*** SPOILER ALERT ***
If you've been watching this mini-exposition on The Food Network and missed the finale, please be advised that you should be somewhere else until you've seen it. It's actually entertaining up until the very end until ***** wins, in which case you, like most viewers, will be alternatively shocked, disappointed and left shaking your head.
Last night's finale, like that of the last three years, produced a "winner." But the truth is I think this blatant Top Chef rip-off is a sham. The first year went to a couple of guys (they were a cooking tandem) called "The Hardy Boys" -- the name referred to the type of food (hardy) they produce for entertaining and home-cooking. Of course you've probably never heard about these guys -- because their show was awful and no one watches The Food Network at 5AM on a Wednesday.
The next season went to Guy Fieri, the freaky-looking tattoo-fest that's concurrently on TGI Friday's commercials (the guy who slips into a booth while a woman on a date -- at a Friday's -- sneaks off to the bathroom). Guy seems like a good guy, but it's painful watching him because he's freakshow first and cook second. On a side note, it sort of disturbs me that he's raising kids because of the various tattoos he's sporting all over the place. It doesn't make him a bad father or a bad guy, of course, but I just think he looks like a complete douchebag, and it always bothers me when I see an apparent douchebag reproducing and passing along those douchebag genes to little people.
Nevermind that last year's NFNS winner, Amy Finley, filmed six episodes and then split -- or so she claims in her Food Network blog (she claims that because of family issues she couldn't remain an on-air personality). So over the three seasons of NFNS, two of the three chosen "stars" are no longer on the network, or if they are, it's a toss-up between their shows and mattress infomercials (guess which is more exciting and produces more revenue for the network).
So last night, the three finalists for this year's NFNS were Lisa Garza, a restaurant owner/caterer from Dallas, Adam Gertler, a cook/former restaurant owner from Philly, and Aaron McCargo Jr., a hospital cook from Camden, NJ. Each of them was talented but, frankly, I thought Lisa Garza had it in the bag. When you watch each of these three people on-screen, you like each of them. However, in terms of authority and who I'd actually watch, I'd probably watch Adam Gertler's and Lisa Garza's shows. Adam is entertaining without being over the top and Lisa seems like she knows what she's doing and, more often than not, makes things/dishes I'd actually want to learn how to make. Aaron, conversely, makes basic foods -- pork loin, chicken, steak -- and shakes red pepper flakes and brown sugar on them. Yawn.
The problem, of course, is that *** SPOILER ALERT *** Aaron won. What bothers me about this is not that they gave him a shot. He's a really nice guy and this is something that will really make a difference in his life and his family's lives. I'm completely happy for him and if he were a personal friend of mine I'd be the first one congratulating him.
However, he's the wrong choice. In fact, he's the last choice I would have picked. Lisa knows her stuff and makes dishes that I'd be interested in eating and, therefore, preparing. Adam is completely familiar with dishes I've tried and things I would probably want to learn to do in the future (ie barbecue, grilling, smoking and adding new facets to dishes I've made in the past). To wit: last night had Lisa preparing Black Cod, Adam preparing Beer Can chicken and Aaron prepared a steak with plaintains and collard greens. I'm not sure if I would ever do a beer can chicken -- the recipe has been in my virtual recipe box for a number of years -- but seeing him prepare it was a reminder that one of these days I should do it. As for Lisa's prep of Black Cod with a zabaillone sauce, that's something I could see preparing at home. Aaron, however, made a steak, plaintains, and collard greens. I'm sure they're good, but that's pretty much what I do right now in my 3x2 mini-kitchen. I don't need 12 people with cameras, clipboards and 500-watt highway-lights filming me to make a steak and greens.
As per usual, they got it wrong. Not because Aaron is not a good guy -- he seems to be a great guy. But unless their aim is to get a "star" to film a dozen episodes and then disappear -- which has occurred two out of the last three seasons -- they seem to have really screwed the pooch on this one yet again.
Oh well. Better luck next year, folks.