Melissa’s Insight: Old and New Faves

by in Food Network Star, July 28, 2011

Jyll Everman

Melissa d'Arabian won Star season 5 and has been loving her Food Network adventure ever since. You can catch new episodes of her show, Ten Dollar Dinners on Sunday mornings at 9am/8c. As a Star veteran watching from her couch at home, Melissa shares her insider's take on what went down each week.

Jyll, one of my early faves, left this week. As much as I loved her, I understand the judges’ decision. Instead of letting her increasing time in front of the camera translate into a genuine, relaxed presentation, Jyll’s personality started feeling a little superficial or slick, as if only half her mind were actually in front of the camera, while the other half were trying to direct her own performance. The result felt a bit detached and disingenuous, despite her sincere intentions. It’s a shame.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Six remaining finalists head to NYC and into the Food Network kitchens. The first time I ever walked in, I felt starstruck, eyeing the gleaming commercial-grade appliances, and flashing back to the many times I’d seen Bobby Flay and Miriam and Stephanie (his assistants) develop recipes for Throwdown. It took me down memory lane to watch the finalists share that moment of awe too. I cooked for Ina during my season also, and I loved the Cupcake Challenge this season. I was pleasantly surprised that no one had cupcake recipe issues (where has this baking know-how been all season?). Except for Jeff, who seems as if he didn’t really even attempt a true cupcake (to his detriment).

Finalists on Rachael Ray show

I remember my own Rachael Ray show challenge like it was yesterday, from the big cage-like freight elevator arrival to getting a contact high from the upbeat backstage crew. I did my demo with fellow finalist Michael my season (who coincentally just emailed me today and I'm reminded of how much I adored shooting FNS with him...did you see him on Chopped All-Stars?  Those glass carrots were genius!). We were high-fiving each other like crazy as we floated off the stage, elated more by the electric energy of the show and its audience than anything else.

Here in season 7, there is a game-changing twist: The finalists had to do their Rachael Ray show demo while fielding questions from the audience. Perhaps that sounds like no big deal. Let me tell you, it is huge. Random audience member questions are a tremendous unknown — you’d be amazed how something as small as a poorly worded question or a low-energy asker can hijack a great presentation and bring it down. Giving away that power is a little like a jetliner pilot coming on the PA and asking if whoever is seated in 14B wouldn’t like to come up to the cockpit and have a minute or two at the wheel.

Jeff and Rachael

But engaging in the audience, multitasking and recovering gracefully from being knocked off a flight path are critical parts of being a Food Network star, so this task is keenly crafted. Here, no one will be successful on luck alone. This year’s new challenge, in my opinion, predicts the potential of a Food Network star more than any other yet this season. Whitney and Jeff both excelled. In fact, Jeff knocked his demo out of the park, and made me laugh aloud three times. I’m starting to put him at the top of my list. Let’s see what happens next week.

See what Melissa’s cooking up on Ten Dollar Dinners, check out her Facebook Fan Page and follow her on Twitter (@melissadarabian).

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Comments (66)

  1. Kevin W. says:

    I'm noticing something as the weeks go on. They're showing how some contestants have progressed from Day 1. Vic, Whitney and Susie have all progressed since Day 1. I think the three finalists will be Vic, Susie and Whitney. They haven't shown Jeff progress. They've just shown him have good food, but stay the same. I bet next week will be another double elimination. Mary Beth and Jeff will be let go and a week from Sunday will be the finale. I hope Vic wins, but it'll be a tough choice. Wouldn't surprise me to see Whitney win since they seem to have focused on her the last couple of weeks.

    • guest says:

      Watch the preview for Sunday, though. Whitney, Jeff and Vic get blasted. Although I agree with the double elimination; I don't think it will be Mary Beth and Jeff- (remember the demise of Orchid) I think it might be Susie, Whitney, Vic or Jeff. I think Mary Beth will be safe (again, watch the preview) and then think it through-she appears to have the best spiced meat and looks happy when "roasted" whereas the rest either have tears or look sad/frightened --except we see nothing of Suzie...to be continued.

