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Jun 23, 2008 12:25 AM

NFNS - Episode 4

Maybe I'm losing it, but I think Next Food Network Star has finally gotten really good this season. Hey, I'm not saying It's Top Chef. Not by any stretch. But on it's own, and compared to other years, I think the tests are better and the contestants are better. It also seems last week and this week not so much the "enjoyable trainwreck" as much as an actual enjoyable show.

I'm thinking of the first test and I thought I was a decent cook but ... yeah I can do a pineapple, but not a coconut. Forget what the others were right now, but damn that was hard! Anyone on here can do all of those opening challenges?

To make matters worse I love fish but I've never had to skin, scale or debone one. Bless my lazy ass the market always has that done before I ever get there. I have no reason (sorta) to learn.

So all that said, I think they had it tough. And to combine fish with grape juice or chocolate or marshmellow fluff? Wooooo. Difficult. As for fish and fruit loops. Totally impossible (unless you can up with sour and spicy components.)


I will say this though. When it came down to Nipa and Adam, I shook my head. Knowing how much they soooo want Indian cusine on FN I said oh, damn, goodbye Adam cause they always keep Nipa. Kiss of death time and then wham, they actually got rid of her! Yeaaa!!!!!!

Atop which who'da thought Lisa the Dallas Diva gets better every episode? Although the crazy cook still cooks in very high heels and $300 blouses. (sigh) And who thought Kelsey could turn it down?

Btw, is it just me or with all the judge's recent (prior to this episode) Kelsey bashing seem lame when the 15 second opening of every single Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meals is 10X more over the top then Kelsey has ever been???

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  1. "I will say this though. When it came down to Nipa and Adam, I shook my head. Knowing how much they soooo want Indian cusine on FN I said oh, damn, goodbye Adam cause they always keep Nipa. Kiss of death time and then wham, they actually got rid of her! Yeaaa!!!!!!"

    Geez, I so agree. I am so glad she is gone. I couldn't take looking at her expressionless face one more episode.

    I sure hope they give these guys a makeover soon; the chick with the pigtails needs to lose them in a hurry (and get her act together).

    1. I don't watch Rachel Ray because she's annoying. The network may be thinking one annoying show is enough?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ericandblueboy

        "one annoying show"? Geez, I can name several already, and can't see the point of them developing yet another one!

      2. I've never watched NFNS before. As has been said many times over on these boards, it's no Top Chef, but I also think they aren't searching for the same thing. Top Chef is...well, a competition for chefs. NFNS is a search to find a compelling tv personality who can cook, right? That being said, it seems like none of these contestants, save for perhaps Shane, have the cooking chops to make it on a show like TC.

        With that being considered, I think most of the challenges on NFNS this season have bordered, if not thundered into, the realm of ridiculous. The 1st challenge last night was more than tough, it was stupid. Let's see, they know the bios of all of these contestants, yet they gave them a challenge that there is a pretty good chance they aren't qualified to meet. Nipa never claimed to be a chef, nor does she claim to be an expert with seafood. (Of course, what she DOES claim to be is an expert at mixing spices and making curries, which doesn't seem to require all that much expertise, and I'm not sure she's demonstrated the expertise she claims to have anyways...but I digress) So, the producers set her up with squid. What did they expect?! Each contestant had very little time to prepare for their 60 second schpiel...again, what did they expect?!

        Perhaps a more fair way to set up this challange would have been to give each contestant the same skill to demonstrate without having the benefit of watching the other presentations, or at least given each of them some time to rehearse their presentation. Does someone mean to tell me that all of Alton's clever little quips on his shows are completely ad lib? C'mon!

        I had this competition narrowed down to Kelsey, Adam & Lisa after the 1st 15 minutes of episode 1. What do you think?

        6 Replies
        1. re: BaseballNut

          Actaully, Aaron has the best skill set of the lot. He didn't do much last night to show it off.

          1. re: DiningDiva

            the problem with aaron is that he doesn't have the personality for it. he seems like a genuine, well-meaning guy, but he's missing that "star" quality. and sadly, FN reminds us time & again that, in their world, personality trumps skill. they're not looking for a chef, they're looking for an entertainer...which is why adam is still there, even after serving raw eggs, undercooked meat, and a dish so bad that michael symon spit it out.

