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'Next Food Network Star': Your final three

Aarti She's back!

The judges pummeled Aarti last week, wondering aloud whether she was too needy, to insecure to be their next star. But our hometown girl battled back this week to prove that she's not an entourage-needed diva -- but she does need to learn the fine art of acting like an expert, without acting like a know-it-all, especially when she doesn't know it all

This week's challenge was arguably the hardest one of the season: Cook like an Iron Chef, for the Food Network's Iron Chefs, including Cat Cora, Michael Symon and Morimoto, as well as the judges. They went two at a time. The first team up was Aarti and Herb, and their secret ingredient was shrimp. Their styles could not be more different: Herb was like a Tasmanian devil tearing up the kitchen with energy to spare, and Aarti was puttering about, at one point literally losing her gazpacho, and wandering here and there to look for it. But the results on the plate were what mattered, and both shined. Aria and Tom pulled bacon, and their dishes were a disaster, proving that bacon does not always make everything better. Aria appeared to have missed the point of the challenge completely: She made bacon the side dish, not the star. Tom took it too far in the other direction, making a bacon cake, and a bacon steak, but neither wowed the judges. The bacon steak was so tough that judge Susie Fogelson was practically calling for a Sawzall. 

While one team was cooking, the others had to help Alton Brown with the play-by-play -- and all were a disappointment, except Tom. He was cool, confident and even when he didn't know something, he found out the answer with ease. (As we head into the finale, could this be the quality that separates the would-be stars from the star? At the end of the day, the Food Network audience needs to completely trust the host.) The others fumbled, smiled, joked or mugged for the camera, which just doesn't cut it with the cooking authority that is A.B.

Aria brought "unmatched vivaciousness" to the competition, but her weak food and faltering commentary in this challenge did her in. She was sent home, leaving Tom (Yay!), Aarti (Double yay!) and Herb (Huh?) in the finale.

I never would have expected that Herb would have made it this far, but kudos to him for gutting it out. I love his new POV, as they say, and that megawatt smile. I'd be hard-pressed to choose among the three -- I'd watch them all.

But if I had to choose, I'd lean toward Aarti: Of all the wonderful dishes we've seen this season, hers are the ones I would most like to eat and make. And I'd like a big bowl of that coconut milk gazpacho, please. Aarti's still my pick to win it all. She's got some tough competition, though.

Who do you think will be this season's winner, and why? 

And here's to wishing Aria all the best, and many happy Sunday night dinners.

-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Aarti. Credit: Food Network  

Comments () | Archives (7)

Maybe it's just me...I can't bring myself to watch "TNFNS" since season four. (Season three brought us the way-too-mysterious Joshua Allen Garcia, a/k/a "Jag", who was ultimately tossed out of the competition for not disclosing all of his past to the judging panel. Goodness knows where the winner that year, Amy Finley, went, except to France. Season four had the annoying and dismissive Jill, who whined her way through a near-disastrous exercise at a military mess. Even losers can be winners. Finalist Adam Gertler wound up with two shows on Food Network, "Will Work for Food" and "Kid in a Candy Store". Thankfully, the winner that year, Aaron McCargo, Jr., was paired with Gordon Elliott-who made Paula Deen a star-and stopped being so serious when he cooked. I'm about to like season five winner Melissa D'Arabian, mainly because she had the gumption to approach chefs in France while living there about their techniques. She's attractive and determined. What most of the contestants have to learn is how not to apply the rules of divas to the contest. When Giada deLaurentiis began her studies at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, she admittedly acted, well, spoiled. She couldn't speak French, the instructors couldn't speak English...maybe they could speak Italian, because GDL wound up passing the course with flying colors...and the rest is history.)

I agree, I'm very (pleasantly) surprised that Herb is in the final. If you asked me a few weeks ago I would not have seen it coming. I'm glad Aria's gone but I think she should have been gone last week and Brad should have been kept in. Brad would have eaten an Iron Chef challenge up and would have also provided some insightful commentary. Aria's biggest downfall in her commentary was the she didn't have an authoritative knowledge of food, as seen when she couldn't answer where paprika came from. (To be fair, I had no idea either. But I'm not competing for a show on Food Network.)

But Brad's gone, so oh well. I'd LOVE for Herb to win, but I don't know that he has as good a shot at beating Aarti as Tom does. I'd be happy if either of them won, since I really don't like Aarti and wouldn't watch something she starred in. Sadly, I feel like Aarti is going to win anyway. Maybe Tom and Herb can get a show on Travel Channel or Cooking Channel with Brad.

It's interesting to watch how the contestants grow over the 13 weeks of the competition. At the beginning I thought Aria would be in the finals and that Herb would have been long gone. Aarti was always on my radar.

Of all the contestants, I find that I want to try Aarti's recipes. I agree that either of the three would be pleasant to watch, but my first choice is Aarti and my second choice is Tom.

I have to say, the food that I have absolutely no idea how to cook... the food that I would most like to learn, and the food that I would most like to eat... Aarti's POV. She is no more annoying than any other food network star... I would eat in her restaurant. Her food looks yummy yummy!! Herb is a good personality, but I can already cook healthy food. There are other chefs on Food TV that do that.

I will never watch Aerti,her greasy hair hanging in the food drives me crazy,plus,I do not have any of the ingrediants she uses in my pantry,so it is doubtfull I would go out and spend $200 to try a recipe.As for Tom.I don,t know what his food is,and Herb,looks the best and yes,I would like to learn healthy uncomplicated recipes.

I was sooo happy when the judges said they loved everything that Aarti cooked that tears ran down my face. She didn't even know what she was going to make for her last dish until about two thirds the way into the challenge. Very inpressive Aarti!

The way someone looks has nothing to do with how great there cooking is. Even if you are an "Iron Chef" yourself, your critic should be based on the food. Period!


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