“In the End, It Came Down to a Simple Question” — Alton’s Post-Star Rundown

by in Judges, August 3, 2014

Every week, Alton Brown is joining the Star Talk roster to talk about the most-recent elimination and the thoughts behind each difficult decision from the judges' perspective.

Click play on the video above to find out why Alton voted the way he did. (Spoiler alert: The latest finalist sent home is revealed in the video.)


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“You’ve Got to Be an Expert, You Have to Be Able to Teach” — Alton’s Post-Star Rundown

Every week, Alton Brown is joining the Star Talk roster to talk about the most-recent elimination and the thoughts behind each difficult decision from...

Comments (331)

  1. Ali says:

    Nicole is authentic and real. She has a perspective that is unique to Food Network - teaching how to select and prepare seafood. I can see her doing a lot of shows with party planning and pairing seafood with wine, beer, and cocktails. She is young and fun (like Rachel and Giada were in the early days), and I am excited about what she has to offer. I am sure that Lenny and Luca are great cooks, but I just don't see myself watching their shows.

    • joyce says:

      I agree with you that Nicole is the winner. What a breathe of fresh air......coastal cuisine....I love it. Lenny is disgusting. Luca is lukewarm...I cannot get excited about him!

    • Cindy says:

      I think Nicolle sounds like a Rachel Ray clone.

  2. Kari says:

    Lenny is an original chef......we don't need another Italain point of view even though Luca is hot. Nicole brings nothing new to the table. She is boring. I would have preferred Sarah to be in the final. Go Lenny Go!

    • Buffy says:

      Lenny is not an original chef.
      If you live in a southern state and your husband or boyfriend cooks a meal and says "Honey, I cooked supper". your cowboy has been sitting next to you all of the time.

    • Connie says:

      What are you smokin'? Nicole brings plenty to the table that's new! She isn't boring at all. Chuckwagon cooking doesn't have enough variety.

    • JANELLE says:

      I'm with you Kari! I think Lenny is the right choice.

  3. Larry says:

    This is it, time to vote! My vote goes to Nicole for several reasons. Her pilot was by far the best. Lenny's was weird and Luca's just wasn't that good. She is soooo much better than the other two on camera.

    As far as being a Food Authority, she’s a small step above Lenny (based on the variety and complexity of the dishes she’s made). Lenny’s a great chef, but I think he’s limited in what he can make. Both Nicole and Lenny are far better chefs than Luca. Luca’s only made two dishes the judges liked. If they liked the first 2 dishes enough, they would’ve kept him in the competition.

    As far as POV and range again the edge goes to Nicole with her Coastal Cuisine POV. It’s about fresh, bright, simply prepared food. This a fresh/new concept that relates to so much more than just seafood. Coley explains it well in her blog in the episode 5 recap http://toofullforschool.com/ The range within this POV can clearly be seen by the dishes she’s made in this competition. She’s taken us to the coast of Japan, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Thailand, New Orleans and the Jersey Beaches. I want to see more. Lenny’s ranch/western theme is pretty good, but he’s not a real cowboy. The whole thing’s an act. FN already has Pioneer Woman, Tricia Yearwood, and Farmhouse Rules. Do we really need another show in this theme? Also, how do fish tacos, crab cakes, and fried lobster tie into a western theme? I don’t know. As far as range goes, he’s very limited (maybe that’s why he made 3 seafood dishes). He’s also put a coffee rub in 2 dishes now. I’m bored. For Luca, I’ve been beaten over the head with Italian cooking shows my whole life. Does FN really need another one, especially from someone who I don’t consider a proven Food Authority? I’m not sure there’s much range here either. One week he made risotto (poorly), and made another version of ‘risotto’ the following week. Did Grandma make anything else?

    For camera presence, Nicole has Tons of energy, great connectivity and isn’t bad to look at. From intimate settings to large crowds, she seems like a pro. Nothing phony or false about her. She seems to have that ‘It’ factor that you either have or you don’t. Although Lenny’s a good entertainer, he’s too over-the-top for me, but he doesn’t perform well in front of small crowds. He has that crazy look in his eye that I just don’t trust. Luca’s thick accent is too much for me, I can’t understand half of what he says. And I think this hides the fact that he sounds really, really rehearsed. He seems very nice and likeable though.

    Nicole has a great image. Here’s her website http://www.nicolegaffney.com/ She’s likeable, genuine, smart, humble, and good looking (I think better looking than Luca). She seems to have a ton of food knowledge, she’s fashionable, and she’s a really good writer. She’s actually pretty funny too, and can make fun of herself. I like that. She has more to offer and with her Coastal Cuisine POV, which can take several avenues and has greater reach than the other two. Her pilot was smooth, and she was FUN! Lenny, although a great chef seems a bit creepy. If you haven’t seen this video, you need to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYUy3VeZNNc Luca seems like a nice guy, very genuine, likeable, and a decent cook, but I just don’t think he’s ready for the job.