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              Oh, I agree. Aaron won't make it to the end because he's not gregarious enough for them. Unless he has a complete transformation he's got maybe 2 weeks left. Which is too bad because out of the whole lot, he's really the only one that actually knows how to cook. He's a regular kinda guy and that doesn't translate to well to the small screen audience.

              1. re: DiningDiva

                i know. sad, huh?

                re: your post below...did lisa say she was wearing pucci or gucci? either way i wanted to slap her. that's what you get for dressing like that in the kitchen, sweetheart. i really want to like her, because sometimes she shows glimmers of a human side...and has made some decent food on occasion...but she just irks me.

                i was sooo happy to see nipa get the axe...finally. although she did make for some entertaining television. i nearly busted a gut laughing at the horrified expression on tyler's face during her squid fiasco.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  It sounded to me like Pucci, which surprised me. I thought for sure they would been Manolos or Jimmy Choos.

                  Lisa's probably the smartest (as in savvy) of all of them. She's actually taken the criticism she's gotten and worked with it. Maybe because she's in fine dining she's got a little bit of sophistication that the others appear to lack. Clearly, the choices she's made in what to cook for each challenge have reflected a more refined or sophisticated approach and perhaps palate than have the others. Even her idea of "Beautiful Basics" is the most viable concept and she's actually doing a pretty good job of sticking to her message. Of the remaining contestants, she's the most complete package right now. She needs to drop the stylized pretension and just be Lisa.

                  Glad to see Nipa go too. I would have enjoyed a show on Indian cooking. She, unfortunately, was kind of a turn off for me.

              2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                Heck, that shouldn't matter: I'd spit out everything Sandra Lee makes, but she has her own show.

          2. I think this show epitomizes the problem I have with the current FN. The shows airing on the station are mostly not about good cooking by knowledgeable people. They're about "good personalities".

            My other problem is that they want each contestant to have their own style, but don't allow them to demonstrate it. For example, if Nipa was to have her own show, she clearly wouldn't make a squid dish. The inconsistency is ridiculous. If you want people to have a variety of kitchen skills and cook different kinds of cuisine, bring in GOOD CHEFS. Otherwise, let people show their talent and "personality" and cook to their own unique skill set.

            1. HarryK, I'm seriously questioning your sanity here ;-D Yes, I think TNFNS is better this season than in the past, but it's still not very good. Would you really want to spend a Sunday morning with any of these people? And, yes, with the exception of the oyster, I could have done all those challenges. Maybe not all of them in 60 seconds, but in 90 seconds for sure.

              Yes, the Diva from Dallas is getting better week by week, but no one in their right mind works in any kind of a serious kitchen (commercial or otherwise) in Pucci stilettos (girls we had it wrong, she's wearing Pucci, not Manolos. Her mistake) and a $300 designer blouse. For me, that kills any credibility she may be trying to establish. I don't care if fine dining is her thing, she needs to be approachable and at this point she's not. I'm pretty sure the FTV demographic *isn"t* people wearing $300 silk blouses and equally expensive pumps.

              Kelsey and Shane are hitting their stride, look for at least one of them in the final. Aaron has the cooking chops (he should have aced that pineapple, though. What a lost opprotunity) but needs to step it up with his presence. But unless he totally screws up he should be around for the next few weeks. Adam's schtick is getting old and can he really cook? I'm not sure what he's trying to do at this point other than be funny.

              Michael Symon was right, the camera loves Jennifer the pigtailed mom, too bad she's her own worst enemy. And speaking of Michael Symon, he makes a way better host than Bobby Flay, too bad they won't give him those hosting duties as a permanent gig.

              These are the same recycled challenges from the last seasons, most of them a take-off on an existing show. They're still not giving these people enough time to show that they have any culinary skill level other than wham, bam, throw it in the pan and pray to the food gods for success. Top Chef does usually give their cheftestants a decent amount of time to accomplish the task. HGTV gives their Design Star not only a reasonable amount of time to do the challenge but a reasonably generous budget as well. Food Network cheftestants are given resources, but not time. While I understand the issue is to test their ability to manage time and resources, I would much, much rather prefer to see them given sufficient time to accomplish the task in a competent fashion rather than the slap-dash way it's done.

