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"Stage 1: A Challenge from the Iron Chefs/Stage 2: Never Stop Taping" - March 19
 
Last year, ten thousand tapes were sent to New York in their search to become the Next Food Network Star. 8 Finalists were chosen and the American public along with the selection committee chose Chicago based caterers Dan Smith and Steve McDonough to become the next Food Network Star. And their show, "Party Line with the Hearty Boys" is a success on Saturday mornings.
 
It was so nice we are doing it twice. This is Jason Block and I am here with the host of the show Marc Summers to introduce to you the 8 finalists chosen by the Food Network and the American Public. No cheesy videos this year...so let's meet the 8 finalists for the 2nd edition of "The Next Food Network Star":
 
1. Carissa Seward--San Diego, CA: She grew up on a dairy farm, got a running scholarship to college. Her mom died in 2003. Then she went to Paris and was accepted to the Cordon Bleu cooking school. She wants her own show to show that food can be dirty, fun and sexy...and you don't need a dowdy apron.
 
2. Andy Schumacher--Brooklyn, NY: He is 25, with a fiancee and a 7 month old daughter. He attended culinary school, and his family is his support system. He quit cooking to support his family and is a logistic manager for the NY Blood Center. He says his energy will prevail.
 
3. Evette Rodriguez--Port St. Lucie, FLA: She is married with 4 children. At first she didn't enjoy cooking but learned to like it from her mom and grandmother. She was voted into the competition by the fans on foodnetwork.com. "It isn't a chore anymore, this is a dream come true."
 
4. Reggie Sutherland--Silver Lake, CA:   The openly gay contestant of this session(like Dan and Steve last time), he works at the Comfort Cafe. He is "big" in a lot of ways. Fern is his canine companion.
 
5. Jess Dang--Palo Alto, CA: Came to the US when she was 2 from Vietnam. Attended Stanford and is happy in life. She is a business analyst at a consulting firm. She calls cooking comforting to cook. She is a quick learner which is her strength.
 
6. Guy Fieri--Santa Rosa, CA: He is on the board of the California Restaurant Association. He owns 3 restaurants. He has a son, Hunter and his wife is 8 1/2 months pregnant. He loves to cook with his family.
 
7. Beth Raynor--Sausalito, CA:  A self-confessed "food nerd" she started a catering business in 2001, but the operation ceased after the dot-com bust. She is engaged and food is "her expression of love".
 
8. Nathan Lyon--Hollywood, CA:  He works hard at his physique. He went to culinary school and works at a jazz restaurant called Vibrato owned by Herb Alpert. He calls food sexy.
 
And those are your final 8. I would have liked to have seen a little more representation from "flyover country"myself. But let's see what happens.
 
The finalists arrive at Food Network, and everyone is excited. They meet Mark Summers and Nathan noticed everyone has a bag with their name on it in front of them. It represents their favorite ingredient they work with. Everyone opens their bag which leads right away to their first challenge:
 
CHALLENGE: CREATE A DISH WITH YOUR FAVORITE FOOD ITEM THAT YOU LIKE TO WORK WITH. IT HAS TO BOTH REFLECT THE FOOD ITEM AND YOUR PERSONAL STYLE. THE CONTESTANTS HAVE 30 MINUTES TO PREP AND 5 MINUTES TO DEMO THE ITEM IN FRONT OF THE SELECTION COMMITTEE.
 
Nathan said it was a little difficult. Carissa said it was intense because people were fighting over the same ingredient. Jess felt intimidated while Carissa cut her finger. Jess was excited after it was over. Let's now introduce the selection committee:
 
Returning from last year are Bob Tuschman, Senior VP of Programming for Food Network. His job was to "protect the network." Also we have Susie Fogelson, VP of Marketing. "Our Chefs are like Rock Stars."
 
But this year we have a new third judge. Gordon Elliott is out, and Iron Chef Bobby Flay is in. "Food is the most important thing. Once you realize that...everything is easy." He tells the contestants to make the camera your own with energy and pop.
 
So we have our first demos:
 
Reggie is up first with a Fig Salad with his favorite ingredient--FIGS. Nathan called Reggie an "entity" unto himself. Reggie thought he did well.
 
