HOLLYWOOD—A staple on Food Network has returned yet again. You know what that means: it’s time to crown a new star with “Food Network Star.” There is indeed one slight problem I have with the show: I can’t remember the last time the winner of the series actually had their own show. The last person I can vividly recall is Damaris Phillips from season 9. It’s like winning the top prize doesn’t matter that much, similar to most of those singing competitions America.
I can talk for days about the aftermath of winning, but that is not the purpose of this column. We have new hopefuls wanting their shot and the culinary kingdom. Taking on the role of mentors looking for the next big star are culinary celebrities Giada De Laurentiis and Iron Chef Bobby Flay. I love the notion of Comeback Kitchen which has become a staple on the series in the past few seasons. It’s the opportunity for past favorites who competed for the title to get a second chance. Last season was a ton of fun seeing Matthew, the guy who has appeared on the past 3 seasons of the series finally get a chance to prove his culinary chops.
This time around, I think the competition was perhaps the thickest it’s ever been with popular faces like Jenard, Yaku, Sarah, Amy, Debbie, Adam, Monterey and Trace returning for another opportunity. After several weeks of competition, the previous contestant allowed to battle once again was: Adam Gertler. I was stoked to see Adam get another shot, because the guy has plenty of charisma and has shown his capabilities as a host of several Food Network shows.
This first episode didn’t bring much star power in my opinion. I’m not highlighting every single contestant because there are way too many and let’s face it there will ONLY be one winner. So let’s focus on those who have that pop of personality and culinary techniques to captivate audiences at home. Per usual, the first challenge put the contestants in front of the camera to establish their point of view.
That is the one thing I love about “Food Network Star,” they find a way to make you uncomfortable watching the contestants. Manny has a burst of energy, but doing too much can cause you to flame out fast. Sorry, Rebekah and Katie were a bore to me, and Samone delivered the audience with that first cringe-moment where I had to change the channel. For some reason, this season’s contestants seem to have big personalities that seem quite flat.
Jason was awkwardly annoying, and I’m so sick of hearing comfort food. Harrison appears to the charmer of the bunch, whereas Jess was too rehearsed. Christian seems to have natural camera presence; he certainly stood out from the entire crew. Palak competed against Bobby Flay and actually won, yet she did not mention that to the viewers. Looks like viewers are finally getting curveballs this season as Bobby dropped a bomb the contestants didn’t see coming: two winners of Comeback Kitchen getting the opportunity, as Amy also joined the crew.
Quite strong because I honestly thought Amy should have won her season; she had one stumble and was sent packing. The first challenge was all about crafting a signature dish and make it portable at an amusement park, but for the oddest reason a vast majority of the cooks didn’t seem to heed the advice given to them by Giada and Bobby.
This season is full of twists galore because not one contestant, but two of them were sent packing in the same week: both Jason and Chris. Chris, I expected because he seemed to be uncomfortable on camera and his culinary chops were not impressive. Jason was just a bit too much, and as a personality was more of a turnoff than an actual TV presence.
I was really bored watching this first episode, thinking there would be more excitement, but I feel the additions of Amy and Adam were well needed because this bunch just fell flat if you ask me. “Food Network Star” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Food Network.