How I would change the Next Food Network Star
Having no data to base this on, I would guess that NFNS and the Next Iron Chef are not only high raters for FN - but quite easily rate higher than the shows that come from NFNS and ICA. So clearly the show is a beast of its own that has nothing to do with what the winner does or doesn't do.
With that said - I would really like to see a reworking of NFNS. Basically, I would rather join the show midway through. I don't want to watch someone painfully struggle in front of the camera or talk about some half baked show idea. Rather, I wish the main competition would start with fewer contestants and see more of what they would actually produce as a show. And have all their cooking challenges be directly tied to some kind of presentation/tv challenge.
Viet in this season may be an excellent cook - but I don't want to see an awesome cook flail with being entertaining on camera. Maybe have a NFNS "boot camp" for the top 25 or so and if they're going to air it - show it like they do with audition episodes of other shows. But by the time that "boot camp" finishes - all the remaining contestants should have a solid show pitch, an ability to be likable on camera, and a certain level of cooking skill/inventiveness.
I feel that many aspects of the "competition" part of this show stray too far from what actually goes into determining a good television show host. Top Chef has a lot of challenges that go back and forth from restaurant to catering cooking - but the point of winning Top Chef isn't to necessarily just open a restaurant. Winning Top Chef is an achievement on its own. However, NFNS is supposed to have the winner go onto to produce something specific. And I think the show could do far more in terms of quality challenges for the nature of the show rather than just fun challenges.