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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Is there a star on the 'Next Food Network Star?'

Sometimes there's just too much television for one Channel Surfing blogger to handle. That's when we need a break to sit back, relax and indulge in some friendly back-and-forth (via email, of course — we don't actually like to speak to one another in person). Bloggers Thomas Rozwadowski, Malavika Jagannathan and Sara Boyd are celebrating Debbie's recent departure from "The Next Food Network Star" by eating American hamburgers and French fries. Yes, nothing Asian at all. Except Thomas and Sara, but that's more by default. Though, even as we enjoy the fact we will never have to hear "You know, because I'm Korean" ever again we're shaking in our television boots, as Melissa seems to be hitting her stride. Can she be stopped? Could the PTA even bring this stay-at-home mom down?

Sara: Free at last, free at last. Thank God, I'm free at last. Free from the kim-chi, free from the Seoul to Soul, oh thank God, I'm free at last. Yes, it finally happened. I'm-Korean Debbie was sent packing, leaving only Seriously-pull-it-together-you-have-to-win Jeffrey and I'm-a-mom Melissa left for the finale, in a semi-final episode that literally had my nerves in a bundle. It all came down to Melissa and Debbie. Two of the most annoying contestants in the competition. Two people that arguably no one would watch, unless forced to by use of torture. We're talking waterboarding times 10. And yet, Melissa still remains. Ugh.

But let's talk about the good stuff for now. Who would've thought that one of the criticisms Debbie would receive on her final show on "Next Food Network Star" would be, "You should've brought out your culture more." Er, what? And while I really thought Jeffrey was going to get it due to the risotto that was a complete abomination to the Italian culture, I was glad the judges saw what the rest of us had for some time now -- Debbie sucks. Sure, she's not a bad cook and can perform under pressure and on camera semi-well but a complete show of that woman would be unbearable. She's only got one niche and that niche is overplayed and boring. Likewise, Miss Mommy and Me Melissa also only has one forte and she's banging us over the head with it.

So Roz, Jeffrey was a bit shaky this last round, do you think he can pull off the win?

Thomas: I was really, really nervous last night. And with good reason. They didn't just dislike Jeffrey's risotto. The chef's table would have rather swallowed Alpo than choke down another bite of his "worst. dish. ever." If there's anything that reality food contestants need to learn, please don't ever make risotto or creme brulee in a time crunch. You're signing your death warrant.

Anyway, Jeffrey nailed the food demo, which is probably the only reason he's still alive. That, and the Korean Pillsbury Doughgirl could no longer hide her mediocrity. Look, Jeffrey can explain cooking technique and describe ingredients in a way that even impresses Tyler Florence. That's saying something, because Tyler, in case you haven't noticed ... bit of a douche. Debbie just didn't have the Asian flair to ultimately captivate viewers, though I have to say, compared to last season, all three contestants were really polished on camera.

That's why I have to give Melissa credit. She can really shine with her personality. And you can't call her pastry last night a fluke. She impressed the best with her food.

While I'm ultimately tired of the stay-at-home pitch -- and the fact that she thinks her idea is sooooooooo revolutionary, HELLO! RACHAEL RAY! -- I'm not going to pile on her. She's earned her way to the finals. If you're not a trained chef and you can impress a table of Rick Bayless, John Besh, Bobby Flay, Alex Guarnaschelli, and freakin' Morimoto, you get my respect. That's gotta be the most intimidating collection of chefs in reality TV history, "Top Chef" included.

So please MJ, don't attack me with a rolling pin for giving Mrs. Mommy Mom Moms-a-Lot some props. I still want Jeffrey to win, but I just don't know what his angle is going to be on Food Network. The man is stunningly clean and concise with his food demos, but he doesn't make any dishes that I haven't seen before.

Have you turned a corner on Melissa? And how do you think the finale could play out?

Malavika: First of all, I'd like to note that I, too, count as Asian... but if that in any way, shape or form, makes me sound like Debbie, please kill me.

Although my hatred of "I'm Korean, Look At Me" Debbie was nowhere as strong as Sara's, I was happy to see her packing. That does, however, mean that Evil Mommy Melissa remains. That's right, Evil Mommy Melissa is her new moniker. Yes, EMM impressed on the last two rounds, producing edible -- but not exciting -- dishes paired with sob stories intended to make the judges cry. But, come on, she's a one-trick pony. Her working mom shtick is tiresome and she's no Julia Child, no matter how hard she tried to draw those comparisons. There is no way that a show of hers would last more than half a season.

I like Jeffrey because he's unpredictable. He's got that calm, zen-like demeanor that'll make him stand out among the Food Network's other more energetic lineup like Emeril LaGasse and Bobby Flay. I don't know what his angle is going to be, but I think whatever it is, I'm liable to tune in. That being said, he has got to bring it. Spending less than $400 out of the $1000 given to him last night was more than a bad case of judgement, it was stupid. If he wants to win, he has to stop second-guessing himself on things like that.

In a way, EMM versus Zen Master Jeffrey is a great match-up for the finale. They couldn't be more polar opposites in terms of skill, presence and attitude, but let's hope that Melissa's late-blooming success doesn't blind the judges to Jeffrey's talent.

Catch "The Next Food Network Star" at 8 p.m. Sundays on the Food Network.

-- Sara Boyd,, Thomas Rozwadowski,, Malavika Jagannathan,

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