              I've said it before, the way the challenges are structured sets these people up to fail, not to succeed. And, fundamentally, I have a problem with that. I'd be much better entertained seeing people eliminated based on the competency of their success rather than the abject horror of their failure. TNFNS keeps telling these people they need to demonstrate their expertise, yet gives them no opportunity to display it.

              13 Replies
              1. re: DiningDiva

                >>> These are the same recycled challenges from the last seasons

                Gotta disagree with you on this one, DD. I've never seen NFNS actually try for culinery skill and tests they way they've done this season. Which is what they need to do: food first, drama second. The first show was pure drama first, food last. Since then the show is focusing on what it needs to focus on.

                No, of course I don't think anyone can relate to Lisa, in the sense that they dress that way while cooking. She's somewhat insane in that regard. LOL

                As for Top Chef, well .... and come on admit, it DD .... there's only maybe three times a season the cheftestants get to cook their way. Between quick fires, team challenges and specific challenges (upscale taco, nutrious lunch, tailgate and grilling) they rarely get to show their own perspective except at the end if they make it, and again maybe a few times peppered through the season, but most of the time, nope.

                1. re: HarryK

                  The challenges on Top Chef may be equally inane, but their cheftestants are still usually given a doable amount of time in which to complete their challenge. Top Chef often gives them a ridiculously low amount of money with which to shop. I have to give FTV credit, they do give their contestants access to the products in their kitchens which are usually pretty well stocked. The issue isn't whether they the cheftestants can cook "their way", it's about being given a reasonable amount of time in which to work rather than an absurdly tight timeline. I understand they're trying to gage each person's organizational skills, time management abilities and how well they can focus and stay on track, but do we have to see it week after week after pitiful week. Instead of 30 minutes what's wrong with giving them 35 or 45 minutes?

                  Cooking for the Coast Guard? What's different about this than when they cooked for the Army (or was it Air Force) last year? There was an IC challenge last year, there was an IC challenge this year (this year's was better). Last year the first thing they had to do was prepare a dish that exemplified them and their culinary POV. This year they had " a jar". What's so different about any of these. Season 2 had a cupcake decorating experience, last year had a (horrifying) wedding cake decorating challenge. Can a pastry challenge of some sort be far behind this year? These are the same challenges over and over and over again with just a minor variation here and there. What's new, interesting or exciting about any of this?

                  The biggest mistake FTV makes with this series is not taking the time to "vet check" the competency of their finalists. They should know whether or not their contestants have the basic skills before they get in front of the camera. Asking someone who is highly allergic to shell fish to handle shellfish is irresponsible, but they should have known that before they gave her an oyster to shuck. Shellfish allergies are not that uncommon or rare. It would have been far more interesting to have them all show a skill at which they are good and have the winner chosen from among many good examples than having one person win by default only because s/he was the least incompetent.

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    Well if I take that one paragraph you said DD, to sum it up, yes they are all pasty type challenges. So you're saying never have a pastry challenge cause it's been done before? I can say the exact same thing about every season of Top Chef, in fact broaden that to dessert challenge and it would be two things they can't do next season. See what I mean? That's just way too general.

                    As to this year the coast guard and last year the army, well gee this year TC did Chicago cops, next year it will by NYC fireman. Again, what can ya say? There's always going to be "themes" that recur.

                    Doesn't seem to me that NFNS is the singular one for doing that. All these can be brought up and broken down to various generalized challenges that we'll see on all of these shows in one form or another over and over in years ahead.

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      DD, I agree with your theme, but not sure I get your point. You mean, once a challenge has been given, a show isn't allowed to either repeat the challange, or create variations on a theme?

                      Doesn't TC have Restaurant Wars each season? That repetition doesn't seem to rankle too many on these boards.

                      Out of the food television arena, not sure how many Survivor fans there might be on this board, but I think it's safe to say that many of the challenges on that show involve races, puzzles, obstacle courses, gross food or memory...yet, somehow each season the producers seem to come up with a new wrinkle to keep it fresh. And at last look, Survivor's ratings were still pretty strong.

                      Repetition of the challenges is ok, IMHO, if they are good challenges to begin with. If the challenge was too contrived or unfair the 1st time, then it will still probably be so the 4th time.

