Behind the Scenes: A Hot Tamale, Green Day and Obi-Wan

by in Behind the Scenes, June 29, 2010
Good company: Bobby, Jonathan Waxman, Susan Feniger and Eric Greenspan Good company: Bobby, Jonathan Waxman, Susan Feniger and Eric Greenspan

Think about the best thing you ever ate and how you'd make it again. Now think about someone else's fondest food memory and cook it, recapturing their happiness. Then make the dish the pick of a world-famous chef. Good luck, right?

That's why on Sunday, guest judge Chef Susan Feniger of Ciudad in Los Angeles (and co-host with Mary Sue Milliken of Food Network classic Too Hot Tamales) was "impressed with the calmness of many of them." Keyword many. Herb had a tough time, still recovering no doubt, and Serena and Paul stumbled while Aarti and Brianna sparkled. (Check out some caught-in-the-act pictures.)

Guest judge Eric Greenspan of The Foundry on Melrose and sometime Food Networker, said, alluding to his own experience on last year's Next Iron Chef, "One of the greatest things about these shows is everyone is working from their own perspective." After the challenge, Chef Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto, kind of a cook's Obi-Wan Kenobi (he says) and a mentor to Bobby Flay, offered advice to the finalists. Note to producers: This would've helped the finalists, uh, beforehand. "Make it simple," Waxman said. "It's harder to edit yourself than to add." Standing next to Waxman and introducing him as an inspiration, Bobby needed a little editing--see for yourself.


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  4. J and Peanut says:

    i've noticed a trend in the finalists' personalites FN selects from year to year - aria = melissa, paul = teddy, DAS = eddie, herb = jeffrey, aarti = jamika, tom = michael, alexis = that one tall goofy guy, etc.etc.'d think FN would get some new blood and not just repeats!!!

    does anyone else think that brianna is totally arrogant and not nearly as "team sexy" as she thinks she is? i don't like watching arrogance and am not a fan!! she might make good food, but the "chill in the air" is not palatable even through TV.

    also - paul. BLEH. needs to go!!! cheesy!!!

    i hope aarti wins - she is sweet and has a totally new take!

    • James says:

      How do you equate Herb with Jeffrey?!?
      Herb is intense and "reactive". Jeffrey seemed kinda introverted.

      But i DO agree---we need to see some new blood. I'm sick of Good Eats and Unwrapped.

      What about putting people like Tyler, Robin, Aaron, Ina, and Sandra Lee on in the evenings--instead of see (it seems like) endless re-runs of a small clique.
      IDEA #2--WHY NOT?--mix it up during the week and have the people I mentioned on, say Mondays and Wednesdays---and some of them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Several great cooks need more exposure and the evening audience would love them and benefit from them. Anyone else feel this way? Why does evenings hafta be the "sacred domain" of the superstars (who many have "had their day) ? Give some others a chance, instead of letting 2 or 3 people hog the spotlight. AT LEAST have more rotation and mixing it up.

    • sylvester says:

      i don't think that it's really a chill in the air. i agree that she needs to work on her people skill, but to say she's being cold or giving a cold shoulder is a far fetch.

    • mariaelena says:

      I too agree with you-- Aarti should win--she won me over since day 1-- Paul and Brianna should get together on "team arrogance". Aria is ok--but Herb tries to hard for me-- and sometimes does not come across as genuine...I too am tired of good eats-- new blood should infuse the prime time lineup

    • Cindy says:

      Brianna isn't just arrogant, she has a meanness about her that makes me not want to watch. I'm enjoying Aarti, but want to see more of Serena.

  5. James says:

    I'm looking forward to the next competition. Putting the contestants in food-trucks is a good idea. How well will they do over a hot grill in cramped, possibly smokey quarters? It will test their speed and doing many orders for people.

    After they've each served 20 people, what will those people say about the food and the service/personality?

