Category: Food Network

'Food Network Star': The talent search gets a welcome reboot

Season 8 of "Food Network Star" has kicked off, and things have changed for the better
Season 8 of "Food Network Star" kicked off Sunday night and, my oh my, how things have changed.

For the better.

The show has always been a favorite for network followers, but let's face it, the franchise was in need of a reboot. It earned a bit of a makeover over the last season, when it tightened up the name and introduced some competitors that were in it to win it, not just play nicey-nicey. (Looking at you, L.A.'s Penny Davidi!)

This time, in a delicious twist, the sharp elbows come courtesy of the network's marquee talents: Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis and Alton Brown. And if you thought this was going to be a fun and friendly matchup between network "family" members, think again.

Drawing "first blood" was A.B. Or should we call him Dr. Jekyll for his ability to transform from "the fun guy" on "Good Eats" to the shark in the tank? Exhibit A: The "You just punched me!" look on De Laurentiis' face when Jaws dismissed her teammate's key lime dessert with a devastating one-word dismissal: "Cafeteria."


Continue reading »

'Food Network Star' announces Season 8 competitors, and a twist

Food Network Star Season 8 Finalists_
The competitors won't be the only ones vying for bragging rights when the eighth season of "Food Network Star" returns May 13: Food Network celebrities Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis and Alton Brown are also going toe to toe.

Flay and De Laurentiis, who have served as series judges in the past, along with mentor / tormentor Brown will square off in a three-way competition. Each will hand-select five of the 15 finalists, then mentor and guide their wards through the competition to find the network's next food star.

The last competitor standing at the July 22 finale will earn what is arguably the food world's most coveted prize: His or her own show on Food Network, to be produced by his or her team leader.

From today's the press statement: "Having Bobby, Giada and Alton compete against each other to discover and develop the next Food Network Star took this series to a whole new level," said Bob Tuschman, general manager and senior vice president, programming and production. "It's hard to say if the competition was more intense among the finalists or their three Star mentors."

If L.A. is looking for some home-grown talent to root for, you'll need to choose between Nikki Martin of West Hollywood and Martita Jara of San Diego. The rest of the finalists are: Philip "Ippy" Aiona of Kamuela, Hawaii; Judson Allen and Kara Sigle, both of Chicago; Martie Duncan of Birmingham, Ala.; Emily Ellyn of Orlando, Fla.; Eric Lee of Petaluma, Calif.; Yvan Lemoine of Maspeth, N.Y.; Josh Lyons of Jupiter, Fla.; Linkie Marais of North Attleborough, Mass.; Malcolm Mitchell of Washington, D.C.; Michele Ragussis and Justin Warner, both of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Cristie Schoen of New Orleans.

The first challenge this season will see the competitors getting in on the pop-up restaurant trend, building their own eatery from the ground up with a shoestring budget.


Sarah Palin to co-host 'Today' on Tuesday

Aubrey O'Day walks off 'Celebrity Apprentice'

'The Beverly Hillbillies' and other great storytelling TV themes

-- Rene Lynch

Photo: The Season 8 "Food Network Star" competitors. Credit: Food Network

TV This Week for August 28th - September 3rd

Click here to download TV listings for the week of Aug. 28 - Sept. 3 in PDF format

TV listings for the week of Aug. 28 - Sept. 3 in PDF format (from

Weekly TV Listings and more can be found at:

This week's TV Movies



In the special “George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview,” the 43rd president shares his moment-by-moment recollections – illustrated with previously unreleased archival footage – of that darkest of days in 2001. (National Geographic, 7 and 10 p.m.)

Adore Adele? Gaga over Lady Gaga? Like a little Lil Wayne? The soulful British songstress, the fashion-forward dance-pop diva and the tatted-up rapper are just some of the many performers slated for the “2011 MTV Video Music Awards.” (MTV, VH1, 9 p.m.)


Serious foodies will journey far and wide for the tastes they “Crave,” and host Troy Johnson does likewise, visiting New York, Chicago and San Francisco in search of that perfect slice of pizza in the debut installment of this culinary travelogue. (Food, 8:30 p.m.)