                      1. re: BaseballNut

                        Fair enough, I guess I should have been more clear. The way I read HarryK's post was that he seemd to be implying that he thought the challenges were somehow original (HarryK, sorry if I didn't understand your intent). Challenges are inantely repetitious because TV likes what sells best and it's really, really hard coming up with original material challenge after challenge. I do agree, some challenges are just more fun than others. ON TC I liked the visual identification challenge and the roach coach challenge from season 3.

                        The NFNS is in it's 4th season and by the 4th time around for some of these challenges they're starting to get stale. So far this season we've had a train and a boat, will se see a plane challenge a la The Next Iron Chef competition?

                        The fish challenge this week was pretty good. It hasn't been done to death and fish is one food that a lot of people will admit to needing help cooking. The perception is that fish can be a difficult item to work with or cook. The weird ingredients kind of added a gross out factor, but it was interesting because it was kind of different and unique.

                        The fish challenge really proved something about the contestants. They could have cared less if Nipa had cooking skills, but almost everyone was offended (myself included) by her lack of respect for the trout and how easily she discarded it. That certainly wasn't the purpose of the challenge but her actions certainly spoke volumes, so as a challenge it was pretty effective. How effective is it to have 8 people with no baking or decorating skills decorate wedding cakes, all that proves is what everyone knows, cake decorating is an art and a skill that most people don't possess.

                        I do understand that challenges are probably always going to have a degree of repetitiveness to them, but at what point do they become ho..hum, been there/done that boring?

                        1. re: DiningDiva

                          >>> I do understand that challenges are probably always going to have a degree of repetitiveness to them, but at what point do they become ho..hum, been there/done that boring?

                          I totally agree with you there! My answer is in a year or three when we're complaining about it loudly on ChowHound. hehe

                          1. re: HarryK

                            Uh...I thought that's what we were already doing

                      2. re: DiningDiva

                        "It would have been far more interesting to have them all show a skill at which they are good and have the winner chosen from among many good examples than having one person win by default only because s/he was the least incompetent."

                        Totally. I was glad Shane at least got credit for confidently hammering a nail into a coconut as if he'd been doing it all his life...based on Tyler Florence's reaction I was afraid he'd get totally slammed for it.

                        These challenges are annoying because THIS IS TELEVISION. It's not like Rachael Ray walks into the studio 30 seconds before they start taping and is handed a recipe and then goes ahead and tapes the show sight-unseen! In the unlikely event that Nipa had won and the producers got it in their hands that she should make a fish or squid dish, she would, amazingly, go learn the proper techniques!

                        So sticking a squid in front of someone who has never prepped a squid and then ripping them for A) not knowing how to prep a squid and B) not faking it well enough has pretty much no applicability to the ostensible goal of the program. Would it have been so bad to give them 5 minutes with a computer or textbook to research? It's not as bad as they were last season, but it's still pretty bad.

                        Am I the only one with the impression that Susie Fogelson has it in for Kelsey? Jealousy maybe? I was suprised that Susie was finally complimentary to Kelsey this week, although my wife got the impression that Susie was a little grudging about it...sort of "I hate having to acknowledge you've done a good job..." Jealous maybe?

                        I imagine if there's an episode with Giada, we'll see some real claws come out.

                        Credit where credit is due: This week I do not think anyone uttered the ear-gratingly incorrect phrase "Culinary Point Of Views".

                        1. re: jzerocsk

                          A good explanation for how I think we're all feeling about the challenges.

                    2. re: DiningDiva

                      > and, yes, with the exception of the oyster, I could have done all those challenges.

                      LOL -- that's the only one I knew I could nail. Well, probably the pineapple, too. At least, I definitely wouldn't have lost time talking about the top as decor, not after watching four seasons of Colicchio on inedible garnishes ;-)

                      1. re: momjamin

                        i've seen oysters shucked so many time, but never actually done it myself...i was wondering if i'd be able to pull it off. i can definitely do the rest...and i wanted to grab the knife out of nipa's hand, shove her out of the way, and do the damn squid for her. i just found her entire attitude toward food completely disrespectful, and bizarre for someone who claims to be able to cook and have a passion for it.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          If you've seen 'em shucked enough, you'd probably have some good talking points, about looking for the hinge, holding it so the bowl shaped shell is on the bottom and the flatter shell is on top, which -- even without a successful opening -- would at least fill the 60 seconds better than "oysters make me sick" ;-)