Thoughts on “The Next Food Network Star”

I miss Top Chef (I think we all do), but in the meantime I have to confess that I got sucked into the last three episodes of The Next Food Network Star last Sunday night. After the season’s premiere, I thought I’d never sit through another episode of that show. I thought I wouldn’t be able to bear its Top Chef wannabe repertoire but somehow my TV tuned in to the Food Network for three…straight…hours. It’s too bad my reality food show fix came at the end of the season but I have to say, it was nice to see the outcome as soon as I got sucked in.

And maybe it’s just me (or the fact that I only watched four episodes total) but I was SHOCKED when they announced the winner.

Spoilers after the jump!

In the moments leading up to Bobby Flay crowning “The Next Food Network Star,” I was almost positive the judges would choose one Lisa Garza. But instead an excited Aaron McCargo Jr. was jumping out of his seat to claim the prize.

It’s not that I don’t think Aaron McCargo Jr. is an awesome and likeable kind of guy. In fact, I thought he kicked ass in the Throwdown challenge against Kelsey where he made a pretty darn delicious-looking Chicken Parmesan, all the while charming the E! reporter told to interview each contestant while they were cooking. It’s just that, Lisa Garza felt like the next Martha Stewart and I think that’s the kind of person the Food Network could use. They already have their “big daddy” character (Aaron’s new nickname) from their show “Down Home with the Neelys”.

Maybe Lisa Garza wasn’t the most relatable person there, but if you ask me, she is downright fascinating. Something about her was addicting to watch…and frankly, that’s why I kept watching the show itself. Isn’t that a quality you want in your next TV show star? I mean…it’s great to relate to someone, but I think that’s more important in day to day life then on TV. Not to mention, with Lisa Garza, I felt like my culinary imagination would have been stretched. She made more sophisticated dishes that I myself would never think of and even taught you something.

I mean, did you know what a sabayon was before Lisa Garza? (You’re probably a food blogger if you’re reading this, which means you probably did…but that’s besides the point.) Don’t you want to watch someone who knows what they’re talking about? The girl had fan clubs from the start of the show, and if you ask me, she should still have her own show. So here’s to Lisa Garza and to the Food Network for picking a semi-decent contestant to be on their show…but not choosing her as the winner.

I might watch Big Daddy’s Kitchen (Aaron’s show) once or twice, because I’m always curious how the reality television star converts to a regular star. And who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind about their decision if Aaron manages to suck me in.

But I think I’ll still like Top Chef better. I’m sorry, I just can’t help it.

Update 8/04/08: Looks like Adam Gertler got his own show too! I actually like Adam a lot so good for him, but poor Lisa Garza!

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  • Sookie’s Kitchen

    Please don’t take this comment defensively. But, I need to say what is on my mind about the final episode.

    All 3 contestants were good, but I was also star struck with Lisa Garza. She is a very interesting person that I think has a lot more under her sleeve to offer to the audience. Yes, I assumed that she was going to be the winner.

    My second pick was Adam. He was witty when given the chance to act without pressure. And I liked his cooking, too. Especially, when he smoked his food for the Vegas crowd. I would watch him if he had his own show.

    I was shocked to see that Aaron was named the winner. His food (especially the plantains) looked good. But, his personality lacked confidence. I did not think the overall package was good enough to be made winner.

    Okay, please do not be offended, but I really do think that Aaron was made winner do to satisfy theAffirmative Action Requirements & the Equal Opportunity Clause. If you noticed, they do not have… I can only name one African American chef(s) on the Food Network – Downhome with the Neely’s. And they recently started to pick up Latin cook(s) – Simply Delicioso. I think the Network is under pressure for creating a diverse crowd.

    So, with that be said… Yes, I think the contest was rigged and the proper winner was not announced. I hope that someone gives Lisa & Adam further opportunites in TV to expand their wonderful horizons.

    This show…after all its excitement, led me to ‘biaaaatching’ when it was over. And FN gameshows, I lack an mood for them now. Disappointed.

  • kat

    I was surprised as well & I think they reason he won is because he is more like Guy Fieri. Look at all the past winner of this show & Guy is the only one who really went on to make a career for himself at the network.
    Lisa was a little like Amy who won last year & do you hear anything about her?
    I don’t watch the Food Network as much as I used to because it seems to have gotten to be a lot more about these big over the top personalities lately.

  • Richard Dickman

    The problem here is not who they chose but rather the target audience for the network. These guys are honing in on middle america with a bunch crap food. The FDA ought to shut down the dinner, dives and drive-in show and all those like it. What we need is a food related network for people that live in places like New York and San Francisco where we know good food and wine. More like Lisa not the other two. But look at the commercials they run!

  • oh, ok

    I saw Lisa as the opposite of interesting–a shallow, pretentious climber who wore glasses with fake lenses and spike heels (in the kitchen!).

    I did watch the show because of her, though, just waiting for her to fall down again. I would NEVER watch her cooking show.

  • Miranda

    [quote]“What we need is a food related network for people that live in places like New York and San Francisco where we know good food and wine.”[end quote]

    Are you SERIOUS? There’s a LOT more to this country than NY and SF, you know. And we aren’t all picking squirrel stew out of our teeth while playing “Dueling Banjos” and watching “Deliverance” you know.

