HOLLYWOOD—Its back Food Network fanatics! Another season of “Food Network Star” has dawned upon us, with a select group of hopefuls looking to land their own series on the Food Network. Normally, I would go in depth describing each and every contestant, however, this year, I’ve decided to change things up a bit. I’m going to focus my energy on standouts, and I’ll be honest there aren’t many on this season people.
Of course, back in the driver seat are Bobby Flay and Giada de Laurentiis as mentors for the hopefuls looking to land a series on the famed culinary network. I do have a bone to pick with the series because it seems since season 8; none of the winners have actually landed a show on the network, well, not any that I can recall at least.
“Food Network Star” is doing its best to revamp the franchise by utilizing the culinary competition ‘Comeback Kitchen’ which allows past contestants of the franchise an opportunity to compete YET AGAIN for a chance at their own series. Now, I will admit, this season of ‘Comeback Kitchen’ was a thrill-a-minute because these were some of the best contestants we’ve seen in quite some time. I loved, and I mean loved the duel between Jameka and Matthew. For those not in the know, Jameka was a contestant on season 4 of the series and was a forced to be reckoned with them, but her personality had not fully developed. Since, she has hosted numerous shows on the network and improved her culinary POV.
Matthew, the guy can cook, but his level of arrogance on season 11 led to his downfall. Making the situation worse, he attempted a return on season 12 of the series, but failed as well. Well, you know what they say; the third time is a charm. Matthew without a doubt has improved his POV and personality to gargantuan levels if you ask me. The guy can cook, like seriously, he is a culinary beast, so the other contestants should be afraid of his skill set.
With Matthew, back in the competition, it’s time to highlight some of the frontrunners in my opinion. Be aware, there are a ton of southerners on this series, so much to the point, it’s like an overload. I think the series should be looking for a bit more diversity in the culinary arena, because the Southern personality can’t bring much more than what we haven’t already seen people. Out of all the Southerners cast this time around, Jason Smith, who previously competed on the competition series Spring Baking Championship, has the most vitality. His personality just pops in a way that one never expected. I was also a fan of stay-at-home mom Amy Pottinger, who doubts her culinary skills, but has a likable presence on camera, and can seriously throw down in the kitchen people.
Another contestant to watch out for is Caodan Tran, who has a bit of a hip-hop, youngster vibe to her cooking style. Now this is something that has never been seen on the network, so in my opinion she is indeed one to watch out for, she could without a doubt bring a younger audience to the network. As for everyone else, nothing has quite popped out for me, except for Addie Gundry, who seems like her arrogance might need to be knocked down a peg of two. She compares herself to Martha Stewart, guess what we’ve seen Martha Stewart already, so give us something us please.
Like with any first challenge, the contestants were thrown immediately into the bull-pit with the audition process: 30 seconds to sell themselves to the judges while being critiqued by their peers in the same process. That’s what I love about this show; it finds a way to unnerve viewers, so much to the point that you cringe on the sofa or you have to change the channel. Not sure why, but it seems the contestants embarrassment becomes your embarrassment.
I will admit I still miss the good ole days where Susie Fogelson and Bob Tuschman were a part of the judging panel. Those guys were brutal, but it was a level of respect that just made you want to hear what Susie and Bob thought of the contestants. We don’t get that as much with Bobby and Giada, love’em both, but I’m really pushing for the series to go back to its roots a bit. “Food Network Star” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Food Network.