The season six premiere of The Next Food Network star wasted no time pointing out which contestants are probably making it to the end, and which are already hanging on by a thread.
Other than the contestant run down, however, some overall show changes are also worth noting. The show has made a location jump from Food Network’s home base, Manhattan, to Los Angeles. Maybe after five seasons, producers felt the need to shake things up a little. The new location was already used when a challenge was set at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, “Cut.” While this could’ve meant that there’d be less of the established FN stars making guest appearances, the promos assure that there will be the usual procession of celebrity chef guest mentors. It will be interesting to see how often they ship the contestants off to New York, because a scene in a promo has them in the Iron Chef America kitchen.
There has also been an addition to the judging panel. Giada de Laurentiis, previous guest judge, has been added as a permanent mentor. I’d like to see what they mean by “mentor,” because so far all she’s done is flank Bobby Flay while he walked around the kitchen as the contestants competed in their first challenge. Maybe the contestants will have one-on-one sessions with her as the competition progresses.
Due to the two-hour length of the premiere, the contestants have already had several challenges. The first was the usual “point of view on a plate” challenge, where contestants had forty-five minutes to cook a meal of chicken and potatoes that represents their point of view. Then they had to explain why it does so in a thirty-second presentation to the judges.
After that, they had to film a fifteen-second promo for their show, which did not go well for most. Unfortunately for them, the promos were then shown at a dinner where highly respected celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck was the guest of honor. The contestants were divided into teams, then had to make a six-course dinner that would be tasted and judged by both the panel and Chef Puck.
Aria Kagan: The clear leader of the pack at the moment, Aria aced her promo with both great personality, and great “Stuffed Chicken Breast.” She was made leader of the black team, which won the dinner challenge even when they had to cover for one member who was sent to the hospital. She’s the favorite right now, but will she stay at the top?
Herb Mesa: His “Mojo Marinated Chicken with Purple Potatoes” was a major factor in his first challenge win. And the judges loved his “Bold and Citrusy Spin.” While full of energy in everyday life, he stiffens up once put in front of the camera.
Brad Sorenson: Though he also had trouble with relaxing in front of the camera, this professional chef’s excellent food makes him a competitor to watch out for.
Serena Palumbo: The judges have loved her Italian dishes so far. And that accent definitely works in her favor.
Doreen Fang: Her apology at the dinner was so awful I could barely watch. And her first 30-second promo was the worst of the bunch. However her food comes out, if her presentation skills don’t improve next week, she should be going home.
Darrell “DAS” Smith: Another one who apologized, this time for his raw chicken in the first challenge. As the judges said, he needs to stop telling us he’s cool and start acting like it.
Tom Pizzica: Horrible in the first presentation, and forced excitement in promo was just silly. The judges weren’t impressed with any of his dishes either.
Aarti Sequeira: Would be in with “the best” if her chicken wasn’t a little raw in the first challege. Her lentil dish and her promo were so good, Puck offered her a job. She’s definitely one to watch out for.
Brianna Jenkins: Good food, but the “party girl” image she’s trying to project just really isn’t working for her.
Paul Young: Another one with forced energy. His salad for the Star Challenge was overdressed too.
Dzintra Dzenis: Even though she couldn’t make her dish for the meal because of her eye injury, she’s still a competitor. The judges did like the food she made in the first challenge, and in my opinion at least she has a likeable personality.
Who Went Home
Alexis Hernandez: His timid presentation made Giada comment, “I want to give him a hug.” But Puck sent him to the chopping block with the comment “My wife would divorce me if I gave her this to eat” after he tried Alexis’ raw beignets.
There’s my first weekly contestant run-down. Do you agree or disagree? Who do you think should be the next to go home?