Friday, May 25, 2012

Next Food Network Star Season 8 - Embrace the Pickle

"I want to pull the star out of you." 
~ Chef Bobby Flay, Next Food Network Star Season 8


In the world of food related entertainment, the saying "What goes up, will surely come down" has continued to hold true - especially in the battle to become TV's Next Food Network Star.

Remember early superstars from past seasons like Orchid Paulmeier?

She was doing so well at the onset of Season 7 and I remember worrying that she was beginning to peak too soon.

And surely enough, she was let go - much to my chagrin - because she got stalled by her own excellence and never fully embraced how great she was.

Crisis worker that I am, when I'm not marinating pork chops, I have a healthy respect for the things we can learn when faced with adversity, which is why I was relieved to see several members of my "Superstar" team hit some hard times in this week's episode.

In the long run, it's all about learning and growing and I sometimes wonder if  Orchid had crashed and burned a little more in the very beginning and then had the chance to rebuild, if that might have helped.

But that was last year and I have to get over it.

(People, what can I tell you, when I love a contestant, I am loyal.)

Onward to Season 8!

This week the chef's were charged with leading city wide tours through the most iconic food neighborhoods in Manhattan and with each team assigned a neighborhood known for its culture and cuisine, I was super excited to watch and learn more about places I too would enjoy visiting.

Giada's team was assigned Arthur Avenue, a neighborhood known as the original Little Italy, which was a stroke of good fortune considering Giada is a brilliant Italian chef (if you haven't tried her recipe for Chicken Piccata yet, people, get thee to the skillet!).

Bobby's team was assigned Harlem which was, again, an advantage as Chef Flay is a native New Yorker who has spent a lot of time in Harlem and his team member Malcolm was born and raised there.

"This is going to be like taking candy from a baby," said a joyous Malcolm as Alton Brown introduced the Lower East side, a traditional Jewish neighborhood, to his team.

From the get go, it appeared Alton's team had the steepest learning curve in terms of food culture and learning about traditional Jewish fare - at the same time, however, they were reminded by Alton that this could be an excellent opportunity for letting their star power shine.

After they were introduced to the neighborhoods, each contestant was assigned a restaurant, shop, or bakery and given the task of adapting a food item into an original dish that they would then be serving to the people on their tour bus.

Some of the chef's went all in and once again vineyard chef Eric blew me away. His presentation was relaxed and funny and it was his dish - flaky cheese filled pastries with coffee caramel - that I most wanted to try.

Ippy made an inspired soup and wowed everyone on the tour bus with his easy going, approachable personality - to which I say - Ippy, take heed Orchid's experience in season 7 and know I'll be rooting for you!

Malcolm from Bobby's team stepped it up big time and I really enjoyed his presentation - ditto for Martina who put together a ceviche with fresh oysters, clams, and prawns, and our final superstar, Justin who was assigned a type of bagel called bialys. He turned his version into portable caviar snacks which, to my mind, was brilliant. These were people coming to New York to feel some of the magic - and what could be more magically New York than caviar?

On the flip side, a few of our already beloved contestants ran into problems.

Emily, who had a fabulously retro idea for miniature matzoh stuffed meat loafs - a dish the judges and tourists all enjoyed - unfortunately got struck with a wave of motion sickness on the bus that threw her off.

Michelle seemed to have lost a little of her chutzpah this week and I wonder if she would have fared better on the Lower East Side because she was not feeling her version of fried catfish. Martie and  a few of the others  stayed in the middle of the pack, leaving Kara - who was openly uncomfortable about cooking soul food and didn't share the history and story surrounding fried chicken and waffles and Judson who was left to devise a dish featuring pickles. He was advised by Alton Brown to "Embrace the Pickle" but didn't quite step up to the plate. His delivery also lacked the genuineness the Network saw in him last week.

In the end, it came down to the Producer's Challenge and I agreed with their decision to keep Judson.

Although I like Kara, I think she lacked a little bit of confidence and that, in the end, tripped her up.

That being said, I am quite convinced that, in person, she would be an amazing boot camp instructor. I loved her point of view of bringing warm family food memories back to life and wonder if she might not have been the best person to come from the healthy perspective because I immediately took more notice when she began talking about her mom's twice baked potatoes on the basis of portion control.


On the topic of potatoes, let's play the Food Network Star game!

If you had to cook for your life with a potato dish, what would you serve?

For me, it would have to be my Twice Baked Potatoes with Gruyere and Buttery Prawns or Lobster

Stay tuned next week as our competitors go head to head with the judges (and baskets) from CHOPPED!

Catch up on any episodes you missed by visiting my Food TV page! 

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  1. my best potato dish is potato soup, with cheddar and bacon and onions, wow, lots going on so exciting!!!
    Thank you so much for finding me, and following my new blog, such a good friend you are, now you've made me hungry, I'm going to find a snack!
    Have a super duper weekend!

  2. Do potato-stuffed pierogi count? Yum!