  2. MsJS says:

    I can't get excited about an episode in which the contestants become joke fodder for comedians. What does that have to do with food or cooking well? I guess it has something to do with camera presence, but there are more realistic ways to get at that (fielding ??'s from an interviewer or the audience while cooking, interacting well with the food being cooked, etc.).

    Does anyone know why FN went this route? Please advise, or I'm likely to not bother watching. Many thanks!

    • Karen says:

      I was wondering the same thing. They've had other challenges in previous years to test camera presence. Setting the finalists up to be ridiculed is a very poor idea for a show. I won't be watching this week. I can find other things to watch that don't include GG and his "nails on a chalkboard" voice.

      • GuyMarch says:

        I agree...what's up with this show? Food Network Star has become incredibly cheap. I guess next they'll be throwing rotten fruit at the contestants as they cook? Or toss them in an arena with wild animals and see if they can fend them off with pots and pans...oh wait...they already do that in Extreme Chef.

  3. Dom says:

    i think the food network is confused and thinks it the comedy channel which explains a lot.

  4. Sam says:

    ... You saying someone is ingenuine, Melissa? That's a joke because you are yourself with your frenziness and perkiness (sound familiar?). And if you've actually watched the real show, with unedited versions of the demos, it's very obvious the judges (particularly the b**** Susie F.) decided to pick on Jyll and send her home. There was no way that Jyll was at the bottom of that challenge. She had a great energy, said some decent things, and talked about her recipe with authority. Of course, there was a small glitch with the questions, but considering Susie and Vic didn't even answer any, I don't think that matters. Sheeh, Food Network and CBS productions do you think we're retards? I'm done with this show. Obvious a ton of the stuff we see on TV is scripted and edited to make us think what contestants say and think is real (Melissa I'm sure you know what I'm talking about... And thanks to Alicia for telling us the truth behind this show.) Shame on you food network. I have lost all respect for you. And where is Bob T? Huh? Why are you suddenly coming out and blogging?

    • Marcus says:

      Where is this "unedited" version of the show that everyone is talking about
      and how do you get acsess to it?

  5. subdjoe says:

    Put up, Tim. Show your proof for that statement.

    • Kevin W. says:

      He won't have to put up. I've reported the comment. A similar comment was removed earlier and it basically said the same thing. I bet this will be removed to. There's no need for this nonsense.

      • subdjoe says:

        Kevin, I didn't really expect him to. He gets to hide in the anonymity of the internet and spew his hate and vitriol. Usually when challenged his kind don't respond, other than with more of the same.

  6. Marcus says:

    How can you all say that it is bad editing when you do not know the truth. It is very easy to talk when you do not know the truth.Before you acuse the network of doing something you should be able to prove it. Until I see the unedited verwion I have to believe what it is that the network put forth.

    • luvcookin says:

      Marcus,
      Go to rachaelrayshow dot com and do a search for food network star. You will be able to see the unedited versions of each contestants time on her show. What FN showed us was greatly edited to present their pre-decided pick for the win. For example on the FN show, Bobby Flay asked what vegetables did Jyll use in the food processor. On the RR show, she tells us but FN chose to edit that out.

  7. Roxi says:

    Jyll's confidence was eroded by the judges week after week. Her decreased confidence is why she second guessed herself and tried to shield her emotions. I'm not impressed with the judges for doing that to her and I don't envy any of the contestants.

  8. Jeni says:

    I feel like Vic or Susie will win. The others just have too many weak moments especially at this phase when (according to Bobby) any mistake can be fetal and send them home.

  9. mel says:

    Vic makes it through this week, as he is on the following weeks Iron Chef show.

    We only have this week, next week and the following week 8/14 is the final show.

    That night is a two hour one, first hour is all 15 of them on a renuion bash and the final hour is the final two or three going head to head for the Crown.

  10. Debby says:

    Wolfgang Puck said it all. He gave Jyll an A+ because she didn't fall apart when he took her to the kitchen!

    • vicki says:

      then the judges got on her for not showing humilation and crying in front of them. that was totally wrong of the judges. I was always confused at why the judges didnt like her. She was too polished? what does that mean?

      • Tidewaterbound says:

        It means the judges were WRONG. They never should have browbeat Jyll and let that gem slip through their fingers...they actually beat her out the door.

        It's their loss, what a bad joke this is on ALL of us, the viewers.