    Go Nicole!

    • cwsfashionflavors says:

      Thing is that alton already knew for 2 weeks that Lenny & luca was going to pilots

    • Guesty Maguire says:

      Guess who's dating Nicole? Or wants to at least. LOL.

    • Crouton40 says:

      Yes, absolutely. Go Nicole!

      Great post, Larry. I'm behind you all the way. (You got here, first. smile). You did such a great job, here, that i decided to put my review on the other One on One thread.
      Nicole had the best Pilot. Her knowledge, warm smile, and clarity in speaking/writing, are all wonderful.
      Here is another video I found of her. A likeable genuine lady: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Qwhl-Opl4s

      • MoHub says:

        Hi, Crouton! I am now completely in Camp Nicole. I am glad that The Network advised her to stay away from the international coastlines when she hadn't been out of the U.S. (Too bad Emma isn't still there, as she's actually lived all over.) I'm also wondering if the concept of coasts could be expanded to include shores, which would take in areas around lakes and bays.

        For instance, there's a huge Chesapeake Bay cuisine, but the land around the Bay is never referred to as a coast; it's a shore.

        • Crouton40 says:

          Thank you, MoHub! :)

          I really like Nicole's point of view. Yes, Chesapeake Bay, and Maine lobsters, or the Louisiana gulf, Newport Oregon's Dungeoness Crab, Washington srates Wiilipa Bay for Oysters, Pike's fish Market in Seattle, Wa., ,seafood from the Miami area, the Great Lakes area, SanDiego, and if course the awesome Jersey shore. Food Network us badly in need if a show they can renew fir multiple seasons that will still be educational and interesting. With Nicole we've got it! Hoping she gets the fan votes. She's got the cooking, the teaching and the personality. Go Nicole!

        • shannon says:

          I agree, I like Nicoles show idea much more since she is not going international with it. I am glad the network made the suggestion. I do want to point out it was the "mentors" who encouraged her to go with "international coasts" back in the early weeks. I don't think that was ever her original plan.

    • guest says:

      Great review, and couldn't agree more. Nicole all the way. And why does only Alton get to have his 2 cents aired? There are other judges, and network execs. I am sure Giada wanted Sarah, she seemed to have a lady crush on her. I really don't get the Luca love, he seems very nice, but for all the praise he's getting, no. Lenny could be a great guy as well, but a little too much for me. There is already Guy on FN who I can't stand to watch, and def. all the other country type shows.

    • giada says:

      You can remove your lips from her arse now. What a lame review yada yada Nicole, nicole; you obviously need a better life if you think she would be entertaining!!

  4. Kat says:

    Lenny is way too over-the-top! He is annoying! Nicole is a natural, and I would definitely watch her! Luca is cute, has good ideas but accent is too difficult to understand. Go Nicole Go!! She is definitely the most improved contestant on the show! She deserves to win!!

    • Kathyvnj says:

      I agree about Lenny being annoying, that comment he made to the restaurant owner about beans after affects said it all to me

  5. LolahG. says:

    I haven't posted anything in quite some time now but I have been watching NFNS for the past 6 weeks. It's down to the finalist promos now. Lenny--he's amazing to watch but he still hasn't struck the right balance for energy level to the camera. It's like a sugar rush with that huge burst then the downward roll. Nicole-well- she blew it for me (a native of south Louisiana) with her mispronunciation of "roux" as "rocks." What?! Ok--so she partied down while going to school down there. TMI -Not helping. It would have been nice if she had explained what variety of clams she was cooking and why. I've never had an edible clam yet so that would have been a nice piece of expertise to pass on. Luca will get my vote. He comes across as personable yet professional. I loved his tip on the garlic! Thank you Luca! Major kudos for explaining how to incorporate a fair amount of garlic without being a vampire slayer!

    • Guesty Maguire says:

      LOL. OMG. She really said 'rocks'? HAHAHAHAHAHA! Who lives in LA and doesn't know roux from rocks? BWAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA1

      • Larry says:

        She never made a roux. She never said roux. What show were you watching!?

        • LolahG. says:

          I was watching NFNS--Nicole's promo and the other promos like everyone else who comments here.

        • MoHub says:

          She said "broth." And Larry is right; she never made a roux.

          • LolahG. says:

            I went to listen to her promo again-whatever she said wasn't broth either. Later she calls it a sauce--fine. I didn't say she made a roux--I stated that she mispronounced the word (if that was what she said.)