Ahead of the curves: The new reality series “Big Sexy” follows Nikki, Heather, Audrey, Leslie and Tiffany (above, from left), five shapely young women looking to reshape society's notions of beauty while pursuing their own fashion-biz dreams. (TLC, 10 p.m.)


Hit movies like “The Hangover” often provide fresh plotlines that sitcom writers can then steal … um, borrow, rather… for their own shows, like when Elka (Betty White) goes MIA after her bachelorette party on a new “Hot in Cleveland.” (TV Land, 10 p.m.)


With the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 bringing a flood of disturbing images back to televisions in the coming weeks, “Nick News With Linda Ellerbee” seeks to explain that national tragedy to its audience of young children, many of whom were not yet born on that fateful day. (Nickelodeon, 9 p.m.)


Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea brought the Holy Grail to ancient Britain and hid it in a mystical place, near the spot where some of today's legendary pop-music acts – including U2, Coldplay and Beyoncé – can be seen performing in the new concert special “Glastonbury 2011.” (11 p.m. VH1)


Look at that big brain on “Megamind.” Will Ferrell provides the voice of the blue-hued super-villain (below), with Brad Pitt as his superhero archrival, Metro Man, and Tina Fey as a plucky girl reporter in this computer-animated 2010 send-up. (HBO, 8 p.m.)

Photo: "Big Sexy"; credit: James Hercule / TLC

Friday's TV Highlights: 'Thundercats' on Cartoon Network

Click here to download TV listings for the week of July 24 - 30 in PDF format

TV listings for the week of July 24 - 30 in PDF format (from

Weekly TV Listings and more can be found at:

This week's TV Movies


The 1980s-era animated series “Thundercats” gets an anime-style makeover, at 8 p.m. on Cartoon Network.


Monster Fish: A new episode of the nature series follows the migration of salmon on Russia's Kamchatka peninsula (7 and 10 p.m. National Geographic).

Flashpoint: The team investigates a kidnapping in this new episode of the action drama (8 p.m. CBS).

Who Do You Think You Are? “Fargo's” Steve Buscemi explores his family history in this repeat (8 p.m. NBC).

Invitation Only: Jason Aldean: The country music star performs for fans in an intimate setting (10 p.m. CMT).

Heat Seekers: The series seeks the spiciest food that Seattle has to offer in a new episode (10 p.m. Food).

Rhett & Link: Commercial Kings: 1980s chart-topper Richard Marx is featured in this new episode (10 p.m. IFC).

The Three Chocolatiers: Confectioners are up to their elbows in gooey goodness in this new reality series (11 p.m. Food).

Young Broke and Beautiful: Detroit is the latest destination for this quirky travelogue (11 p.m. IFC).

Continue reading »

'Food Network Star' recap: 'No pretenders, just contenders'

Jyll Everman of Food Network Star And then there were five. And in a week when the judges began wondering who among the final contestants can be an "authority," I think there's only one real answer: Jeff.

This week was a no-brainer. Unless something miraculous happened, Jyll Everman of Glendora was going home because she just couldn't deliver "real" in front of the camera. Although she had a great concept for a show -- Jyllicious Bites: big food made small -- she could only deliver a pageant smile and a nervous "Everything's great here, folks!" demeanor, and her food was shaky at times.

Worse, it was "exposed" that her P.O.V. is still shaky. Is she all about entertaining on a budget? Hearty Midwestern flair with a California twist? Or big food made small? It was all over when Food Network honcho Susie Fogelson said of Jyll: "She has an artificiality that I can't get past."


That leaves us with five finalists, but when you look closer, only one seems to be a real expert.

Continue reading »

'The Next Iron Chef' recap: Where did she come from?

Here we've been focusing on the perceived front runners -- Ming Tsai, perhaps, or Marc Forgione -- when chef Celina Tio crept on up and stole dual victories in the secret ingredients challenge and the chairman's challenge. To quote chef Tio: "Sweet!"