    Ya know, sometime after that challenge, and the end before someone wins, I would
    like to see the judges tell the contestants: OK. Tonight, each of you have total freedom to make us a dish of your choice--to impress us with. Instad of us telling you what to do, this time, you get to "show us what you can do." Steak, pork loin, pasta, seafood, whatever! Show us how delicious you can be!

    Think about it. They've already worked in pairs. Now on a food truck. Then let them "do their own thing." All this helps "round things out" and test 'em from different angles.

    WHO, can cook fast...and make it come out great?
    Who can make awesome food and connect well with the people who eat it?
    Who has the widest variety of dishes and creativity?
    Who makes food soooo delicious people want "2nd's" ?
    Who can most simply and clearly communicate to YOU & ME (the viewers at home) how to make it, too?

    • Dotty42 says:

      Excellent suggestion!!! I had thought of that also ... seems like they need to be able to show their creativity without the judges telling them what to fix. I think that would be a lot of fun and add some excitement to see what they each come up with...

  6. James says:

    This might be a good time for many of us to share our observations/thoughts of what we've seen so far. Me, I've watched for years, and based on that, I offer the following:

    I'm probably pointing out the obvious here--but--from watching for several years now, it seems there are certain things that DON'T "make it" on this show:

    1. "17 ingredients on a crouton", or any one dish. The contestant who does that doesn't win. (Remember a contestant named Hans?)
    2. The person who is too quiet or zen-like doesn't win. Remember Jeffrey from last year?)
    3. People who lie or are dishonest don't (and shouldn't!) win. Remember "Jag"?
    4. A self-taught or home-taught Cook CAN win. Remember Amy and also just last year, Melissa. Being culinary-trained is not bad, but also no guarantee.
    5. Good food is probably somewhat MORE important than a glowing camera presence, at least early on, as camera-stuff can be improved easier than learning how to be a good cook already. Remember Mario Batali.
    6. Everyday non-technical language connects far better with viewers than giving them a history-lesson about what Latin word a food ingredient comes from or what the ancient romans did with it. Who cares? Right here, is where I would rather learn from ROBIN than Alton Brown. He does "ooze knowledge"-but--sometimes I think he wants to be a history teacher, or an actor, more than a chef. Just my opinion.
    7. Getting injured does not help you win. 'nuff said.
    8. Bashing your fellow contestants and openly disagreeing with the judges and saying so, will get you out the door, probably next 1 or 2 challenges.
    9. Almost paradoxically, putting on a false sense over-modesty or never being satisfied with your own work can also backfire. If the audience can notice it, so will the judges.
    10. Better to be a wee lil' bit too spicy than to be Bland. Bland food doesn't win.
    11. Neither is good, but, it seems you will more easily forgiven if something is slightly under-cooked that if its burned or tough.
    12. Variety is good!--and if you can show "Deliciousness plus creativity" rather than only having 1 signature dish and just alot of other mediocrity, you've got a really good chance.
    I'm not a chef. Or a former contestant. Just a viewer. I don't think I'm too far off the mark. History--is mostly on my side.

    • Miss K says:

      I am with you, but Alton Brown is awesome. My kid likes him, too, for just those mad scientist/wise-ass qualities. I don't care for Robin. She seems like a too-perfect soccer mom that I am cordial with but don't particularly feel like talking to at a school function.

  7. girloftheworld says:

    i don't understand why Serena gets bashed for interpreting the dish in a culturally relevant way and yet Arti gets celebrated for it? It is one thing to say her food didn't taste good but to criticize her choice seemed a bit on the hypocritical side when the gooosh over Arti for making the same choice. Not that I like "Look at me cook Barbie" but I found it unfair.

    • Dotty42 says:

      That's true....and apparently many people do like the way she cooks chicken! I guess it isn't done in the typical way of fried chicken, but if that is the way they do it in some parts of Italy, there are sure to be a ton of people who do like it??? I like Serena; however, her high-pitched, too fast voice does get to me. She was cute this last time when she got finished and then asked, "Did I do it slower?" She was so tickled and jumped up and

    • Lily says:

      Totally agree with the thing about cultural-ness. I like Aarti and Serena so I was glad Aarti won but I felt bad for how hypocritical the ruling was. What's wrong with thick-crusted chicken? Nothing since I last checked.