          • LolahG. says:

            Ok--take it down a notch people. I went and listened (again!) to Nicole's promo. Somehow she inhaled the "B" so it did NOT result in saying "broth" distinctly but more like "rothz." hence the misheard word.

  6. shannon says:

    I am disillusioned that Alton admitted Lenny was getting a pilot no matter how he performed. I love this show I am a faithful watcher year after year. I am a faithful FN watcher in general. Altons admissions have cheapened the show for me. My conspiracy theory was just confirmed. I would have much preferred to continue to live in my bubble of wonder. If this show runs 10 weeks and there is still 1 week left to go, and it was decided Lenny would get a pilot weeks ago (Alton's words, not mine) then they knew from just about the beginning, if not from the very beginning who was going to win.

    • CVeraS says:

      As soon as I found out they were keeping Lenny, we changed the channel, so I did not see the pilots. I may pop into the blogs one more time next Sunday, after the finale, to see what people are saying, but we will be watching something else at this house. I have been a faithful watcher of this series too, but finding out the proof on you-tube that Lenny has the makings of a foul mouthed pervert, to say the least - and that FN has their perverbial head in the sand, and can't or won't deal with it, I will not play this game anymore, when there is plenty of good programming to choose from on the other networks. I wish you and your family well, Shannon - and the same to Crouton 40, Mohub, and all the rest of the regulars who come back to this TV show year to year. Back to real "reality". ( :

      • Crouton40 says:

        I'll miss you.
        I hope next yer Food Network doesn't bother with:
        the youtube challenge
        the green wall challenge
        No Cutthroat Kitchen or sabotage challenge, either.
        Less marketing/selling. They can do "the Auction/selling a jar of whatever" challenge but do it more like they did in season 9.
        Take care, CVeraS. Glad you were here.

      • shannon says:

        CVeraS, it's always a pleasure to read your input. Here's hoping to see you back again. I am hanging on hoping the network will do the right thing. I believe this portion was pre-recorded so I am hoping that when it comes down to brass tacks Lenny will NOT be the ultimate winner. All the best to you. Have a great year.

    • Shark Jumpper says:

      I find Alton to be very annoying ! I can't stand his stupid "Cut Throat Kitchen" show. Just another indication that the FN has completely jumped the shark. Perhaps Nicole can replace Alton.

    • Crouton40 says:

      While Lenny has done better on cooking, I really felt that tonight Sarah had Lenny beat in her on-camera. Outgoing, enthused, held my attention better. Lenny had *more* trouble stumbling over words and getting stuck. But his overall track-record must've saved him. Tonight, Sarah had him beat. Disappointed with Alton and what he said in his video clip. More in Maria Russo's thread.

  7. Jonathan Wald says:

    What are you talking about, Baycityviewer?, it was Sarah who was sent packing. Luca's easygoing nature and conviviality is what got my vote in the end. He relates well to other people in a gentle, charming manner. Lenny says and does silly things still that move people the wrong way, though this week's promo was sharp and winning. Nicole is still trying to emerge but looks stressed. One caveat to FN on having Luca visit Italian restaurants across the US is this--Lydia Bastianich already did that on PBS last season, in addition to doing the same all over regional Italy the year prior to that. Try another twist, FN. And there is no beating Lidia, I adore her. So glad they weeded out the overly ambitious "It's-All-About-Me-Sarah," I was drowning in her endless drama queen asides--Boy, they REALLY coaxed the beast out of her. Turning the camera on her was like offering a pup a piece of bologna. FN at their manipulative best!

    • Linda says:

      I don't think the show that emerges will be what the pilot offers. It hasn't before. What I would like to see is a show that is similar to (not the same as) Molto Mario.
      He demonstrated food from various regions of Italy and offered insights to how the food developed, how regional ingredients influenced the food. For instance some regions don't make use of saltwater fish but incorporate lots o freshwater kinds. Some regions use olive oil and NO butter.but other regions use lots of butter and very little olive oil. Even the pastas are different. from some regions the food is quite rustic and other regions present equally elegant food. I would love to see him visit various families from different regions and then offer recipes for their unique foods.

      • Deena says:

        As for many Italian food shows on the Food Network/Food Channel - there is Giada's Americanized Italian; reruns of David Rocco's show and Debi Mazar and her husband's show - cute, and occasionally informative.
        I miss Mario Batali's shows and think Luca would make an excellent host.

  8. shannon says:

    I think Nicole did the best pilot. She came across as friendly, likeable and down to earth. She was perfect with her real to life imperfections. It does not hurt that the camera loves her.
    Luca was a close 2nd for me, he also seems genuine and friendly. Honest.
    Lenny I did not like, contrived is the word that comes to mind. I don't want to see him spinning in the kitchen throwing seasoning saying "making it rain", I don't want to see the cowboy dance. His joke about pick up Flo, not humorous. It really really bugged me to see him throwing the spice rub around, Messy is the word that came to mind...Lenny is messy.

