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Eight people (or seven people and one team) hit up the Food Network for a pilot of their own show. But who'll beat the heat and who'll get out of the kitchen?

Recaps by Jason Block, GSNN


FACT FILE:

Host:
Marc Summers
Judges: Bob Tischman, Susie Fogelson, Gordon Elliott
EP: Tom Seligson
Packager: CBS EYEtoo Productions for Food Network
Airs: Sundays at 9pm ET on Food Network


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"Parts 1 & 2" - June 5

In the opening of this new show, and the first for Food Network, chef Emeril Lagasse introduces us to the concept of the show...one chef from over 10,000 tapes submitted will "outcook, outcharm, and outlast" and win a contract for their own Food Network show! They are looking for a chef with "personality, performance and a new culinary point of view"...

Welcome to "The Next Food Network Star!"

Our host Marc Summers is in front of Chelsea Market, the home of Food Network's Studios. He explains that the end of the show will be a cook off where our two finalists will shoot a mini-pilot of "30 Minute Meals", made famous by chef Rachael Ray. But we are getting a little ahead of ourselves here.

There were 10,000 tapes submitted from all over the world. And we are shown some of the more bizarre ones including a naked woman in a bath of fruits and vegetables, an Amish cook named Petey Crotch(!) and a guy from Osaka, Japan. They had to narrow them down to 8 finalists who will perform in front of our selection committee. Let's meet them:

a) Bob Tischman, the Senior Vice President of Programming for Food Network
b) Susie Fogelson, the VP of Marketing
c) Gordon Elliott, Host and Producer

They have grouped our semi-finalist into groups. Our first group of
Semi-finalists put some flash and energy into thier work. Here are our
first group--the FLASHIEST CHEFS:

Nick Manochicco, Roland Jane from Orlando, Florida and Brook Harlan from
Columbia, Missouri. We see all their tapes with their flash and panache.

_*FINALIST #1: BROOK HARLAN*_

He teaches Culinary Arts at his local HS and is an assistant wrestling
coach. He started cooking when he was 8 yrs old. He believes he has the
energy and the knowledge to become the next Food Network star.

Our next group of semi-finalists showed dishes that would make you lick
the screen. Here are our semi-finalists in the MOST TANTALIZING CHEFS:

Deborah Fewell, from Pasadena, CA; Lisa Ann Safrie; and Lisha Colmas
from LA.

_*FINALIST #2: DEBORAH FEWELL*_

Deborah is a personal celebrity chef and actress.

Our committee was surprised at the number of teams that submitted tapes.
Here are our next group of semi-finalists: TEAMS

Sandra and Cynthia from Jackson, Wyoming and Greenwich, CT; Steve and
Dan from Chicago who own a catering business and are an openly gay
couple; and Al and Cara from Bellmore, NY

_*FINALIST #3: STEVE MCDONNA AND DAN SMITH*_

They have been catering for 7 years and a couple for 8 years. They think
that Food Network needs a gay show on the air.

To see what goes into the production of a show, we go behind the scenes with Alton Brown, the host of "Good Eats" (one of my personal favorites on the network). He writes about 90% of the show and sees the food as characters within the show. Vanessa Parker is the head of the prep kitchen. She oversees recipe development and it's a lot of hard work. Alton sees this show as the ability not just to cook, but to make people's lives better.

Marc tells us that Alton sent a tape unsolicited himself and that is how he got his own show.

We are then subjected to a lot of tapes with a lot of kitchen mishaps, bloopers and other disasters.

Back in the master control room of Food Network, this nerve center is where you can see food from every angle. Here are our next group of semi-finalists who think they have the best THEME to be on TV:

Laura Klein from LA, "The Organic Diva"; Patrice Olivon who takes the simple and makes it complex; and Harmony Marceau from NYC who has a passion about cooking...

_*FINALIST #4: HARMONY MARCEAU*_

Harmony Marceau is a shoe model, but loves to be in the kitchen the most...

A lot of the tapes shows that well food and booze go together...sometimes a bit too well. We see a selection of tapes where some alcohol (and maybe a lot more than should have been) was used.

