I admit I’m not an expert on reality TV and I am not a frequent watcher of foodie shows. I am not pulling a diva act here, I am just being honest. My first immersion into broadcast food fights was last year when local talents Casey Thompson and Tre Wilcox were cast on Bravo’s Top Chef. As a food writer, I covered the series for this blog. I spoke with Casey and Tre before, during, and after the competition and I sensed there was some frustration over how the show took hundreds of hours of footage and edited them down into the network’s version of a compelling TV show. That is their job. But from what I understood, many of the competitors felt that some of their best stuff ended up in the cutting room grease trap.
Fast forward to this season’s The Next Food Network Star which stars another hometown gal, Lisa Garza, co-owner of Suze and a full-time mom and caterer. Anybody who knows Lisa, and I’ve worked with her many times over the last eight years, knows she’s, to say the least, a bundle of energy. She’s like a wacky wind-up car that goes shooting across the floor, banging into walls, and changing directions until someone stops the craziness by putting their foot on top of her. So forgive me if I rant a below about last night’s show. Jump before I do.
Hi. Anywhoo, the short version of last night’s premise: all the contestants had to put together a full-on cooking demo of a meal that was innovative and nutritious and pleased the palate of a Girl Scout. (True.) Not too difficult until they threw in the fact that said demo would take place on Rachael Ray in front of a live studio audience. Each contestant had 4 minutes to show how they’d conferred with their Girl Scout, come up with a meal plan, and worked together to make it all perfect. It was a great idea since the Food Network is looking for is someone who can carry their own TV show and, up until now, the contestants have had limited time to show off what talents, if any, they possess on camera.
What I don’t understand is why the Food Network aired the pre-recorded segments destined for last nights The Next Food Network Star on “Rach’s” show last Thursday. I watched her show last week and I was stunned at the different conclusions and comments the “selection committee”–Susie Fogelson, Bob Tushman, and the ubiquitous Bobby Flay dished out after last night’s show. Take Lisa’s performance, please. During her 4 minutes of fame with Rachael, Lisa loosened up and got straight to it—“my whole point of view is you don’t have to dumb down food for kids.” To which Rachael said, “Don’t dumb your food down for your kids. I love that.” The audience applauded loudly and lovingly. Rachael also “loved” the fact that Lisa was using flat iron steak because it’s quick and affordable and Lisa made the excellent point that most kids miss getting healthy proteins in their diet. After Lisa made it clear that she’d worked with her Girl Scout on discovering new foods like couscous, Rachael’s assessment was: “This is a great meal because its very easy but its not at a high skill level. Kids can make it for their parents.” Another round of applause. Rachael’s final analysis: “A gorgeous and well-balanced meal.”
Fast forward to last night’s show where we were shown a different edit of the same segment. Instead of showing all the positive feeds from Rachael, Next Star, once again, played down Lisa’s culinary talents and even though she made the cut and advanced to the final four, it wasn’t before Susie Fogelson scolded Lisa by saying, “Rachael took that demo from you and ran it.” Susie, you are dead wrong. Lisa was the least intimated contestant on the show. If you don’t believe me, and you have the time, watch for yourself.
Lisa on Rachael Ray
Lisa on Next Star
PS. Next Star, if you want to send me the whole clip of Lisa, bring it. (Somebody help me, I’m way too into this.)