The sixth season of "The Next Food Network Star" began last night at 9 p.m. on Food Network. This season, the chefs began their journey in Hollywood, and the twelve finalists include two contestants from Atlanta. Episode summary below, paying special attention to what the Atlanta contestants did. Spoiler alert: Don't read on if you don't wanna know.
Atlanta-area finalist Brianna Jenkins (right) is a 30-year-old chef and catering company owner. She originally studied food journalism at Georgia Perimeter College but changed to the preparation side of things and graduated from the Ecole Supérieure de Cuisine Française in Paris. She also teaches cooking classes in her spare time. Her favorite restaurant is Pura Vida and she has rather varied tastes in food, books and TV shows. Check out her full profile for more, including her unusual answer to the question of which three famous people she would invite over for a dinner party.
Last night, Brianna first had to prepare a meal that represented herself, using chicken and potatoes as a base. She made Sticky Figgy Chicken on skewers, which doesn't sound half-bad but didn't win the challenge; Aria Kagan's stuffed chicken in curry sauce did. Actually, it shared that distinction with Herb's dish. More on that later.
Then Brianna wrote a script and filmed a 30-second promo for her pretend Food Network show, which I found kind of cheesy, because she was all "Hi, I'm Party Girl!" and even raised the roof at one point. It was a cute concept, talking about South American food and how food can be a party, but she needed to tone it down a bit. (The judges agree.) She also had to prepare a meal for the judges, including Wolfgang Puck and Bobby Flay, along with a team. Her course was a mouthful: Spiced Seared Scallops with Potato-Pear Pancake and Champagne Beurre Blanc.
Her team included Dzintra, who was mostly out of commission because she had a scratched cornea and had to go to the ER. Brianna seemed unconvinced that this was a good reason to interrupt competition and at one point said she wouldn't go to the hospital unless something extreme happened, like her arm falling off. OK then. When Dzintra was declared safe for now, the camera made sure to capture a shot of Brianna rolling her eyes in disgust. And so, drama is created.
Brianna was not the winner of any challenges, but nor was she eliminated.
The other Atlanta finalist is Herb Mesa (left), 41 years old, who worked his way up from dishwasher to catering director, personal chef and personal trainer. (He has his hands full.) His favorite restaurant is La Fonda Latina. His schtick is trying to make his recipes healthy--and make his fellow competitors healthy, too. At least twice during the two-hour premiere, we see Herb leading other contestants in some pre-showtime exercises outside their funky-looking Hollywood home. It's a noble idea, to cook while also trying to stay fit, but then he got a little obnoxious.
Cooking his winning mojo-marinated chicken during the first challenge, he jumped around his kitchen like he was on something potent, hooting and shouting random things like "When's happy hour?" I don't know but it looks like happy hour came kinda early for you, buddy. It worked for the judges, though.
His promo didn't fare as well. He called his show Herb TV and then made Herb into an acronym but it was kind of unclear what it stood for--at one point it seemed like HERB would stand for something beginning with "Horrible." Not really a good way to advertise a show, is it? It was also a little unenthusiastic, on the other end of the spectrum from Das' crazy flailing "I'm a smooth operator but not really" promo.
For the Star Challenge, he fixed ceviche with plantains and it went well with the judges, but he didn't win this one either--Aria took it again with her foccacia and baked goat cheese, even though the judges said her foccacia could've been browner. It looks like Aria might be the one to look out for here, although who knows? She could fall flat next episode.
Alexis Hernandez was eliminated. My friend and NFNS-watching partner Bethany said he had a "lady voice." He was kind of unremarkable, but then there's always that one person at the beginning of any competition show who just kind of fades into the background. He made some really crappy-looking beignets for the Star Challenge and they weren't fully cooked, so the dough inside was raw. Eww. Other competitors also had trouble with rawness, especially in the chicken and potatoes challenge. Lesson learned: always fully cook your food, kiddies.
The preview of the season at the end was like a Who's Who of Food Network stars, including Atlanta's Alton Brown (we are truly well-represented on this station) and my personal favorite, Chef Duff on Ace of Cakes. Challenges look to be pretty hectic and crazy, someone gets hurt, there's some drama and someone else (I think it was Dzintra but they purposefully filmed from behind to make it ambiguous) embraces a child while bawling loudly.
This is gonna get interesting.
The Next Food Network Star, 9 p.m., Food Network.
(photos from Food Network)
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