This year's combatants all seem pretty serious. First there's former Nickelodeon star, 19-year-old Shane Lyons who graduated from the CIA at the tender age of 18. Kelsey Nixon is a bubbly blonde of 23 who likes to think of herself as a itty bitty version of Martha Stewart. Aaron McCargo, Jr., is the executive catering chef for Thomas Jefferson Memorial Hospital; he makes a mean Jell-o and his rubber chicken is out-of-this-world! Adam Gertler is an actor (and surprise - waiter!) who used to own a BBQ joint in Philly. Nipa Bhatt, the token person of ethnic extraction, grew up in India and the US and has a bit of a confidence problem - she has too much of it. Cory Kahaney is a reality-show whore who has also been on Last Comic Standing. Jeffrey Vaden graduated from the CIA and is very tall, and possibly our token gay. Jennifer Cochrane is a working mom and has an aversion to truffle oil. Kevin Roberts is "the Food Dude" and possibly the second-most obnoxious person on the show. First prize in that category goes to the high-strung Lisa Garza, a Diva from Dallas with weird eyebrows and a Louise Brooks bob.
The FN Wannabes meet the Lawfirm of Fogelson, Tushface, and Flay and share a little congratulatory toast. Then they are greeted by Alton Brown in a suit, attempting to look all official and whatnot. He tells them that they will now face their first challenge: to sum up their culinary point-of-view in once sentence and deliver it on-camera. None of them sound particularly convincing. Cory Kahaney, who should be pretty comfortable with one-liners, freezes. Lisa Garza piles on the props and dazzles everyone with her pretension.
The next morning, the chefs are transported from their residence at the Carriage House back to the Food Network studios for their elimination challenge. Each Wannabe draws a colored card from a pot to choose a team mate. The teams then must create three dishes, one each to represent the team members plus one joint effort. They need to present a "beauty plate" plus nine servings for the TVFN personalities who will sit in judgment. All in the very generous space of thirty minutes.
Starting last season, TVFN has tried really hard to make TNFNS more like Top Chef by making the challenges more difficult. I don't understand the reasoning behind this. It's clear that TVFN doesn't really care all that much about cooking shows that demonstrate cooking - they are more interested in cultivating personalities to go around the country and eat in other peoples' restaurants and homes while talking with their mouths open. The few shows that do have cooking going on are more about the host than the food. Personalities must be huge (Paula Deen, Rachael "The Terrorist" Ray) and if not the personality, at least the cleavage (Giada DiLaurentiis). So requiring the contestants on TNFNS to actually execute a meal in a very short amount of time serves little purpose, as they will never face any such challenge in real life. Especially not on a Food Network program.
Wouldn't it be easier to make the gals show their tits and the guys talk with food in their mouths while saying, "awesome," and "phenomenal" and pick from there?
Ok, rant over. For this week. Back to the show.
The Wannabes get to plan their menu, then shop for ingredients at the West Side Market. (What? The Chelsea Market no longer caters to their kind?) Luckily, this doesn't figure into the 30 minutes. Plating ten dishes takes a nice piece of time, so really, how many minutes do these poor saps have to cook?
And can't the Neelys, Giada, Masaharu Morimoto, Sandra Lee, Alton, Flay, Fogelson, and Tushface buy their own lunches? Cheap bastards.
A brief rundown of the festivities:
Shane and Nipa make a pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto that comes out a tad underdone.
Cory's honeyed salmon is deemed too sweet, and her teammate Jeffrey's eggs are too salty. Show of hands - who else is flashing on an episode of South Park? Oh wait...those were salty balls.
Lisa, who bragged about cooking in a dress and patent leather heels, rambles on about her POV to nine baffled judges.
Wee Kelsey and be-earringed Aaron impress the table with their food, even if time constraints prevented them from getting all ten plates together. Other contestants present their food and yammered on about it. Yawn.
After Morimoto, Lee, Brown, and the rest of the Food Network Mooches make faces at each other and pretend to care about the fates of the poor schmucks who just cooked for them, the Wannabes are shipped back to the Carriage House. Flay, Fogelson, and Tushface discuss whose POV is the most pointless and bring the Wannabes out for judgement.
In front of the Terrible Three, Shane cries over his undercooked pork. "A little piece of you goes on that plate and you say, 'judge me.'" He's a little serious for such a young guy. He seems the type of chef who might commit suicide if he loses a Michelin star.
Tushface refers to the bozos who ate the Wannabes' food as "Food Network Stars" about a kajillion times and I want to strangle him after the third. He also calls Kelsey an "over-caffeinated cheerleader," at which she nods but you know she really wants to jump up and punch him in the knee.
Six of the ten Wannabes pass muster and are told they can go upstairs. The remaining four, Cory, Shane, Lisa, and Nipa are made to wait and listen to their shortcomings. In the end, Cory gets the boot for freezing on camera and generally appearing "tortured."
And that's all for this week. Which hopeful contender will get his or her dreams shattered next week? Stay tuned!