The secret ingredient challenge led to a philosophical debate -- take "American mother sauces," such as barbecue sauce, mayo and mustard, and transform them. But what does "transform" actually mean? Was it enough to take a liquid and turn it into a solid, as Tsai did, making a steak sauce gelatinous thing? Or did the ingredient need to be turned on its head? Chef Bryan Caswell made a consomme of sorts out of ketchup. Maybe competitors needed to do both.

Regardless, Tio nailed it. She was left with hot sauce and used it to make almond cakes with a hot sauce ricotta cheese and a hot sauce caramel. Even more amazing. Tio is averse to hot sauce and super spicy food. Her dish, though, was the nearly unanimous winner and paved the way for her to win the fair challenge. The competitors were sent out to the county fair and had to cook on the "outlaw grill" -- all 27 tons of it -- and transform fair food into something Iron Chef-worthy while dodging hazardous flame flare-ups.

There were creative moments. Forgione made a deep-fried root beer float (!) and a corn and cilantro snow cone. And there were some big flops. Chef Maneet Chauhan once again made a mealy something-or-other patty, and once again the judges told her to stop it. She was saved this week from elimination by chef Duskie Estes' abysmal dish, which included a messy-looking caramel apple -- what was transforming about that? -- and a fried strawberry pie that was undone on the inside (despite her claims to the contrary).

And with that, Estes was gone. Were you surprised by that? She started out so strong. But as A.B. tells us, this competition is as much about endurance as culinary finesse. In the end, slow and steady just may win the race.

--Rene Lynch / renelynch

Photo: The victorious Celina Tio. Credit: Food Network

'The Next Iron Chef' recap: What happened to Marco Canora's artichokes?


Chef Marc Forgione says this battle is gonna be a dogfight. Right now, it's a food fight, with the judges delivering verbal body slams left and right.

The first challenge Sunday -- a test of resourcefulness -- had the cheftestants preparing a "portable snack using pickles." Forgione won with a bite-sized foie gras-meets-bruschetta that had a little pickle-ness on top. That gave him an advantage going into the next challenge: The would-be Iron Chefs had to catch their own fish and then prepare it. Forgione won the right to swap his catch with someone else's hard-earned booty, and he did.

And that's when the judges started swinging.

Continue reading »

'The Next Iron Chef'' recap: Ming Tsai nearly serves up his own elimination

Did celebrity chef Ming Tsai think his bid to become "The Next Iron Chef" was going to be a cakewalk?

Probably not.

But he probably also would not have predicted that he'd be in the bottom two -- with a 50% chance of elimination -- in Week 2!

That's right, there was no mercy for Ming the Merciless in this week's challenge.

Continue reading »

'The Next Iron Chef' recap: Even good chefs can have a bad day

Well. That was fast.

For the second year in a row, the Los Angeles chef competing to become an Iron Chef became the first person eliminated.

Andrew Kirschner, executive chef at Wilshire in Santa Monica, was bounced off "The Next Iron Chef." (Last year, the first to depart the challenge was chef-owner Eric Greenspan of The Foundry on Melrose.)

Kirschner was felled by duck -- the ingredient he said he would most wish to have if he was stranded on a desert island. (He got his wish: He and the other competitors were forced to cook that wished-for ingredient beachside.)

But the duck wasn't well prepared -- the fat wasn't properly rendered, the skin not quite crispy enough. Worse, it showed no ingenuity, the very point of the challenge.

"It sucks to be first," he said afterwards.

Stuck in the bottom with Kirschner was Duskie Estes, a ranking that knocked the stuffing out of the 'tude she brought into the competition. (Who votes for themselves as having the best dish!?!?) She admitted as much: "My cocky first day is all gone."

First victory went -- no surprise -- to Ming the Merciless: "I'm striving for an undefeated record," he said. 

--Rene Lynch / renelynch

'The Next Iron Chef': Bringing in the big gun

Spit take!

That's Ming Tsai competing in Season 3 of "The Next Iron Chef" debuting Sunday night on Food Network.

The superstar chef seemingly has everything -- his Blue Ginger restaurant ranks as one of Boston's best, and he's published plenty of cookbooks, including the upcoming One-Pot Meals. He won an Emmy for his "East Meets West" Food Network show, which helped introduce Asian fusion cuisine to the masses, and his "Simply Ming" is currently on PBS.