      Anyway, this is FoodGirl from last might remember's cool if you don't, but I remember you...I just have a new screen name and a new email. But I really miss Bob's Blog. I like the fact that you have all these different authors for posts now, but I liked how we got Bob's perspective. You know, he's just...Bob! One of the judges. Those videos just aren't enough.

      Does anyone else miss Adam Gertler's videos from last year? I still sometimes bring up the "Look Katie. This is an ONION. I like to hollow it out and eat my cereal in it in the morning, because NORMAL bowls are just NO FUN!" ha ha ha.

      ANyway, sorry for this long and somewhat pointless rant...but hey, I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!

    • Angie says:

      I agree - not everyone chose to make the exact same thing that the chefs said were their favorites, and Serena's whole culinary POV is her homey, Italian take on dishes. Fried chicken on the bone? Not so much in Italy.

  8. mel_cc says:

    There is still one main challenge yet to come and thats the Red Lobster Challenge were one of them has their dish added to red Lobsters Menu for a short time.
    Remember last year Jeffery won but Melissa was right on his tail.

    Last years contest was probably the best of the five seasons, has Guy's runner up was way behind him, The nest years contestants of Jag, Dorry and Amy, Amy had been sent home and Jag had actually won but in the time between February's end of shooting and Junes Broadcasts something came out about Jag and Dorry and Amy had to be called back to have a cook-off between them which kind of gave us a say on the winner, but Amy was wrong to not inform them that she had plans on moving to France and wouldn't be available past the six shows they shoot for the competition.

    When big Daddy Aaron McCargo won Lisa Garza was actually a better Chef and more experienced but the way she was portrayed in the editing it didn't come off that way.

    • luvcookin says:

      Mel, (Part 1)
      That’s not how I remember it at all. And JAG lied about his military service as well saying he had graduated from culinary school, which he did not. Here’s what the Military Times says:

      “Josh A. Garcia won’t be “The Next Food Network Star.”
      The former Marine cook — who goes by the nickname “JAG” on Food Network’s reality cooking show — had another stellar performance Sunday night, again surviving elimination to become one of the final two contestants. But once the judging was over, the network added a twist.

      • luvcookin says:

        Part 2
        The picture faded to black and the network made an announcement.
        “Several months after this episode was taped, Food Network learned that JAG had misrepresented facts about his military service and his culinary training,” the network announced in an on-screen message. “He said he had served in Afghanistan and that he had graduated from cooking school, neither of which is true. When given the opportunity during a press interview, JAG did not set the record straight. Food Network asked JAG to come to New York to discuss the situation.”
        That press interview came in June with the Military Times newspapers, when Garcia was confronted about his lies. In addition to never deploying to Afghanistan or graduating from the New York Restaurant School, Military Times learned that Garcia left the Corps not as a corporal at the end of a four-year enlistment — which he also claimed — but as a private eight months early.”

        • luvcookin says:

          Part 3
          There’s more if you want to click on this link:
          The creep even tried to bribe the military if they would lie about his service. He offered to tell them who the other finalist was.
          I don’t remember a cook off though. What I remember is the screen fading to black when we found out that Rory and JAG were the finalists. Then we saw a taped session where Jag finally came clean with the FN judges. He volunteered to take himself out of the competition. In my opinion, FN let him leave with what little dignity he had left and would have asked him to leave. Then we saw the judges telling Rory that Jag had taken himself out of the competition and they were bringing Amy back to compete in the final. To my recollection, that was the last season the viewers got to vote.

          • mel_cc says:

            Part (1)
            What ;you say is true according to what they aired.
            But we have to remember that there is (6) months between the end of the shooting for the show and the final show declaring the winner.

            What we see portrayed in the shows and reality is different.
            Case in point, I am a fan of Iron Chef America, I was also a fan of the original Japanese show and when Iron Chef America first showed I was not familiar with the host who is portrayed as the Nephew of the original Japanese shows creator.

