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Foes, Frenemies, BFFs: The Many Faces of Serena and Brianna

by in Behind the Scenes, Community, July 15, 2010

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Is the Serena-Brianna dramarama done? Have they reached detente? Not that long ago Serena was in tears after a kitchen collision and a foot injury--with Brianna to blame.

When the pair partnered in a food truck challenge this week, they fought like sisters, "but in a good way," Brianna told the Selection Committee. They hugged it out, learning that their dishes--empanadas and panini and gyros--scored a win. As the intensity is upped, can they keep it civil?

NF0603_TS-StarChal-4_s4x3_tzBrianna's facing heat for her cool approach. Bob T talks in his vlog about how the audience in the live demo simply disengaged: "Brianna was probably the biggest offender there; her presentation just left them flat." But in her vlog, Giada counters that Serena "is stuck in what she wants to do," rather than connecting with the audience and judges. (Funny, that's not the impression you get over on Food2, where Serena debuted, in a way, before Star was a twinkle in her eye.) Given that they both, like the other finalists, have work to do, it might be best for them both to go ahead and get along instead of resorting to schoolgirl spats.

NF0605_BTS-Serena_s4x3_tzThen again, maybe not. Don't you get fired up by people who rub you the wrong way? Doesn't the next Star need passion and intensity and strength? Could it be strategic to set your competitors off their game by distracting them with faux, or real, ire? I'm guessing I'm not the only one who is hungry for more, because it is, after all, entertaining.

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Hug. It. Out.

Now it's your turn. You make the call: Should Serena and Brianna stay frenemies or foes or become BFFs? We want to see your comments (though the comments you've shared toward them in the past few weeks indicate you prefer warm and fuzzy to too cool for school). Tell us what you think.

Then check out the fan vote and vote for your favorite finalist--last I looked, Brianna was the favorite of 2 percent of voters; Serena was at 7 percent. Tough times with each other but limping along together?

Caption This: Episode 6

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, July 14, 2010

This week on The Next Food Network Star, Bobby gets – well, let's just say he's not all about a few of the finalists' offerings.

How would you caption this pic of Bobby?

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Bobby Flay Energizes Herb and Takes On Cheeseheads

by in Behind the Scenes, Recipes, July 12, 2010

Cooked: Herb and his oil blend run out of gas. Bobby tells him what he should've done instead.
Cooked: Herb and his oil blend run out of gas. Read on and watch to see how Bobby would've made it work.

Energy Chef Herb was crestfallen when he and fellow finalists failed to beat the three-minute buzzer during their cooking demos. Stage right, enter Grill It Guy and all-around Superman Bobby Flay. In less than three minutes, Flay troubleshoots a trio of Star hopefuls' dishes, transforming them from meh to masterful. And he shows off some dapper duds, to boot.

In this week's Re-Flay, he jazzes up Herb's cooking-oil stir fry conundrum in a flash, then takes on Team Wisconsin. The king of Bobby's Burger Palace tells Brad and Aria they needed fattier beef (20 percent fat!) for better burgers. And if your marketing plan includes boasting about being Cheeseheads, he advises, skimping on the cheddar is a bad call, no matter how you slice it.

Listen to Bobby's advice before the next episode.

How can Bobby make it look so easy when the finalists look so tortured? C'mon, did anyone look good? Vote for your favorite. Then check out this week's scrapbook starring Dame Paula Deen. And no, Aria's injury was not Brianna's fault.

I Think Paula Will Just Know

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, July 10, 2010

So as many of you are already aware, Paula Deen is the special guest judge on tomorrow’s episode of The Next Food Network Star. What do you think she'll be able to bring to the table for the finalists?

I'm actually a pretty avid Paula fan: I, too, adore Southern cooking and, I too, think it might not be worth hanging around if the world somehow ran out of butter. Add to that the time I had the good fortune to actually meet her in an airport. She soooo did not disappoint: on-the-spot clever, jokingly self-deprecating -- believe me, I could go on. In short: I’m ALL ABOUT seeing her hang out with the Star cast.

And yet … most of my anticipation has nothing to do with how downright fun and engaging I think she is. Here's the thing. Whether you're watching her on TV or being briefly (though very graciously) accommodated by her in an airport, you sense that this is a woman with crazy-sharp instincts when it comes to sizing people up. I got the sense she could tell me my ultimate life goal with nothing else to go on besides my description of the in-flight meal. (Yes, this was awhile back when you could still get those.) So tomorrow, I'll be keeping a sharp eye out for any subtle Paula "indicators." (Of course, the finalists' food will be a factor -- this is not a lady to hold back when it comes to stating what she likes and what she doesn't, I mean come on). But ... Is she looking a bit longer at Brad? Taking a moment to squeeze Aria’s hand? Smiling more when she’s around Serena? Hmmmm ….

Caption This: Episode 5

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, July 6, 2010

This week on The Next Food Network Star, Ms. Paula Deen steps in and gives her take on the Season 6 finalists (and their dishes).

How would you caption this pic of Paula?

Paula Deen on Star Set

 

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.

See the Judges' Real Reactions Now

Still Got That Chill

by in Behind the Scenes, June 23, 2010

It's pretty clear by now that Brianna knows what she's doing when it comes to cuisine. So far she hasn't had a single dish come out less than great — no mean feat under typical challenge conditions, you know? But when will she start to thaw? Despite recent urging from the judges to start warming up to her guests, her demeanor is still detached, even arrogant. So how did she wind up with a win this week? Listen to Bob's take on her victory ... and see if you think she would have won without the "luck" factor he mentions ....