Our next group of semi-finalists are outside the box to say the least. Here are our semi-finalists who are our UNCONVENTIONAL CHEFS:

Michael Thomas from Venice, California; Alyssa Boyle from Valley Village, CA and the "Food Train" Pete Chelala from Fairfield, CT

_*FINALIST #5: MICHAEL THOMAS *_

He is a personal chef and surfer. His philosophy is "Why not just get into it". He is really into food.

Another one of my favorite chefs is here to welcome the finalists with a snack and party. Welcome Mr. Mario Batali who scooters into the studio. He believes the next star has to have "a knowledge of food, and a lively personality, along with the intensity".

Mark takes us back to the history of Food Network from "How to Boil Water" to "Iron Chef America" in the 11 years of the network they have gone to a Stove, Sink, Countertop shows to shows where it's fun to learn and enjoy yourself. They are passionate about food.

Mario wasn't as comfortable as he is now in front of the camera. They show some clips from 1995 where he was a tad stiff and nervous.

In life as in as cooking you have to keep focus. Here are our next group of semi-finalist chefs who have BUSY SCHEDULES:

Rena Snell from Sandy, UT who is a mother of 4; Susannah Lochetti from Plymouth, MA who is a working mother who lost 89 pounds and Angela Thomas from Fayetteville, GA who is a vegetarian who is "not a rabbit".

_*FINALIST #6: SUSANNAH LOCHETTI*_

She is a mother of 2 boys and a graphic designer part time. She is also a fitness instructor who defines herself as the "average mom".

There were a lot people who tried to nickname themselves from the "anti-chef" to the "queen of Quesadillas". Some of those tapes were shown.

A lot of chefs don't start out going to culinary schools or apprentice in restaurants. Here are our next group of semi-finalist chefs who were SELF-TAUGHT.

Eric Warren from Los Angeles, CA; Brian Van Dedemoth who read cookbooks, and Danielle Spies from Redwood, CA who makes cooking easy

_*FINALIST #7: ERIC WARREN *_

Eric is a big big man in the frame of Ruben Studdard (my personal observation) He is full of love and laughter. He gives back to the community who works with Developmentally Disabled Adults.

All our finalists enter the Food Network Studios...but shouldn't there be 8 finalists? There are. Mark says that 10 videos were put on the Food Network website at http: www.foodnetwork.com and narrowed it down to these 2:

Hans Rueffert from Jasper, GA who believes that food is "1/2 heart, 1/2 soul" and Patrick Rolfe from Lake Brest, WA who believes in local local local.

_*FINALIST #8: HANS RUEFFERT*_

Hans is a head chef in his family restaurant for 15 years. His sister passed away last year. That made him realize life is short. He got over 1,000,000 votes and already feels he won something.

The finalists party with Brooke Johnson, the President of the Food Network... and the next day...

Our 1st Challenge is upon us:

_/*CHALLENGE #1: Prepare a dish with the simplest ingredient...eggs. The finalists have 20 minutes to prepare a dish and be ready to do a 5 minute demo of the same dish.*/_

Harmony was concerned with the time element. While they were cooking, Michael was singing about tomatoes, Mark was asking Harmony, Hans and Deborah about their individual dishes...Harmony had trouble with her pan to get it to sizzle. Mark gives the 5 minute call and Michael's personality is what you see is what you get. Michael is a nutjob. Time expires and Harmony thought she was golden, until she realized that she had to prepare the demo food as well. She didn't do that.

Our finalists are ready to demo their egg dishes. Deborah goes first and tries to do her "3 Omelet" of Bacon, Sauteed Mushrooms, and Scallions. She was having trouble and her omelet went kablooey. The committee wasn't thrilled.

Susannah did her "Egg White Omelet Italiano". She was impressive and "was here to get a job" according to her. She did well.

Michael did a "scrambled eggs with salmon and chives". He was off the wall. But he lost on time. He ran out of time.

Hans did a "frittatenzuppe". Eric said he had the best presentation, and the gay couple loved it.

Brook did a frittata and Harmony wants him as her "instructor". Yipe. Everyone is watching. Brook talked way too fast according to himself and the committee.

