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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Cooking Reality

I am in the midst of cooking reality heaven. I am watching The Next Food Network star and Bravo's Top Chef. Both shows are interesting in their own right, but totally different.

The Next Food Network star is structured so ultimately, America gets to vote on who's going to get the next show on Food TV. Hosted by Marc Summers (Unwrapped), the contestants endure a new challange each week, sponsored by a different Food TV star, who then is a guest judge.
The challenges are cooking demos, 5 or 7 minutes, where the contestant chefs have to demo a signature dish, reading from the prompter, following the cameras etc. They have a select amount of time before hand to prep all the "swap outs" since they only have 5-7 minutes for the demo. There is a panel of 3 other judges as well (including Bobby Flay), and between all of the judges, they have been eliminating a contestant each week. I'm not sure, but I think when it gets down to 2, America gets to vote.

My current favorite is Reggie Southerland. He has the makings of a good TV chef, funny and charismatic. He just needs to loosen up a bit.
I can't stand a couple of the contestants and hope desperately that they get eliminated. THey would be Nathan Lyon and Carrisa Seward.
Nathan is SO full of himself, I'm surprised his head doesn't hit the ceiling. Plus, I think he is full of shit half the time.
Carissa is annoying. She uses the term "yummy" to describe the food she is cooking and one time she even said "BAM"! No lie.

One of the contestants, Andrew Schumacher, is boring, but I like his style. Perhaps if he could "kick it up a notch" he'd be fun to watch. His cooking technique looks to be quite strong, but right now, SNORE!

I think I would be happy watching Reggie. He can be flamboyant and sassy, 2 qualities I think make TV chef. Plus, his food looks like it tastes pretty good as well.
Next Food Network Star is on the Food Network Sundays at 9pm.

Top Chef, on Bravo, is a totally different ball game. On this show, the contestants battle each other in both an immunity challenge, and an elimination challenge, each episode. In the immunity challenge, one person is selected by a guest chef local to the San Francisco area (as this is where the show is taped), to gain immunity. This contestant can not be eliminated in the Elimination challenge, held the next day. The contestant chefs have crazy assignments, like take $20, go into a gas station store, and get the ingredients to make food for the immunity challenge. One of the elimination challenges was to actually make a sweet food item to serve at a party at a famous sex shop, for 50 cross-dressers and various and other sundry guests. Entertaining, to say the least.

The star chef and judge on the show is Tom Colicchio, of Craft in NYC. He can get pretty hard core in his assessments of the contestants. Another judge is one of the editors of Food and Wine, Gail Simmons. She in her own right, is also hard core and pretty tough on the contestant chefs. The host of the show I find terribley annoying, Katie Lee Joel, none other than Billy Joel's wife. She apparently has an illustrious food career in food writing as well as helped to open a successful eatery on the hamptons in NY. Still, I find her tone at times, to be condescending at best. Each week, Tom, Katie, Gail and the guest chef pick the bottom 3 chefs and tell someone to "pack their knives" and go home.

There are 2 contestants that I can honestly say I HATE with a passion: Stephen and Tiffany.
Stephen is a Sommelier who has an EGO the size of another planet. I mean, this is an ego like I have never, ever seen before. What I am finding with him is that he seems to miss the point of the elimination challenges, which have been geared at a particular crowd. He does not necessarily connect with the group that he is cooking for, and just tries to wow the judges. Ah, you should have seen the look on his face when during last weeks challenge, he was in the bottom 3! It was classic. He generally makes fru-fru food, without substance, that if I had served to me at a restaurant, I'd probably be insulted.
Tiffany, along the same lines, has a pretty big ego as well. Her food on the other hand, looks pretty delicious. She just has issues getting along with the other contestant chefs, and can be quite rude to them. She also has trouble some times connecting with the group she is cooking for, not wanting to budge from her upscale style. This has proven to be detrimental; when cooking in one of the elimination challenges which happened to be for a group of children, her "team" (as it was a group challenge), lost the challenge. She then had to face the judges, where she basically went off on them saying that she should not have to change her style to please the children's palates. Tiffany happened to have immunity that week, and could not get voted off, otherwise Colicchio told her outright, you'd be gone because of this attitude. He posed the question of her "if someone came in your restaurant and asked you to prepare something totally against your cooking beliefs would you?" You can guess what her answer was.

My pick for winner of Top Chef is Lee Ann Wong, a chef from the French Culinary Institute in NYC. Her cooking looks impeccable, and her style is classy. I hope she goes to the top.
The winner gets $100,000 to enhance their culinary career and gets featured in Food and Wine Magazine, as well as gets to cook at the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen.
Top Chef is on Bravo on Wednesdays at 10pm.


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