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'The Next Food Network Star': Just can't keep a Greek god down

June 8, 2009 |  2:07 pm

Jeffrey-1---Ep-1 Los Angeles' Jeffrey Saad emerged victorious from the first challenge on "The Next Food Network Star" smelling like...a Greek god?

It's was certainly Jeffrey's night. The real estate broker who figured he had nothing to lose by trying out for the reality competition — the winner gets his or her own show on Food Network — did quite well for himself. First, there was that Greek god compliment paid by one of Jeffrey's rivals, commenting on Jeffrey's build and flowing locks. Then Jeffrey charmed the 75 guests of honor — among them some of the network's biggest names, including Alton Brown, Ted Allen and Giada De Laurentiis — who were in attendance for the reality competition's first challenge: catering a party to celebrate the network's 16 years on the air. He also appeared to work his magic on judge and Food Network honcho Susie Fogelson: Did I or did I not detect a hint of sugary sweetness when she said "Hiiiii Jeeeeeffreeeeey" when his turn came up before judge's panel? But wait! There's more! Jeffrey won the challenge too, despite being hamstrung by several missing ingredients that required him to rethink his squash side dish on the fly.

Perhaps that's why oddsmakers are already betting on Jeffrey to take it all. (Check out, registration required.) What do you think? If Jeffrey wins the competition — and his very own show on Food Network — would you watch?

Things did not go as smoothly for the two other L.A. competitors:

Eddie's dish, guacamole BLTs without the bread, failed to impress the judges and landed him in the bottom two. And Debbie came thisclose to getting herself eliminated by botching the shopping trip for her five-person: She overspent, then had to return items and in doing so forgot several key ingredients, and then made it worse with an executive decision to serve up store-bought angel food cake. (Jeffrey put it best: "Oh. My. God. I am sure angel food cake is not what the Food Network wants to see from five chefs.") Lee's dish, crabcakes and spicy mayonnaise, saved her.

While Jeffrey won, it was also time to send one of the contestants home. That would be Jen — a.k.a. Barbie — who apparently thought it would gain her points to tell the already overworked women of America that she happily toils all day long at her job as a hotel sales manager and then comes home to serve her husband dinner while he (from the looks of it) sits on the couch watching TV. But look at the bright side: Elimination mean the self-proclaimed "housewife version 2.0" has the time to learn a thing or two about making string beans. A sad, limp version of the dish sent her packing.

Some random thoughts about the field, subject to change as we move forward:

Jamika: Adorable, her gentle accent is a plus. 

Katie: Someone with eyes that big should know better than to make them even more bug-eyed. (Sorry! But it's true.) That said, judge Bobby Flay summed it up best: If she can find a way to make healthy food delicious and come across as more authoritative, she could have a following.

Melissa: Awwww. Love her!

Teddy: When did Ray Liotta give up movies for cooking?

Michael: He had me at global a go-go. I only regret that I can't TiVo it right now. 

Brett: How many inappropriate/sexist/misguided statements can one man make? He could be excused if he were 107-year-old and had lived all of his life under a rock. But, uh, he's not and he didn't. I counted at least four off-the-mark comments, and that's looking past his "Damn, I'm good" comment. (Brett, if by "good" you mean a performance that landed you in the bottom three with a steak-and-mushroom dish that reminded Giada of ooky, slimy snails, then yes, you are "good.")

— Rene Lynch  

Photo credit: Food Network