            It was later that I found out he is what we used to call a (B) movie actor, one of the movies he was in aired and in watching it I recognized him so I did a search and discovered he's been in a lot of low budget Si-Fi movies and Food Network hired him to portray has the Nephew of the Japanese shows originator.

          • mel_cc says:

            Part (2)
            I think we would all like to see the final show live, but in order for that to happen they would have to air this series in February when the final show is shot.

            If you will look at the final shows in the background are all the constants for that year.
            Bringing them back (6) months later would be kinda hard with some bad feelings that occur during the filming, not counting the expense to Food Network.
            Also there is usually one show where the booted off contestants are back acting as Sous Chefs so if they really had left they wouldn't be around for that show, and most of the time the show they show up in is a travel show from NY to Florida again an expense for the Network if they aren't already there.

          • mel_cc says:

            Part (3)
            This year with the series being shot in LA and not the Frigid Winter of NY they might not be doing that much traveling in the remaining shows, time will tell.

            There are a lot of good Locations around LA to shoot at, they've already been to a couple

    • always hungry says:

      Oh, I love Big Daddy! And his little boy is too adorable.

  9. Vic says:

    I don't understand why the judges got all over Daz for his nervous reply on what prime was. The week before that you had Brad choosing a rump roast to cook in 30 minutes. He's made several really stupid choices for meat to cook in 30 minutes. Personally I don't think he knows meat or about beef at all or he wouldn't have chosen rump roast. No one said a thing about that. Then we keep hearing Bob T. say old Paul is funny-let me know when he is, as I haven't seen anything funny or amusing with him-at best he's annoying to women. And he chose a pork tenderloin when his chef said he likes nothing better than a huge steak! And you saved him, over Daz who actually has personality. Serena may have some good Italian recipes but she talks so fast no one can understand her and that's been since day 1. Seems to me the judges already think Aarti is the chosen one flower in her hair and all that goes with her. She can join the Hearty Boys that you liked as if she's chosen I will not turn her on.

    • mel_cc says:

      Vic these shows are all shot within days of each other.
      The winner is at home now watching and the loser's are too.

      We may even have one or more posting at the various spots here to keep the interest up to the end show in Aug when this years is announced.

      Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

      • luvcookin says:

        I thought they were all taped except the finale. I thought the finale was always a live show.

        • mel_cc says:

          No there's all taped both Jeffery and Melissa were home so to speak watching the last show with friends having a party in one of the posts on Bobs or Susie area it was talking about how they kept there mouths shut not only just them but all of them has to do with the contract signed when filming starts, (my opinion here) they have to keep the final a secret.
          I believe Melissa's party was at the place she was doing cooking demos at in Washington.

          • luvcookin says:

            Thanks for the clarification Mel. So when the FN says a "live finale" what they really mean is a taped finale in front of a live audience. Thanks!

    • Mother Hubbard says:

      DAS obviously didn't know the difference between a cut (tenderloin) and a grade (prime) of beef, either the first time or after he "corrected" himself. A cooking show host must above all be knowledgeable about the basics, and DAS isn't.

  10. Dotty42 says:

    I wish the show would go on for a longer period of time. It seems like they get it going..quickly have the first few episodes, then it is time for the finale...and "zip" it is over for the season. I think they should just kind of drag it out, or extend it by at least 4 episodes. Just a thought, but it sure does seem to get over early. Any ideas?

    • mel_cc says:

      It runs for roughly 10 plus weeks, thats about the length of time for a normal shows season the way they tape.
      This year its a week longer unless they get rid of two in one show as the Fourth falling on a Sunday is going to be a repeat of last weeks show and the one on the 11th will be a hour and a half with Paula Deen.
      Not exactly sure the reason for that, a one hour show should do it unless there's a lot interaction with Paula, or they are sending two home.

    • Mark says:

      Actually, there were a couple of episodes where I was hoping they could dump a couple of contestants. I think it is pretty obvious that there are a few that have zero chance. The judges see this also.