New Season of Food Network Star

Here we are with another Food Network Star to watch so you get to read my less than professional opinion of the contestants. I can’t explain why I enjoy watching this so much, I never get to see their shows once they’ve won. I’ve never caught one episode of the Sandwich Guy, Jeff Mauro  from a few seasons ago. Didn’t catch any episodes of Damaris from last season. I have no idea who won between Jeff and Damaris. Why is that? Because the Food Network programming really, really sucks. Open letter to the Food Network is in the works, stay tuned for that.

I missed the first episode and had to do a quick catch up before the second episode last night. Here are the contenders and my first impressions of them. It’s only the first episode so don’t have much to go on, like the judges, so snap judgement it is. I’ve separated them in to three categories of I really like them, maybe, absolutely not. You can check them out here if you want their full bios.

Absolutely Not:

Aryen Moore-Alston  – Don’t like her. She reminds me of Lovely Jackson from last season and I didn’t like her either. Very full of herself but no substance.

Christopher Lynch – A professional chef. Arrogant and smug but has nothing interesting to offer, at least not yet. He also doesn’t have any personality. Oooh, he’s a chef so I should be awed. Not!

Donna Sonkin Shaw – no, no and no. Too much of everything, over the top and annoying. I’d flip the channel the minute I heard her voice. I’m not even sure what she is trying to get across, what’s her point of view.

Kenny Lao –  Not 100% sure what gets me worked up about him, but he’s arrogant with nothing to back it up.


Chris Kyler – Not sure about him yet. He has a really nice personality, not sure if he can cook or what he’s about.

Emma Frisch – She is very calm and quiet, reminds a bit of Ina. Not sure what she has to offer though other than the same thing too many others already provide. Farm to table? Fresh ingredients? It’s rather trite.

Nicole Gaffney – Not sure about her yet. She’s one of those that stands in the middle of the pack at the beginning. Nothing too much either way and not sure what she can offer.

Reuben Ruiz – I’m not sure about him. He speaks very fast, is Cuban and refers to ingredients by it’s Spanish name and is sometimes hard to understand…will hold judgement.

Sarah Penrod – My first impression was aw hell no! Not a pageant queen! This is supposed to be a cooking show. But she may have some cooking chops, she just needs to focus on cooking not impressing the judges with her pageantry crud.

Definitely Yes!

Lenny McNab – I like him. He’s a character but he seems to have the cooking chops and enough personality to keep you viewing.

Loreal Gavin – I actually like her. She’s quirky but seems to know about cooking. I’ll keep an eye on her

Luca Della Casa – He’s a got a lot of charm and a great personality and even knows cooking. As a few of the other female contestants have mentioned, “he’s pretty”.

So after some mediocre food and a walk on the red carpet the judges decided to get rid of Donna. Thank goodness! She was so damned annoying I don’t know how long I could have stood watching the show. I guess every season there just has to be that one huh? I honestly don’t know what her point of view was.

Last night’s episode (June 8) it was time to teach. The contestants had to show they could explain how to make a dish.

First thing was a mini challenge talking Alton through a Green Bean Casserole and Chicken Fried Steak.

I’ll admit I don’t know if I could make green bean casserole without the usual canned soup and french fried onions. I don’t even like it, but maybe if it was made the way they were working on it I would like it better.


Mr. Fancy Pants Chef Chris thought he knew it all and had Alton chop the onions instead of the making the usual fried onion rings we are used to seeing. I had no idea where he was going with chopped onions that’s for sure. Sarah had a set on her and stood up there and had Alton cut another onion in larger slices so it would be closer to the french fried onion rings we all are used to seeing on the casserole.

Reuben tries to make the sauce but forgets that you need to make a little roux first and has Alton dumping the chicken stock in the hot pan, not going to thicken that way Reuben.

Aryen – I honestly had the biggest issue with her this week. She had to try and fix Reuben’s mistake but didn’t know how. Huh? How can you call yourself a cook and not know how to use a thickening agent of some sort to add to a hot liquid? A simple slurry of four and water would have worked, or cornstarch and water, or a paste of butter and flour.  She asked and Lenny, the sweetheart he seems to be, gave her a tip to add flour to the chopped onions and add that to the hot liquid mixture. She was praised over that wonderfully creative tip by Alton and took it as her due. Never did she admit she got the idea from someone else. She had the audacity to sit there and say “I got this” when it was obvious she didn’t. Some might say Lenny was the idiot for helping her out, maybe so, but I question someone’s integrity when they pull this kind of stunt. Not someone I want to work with and I would definitely watch my back around her.

Kenny can’t make gravy? How in the world can you call yourself a cook and not know how to do a simple gravy? He has Alton adding raw cornstarch to the hot liquid. Um, hello there, need to make a slurry with it and then whisk it in so it’s smooth. That’s simply basic cooking 101.

Everyone did pretty well except for the above mentioned. I especially liked Luca and Lenny. Lenny is funny as hell but gave Alton a few good safety tips. Luca just teaches you like your momma or gramma would.

The next challenge was to do a quick instructional video on how to make a dish from some different pantry items. The twist was Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli was behind the scenes with the judges attempting to follow along exactly and make the dish.

Lenny was first up and was a total hoot. He really does have a way about him, some would think it was pretty cheesy but I’m not sure it’s an act, I think he’s really like that and is totally genuine. Alex loved him, said he was easy to follow along, the judges loved him and his food was pretty danged tasty too. I really appreciated his look of humility when Bobby told him his dish was very good. You could tell that he was in awe that the Iron Chef really liked his dish. No arrogance about this guy. Just confidence in his abilities.

Chris was so busy talking he forgot he should be cooking and didn’t get his food out in time.

Kenny – still not winning me over. He tried to show what an expert he was and, like Chris, spent too much time at the beginning talking and trying to show off his knowledge that he forgot he should be cooking. When he finally got around to it he had some technical issues and instead of manning up and working around it he started whining “it’s not fair!”. He also didn’t get anything out on the plate in time. Then when judgement time came around he made excuses, continued to whine and didn’t man up to his own mistakes. Nope, don’t like him at all.

Luca – poor Luca. He never looked up from what he was preparing and that did him in. Even though his instructions were clear, he didn’t engage his audience.

Loreal was actually somewhat disappointing. She downplayed who she was so much that it bored everyone. I think she was trying not to come out too over the top, but instead she dialed it down so much the judges wanted to go to sleep.

Everyone else was so-so, their food was so-so, their performance so-so.

Lenny was the clear winner of this challenge and he honestly deserved it.

Luca, Chris and Kenny were in the bottom three. I can’t believe that the judges let Luca go instead of Kenny. I don’t know how many seasons I’ve watched where they have said a contestant didn’t have camera presence, Aaron McCargo Jr. comes to mind and he won! They gave him chance after chance to improve his camera presence, but not Luca? Luca actually has such a charming personality that it wouldn’t take him long to figure out how to talk to the camera. It was his first camera challenge after all. Maybe Giada was feeling a bit intimidated, he’s a cute Italian too.

I would have dumped Kenny. But the judges decided that he manned up during the final judging and admitted he was the cause of his not getting his dish done in time, not those other things. Ha! He just had some time to think it over and talk to the others about it and decided he had better backtrack really quick like. Looks like it worked. Sorry, still don’t like the slime ball.

Until next week. Maybe we’ll see Kenny go home.