza on which she hid the anchovies in some sautéed onions. She tells a nice story and the judges rave over the pizza.


Herb was rattled by seeing his family, which left him tongue-tied and nervous. His presentation was awkward, and his food didn't have much flavor.

Tom flaps his hands around like a gay seagull during his presentation, but delivers delicious food.

Finally, Aarti is her usual entertaining self, but nobody liked her odd pan-ethnic fried rice.

Aria wins, mostly by default.

The Wanna-bes are then allowed to visit again with their family members for a bit while we at home are treated to a commercial for a new Food Network series called, "Family Style." No, it is not staring Aria Kagen, but some obnoxious Eye-Talian brother-and-sister team from San Diego who act like they're from New Jersey. (No offense meant to New Jersey; I'm sure most residents of that fine state do not act like Teresa Giudice or The Situation. Of course not.)

After the families are sent away forever, the Wanna-bes congregate once again with Giada in the Food Star Kitchen. She tells them that only four of them will be heading to New York after the next challenge, but she will not be with them.


After a group hug, she announces their special guest judge for this challenge - egotistical douchebag chef, Todd English! Herb is all impressed.

Click here to read about his uber-douchy actions.
For the Star Challenge, the Wanna-bes get to work in the kitchen at Beso Hollywood, the restaurant owned by Desperate Housewife Eva Longoria-Parker and English.

The theme of this final LA-based challenge is emotion. Each of the Wanna-bes is assigned one, which comes in a cheesy heart-shaped box: Aria gets melancholy; Aarti gets fear; Herb gets joy; Tom gets jealousy; and Brad gets surprise. As the winner of the Quickfire Camera Challenge, Aria has the option to swap out her emotion for one of the others, if she so chooses.


And she does choose to swap her melancholy for Herb's joy.

After shopping and a couple hours of prep in the Food Star Kitchen, the contestants go home. The next day, they head to Beso, which dazzles Aria. Guess they don't have overpriced, over-decorated restaurants in Wisconsin?


And it's clear that Aarti watches too much bad TV.

I don't get Mrs Parker's popularity. She's somewhere between Jennifer Lopez and Madonna as far as acting talent is concerned. And let me tell you my tale of "meeting" her:

A few years ago, my friend Diane and I were guests at Mrs Parker's "best friend" and stylist Robert Verdi's apartment during New York Fashion Week. Mr Verdi was quite the charming host, flitting about and making sure everyone had a good time. Mrs Parker swept in at one point, all almost 5'1" of her, walked past us without a word or a nod of acknowledgement to anyone else in the room (basically, the two of us) and went to sit near a local journalist with whom she deemed worthy to speak, about 10 feet away. She was wearing quite a fetching and likely expensive frock and my friend called out to her with a compliment, which I echoed. Something like, "I love your dress! Who's the designer?" You know, something entirely appropriate to say to someone during Fashion Week. Mrs Parker chose to ignore us. There was no way she did not hear my rather loud friend, and she seemed to make a point not to look our direction at any point during the course of the time we occupied the same room, in case we dared speak to her again. 

I was never impressed with the little runt to begin with. Now I love to hate her. If ever our paths should cross again, the bitch had better never get in my way, particularly not if we meet at the top of a tall staircase. That's all I'm sayin'.



But I digress. At Beso, each Wanna-be gets 30 minutes to finish his or her dish before presenting it to the Selection Committee, Giada, Douchebag, and The Runt.

First up is Brad. He's making a surf and turf and puts his filet on the grill too late for it to cook properly. He's disappointed in his food, and he is--yet again--pretty flat during his presentation. He's so nervous, he forgets to make the connection between his food and the word "surprise." Which in and of itself is no surprise. The Runt has been told to ask the Wanna-bes personal questions, and she chooses to ask him when he lost his virginity. At this point Brad decides she is flirting with him and responds, "I haven't yet."


Yeah, Brad, nice try. She's only talking to you because she's being paid to.

Tom is next and he presents his emotion, jealousy, as the Tale of the Two Tunas. It's a cute story, even with all the gay hand-flapping, and the selection committee is charmed. Not only that - his food is stellar.


Aarti is next, but she's overcooked the rice in her lamb pullao and is painfully aware of it. She's nervous during her presentation and doesn't make a good connection with her assigned word, fear, at all. Except it's pretty clear that she's scared to death. Nobody is impressed.


Herb comes out and tells a story about how he was a fat kid and hated that he had to eat ethnic Cuban food at home, making him different from all of the other kids who ate crappy mac and cheese out of a box. So the Latino meal he made represented the melancholy he felt as a child. His food was delicious and his story was on point.

Aria must have been too busy oohing and aahing over the decor to taste the potato gratin she made, which ended up unpleasantly undercooked and crunchy. She told the sordid tale of how her babydaddy left her, but then decided he wanted to come back, but apparently only for Sunday dinner. This was supposedly joyful but instead it made everyone melancholy. She should have stuck to her original word.


Later, in front of the Selection Committee, the five Wanna-bes have their last judgement in LA. Herb and Tom come out on top, with Tom's "genius" presentation taking the win. Both of them will be going to NY for the finale. On the bottom, Brad was told he didn't embrace the challenge or the emotion, "surprise."

Aarti's connection between emotion and food was weak. She tells the Selection Committee that she thought she had kicked the "monkey off her back" a few weeks ago but now it had returned. And it was peeing all over her.


Aria was disappointing to the judges as well. The three bottom-feeders are shooed away while the Committee makes the final decision.


At the end, even though Bride of Fogelstein had a mad crush on him, Brad was asked to leave. We were kinda hoping that the new "Family Style" show was a spoiler that meant that Aria was going home, but we're stuck with seeing her at least one more week.

Next week: the Wanna-bes battle the Iron Chefs!