"Food Network Star" is now settling into middle age: So many seasons in, and it's hard to keep finding ways to make it new, fresh and unexpected -- and to keep competitors on their toes.
But there's one sure fire way to do so: Just turn up the heat.
The new crop of fresh faces who want to be the new face of Food Network walked smack into a series of challenges that didn't let up. They walked right into POV demos, a timed signature plate challenge involving potatoes, followed by appearing before a live audience.
Oh, and also knowing that the live audience held gadgets that offered feedback on just how well they were connecting with the viewers.
Or missing altogether.
Turns out the competitors from Seasons 1 through 8 were downright coddled.
These Season 9 twists are devious, and delicious. Keep 'em coming.
It made for a perfectly paced hour that flew by, and left viewers wanting more. No dull moments, and yet viewers no doubt already have a feel for which competitors will rise, or flounder.
The judges, backed by the Food Network law firm of Fogelson & Tuschman aren't wasting any time either, dinging dishes and demos that just don't cut it.
Several of the competitors are so cool and polished, they seem like they just need a few sessions of Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis and Alton Brown and they'll be ready for their Food Network close-up. (I'm ready to plug Chad, the Pie Man and Nikki into the DVR, aren't you?)
But of course, that is not always an advantage. Remember Jeffrey Saad (is Chad his long-lost brother, btw?)? Jeffrey was near-perfect from the beginning. Then, the unfair rap on him was that he didn't grow enough during the course of the competition.
Meanwhile, the out-of-the-gate demands are forcing some of the competitors to break down before they even get started. The adorable Daniela, above, was marked for elimination within seconds. Andres and Viet both have great POV's, but seem unnerved by it all. (Isn't it weird how Andres is reminiscent of last season's Judson. Why, oh why, don't these guys realize that the nation would tune in to a guy talking about sensible ways to drop the weight without ditching the flavor? A gold mine.)
A raise, please for the genius(es) who cast the wacky Damaris and the snarly Danushka. I am not sure they'll go the distance. But it's going to be fun to watch.
What do you think about this crop of competitors? Care to wager who will win?
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