Next Food Network Star — Worst Class Ever?

We’re three weeks deep in to the latest season of Next Food Network Star and the only thing that’s struck me so far is how at least 75% of this season’s contestants are awful people on the level of last season’s Debbie. Debbie, if you remember, took great pleasure in throwing people under the bus and playing the victim and rode it late in to the season. This season, we’ve already seen the judging panel unconscionably eliminate someone who actually completed a challenge in favor of someone who didn’t. Note to judges: you run the show. You could not eliminate someone one week and eliminate two the next week. Idol’s even figured that out.

1) Dzintra: She somehow made it through the first week after her team carried her through. Do you know how to spot someone who’s never had any stress in their life? Find a blonde who was handed a finalist’s spot in a show that thousands of people signed up for and is willing to back out instead of rubbing some dirt on it and manning up. She also referred to her trip to the bottom two in Week 2 as “the worst thing that’s ever happened in her life.” She was thankfully eliminated in Week 3 and her fellow contestants didn’t even give her the token “awwwwe” or hug we usually see on reality show eliminations. Instead, it was a moderately happy “seeya!”

2) Serena: Points for “rubbing some dirt on it and manning up” after her ankle got stepped on. She dealt with it better than most World Cup soccer players. As a 30-year-old New York lawyer, she’s not ever going to be the cute and cuddly person who people are going to come to love. It doesn’t work that way. The only person who’s ever going to feel bad for her is Susie Fogelson, who chided Paul (a chef) for being condescending toward her. I’d suggest Suzie watch a Bobby Flay show when non-chefs are in Bobby’s kitchen. Chefs think we’re idiots. They suck up to Suzie because she signs giant checks for them. Serena fits the profile of the new wave of Food Network personalities — see also: Claire, Aida, and Marcela — but she’s not trained for the camera and I think we can safely say that people with turbo accents don’t lead to ratings galore.

3) Paul: Not to defend Paul, mind you. Paul is a chef who also worked Second City Improv in Chicago. For someone who, apparently, has experience in engaging a crowd and being funny, Paul is every bit corny, cheesy, and cringe-inducing as every bad comic I’ve ever seen. The absolute most uncomfortable thing anyone can ever watch is a comic bombing on stage. Paul is an hour’s worth of that every single week.

4) Das: I don’t dislike Das. He seems like a cool guy and someone who’d be fun to drink with. Unfortunately, the Snoop Dogg “constantly stoned” look only really works for one guy. Snoop Dogg.

5) Brianna: Off the commercial Food Network played over and over (and over)*, I pegged Brianna as someone who they really liked. The tag shot of her winking at the camera with the come-hither smile certainly gave the impression that she knew how to work the camera. She doesn’t. She has no good culinary identity and she has no ability to engage the camera and be warm to people. A person really can’t be taught to be engaging. She’s not winning.
* – and over

6) Tom: Unemployed chef who recently moved to San Francisco. I like Tom because I like pulling for people who don’t fit the mold of a standard TV star. But, let’s be honest here… I don’t think Food Network is planning on hiring a goofy white guy no matter how engaging he is unless he’s worlds better than everyone else. He’s not.

7) Herb: I can’t tell you anything about the guy other than he’s ripped. Clearly, we can base a television series on that alone.

8) Aarti: One of the three potential winners. Aarti is a food blogger who’s one of the only contestants who fills an unfilled role. Food Network has no “Indian” shows. Besides that, she’s actually a funny, engaging person with low self-esteem. It’s hard not to pull for her. And she’s a food blogger — I’m required to pull for her as a member of The Local 1337 Bloggers’ Union.

9) Aria: The second potential winner. Aria is a chef instructor who has some idea of how to engage people and teach them. Her early issue is her inability to not treat everyone like they’re four years old, which is interesting considering she taught adults for some amount of time. If I had one strike against Aria it’s that she’s missing something. I can’t really tell what it is yet, but I think she’s just missing the “it” factor. She could also fall victim to Food Network’s recent No Fatties rule.

10) Brad: My early pick for winner. So far, he’s proven that he can’t really cook on camera and he’s a solid C+ on engagement, but he looks a little like Justin Timberlake and has that hat as a gimmick. I think he would have to sacrifice a puppy on camera to be eliminated before the top three. So far, he’s handed in two inedible dishes and hasn’t even hit the bottom two.