Eric did poached eggs. Harmony and Brook saw how alive and energetic once he got on camera. The committee saw his personality shine through.

Dan and Steve are up next and since "gays know brunch" they did a savory pancake with smoked salmon hash. Deborah noticed their teamwork.

Harmony didn't do well in front of the camera. She didn't have the prepared stuff ready to go and her demo self-destructed.

That was the end of this demo and the end of Part I.

Part II began with the finalists in Studio B to get a crash course in TV 101. Marc Summers was there to give them hints and tips. They were introduced to Cecil the Floor Manager and were told the magic words... NEVER STOP THE SHOW. Harmony was excited.

Each finalist was told to do a different task while reading the teleprompter. Remember, during every moment, our committee will be watching. Brook did the "show open" and said the words "barbecue flare" instead of "barbecue fare". Again, he was told to talk slow. Harmony found talking and reading to be difficult. Deborah had to "show the item" to the camera. Michael had problems with time limits again as he didn't follow the "time cues." Hans had to "stretch" and did so by eating part of an onion. Eric did "camera turns", Susannah did the "swap out" and Dan and Steve "threw it to commercial." The key, Marc Summers said was to relax and have fun. And as Dan and Steve's faces turned blank with terror, Food Network chefs showed up with cakes for our next challenge:

/_*CHALLENGE #2: Frost a cake while reading the teleprompter. Sounds easy, right? What our challengers didn't know was that (for the only time in the competition) Food Network has rigged the demo to have something go wrong for each competitor. This is to see how our finalists handle things not going right. Remember the key words...NEVER STOP THE SHOW!

Brook's task was: APPLY A COAT OF ICING. His cake didn't come out of the pan and the cameraman was way in his face. Afterwards, each competitor got to see the other finalists demonstrations.

Stephanie task was: MAKE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING. Her teleprompter had wrong words and her mixer was faulty. She improvised well by mixing it by hand.

Dan and Steve's task was: FROST WITH BUTTERCREAM FROSTING. Their icing was rock hard so they mimed the frosting techniques. Nice job.

Michael's task was: TRANSFER TO CAKE STAND. The stand broke. He handled it well.

Eric's task was to FROST A CAKE. He had no tools...so he used a potato peeler. His prompter went dead, and in the words of Dan and Steve... "Eric's eyes went big just like my dog's does when you whistle."

Harmony's task was to PIPE WITH A PASTRY BAG. Her bag got stuck, but she improvised beautifully by using a Ziploc bag. Big points for her. (C-Note: She's been watching Good Eats!)

Hans had to do the same thing. But this time his frosting was warm and runny. The frosting ran down the sides of the cake, and he called it "Chocolate Explosion Cake".

Deborah had to STENCIL POWDERED SUGAR. Her microphone had massive feedback and the lights went out. She continued like a trooper.

We go back to the Food Network kitchens and we introduce another big Food Network Star--Bobby Flay. Cooking has to be effortless and it looks
effortless due to the staff of Food Network.

Susan Stanton, the VP of Culinary Production explains that culinary production is 2 parts...the cooks and food stylists and the writers and editors. The editors and writers explain how a show breakdown is written then the chef gives the instructions to the shoppers who buy the food. They prep the show one day before in a procedure called "mise en place" or "in it's place". This is where the food is prepared so that all the chefs have to do is cook and make good television. Flay explains he couldn't do it without the staff and introduces sous chef Miriam Garrar, who oversees the daily operation of the Food Network Kitchens.

Then Mr. Flay and Miriam go through the choreography and rehearsal of how to do a recipe. This was a Chilean Sea Bass recipe. The finalists watch intensely and Flay explains that he still gets nervous every time he goes on camera. Harmony said it was like watching Donald Trump give tips about Business in Business School. Flay explained that you NEVER say "Through the Magic of Television"...According to Flay, "There is no magic in television". And then the next challenge was given:

_/*CHALLENGE #3: After receiving a breakdown of a Bobby Flay recipe, you will demo it in Studio B. Bobby Flay will be watching and grading you.