  • stephanie

    I watched the show from start to end and i may say Lisa’s cooking is inter.esting she is more a diva than anything else.. $300 shirts, super expensive dresses.. good for her but is that what the audience needs or wants? I mean dont we hace enough with Semihomemade and Sandra Lee. I dont think they choose Aaron because of Affirmative action thats just BS.. so the indian lady wouldve stayed or next time they’ll have some chinese or japanese contestant..if that was the case.. Im glad for the winner and i think he’ll be fun to watch ..he’s a likeable guy

  • Dona Drake

    I agree that the winner should have been Lisa. I watched because of her. Aaron didn’t ever hold my attention except for the mistakes he made. Lisa has an unusual look about her and almost a mistry. Adam did a pretty good job too. I guess they had their reasons for Aaron being the winner but I know I won’t watch him. I do watch the Neeley’s and enjoy them but it is because I have used their recipies and they are fun to watch. I wish Lisa and Adam a lot of luck and hope that they find themselves on television before long.

  • aja

    What??? Was Lisa to good for food tvbecause
    she dressed well and was already sucessfull. She should have won

  • http://food4living Ann Chuber

    Sorry but I disagree about Lisa. I think the show pusher her to the forefront hoping she would step up and be the next “Food Network Star” but I found her difficult to follow especially when she presented her concept of fancy food to the underlings and giving back to the community. Noble and a worthy attempt at showing her compassionate side but who in real life cooks in $300 shirts and $800 shoes! Honestly, I think she might be a nice, motivated, work-aholic but I found her comments insulting to even the children when they were creating a kid approved meal. The comment of “I hope their pallet is as developed as my sons” was offensive at best. That is when she turned me off.

    Aaron might have had a tough time relating to the camera at first but he shined on the Rachel Ray show when he was throwing flour over his shoulder and bringing the child into what he was doing. Ufortunately,I missed his first show but was pleased to see a child on the shows promo. No one I know is reaching out to children and inspiring them to cook. I have a 13 year old daughter that is not offered”home economics” (I know that dates me) in middle school. She has little desire to cook unless it is brownies in a box mix and has even less interest in the “Food“channels I watch.

    I was hoping that Aaron would focus more on bringing his “big bold flavors” making cooking tasty and fun for anyone to make even children. I was interested in knowing his recipes. I thought my family would enjoy them and they would be fun to make.

    You can only smoke so much food and we all don’t subscribe to the desire to ware “Jimmy Chewz”. (Sorry Jimmy if that is not how you spell it.) Not all of us need or have a drink or “cocktail” with every meal nor are we making squirrel stew. Let’s make cooking at home fun and exciting for everyone not pretentious. Isn’t that mentality why the last Food Network Star didn’t make it? Is she still on?

  • Jean Denton

    Are you kidding me? Bobby Flay announced the qualified Next FoodNetwork Star which should have been and is Aaron McCargo, Jr. I could completely follow him. It had nothing to do with Guy Fieri. Aaron can stand on his own. Liza Garza seemed to squint her eyes all the time, and looked uncomfortable. Adam Gertler was funny, but didn’t seem serious enough about the food. I could see the love of food in Aaron’s persona. He was very personable. I love the show Top Chef; but, it comes on the Bravo Channel Network, not the FoodNetWork Channel. I loved the first episode of “Big Daddy’s House”, and I’m looking forward to many more great episodes to follow in the future. COOK ON AARON!!!! Looking forward to the NextFoodNetwork competition. If you can, PLEASE BRING BACK “$40 A DAY SHOW” even if its the reruns. I loved that show. Also, if possible, the ORIGINAL “IRON CHEF” SHOW, even the reruns. ROCK ON FOODNETWORK!!!

  • plyblossom11

    I am sorry, but I think Food Network got it right. Lisa, I admit was knowledgeable and seems to be a great chef, but TV material she is not. She just lacks that “likable” factor. I found myself respecting her, but not liking her. She is like the boss you know can do a great job, but you hate. She lacks warmth. Shall I dare say the B word?
    As far as Adam, I liked him and his laughable personality a lot, but as far as wanting to recreate his recipes, no, I don’t think I would ever be doing that. But still, entertaining he was!
    Aaron on the other hand, I found myself pulling for and I felt like I would enjoy eating his dishes. Plus I saw a small spark in him that I though could possibly turn into star material!
    I know Food Network has needed to add more diverse cultures to their lineup, and they seem to finally be doing just that. But I see no sabotage as far as Aaron being the next Food Network star! I was excited to see him with the Neeley’s and on his own show. His recipes sound yummy and I like his personality. I see him having staying power unlike last years winner. What were they thinking there?
    So all I have to say is you go Aaron! I will be watching!

  • Gram

    I think Lisa was too intimidating to the judges (not to Bobby). She knew more about cooking than the 2 other judges. The fact that Lisa was already treading the Martha Stewart role worked against her. Having a successful business behind her would have made her somebody who had the guts to stand up against the producers and tell them that they were full of crap. When you look at it from the point of view of an employer, Aaron was the best choice. He would stay with the network and do as told because he has not reached a point where he can tell them to shut up (i.e. not reach enough). Adam projected too much negativity to be selected. Aaron can cook but I was not impressed by his style or the food he prepared.

    I would like to see a show where they cook using healthy ingredients and skip the dishes with eggs, fish, poultry and meat.

    Unfortunately Food Network does not accept suggestions from viewers unless you are a producer with money.

  • susy

    stop killing innocent animal and join in vegetarian

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