Tuesday, July 13, 2010

bye, smartass

On the 90-minute special broadcast of "The Next Food Network Star," it was Paul's turn to get nixed. Although he and Herb had a loud and affable rapport during the meal truck contest, Paul's sassing of Bobby Flay didn't earn him any goodwill from the judges. As before, Paul was questioned about having switched-- yet again-- his style and approach, and when Flay tried to pin him down as to what he (Paul) intended to cook for the masses, Paul answered, both testily and evasively, "Food, Bobby." Brad, who has cooked inconsistently since receiving high praise from Wolfgang Puck in the first episode, was devastated by the announcement of Paul's departure: he and Paul had apparently become great friends over the course of five weeks.

It was during a previous episode that Guy Fieri spoke up in defense of Paul's style: "I like his humor," Fieri said. I can see how Paul would appeal to a certain subset of the Food Network's viewership, but he'd be off-putting to women. Paul probably belongs back on stage, doing improv and stand-up. His prickliness toward Bobby Flay also indicated that he was resisting every teaching moment that had been offered to him.

We learned that the judges have been disappointed at Aria's lack of progress, but continue to be wowed by Aarti's performance, even when she fails at a challenge. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the episode was the sisterly rapport that arose between heretofore arch enemies Serena and Brianna, both of whom have certain diva-ish tendencies.

Almost as startling a revelation was big, goofy, slovenly Tom: he rocked during his camera challenge (even though the judges didn't like his product) and proved to be a great partner alongside Aarti during the meal truck challenge. Although I still believe that Aarti, Aria, and Herb occupy the top three spots, there's a chance that Tom might bump either Herb or Aria off the top three. I find it hilarious that, every time Tom is shown on camera, the caption below his image reads "Tom: Unemployed Chef."

This episode also provided a glimpse of what might have been wrong with Herb in the previous episode: he was missing his family. Herb does need to keep control of his emotions; this isn't the time to pull a Dzintra.

In all, it was a good episode. Paul deserved to be cut; he was bumbling down the same path as poor Doreen Fang, who also had trouble articulating a specific culinary point of view. The "CPOV" mantra has persisted through every season of "The Next Food Network Star," and has prompted me to reflect on my own CPOV. It's discomfiting to admit that I don't have one-- yet. But I'm working on it.



Elisson said...

As you know, the Missus and I ran into Aria at the Whole Foods in Aventura, Florida yesterday. SWMBO recognized her and went over and introduced herself; Aria was pleasantly surprised to be recognized and was quite charming and down-to-earth.

I was glad she didn't get the boot last night. Right now, I'd pick her, along with Aarti, Herb, and Tom, as Final Four material. But if I had to pick a winner right this moment, my money would be on Aarti, who, despite a puzzling (occasional) lack of self-confidence, seems to hold most of the personality and culinary cards.

As Adam Gertler shows, however, sometimes the runners-up end up being fine show hosts. Perhaps that will be Aria's future.

Anonymous said...

Kevin, I'm not sure you really need a CPOV. For TV chefs, it is necessary so you have some expectation of what you will see, and it adds to the interest because of the wonder about how they will do something.

Based on what you post you come closest to Korean. However, you modify it would be your CPOV, I guess.

Kevin Kim said...

Elisson: agreed. My money is currently on Aarti, who is the best combination of technical consistency, culinary innovation, and on-camera poise. Herb might be a deserving runner-up, though, as might Tom, but of the two, I'd give the nod to Herb first: Tom has produced mediocre food more often than Herb has, and he (Tom) is only just starting to come into his own. Herb, by contrast, just needs a bit of focus; he's already got the energy, the affability, and the skills. I keep thinking to myself that Herb just needs to view the camera as a personal trainee, to talk to it the way he would talk to someone trying to lose weight or get healthier. With that down pat, he'll be fine.

At this point, I'd say that all the remaining contestants are upper-echelon people: there are no duds left. Brianna's still there because her cooking has been consistently fantastic; Serena has produced stellar food for the most part, and radiates a great deal of intensity; Brad can, when he concentrates, produce food worthy of Wolfgang Puck's praise. It'll be a shame to lose any of these folks, but I have a feeling that the Final Four will be who you say they are.

I'm morbidly curious as to who will be eliminated next. When I look back on my predictions, I see that I've gotten it mostly right, but have been disastrously wrong about Tom and Brianna, both of whom have toughed it out longer than anticipated. As things now stand, I honestly have no clue who'll be eliminated next.

Bill: Korean food is actually a fairly new addition to my culinary repertoire. I'm still not sure I have the hang of it yet; it's a lot easier for me to make spaghetti sauce than it is to make some of the most common, basic Korean meals. I feel that the CPOV is important, though, in that it requires introspection into who I am. You're right, of course, that a CPOV is important for those in front of the camera, but I can't help thinking that my own cooking might improve if I put more thought into my own CPOV.