So why risk it on "The Next Iron Chef"? Not knocking the show, where competitors vie for an opportunity to become an Iron Chef and do battle in Kitchen Stadium on "Iron Chef America." But wouldn't it, you know, be embarrassing if he doesn't go the distance?

It all speaks to the type of competitor Tsai is -- and the allure of joining the pantheon of Iron Chef greats such as Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Read more here, including why the inimitable Alton Brown says he almost passed on Season 3 hosting duties.

And what do you think? Are you planning to watch?

-- Rene Lynch / renelynch

Photo credit: Food Network

'The Great Food Truck Race' recap: Grill 'Em All stops Nom Nom in its tracks

Let the conspiracy theories begin.

On the face of it, "The Great Food Truck Race" had a pretty straightforward premise: The gourmet food truck that sells the most, wins. And when the L.A.-based Nom Nom Truck -- and its Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches -- rolled to five straight wins, it seemed like this finale was a foregone conclusion.

But when the apropo L.A. vs. L.A. showdown arrived in New York -- Nom Nom was up against the L.A.-based Grill 'Em All Truck and their monster burgers and fresh fries -- the Nommers hit a rough patch and fell behind. Way behind. Like, a borough behind. Giving the scrappy Grill 'Em All guys the opening they needed to ride their way to a stunning upset victory and a $50,000 pay day.

Cue the heavy metal guitar, boys!  

But was this finale a problem for the show's producers? At least one person thinks that the last Truck Stop challenge was just one more convenient twist to manage the competition instead of just letting the trucks duke it out. Nom Nom Truck's fate was about to be sealed when Ty called a halt to all sales and announced that the trucks would have to swap menus, meaning the burger guys would have to make a banh mi sandwich and the Nommers would have to make a burger. The best dish -- as decided by New York Chef Nate Appleman -- would put Nom Nom back in the game ... and I'm not sure I know what it would have done for the Grill 'Em All guys. But Nom Nom won ... and yet still could not catch up to those decadent burgers.

What do you think? Was this a convenient way to give Nom Nom a much-needed win to get them back into the game? If that's true, is this too much manipulation for your taste? Or do you think that, hey, this is a game and it's up to the producers to make it as suspenseful as possible? (You have to admit that it all made for a much more exciting finale. As much as I loved watching the guys make those heart-attack burgers, it would have been boring to see them just cruise to victory on their way to the Flatiron Building.)

Here's the question I still have: How in the world did Nom Nom fall so far behind? It's not like New Yorkers aren't hip to banh mi sandwiches.

Are you looking forward to a Season 2?

-- Rene Lynch

Photo: The Grill 'Em All Truck guys savor sweet victory -- and the view -- atop Manhattan's Flatiron Building. Credit: Food Network

'Next Food Network Star': It's a Party for Aarti and Tom, but what about Herb?

L.A. blogger Aarti Sequeira is having the best week ever. She's celebrating her birthday. (She's 32.) This week marks her seventh wedding anniversary to actor Brendan McNamara.

Oh, and she just won Season Six of "The Next Food Network Star."

"It's the most magical week ever, in history," she said with a laugh as she was headed for the airport and another trip back East where Food Network is based. Sequeira had been sworn to secrecy until the finale aired Sunday night on Food Network. "I'm just so happy to finally be able to talk about it," she said. [Sequeira will also make an appearance at the L.A. Times Food & Wine Festival on Sept. 5]

She said the on-screen journey was an emotional one. Many pegged her as the front-runner, given her experience making YouTube videos for her food blog. But that was not the case.

"I started off with not a lot of confidence, I was so intimidated by the rest of the finalists, their cooking ability and their experience," she said, adding that she had at least some reason to be nervous, noting that at one point she served raw chicken.

But she rallied back.

"I really feel like this was not only a victory in terms of me getting to do a job of a lifetime, but it's proof positive that the second that those demons come back and start pestering me...[I can face those demons and say] I won!"




Continue reading »

Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.




Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: