Welcome to another round of Cocktails and Gossip! For the next little while I'll be featuring my take on the happenings during this season of Next Food Network Star with fun little nuggets of gossip thrown in here and there just because!
I hope you enjoy..
I have been looking so forward to this round of Next Food Network Star because, different than other seasons, Bobby Flay, Alton Brown and Giada De Laurentiis will each mentor their own teams.
And if the opening credits have anything to do with it - people, Alton Brown is crying like a baby as a world weary Guy Fieri dead pans "Let the Games Begin" - the fight between Bobby, Giada and Alton to create TV's Next Food Network Star promises to be hugely entertaining and highly inspiring
According to the opening credits, to cast the show Bobby, Giada and Alton spent hours scouring through thousands of hopefuls. From those, a smaller group was short listed and brought from their home towns for an audition. Many of the auditions were hit or miss, but eventually the cast for Season 8 of Next Food Network Star was born!
(To see the entire cast visit: the finalists at Food Network.)
Alton Brown chose his team for their ability to teach, Giada picked her team for their ability to show emotion on camera, and Bobby Flay chose his team for their ability to cook.
Which is interesting here in the Cocktails and Gossip arena because, has this not been a theme lately?
Anyways, the first challenge began with the introduction of Robert Irvine who started them off with a bang: inspired by his popular show Restaurant Impossible, they were charged with having to create their own restaurants from the ground up with only $5000.00 to cover food costs and decor. Further, each finalist would be responsible for coming up with their own dish.
Interestingly, and different from Top Chef Restaurant Wars, the coaches were very much part of the decision making with the restaurants and it was enlightening to see them guide the teams through the process.
In the end Alton's team decided on a tour through the southern US and named their restaurant Do South. Giada's restaurant "Blu" featured clean California cuisine, and Bobby's restaurant "Tasting Space" was all about giving diners a chance to sample the chefs unique flavours.
Given that they had such a short amount of time and the fact that the chefs were just meeting each other, I thought they did an impressive job coming up with a theme and a menu and would have gladly eaten at any of the three restaurants. Were I a diner that day, however, and had to choose, I would have gone for Tasting Space because Eric's handmade lasagna and ricotta had me absolutely salivating - not to mention Michele's "sexy" mussels, and the dessert from Kara that had the judges wanting to lick the pan!
In the meantime, I have begun to pick favourites but would like to couch that by saying, truly, everyone is awesome - you don't make it that far onto a major show without having something special and I look forward to seeing how everyone evolves and grows.
Hey! Gossip doesn't have to be mean ;)
In the meantime, Cristie, a movie caterer with a healthy food philosophy from Team Alton was the first to go. It came down to an on air challenge between her and rock singer/sushi chef Josh from Team Giada and though they both stumbled on camera, when it came down to the decision in the Pitch Room by Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson, Cristie had to go.
As for the rest, there were a few exceptional cooks who fizzled a little in the personality department like Malcolm, Eric, and Nikki - but I have to say, I'm rooting for Eric to get it together because I find him likeable and I can't wait to see more of his food. Kara, Martie, Justin, Yvan, Marita, and Linkie are going to have to step it up next week - but again, I have to admit a soft spot for Martie. She has a similar point of view to mine and with her being the oldest finalist, I say "Go Girl!"
And then there are the cooks who came out of the gate running - my Superstars for this season:
From left to right: Phillip Ippy Aiona, Executive Chef at his mother's Italian restaurant in Hawaii, Michele Ragusis, an executive chef from New England, Emily Ellyn, the fun and thoughtful retro chef from Team Alton (and my personal favourite) and Judson Allen, a self taught restaurant trained chef who recently lost 100 pounds.
It is my early prediction that these are the people to beat.
I also have to wonder if a dark horse for Food Network Superstardom might just be the chef owner of New York's trendy restaurant Do or Dine, Justin Warner. Regardless of what happens on the show, I am predicting now that this won't be the last we see of him.
It will be interesting to see if my initial impressions change as the weeks go on. Click HERE to read next week's summary.
In the meantime, how about a cocktail with just a smidgeon of gossip?
Today it's all about Alton Brown who is quite the dervish on Twitter.
Brown was apparently fuming after New York Times columnist Mark Bittman called today's food television programming "all competition cleavage nastiness." This sparked a barrage of Tweets from Brown - to which I have to say, CHEERS!
I have learned a lot from the Food Network and love being entertained in this way so Alton, this one's for you! (And for my good friend Yvonne who the drink has been named for).
I hope you enjoy today's featured cocktail.
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