The Next Food Network Star is back for its 8th season with a new name and a new format. Now known by the trimmed down name Food Network Star it features Food Network personalities Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, and Alton Brown as mentors to 15 handpicked finalists.
On Saturday’s 30-minute casting special we meet the 15 finalists as Alton, Bobby, and Giada choose 5 contestants to mentor through this season’s competition. Each mentor invited 20 possible finalists from thousands of applicants to take part in live auditions in Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta.
In New York you have to be able to cook if you want to be on Team Bobby and in keeping with this theme tonight’s casting special definitely puts the most focus on the food Bobby’s team cooks. He asks his 20 competitors to make their best egg dish in 10 minutes.
Meet Team Bobby (Polished Professional Personalities)
First we meet Michelle, 42, a tattooed executive chef from Brooklyn, New York, who impresses Bobby with her positive personality and her 9-minute Eggs Benedict with chive Hollandaise sauce. Next up is Malcolm, 41, a private chef from Washington, D.C., who makes Bobby a tomato omelet with basil, a little onion and a little Parmesan cheese. Malcolm, who certainly seems like Bobby’s favorite to win, gets the family man edit when Bobby asks him, “Aside from cooking what’s important to you?” and he answers, “My family.” He’s the only contestant we see asked this type of question, which leaves me wondering if the producers are already foreshadowing this season’s winner. Bobby’s third finalist is Kara, 31, who owns catering and boot camp businesses in Springfield, IL. She says her point of view is, “How you eat is part of your lifestyle, so it is important to be conscientious of what you are putting in your body.” Bobby mentions that health is a big topic and that the Food Network doesn’t have much in the way of health conscious programming right now. I think there’s a reason for that, but I digress. Next we meet Nikki, 31, a food and beverage consultant and private chef from West Hollywood, CA, who simultaneously flirts her way in to the ranks of Team Bobby and irritates me with her idea for her Food Network show, Girl on Grill for some girl on grill action. Excuse me while I roll my eyes. Bobby eats this up and now we have finalist number 4. Moving on from the sexual innuendo, next we meet Eric, a winery chef from Petaluma, CA, who makes smoked chorizo hash with mushrooms and peppers and has quit his job to compete on Food Network Star. As far as the three teams go Bobby definitely chose the finalists who looked and acted the most like people you would see on TV.
In Los Angeles you better make it personal if you want to be on Team Giada. Giada asks her 20 competitors to make a salad with 1 cooked component.
Meet Team Giada (The Beautiful People)
First up is Martita, 35, from San Diego. Martita presents herself as the saucy, sexy, outgoing Latina, but something about her just feels phony and maybe a little forced. She calls Giada Mamacita and throws out an ay dios mio but it just doesn’t feel real. Her audition focused more on her shtick rather than what she actually cooked. Finalist number 2 is Linkie, 28, a pastry chef originally from South Africa, who now calls North Attleborough, MA home. She makes a salad with Portobello mushrooms, raspberry vinaigrette and toasted pecans. Next up are Josh, 42, a wannabe rock star and sushi chef from Jupiter Florida and Phillip “Ippy”, 23, an executive chef from Hawaii. Giada can’t choose between the 2 so both join the ranks of Team Giada. Ippy’s credo is anchovies, mom, girlfriend. I’ll leave the shrinks to decide if that’s weird and move on to the last finalist on Team Giada. Yvan, 30, originally from Venezuela is now a cook at the French consulate in New York City. He very well may be the prettiest one on the team. I’m not sure what his point of view is but I do know he was very glad to hug his dream. If Bobby’s team is home to the people who look the most like those you’d see on TV Gianna’s team is definitely the best looking of the three.
If you want to be part of Team Alton you have to be able to teach. In Atlanta Alton puts his 20 competitors to the test by asking them to teach him to make Bananas Foster. I’m not sure if he was doing it for the sake of good TV or to prove a point to his contestants but each time he reached the point of pouring the liquor in to the pan he made a big show of almost being scorched by the resulting flame. Note to future finalists: Liquor + hot pan = big flame.
Meet Team Alton (The Fun Funky Bunch)
The first finalist on Team Alton is Martie. From Birmingham, AL Martie is “slightly over 30” and was once a police officer. She’s a talker. I’m not sure if that’s going to help her or hurt her but Alton eventually has to tell her to stop talking to tell her she is on Team Alton. I suppose we’ll see how that plays out as the season goes on. Next up is Emily, whose 50s cat-eye glasses I adore. Emily is 29 and from Atlanta, GA. I’m pretty sure Emily is Alton’s favorite to win. He describes her as that funky, cool friend everyone wants to have. Next we meet Judson, 30, a caterer from Chicago, IL. He’s a storyteller and Alton thinks guys will watch him. Up next is Cristie, 35, an aspiring restaurateur from Biloxi, MS. Now I’m Team Alton all the way but I just don’t know what he was thinking choosing Cristie. He seems to think she’ll make a connection with the audience but I humbly disagree. She’s too dim, dippy and just too much of a dud to make a connection with an audience. And finally we meet Justin, 27, the chef and owner of a restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. He’s one of those pretty guys with pretty lips but I swear to Pete the first time I saw him on my TV screen in his blue cap and colorful skeleton t-shirt I thought he was a Beastie Boy circa 1986. If Team Bobby is home to the polished professionals and Team Giada is home to the beautiful people, Team Alton is most certainly home to the misfits and free spirits of the culinary world.
So there you have it, 3 mentors, 15 finalists and a brand new season of Food Network Star with a new name and a new format. Next up episode 1, Impossible Beginnings.