The recent Fourth of July holiday and some major league baseball cast some serious confusion into the timing of these mid-summer reality TV offerings. Nonetheless, The Next Food Network Star (Sundays at 9pm and now in its seventh season) managed to televise two cooking competitions to include creation of an all-American food menu as well as developing a menu, setting up advertisement, and putting a food truck into operation.
Meanwhile, FOXs MasterChef, a Gordon Ramsay vehicle now in its second season (Mondays at 9pm) with mystery boxes and pressure tests and, as is his wont, a bit of cursing, had a cooking challenge that had the contenders preparing various appetizers for Ramsay’s L.A.’s restaurant, London West Hollywood.
Contenders for The Next Food Network Star win their own cooking show on the Food Network. MasterChef wannabes are going for a prize of a quarter million bucks. As is always the case with cooking show challenges: a) watching same will make you hungry and b) since the viewer can’t judge the taste of the food, a whole bunch of other factors come into play for the home viewer judge.
I do quite enjoy reality food show contests but find that some of the offerings are a bit too fancy for my very average cooking skills. Which is exactly the reason I do like The Next Food Network Star as this is a contest that will determine a winner who will star in his or her own show on the Food Network. The Food Network does not have fancy four-star cooking shows for the benefit of the home cook with the skill level of, well, myself comes to mind.
Ramsay’s cooking show offerings, including MasterChef as well as his more well known Hell’s Kitchen premiering soon, tend toward more fancy offerings. Ramsay always has some kind or risotto or Wellington on his menu and I can’t name one time in the past ten years I’ve made either of these dishes. Still, it brings a smile to follow these two shows, to note their quirks, humor, drama and even, at times, the food.
In The Next Food Network Star’s all-American food contest, a former Food Network Star winner, Guy Fieri, was the host. Guy has been quite successful, branching out to quiz shows, best-selling cookbooks, and commercials.
This episode featured a dish that made me smile at its genius. It was a baked bean pie. Yes it was, it was what it was called. Now here was a dish that would be great for picnics, seemed easy to bake and, indeed, was the winner of that week’s challenge for contender Whitney.
Tyler Florence was the host of the food truck challenge, naturally, as Tyler hosts a Food Network show about food trucks! The biggest smile of this show was one team’s chosen food truck theme. The blue team of Whitney, Susie, and Jeff called their food truck “Balls of Food” and right there you got a smile, leading to a smirk, leading to adolescent jokes.
It’s not that balls of food as presented were bad. In fact, Jeff’s meatballs were very well liked by the judges, but the name and the yuks cost that team points.
There is drama amidst the cooks. One contender, Penny, is a wonderful cook but she has a personality like a mad pit bull. I think that the very sweet all-American Mary Beth is a real contender to win but this past week I began to regard the tattooed Vic with new eyes.
Here’s a guy I wouldn’t think would have much of a chance as a Food Network star. He’s covered with tattoos, has a bit of a Philly swagger about him, and does not come across as the sort ordinary cooks across the fruited plains would tune in to watch.
But he served up a lobster roll with white caviar on all-American week and a basic but delicious Philly steak cheese wrap for his team’s food truck.
This causes me to wonder, could Vic be the next Guy Fieri?
As for MasterChef, I continue to watch. Gordon Ramsay is, no matter a mouth that sometimes needs a good washing, a master of his craft. The contenders on this show prepared some interesting appetizers for the restaurant challenge but again, the infamous Wellington showed up along with a couple of gazpachos, one red as a gazpacho should be, and one green and red as it included avocado.
The pressure challenge given to the losing team was for the cooks to create a six-layer cake. Well, hey, cakes I can understand. Six layers seems a bit over the top but the contenders did create some pretty cakes, including a banana split cake as well as a chiffon cake flavored with basil and orange. These two ingredients sounded odd in combination in a cake but the judges considered their use cooking genius. I do know those six layers looked pretty and delicious.
As of July 13 there are 11 contenders left on MasterChef and eight left on The Next Food Network Star. We’ll be following these two very different cooking contests and we'll keep commenting on the food and the contenders until a winner is announced.