Next Food Network Star: Why Russell gets my vote

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So I’ve been following Next Food Network Star since the beginning of this season, even though none of the contestants really grabbed me entirely from the start and convinced me I’d be interested in a show featuring them. Some just seemed boring; some seemed like reality tv attention hogs and celeb wannabes; a few were downright creepy (I won’t name names.)

That said, the one contestant whom I really started to warm up to over the course of the series has been Russell. He didn’t come across strong at the start, but his confidence and charm seemed to build each week throughout the competition, and I also started to appreciate what I saw of his cooking. I like the idea of a show that would be devoted to indulging in “sinful” delights – given how so many cooking programs, in recent years, have been all focused on “healthy” eating and “lighter” versions of classics. Sure, it’s great to watch what we eat and be more conscious of it, but learning how to enjoy indulgences or dress up more ordinary flavors has its place in the culinary repertoire too.

Russell charms me in a sort of awkward, food-geek way that reminds me a bit of Michael Symon, and I definitely wouldn’t mind another “character” like him on Food Network. That said, I honestly thought the second idea Russell pitched for a series, the one that the network execs passed on, would have been MUCH more interesting than the one he ended up filming. Given Jackson had an “underground supper club” he was running in San Francisco, a show devoted to dinner parties and creative/”sinful” menus along those lines sounded like a perfect fit for him. It would also be something I’d have wanted to watch given my love of cooking for parties and crowds. What Food Network DOESN’T need, in my humble opinion, is yet another show about going around to different restaurants to spotlight their food, and then doing spins on them “at home”. That’s just yawn-inspiring to me and plus, who but total kitchen geeks (and scientists with lab access) are going to be making ice cream with liquid nitrogen at home? It’s just not practical nor that interesting. Even so, there were moments in his “pilot” that showed a spark and I’d just hope they’d tweak and come up with a better idea for him.

As for Rodney? His pilot had the same kind of idea (restaurant dish “remade) and honestly none of his food has looked all that tasty to me from the start. I’m sorry but his grilled-cheese-shortrib-pie looked disgusting, and not something I’d choose over that perfect looking grilled cheese sandwich nor want to make at home. When I saw him throw in a jar of capers without rinsing the brine off them, too, that was all I needed to see. I wouldn’t trust any of his recipes; his show would not be for me and would likely annoy me the same way Guy Fieri does when I end up stuck watching one too many episodes of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”.

That leaves Damaris…who seems cute and personable and I kind of have the feeling may be the winner, but she just doesn’t inspire or interest me. I honestly can’t remember a single thing she’s cooked all season. And a show focused on teaching men to cook southern food to impress a date? Not exactly the kind of topic that I have any need for in my life. What would be wrong with giving her a show just about Southern cooking, period? Especially given Paula Deen’s absence from the Food Network today.

So overall I’m not that enthused about any of the choices, at least not unless their actual shows are greatly reworked from these initial “pilots”. But if I had a choice to watch one of the three, it would definitely be Russell at this point.

And of course, given what happened with last season’s winner, the chances of even one of these three actually getting a show that lasts – or airs at all as supposedly intended – is a bit questionable from my point of view…

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