Andy is next--his ingredient is PORK TENDERLION. Nathan said his strength is to communicate about the food, but he needs more personality. Andy said he wasn't used to talking to the camera. Bob Tuschman said, "He had a great smile, when the camera was turned off."
 
Carissa used STEAK. But her "butterflies got her. I felt like while they were there they were criticizing me. I could have done a lot better."
 
Beth used SHRIMP. She thought she did too much prep, but the 5 minutes blew by and didn't plate in time. Bob: "She has to step up the game."
 
Nathan used WINE. He tried a Korean dish called Bodago...he said it was too complex for 5 minutes. He specifically tried to impress them with chef knowledge and it was a mess in the 5 minutes.
 
Guy used SWEET ONION to do an onion ring. Susie Fogelson: "He's strong." Bob: "He has a lot going for him."
 
Yvette used POTATO. She felt "confident and cocky". She almost made the time. "Bob: "I Got A Sense she cares and makes these dishes."
 
Finally Jess uses SHRIMP. She "lost her head". She knew her skills were on the lower end of the spectrum and she over estimated the time...and she wasn't fantastic.
 
The next challenge needs some big chef shoes to fill. So we introduce 3 of the 4 American Iron Chefs. Chefs Masaharu Morimoto, Mario Batali and Bobby Flay are going to test the contestants in an "Iron Chef Skills Challenge":
 
Morimoto will test their knife skills, Batali will test their knowledge on how to desconstruct a dish of his, and Flay will test on Presentation. They are each are handed personalized chef whites and then are off to test.
 
CHALLENGE: The knife skills are to a) small dice an onion, b) julienne a carrot and c) filet a fish. You have to talk to the camera and choose any knife that was there. They had 5 minutes.
 
Beth doesn't filet the fish. Morimoto: "She doesn't have any knife skills."
 
Reggie said my knife skills are "awful. I butchered the fish."
 
We see the rest of the competitors including Yvette who gave up. Morimoto showed her how to filet the fish.
 
CHALLENGE: Mario Batali has cooked a dish and the challengers have to describe the ingredients in the dish. The dishes included "Swordfish Involtini" and Mushroom Potatio and Asparagus Cake.
 
We see different members try and do it in front of Batali.
 
CHALLENGE: Plate a dish including lobster in 3 minutes in front of Bobby Flay.
 
He asked Guy: "Are a you a cook or a jeweler?" after seeing all his jewelry. We see different members do it and Carissa said it was difficult to get her thoughts in order. She could have done better.
 
Time for the first visit to the elimination room. Reggie felt the intensity.
 
Time for the evaluations.
 
Nathan(by Bob): You were trying too hard to impress us with "chefy" terminology. It felt like a barrier to the crowd.
Evette(by Susie): You felt out of your element. You didn't even try to filet the fish.
Jess(by Flay): You looked like a car out of control. You need to relax.
Carissa(by Bob): You need to eliminate "yummy, crazy, and fire it up" from your vocabulary. He felt that certain images that she used(like lobster butt and taking a "pea")                         were unappetizing to the home viewer.
Reggie(by Susie): You are a baker. We need to make you comfortable with savory as well as sweet. You do have the presentation though.
Beth(by Flay): Personality didn't shine through and you had bad knife skills.
Andrew(by Bob) You need to dial it up. The camera uses energy up. You need to use the food to get to know you.
Guy(by Susie): You have an obvious love of food, but you need to share info. You have the presentation in Spades.
 
Susie is about to announce the eliminations, but in an unprecedented move...no one goes home. "We don't know everyone enough yet." Everyone gets a second chance!
 
In Part II..everyone goes into Studio B and look who walks in but the star of 4 Food Network Shows...it's Rachael Ray! Today is about making TV. We hear from Irene Wang and various Food Network Execs explaining how the studio is a pressure cooker.
 
Rachael talks about her first appearance on Emeril Live. She explains the key, which Bobby Flay explained last year at this point which is  NEVER STOP TAPING. Rachael explains about the teleprompter and the stage manager. Each of the 8 contestants go through a part of the show.
 
Beth starts the show which is about Meatloaf. Rachael gave pointers.
 
Reggie did the SWAPOUT. Rachael loved his personality.
 
