Now that the new season of Next Food Network Star is underway, I was surprised to learn that one of the contestants, Nikki Dinki, is someone I subscribe to on You Tube - which explains now why she hasn't put up a video in awhile: she's been busy. Her last offering was a tutorial on "How to Make Ricotta Cheese" two months ago.
Should our spidey senses start tingling Food Star lovers? Could it be Nikki's been working on something else lately? We certainly saw enough of her in episode 1 to suggest she's set to go pretty far in the compeition but, who knows? Last year I was convinced Emily Ellyn would make it to the end and we all know how wrong I was about that. I promise, though, to keep an eye on her channel to see if she pops up; otherwise, I guess time and the season will tell...
And Nikki isn't the only familiar face this season. As I alluded to in my blog over the weekend, several of this season's hopefuls have already been around the Food TV block a time or two and I found myself in a perpetual state of deja vu as I watched.
Especially when I spotted Danushka Lysek who, most recently, appeared on CHOPPED.
When Susie Fogelson got a load of her flailing around on camera like a Russian mafioso and commented "You've got to find your own version of warmth," I felt like I had come home.
People, that's just good TV.
Connie "Lovely" Jackson was barely recognizable this time around with a whole new look (and a basket full of edible flowers) since her short lived stint on Hell's Kitchen Season 6. If memory serves me, she went out in the second or third episode.
Other notables are Rodney Henry - The Pie Man - Stacy Poon Kinney of Restaurant Impossible fame, Cleveland's food truck guru Chris Hodgson, and my personal favourite, Chef Viet Pham from Utah who beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America.
I'll let that sink in a minute.
The man beat Bobby DAMN Flay on Iron Chef!!!!!
That being said, you would expect the guy to have swagger. Uber confidence. And that certain something when good looks meet amazing food that I call Chefaliciousness.
Chuck Hughes has it, Rocco Di Spirito used to have it, and Lord knows Curtis Stone's still got it - so, given that I've always had a thing for men who wear glasses (what? It makes them look smart) - I fully expected Viet Pham to sweep me off my feet!
And though his food certainly did it for me this episode - more on that later - the part of me that still believes the Roswell alien autopsy video wasn't a hoax, wonders if Pham's extreme discomfort on camera wasn't contrived somewhat, to make for a more level playing field this season.
Let's face it, if the guy rocked that camera right out of the gate, who else was going to stand a chance?
And look at the twinkle behind those glasses? Does he really look all that shy and retiring?
I don't think so either...
My Season 9 Front Runners
As the inaugural episode began and the cooks walked into the Food Star Kitchen, my best guess is that the ones to watch for this season are going to be Nikki Dinky, the "Pie Man" Rodney Henry, Stacy Poon Kinney, Lovely, and my two favorites, the potentially chefalicious Viet Pham (what he did with a one bite potato croquette enveloping creamy soup of all things) was nothing short of genius, and newcomer, Chad who calls himself a barbecue Jew from Philly.
Here's the thing about Chad; even before he went on camera and said "I asked my dad for an easy bake oven when I was five years old," I pegged him as someone I wanted to see more of.
Why? I don't know. But when I got my husband to watch the episode later and asked him to pick out his favorites, right off the bat he said "I like that guy" when Chad came out - much in the same way a focus group reacted to him in the first challenge. They oohed and ahhhed so much, Bob Tuschman said "I've never heard a reaction like that."
All cooking ability aside, that is called star power and though we can never be sure if someone who has it will be able to learn how to harness and lasso it the way Guy Fieri did in season one, it's fun to think of the possibilities.
As for me, though, it's always about the cooking and on that merit, my heart belongs to Viet Pham.
People, hiding soup in a tiny potato croquette to make one luxurious bite is nothing short of epic and I'm praying, just once, that someone who has star power in the kitchen will finally trump all.
I guess time will tell.
With little more than a whimper, Daniela Perez-Reyeswas was the first to go home.
Stay tuned every Tuesday for my next Food Network Star recap blog! And if you enjoy reading food related fiction, check
out my hilarious new web series "Starring Samantha."
Samantha Wentworth's catering business goes belly up along with her marriage to cut
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Stay tuned Saturdays for this brand new serial on The Kitchen Witch!
I'll be basing the characters off of well known food world
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Click here to read Episode 1: Samantha Drowns her Sorrows in a Vodka Gimlet
Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer
with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe
developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay
believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and
ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of
all levels can accomplish.
Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.