See What You Think

From Where I Sit: Episode 3

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, Recap, June 21, 2010

I'm going to miss Dzintra. I must admit, I cringed with the rest of you when she shushed Aria – but, come on, you couldn't take your eyes off this finalist. Her unpredictability was fascinating. She was a pistol and the show won't be the same without her theatrics. I've written so much in previous blog posts about Ms. Dzenis, that now, I'm simply going to let Dzintra leave and stop talking about her. She has moved on and so must I. Farewell, Dzintra.

Brad (aka Justin Timberlake’s Lookalike) took his hat off in a few scenes this week and it totally threw me for a loop. I almost didn't recognize the guy. If Aarti stops wearing her flower I’m really going to be in trouble. I'm certain both Brad and Aarti wear these items to help them stand out from the crowd. I like these little added touches and think they shouldn't be filmed without them. You know how restaurant waiters have a pencil stuck behind their ear? I'd like to see DAS carry a utensil behind his. Perhaps a spoon? Yes, that should be his thing.

Herb. I dig him. He's an Atlanta boy and so am I. If for no other reason, I have to cheer for one of my own. However, if I could speak to him before Episode 4, I would offer my brother this advice, "Be authentic." Herb's enthusiasm, his smile and often times his whole demeanor comes across as forced to me. Be yourself, Herb. We Georgia boys have enough genuine personality – we don't have to be fake.

I did not care for how Paul treated Serena in the team challenge. I found him to be obnoxious, overbearing and a bit sexist with his comments. He needs to dial that mess down. He has a comedic, stand up background and maybe his shtick is funny in one of those venues? But, in this format, he's coming off as a big jerk. And, I like Serena too much to see her treated like this. Stop it, Paul.

Tom. I think he may be a sleeping giant here. He seems like that kid who sits in the back of the classroom all quiet and elusive, and then he graduates and invents something the world can't live without. Sure, his hair makes me nervous, but like Aarti's flower, Brad’s hat and DAS's spoon, it's his thing. Don't get a trim, Tom. I'll get used to it with time.

Clearly her teammate didn't want to hear anything she had to say (first paragraph), but Aria's voice comforts me. She has been told that she speaks to people like they are kindergartners (and she really does), but there is something about this cook that draws me in. I would so watch a show starring Aria. Perhaps more than any of the other finalists, I find Aria very easy to relate to.

Movin’ On Up …?

by in Behind the Scenes, June 16, 2010

So it seems a tad early to me, but Giada thinks the Star action has already reached a point where the "real contenders" are about to cut loose from the "don’t-quite-cut-its." Here's the catch: It may not be who you’d expect. Check out her philosophy on the concept of finalist potential ....

See If You Agree

Keepin’ It Real: Episode 2

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Star, Recap, June 14, 2010

Alrighty! Let me dig in on some of my standout moments – and then I want to hear yours!

NFNS6_Dzintra-Kneading-Dough_s3x4_tzI must admit, I was expecting (and hoping for) a little Dzintra Drama. From the comments I’ve read, she has clearly rubbed some of you the wrong way, but as I explained last week, I enjoy her! If there was a Team Dzintra t-shirt, I would buy it. As a matter of fact, I’m going to make one and wear it around the office.

0137548_Giada-With-A-Smirk_s4x3_tzIn the first challenge, Giada told the finalists that if they couldn’t “cook and talk at the same time,” that they didn’t need to be in the competition. This is where I would make my exit. Think about it – some of the tasks you do (and do well), can you clearly explain what you are actually doing while you’re working on that task? I’m talking out loud now as I type this and all I can come up with to explain my action is, “Writing. Typing.”

Poor Aarti was called out on the “dead air” she left while on camera. I felt badly for her. You know she just wanted to hide behind her hair flower. And Serena? She was criticized for speaking waaaay too fast. Sure, I couldn’t understand a word she said, but really, isn’t having too much to say and speaking super fast to get it all out better than silence?

0137547_Duff-Goldman-With-Hand-Up_s4x3_tzDuff was a guest in this episode and introduced the second challenge. Who doesn’t love this man? Am I the only who thinks Duff’s cakes shouldn’t be eaten, but preserved? They are true pieces of art – they shouldn’t be cut into like savages! Hmm – I’ll save this topic for another day.

NF0602_Feature-Aarti_s4x3_tzThe Santa Monica Pier Challenge was CRAZY! The finalists had to create a savory party plate inspired by carnival food. Can you even imagine? Aarti’s inspiration was funnel cake – and she had never even eaten one before (which is just a travesty – someone get this girl a funnel cake, ASAP)!

NFNS6_Brianna_s4x3_tzBrianna seemed to shut down a bit in this competition. I think she was overly tired. You know how it is when you’re exhausted – you reach that point where you’re simply DONE. Brianna needed a nap to put that pep back in her step. If Bob and Susie had only provided her with an air mattress out there on the pier, she would have been fine.

NFNS6_Doreen_s3x4_tzElimination time. As you saw, Doreen was the second finalist to depart the show. I did understand the judges’ decision to send her home. Giada had said earlier in the show that her facial expressions “made her not want to watch.” Well, that’s clearly not good. But in her defense, in the pier challenge, Doreen was given a “Root Beer Float” to inspire her savory dish. Merciful days, a Root. Beer. Float? My facial expression would have been far from cute, too. So long, Doreen. I’ll miss you.

NF0602-BTS14_Tom_s4x3_tzThat’s my take, what’s yours? Any standout moments for you? Oh, I’m thinking of devoting an entire blog entry to nothing but Tom’s hair. Thoughts?