Monday, May 14, 2012

Next Food Network Star - Episode 1 Recap

Last night, Season 8 of The Next Food Network Star premiered with a 2 hour episode.  As stated before, the format of this years season is a bit different, as there are three teams of 5 contestants each, with Bobby Flay, Alton Brown, and Giada De Laurentiis each mentoring their own team that they hand selected.

Next Food Network StarThe episode began with each contestant coming out for their respective teams, which gave the other mentors a look at their competition.  Of course, none of the mentors were impressed with the other team members and preferred their teams over the others.

Team Alton consists of: Cristie Schoen (blonde southern girl who cooks healthy), Emily Ellyn (energetic blonde hipster with glasses), Judson Allen(self-taught chef, who just lost 100 pounds), Justin Warner(young self-taught chef from Brooklyn), and Martie Duncan(older contestant who didn't get much air time).

Team Giada consists of: Josh Lyons (former rockstar with tons of energy), Linkie Marais (South African cake decorator), Martita Jara (Latin cook), Philip "Ippy" Aiona (Hawaiian chef), and Yvan Lemoine (moved from Venezuela).

Lastly Team Bobby: Eric Lee (Asian chef who left his job to compete), Kara Sigle (fitness guru chef), Malcolm Mitchell (formerly in the Navy who cooks soulful recipes), Michele Ragussis (Short blonde hair, very energetic, and also won a Chopped episode), and Nikki Martin ('Girl on Grill' girl).

In the first challenge of the season, the contestants got their instructions from special guest Robert Irvine, in which each team needed to open up a restaurant with very little time and money.  Each contestant was responsible for 1 course during the meal.  They first had to pitch their restaurants to the public with a short presentation, and then serve the judges and other patrons each of their courses.

When Team Giada, came out, rocker Josh did a cartwheel to start the presentation, which didn't impress anyone - strike 1.  Then for his dish, he wanted to cook a dumpling soup.  He forgot to get eggs at the store, a key ingredient in dumplings, but still went ahead and cooked the dish - strike 2.  Also, Josh put way too much oil in his soup which had Robert Irvine cringing when he tasted it - strike 3.  After these mistakes, Josh was destined to be in the bottom two facing elimination, which he ended up being in.  Another error for Team Giada was Linkie making a Key lime pie.  As their restaurant theme was California, and key lime pie is from Florida, that didn't make much sense to begin with.  Also, the judges compared her pie to cafeteria quality food, which doesn't bode well for someone who decorates cakes for a living.  The other 3 members of team Giada held their own, with Philip "Ippy" impressing the judges with his dish.  I think Philip and Martita will be the members carrying Team Giada.

Team Alton had a few good dishes and a few bad dishes as well.  Healthy southern chef Cristie, was in charge of soup, which came out looking like a thick bowl of refried beans.  The judges didn't like this at all and Cristie also ended up in the Bottom 2 for this dish.  It looks like Emily, Justin, and possibly Judson will be the ones carrying Alton's team.  Martie doesn't seem to stand out in any way, but it is only the first episode.

Team Bobby ended up winning the first challenge, meaning they didn't have to face elimination, more due to the meal they cooked, rather than their personalities. However, Michele was very energetic, which the judges loved, and they also loved her mussels dish.  Michele seems to be the favorite to win after episode 1. Eric and Malcolm will probably have the sympathy votes from people as they appear that they will be easy to root for.  Kara is forgettable, and Nikki seems to be a little over-confident, which may end up hurting her in the future.

After the bottom 2 of Cristie and Josh was established, they needed to create a 1 minute segment for a Mother's Day brunch with the loser facing elimination.  They had 15 minutes to prepare with their mentor, where at the end they had to film their segment.  Josh went with a frittata for his brunch, and told a story about his mother growing up poorly.  He handled his video segment very well and came off well spoken, as was needed after his performance in the previous challenge.  Team Alton's Cristie went with a play on a Scottish egg, with ground turkey instead of pork.  She called it an "opposite omelette," which doesn't make sense at all, and the judges didn't it get either.  She also stumbled and fumbled throughout her story, which tried to center around her brother returning from war on Mother's Day.  Alton tried to act like he was proud of her and that he was impressed with her segment, but you could tell he was just saying that.  In an easy decision, the judges eliminated Cristie from the competition.

Cristie Food Network Star
Cristie - Eliminated.  Photo Source - Food Network
So after the first episode, I see Team Bobby as being the favorite to win the competition with Michele being the top team member.  Team Giada would have the 2nd best shot to win with Ippy, Martie, and possibly Josh if he can become more serious, carrying the team.  Team Alton does have a few good competitors left, such as Emily and Justin, that I could see making it far.  But with 4 members left to the other teams 5, I would say his team has the most work to do to get to the final.

As it is 'Reality' TV, I am going to guess the producers end up having 1 team member at the end from each team, which will make the final few episodes predictable in who makes the bottom two, but that remains to be seen.  Who do you guys think impressed last night and who are your favorites to win?


  1. Nice summation and analysis. I'm intrigued by the new format. However, I wonder what will happen if one team suffers the first three eliminations. Could a two person team compete against five? Would they merge them? Seems strange.

    Justin seems to be the strong point in Alton's team, but you're right about Michelle being the front runner. Though, I don't know about POV. For example, her "sexiness" comment is what derailed the Middle Eastern Mama last season.

    In fact, unlike years past, it doesn't seem like any of them have strong show profiles yet. We'll see.

  2. Love the fact that no matter how many times Food Network screws with the title, we will always call it "THE NEXT" Food Network Star.