    • Crouton40 says:

      Nicole's pilot was best.
      Nicole first, Luca 2nd, Lenny 3rd. And if they would have gone solely by tonights performance, I feel that Sarah did better on camera than Lenny.
      But Nicole is great. Clear speaking, unpretentious, friendly. Luca has improved and did well. But Nicole, I could watch longer. I hope she gets the Votes. --Crouton40, creator of http://www.top5best.com

    • Linda says:

      I liked Luca and Nicole. Lenny is a phoney and just plain creeps me out. It's not that I won't watch him if he wins. I absolutely could not do it. He makes my skin crawl

    • Buffy says:

      laughing at the comment - "make it rain" - while he sweeps the hodge podge of ingredients from the floor and places them in the pot.

  9. Guest says:

    Lenny over Sarah really seriously? Come on food network you need to go with what the viewers want and I would have loved to learn about Texas cooking!

    • Guest says:

      At least he can cook. Sarah had no talent in the kitchen or in front of the camera. SOOO glad she's finally gone.

    • L x 2 says:

      Many would have loved to learn about TX cooking, but Sarah never brought it to the table, only to the tease. I never saw honesty fro her, or cared for her culinary choices. She wants to be a star, not a TX chef or cook.

    • Trevor says:

      Perhaps you haven't been watching the polls they have been running during each episode but every time Sarah was up for elimination the over whelming majority of viewers voted for her to be the one to go. The viewers that have been voting so far (including this one) can't stand Sarah.

    • Larry says:

      I lived in Texas for 15 years. Texas cooking is simple, boring, and unhealthy.

  10. April says:

    NICOLE GAFFNEY has the only unique POV. In these days when everyone is encouraged to eat more seafood and less red meat, too many people don't know how to cook seafood properly. Beyond broiling a salmon filet, most people are clueless or hesitant about cooking seafood.

    FN EXECS - While I like the male finalists well enough, they have nothing new to share. You don't need any more Italian cooking shows or shows featuring Italian restaurants (they already exist). You don't need anymore "down home" or "pioneer" cooking shows. FN has those already. But you don't have ANYONE with Nicole's POV: Delicious seafood and how to prepare it easily in your own home. NICOLE IS UNIQUE and deserves a show!

    • Guest says:

      Do you know how many people don't live on the coast and don't care about coastal cooking, make that 90% of the United States.

      • April says:

        Actually, according to U.S. government statistics*, 39% of the population lives in a coastal area and over 50% of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of coastal. That's fairly significant. The fact is that there has been more emphasis on increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids from seafood and less consumption of red meat. If 50% of the U.S. population is living near water, I'd say that a seafood cook show is in order. (*Statistics from the National Coastal Population Report: Population Trends from 1970-2020, published by NOAA.)

        • MoHub says:

          I mentioned earlier that if coastal were expanded to include all areas around bodies of water, such as lake- and bayshores, Nicole could address a huge segment of the country.

      • James says:

        GOBS of people LOVE Chowders, clams, lobster, shrimp, oysters, tuna, salmon, scallops, fresh crab. This will attract new viewers. Nicole has the experience , background and skill. She was the most natural of them all tonight.

        Bobby Flay can do anything Lenny is doing already. Too much overlap.
        Luca is a little hard to wade through with his heavy accent. Giada makes Italian.

        Nicole stuttered much less on camera than either Lenny or Luca. She offers us something fresh and new. I'd rather learn what she can teach me.

      • guest says:

        Do you know you don't have to actually go and fish your own fish, or clam, or go crabbing. Seafood is sold in stores.

        • MoHub says:

          In her Rachael Ray spot, Nicole even mentioned using frozen seafood if fresh wasn't available in one's area, so her POV is much less restrictive than some viewers seem to believe. Besides, Coastal Cuisine encompasses a lot more than just seafood.

    • Ann says:

      I agree...While I find Luca charming, there are already plenty of Italian cooking shows on FN. I love seafood but unfortunately, am not that great at cooking it, I'd be thrilled if there was a show that specifically tackled seafood, My impression is that Nicole's cooking is directed at home cooks, I'd appreciate that much more than another travel show or one that makes beans and biscuits fancy,

      • Deena says:

        "there are already plenty of Italian cooking shows on FN."
        Strictly Italian??Only one on FN and that's Giada and even her shows are strictly Italian. And frankly, I'm tired of Giada. I'd love to see a strictly Italian show like the old Batali ones.

    • AJ Franklin says:

      I, too, found Lenny a fool. But I was not surprised. FN seeks out fools for its new shows...Nicole came in THIRD??? Sick.