It’s been a most interesting summer with two of my favorite reality cooking shows running neck and neck, both very different, but both with an emphasis on food and good cooking of same.
I think it might be time for Gordon Ramsey, that world class chef, to break down and get a gig on The Food Network. Ramsey has plenty of shows to compete against Food Network, both on FOX, Bravo, and across the TV range. Ramsey is host of the very popular Hell’s Kitchen, which is currently in the early stages of its competition. He also hosts the cooking series MasterChef, a sort of copy-cat of The Next Food Network Star if for no other reason than this series suddenly sprang up just a year ago right while the meat of The Next Food Network Star was on full broil.
Ramsey’s MasterChef, with its grand prize of a quarter of a million dollars, will air its finale this coming Tuesday, August 16, on FOX at 8p/7c. The Food Network will feature The Next Food Network’s Star’s finale on Sunday, August 14 at 9p/8c.
As expected, I’ve some thoughts on these two cooking reality shows, some opinions which I share free of charge, and some predictions.
Gordon Ramsey is a talented chef, no doubt. I don’t especially like his personal technique with his loud cussing, tantrums, and childish drama. Although, as a reality show aficionado, I know that this is the sort of stuff that draws in viewers, I get that. With Ramsey, I think it goes overboard. In fact, my cable TV guide’s description of the upcoming MasterChef finale says, and I quote, "strong coarse language, intensely suggestive dialogue."
Seriously, is this necessary for a cooking show? There are no such words describing any Food Network show because, folks, it’s about cooking, not the stuff of life and death. In fact, an argument could be made that cooking should be a comfort thing, not a tense, nasty affair that chases away any anticipation for the fluffy pile of mashed potatoes to come.
No, you might ask, in fact, I do not normally watch either Hell’s Kitchen, or the tamer MasterChef, for that matter, and specifically because of all the bad language. But since I signed up to do this column I deemed it only appropriate to try and offer disparate offerings in the genre. That and MasterChef has some charm with not so much cussing.
MasterChef is down to four contenders as of this writing. The contenders for this competition are not as knowledgeable in the culinary arts as the contenders in The Next Food Network Star. Food Network does not allow professionally trained chefs in its Star competition but it’s obvious that those who do make the final cut have more background in the cooking arts and some media experience as well. MasterChef contenders might know how to best cook up a possum and are more likely to be chefs of the home-grown sort.
Which is not to say that the MasterChef contenders do not beguile with their cooking talent. Most of us watching these cooking shows are home cooks ourselves, after all. If anything I find myself drawn more to someone who learned by endless trial and error in their own kitchen than one who’s labored at a cooking career that leaves me so often behind the experienced. I have never once in my life made risotto is what I’m saying here and if I did I doubt my family would eat it.
As for predictions, for MasterChef I am predicting Jennifer to win. Understand that Jennifer has had issues with her dishes, major ones. But she has excelled at the food she’s excelled at, often drawing praise from all three judges. Praise from the recalcitrant Ramsey is praise indeed. Adrien is another possibility. He’s been steady right along but he’s had some monumental failures. His specialty is more with meat while Jennifer is more versatile. A wild card would be Christian, a contender who is a bit full of himself and often quite nasty.
As for The Food Network Star, it has been a most enjoyable run in this, its seventh season. This is a competition that has been a real winner for the Food Network and good on it. The contenders are mostly likeable, Food Network is able to call on all of its other cooking talent to help keep up the viewer interest, and the competition adds another dimension to the challenge, which is the contender’s ability to describe the cooking with the TV cameras on.
The final three contenders for The Next Food Network Star are Susie, Jeff, and Vic.
Early on I predicted that Vic would win. Vic purports to be a cook trained by his mama on how to make great tasty meals from the contents of the fridge on any given day. Vic, a bald tattooed fellow, personable enough, has a tendency to veer every which way with his identity. For that and because by the time this contest gets down to the final three all of the finalists are very talented that even a hair of a handicap can make or break, I changed my prediction to Jeff as The Next Food Network Star.
I stand by this prediction. Jeff’s genre is sandwiches; his claim is that everything and anything can be made into a sandwich.
Who can argue with a sandwich king as The Next Food Network Star?