Carissa did TIMING. She missed the eggs, but it was ok.
 
Nathan did CAMERA TURNS. Rachael said it was "meat--not science class." Reggie called this lesson a "gift"
 
Evette did STRETCHING. Again Rachael explained to "NEVER STOP TAPE."
 
Guy did the SAUCE in 90 seconds.
 
Jess did PLATING.
 
Andy did the END OF SHOW.
 
Carissa said that meeting Rachael was the highlight so far.
 
Mark explains the heart of the Food Network Kitchens is the 25 Kitchen chefs for all shows. Usually about a month before a show a recipe is broken down and prepared. The chefs have a relationship between themselves and the talent.
 
Harriet Slew of the kitchen staff explains the next challenge:
 
CHALLENGE: THE FOOD NETWORK STAFF HAS BROKEN DOWN YOUR SUBMISSION OF "COOKING EASY DISHES" INTO A RECIPE. YOU WILL HAVE TO MAKE YOUR OWN SWAPOUTS AND YOUR OWN "MISE EN PLACE" YOU WILL DEMO IT IN STUDIO B FOR 5 MINUTES IN FRONT OF THE COMMITTEE. THEY WILL ALSO TASTE THE DISHES AS WELL. YOU HAVE 30 MINUTES TO PREP ALL PARTS OF THE MEAL.
 
We see the mad dash to prep the meal and we go right into the demos for the selection committee.
 
Andy Schumacher does a "Curry Cream Chicken Couscous with Couscous Salad" He ran out of time, but Bob said "It was his first full demo, but it was good.

After each demo, you can go into the Green Room and watch the other contestants demo their dishes.
 
Jess does "Asian Bolognese". She felt devastated and it was the worst feeling. She didn't finish either.
 
Guy did "Chipotle Pasta" Bob: "He made it complicated, but it was good."
 
Evette did "Little Louie's Chicken Quesadillas"(named after her son.) She didn't see the knives, but made the time. Flay called it "Nothing special." Bob wanted more of "Guy's Pasta."
 
Nathan did a "Coconut Kafir Leaf Halibut with Cabbage". He blew the swapout with the Fish. Susie: "3 minutes of the demo was 'if you can't do this, use this" means "I can't do this."
 
Carissa missed the swapout in her prep. So she switched her "Roasted Sausgae and Bell Peppers" Bob said "Very Comfortable and Fluid"
 
Reggie tried to do a "Puree of Spinach and Peas Soup" . The Food Processor wouldn't work, but Reggie didn't miss a beat. Flay said the soup didn't need to be pureed and the "best things happen by accident."
 
Beth did a Turkey Pine Nut Cabbage Wraps. Bob said there was No Joy In It. Susie was bored.
 
It's elimination time and this time someone goes home for real. Evaluations first:
 
Reggie(by Flay): The beginning your personality shown through but you reached a moment of truth. We see a tape from 1996 where Flay's food processor wouldn't work. He said the soup was good. His star rose.
 
Carissa(by Susie) You didn't have as much fun today.
 
Beth(by Bob): You have a consistent fluid delivery, but it was flat with no personality. You need to bring passion to life.
 
Nathan(by Flay): It was an ambitious dish. You have great technique, but the personality needs to show. It hasn't come out yet.
 
Jess(by Susie): You still are feeling nervous. You were rushing and didn't finish the dish. Jess agrees.
 
Guy(by Bob): Interesting, but you were talking to the camera as if we were line chefs. It was a total turn off. Don't speak chef to chef.
 
Evette(by Flay) You had a great start, the quesadilla had no flavor, but you need to let the viewers in.
 
Andy(by Susie) You need to "charm me". You need to continue to infuse the demo with personality.
 
Ok, we need to know who is leaving. But first, these chefs advance:
 
Bob advances ANDY & EVETTE.
Bobby advances REGGIE & GUY.
Susie advances NATHAN & CARISSA.
 
So it's down to BETH & JESS. Bob says BETH stays and JESS DANG is the first chef to be sent home. She says she never got used to the camera and the pressure. It was hard for her to leave. The 7 remaining chefs toast Jess and we are one step closer to finding out who is the next "Food Network" star!
 

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