The finalists received their breakdown and after 5 minutes of study, and one minute of run through with Miriam....here we go:

Hans did Roasted Yellow Pepper Grits.

Tischman: "Knows his food--no personality."

Flay: After mentioning hating hominy, and loving grits, he told Hans...you must "always speak positive about food." He liked the way he spoke about foods.

Deborah was a little crazy doing Warm Crab and Potato Salad. She didn't
include a habanero pepper and that threw her off.

Fogelson: "I wanted to know more about Deborah."

Flay: "You lost your smile because you were nervous. And you forget the
Habanero. You did have good technical delivery."

Brook said his 1st 10 seconds were brutal. They were. He was doing New
Mexican Soft Tacos with Chicken.

Elliott: He was passionate and needs to calm down. (See a Pattern here?)

Flay: "If you are going to do tricks (which he did with a pepper grinder) you have to bring it all the way. Be confident. And never mention salmonella... that's a bad subject.

Susannah's hand were shaking. But she knew this could be a one-time opportunity. So she cooked Swiss Chard w/Serrano Chile Vinegar.

Elliott: "She could go on any morning show in America."
Tischman: "I see a real host here."

Flay said he got to know her about 1/2 way into her segment.

Michael did Bacon herb wrapped Pork Tenderloin. This time his sink didn't work (not planned that way) and washed his hands with "mystery water."

Elliott: He is one of the more exciting contestants we have, but the elements are not put together yet.

Flay thought he was very funny especially about a comment about how most "vegetarians miss bacon the most". But he needs to have more organized cooking.

Dan & Steve were next. Their recipe was Crispy Whole Striped Bass w/tomatilla sauce. Dan was more nervous with the 5 minute time limit...not a lot of time with 2 people.

Fogelson: "engaging to watch...got the food chops...not stepping over each other."

Flay: "You weren't having fun until the end."

Harmony did Spicy Shrimp Salad. She had jitters, but told herself to chill out.

Tischman: "If she harnesses her energy and could connect with the camera, she could be a winner."

About 1/2 way in, she felt comfortable.

Flay: "You stumbled in the beginning, but got into it."

Eric wrote a poem for Bobby Flay which he performed. "It's my game to lose". He did Cumin Crusted- Chicken.

Elliott: He is like a deer in the headlights. Where's the personality? (He was imploding.)

Flay: "You had energy, and you made a new name for a certain cheese." Eric knew he didn't give the best performance.

And now the contestants had to wait, as the committee consulted with Flay, sous chef Miriam and Food Network Chef Rob Bleiffer.

They are all called into the studio for the committee's judging. Harmony knew everyone was nervous. Eric said you could count every step as he walked, as it could be the last one. Susannah felt the intensity building up.

The committee is introduced to our 8 finalists. And each finalist is graded:

Eric (by Bob Tischman)--You have a warmth and charm but you choked in studio.
Harmony (by Susan Fogelson)--You are charming and bright but very nervous.
Hans (By Gordon Elliott) --You have the best food knowledge, but we never
got to know anything about you. Hans accepted the criticism.
Susannah (by Bob) Smooth, unflappable delivery, but you shouldn't be
OVER-practiced.
Brook (by Susan) Your tape showed confidence and energy...I didn't see it
here. Brook noticed that too.
Dan & Steve (by Gordon) They need to be better choreographed and know
your roles as a team. Dan & Steve were thankful for the criticism. They
know what to do now.
Michael (by Bob) You have a unique, quirky, individual personality. But
your humor didn't mesh with the information.
Deborah (by Susan) Like Brook, your tape energy didn't come through in
your presentation.

And now, who goes on? Gordon reads the first 3 finalists that stay on: Michael, Dan & Steve and Susannah.

Susan reads Eric, Harmony and Deborah.

Hans's reaction: "I am happy for all of them, but my name wasn't called
yet."

Bob reads the final name...he asks Hans...to stay. And with that Brook Harlan, from Columbia, MO is the first one eliminated.

My opinion: Brook did have to go. He was too fast and didn't listen to instruction. Who will be eliminated next week? Tune in to find out...

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