Before I get started with my first installment of Food Network Star power rankings, let me just say that this feature should not be interpreted as an endorsement of this show. I don’t think you should watch this show. I tell myself that I shouldn’t watch this show. Sadly, I am a hopeless food-bro. Such that I often find myself 30 minutes into Food Network shows without even realizing that I’ve DVR’d them. It’s a curse. I don’t endorse this compulsion, but for those who share it, I commiserate.
For the uninitiated, Food Network Star is a show where contestants of dubious culinary pedigree compete with each other to see who is the best at cooking food you can’t actually taste. They’re mentored in this quest by the likes of Bobby The Chile Man Flay and Giada DeLaurentiis’s photogenic cleavage. Their eventual goal is to win the approval of Food Network Execs Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson, two people even more boring than their names would suggest. That’s a funny thing about the entertainment industry. You spend your whole time at college trying to be the hippest, most avante-garde, asymmetrical haircutted film student, and then enter the workforce, where you realize all of the real decisions are made by people named “Bob” and “Susie,” who are so uncool your parents would avoid them at church mixers.
In any case, this is now Season 11 of Food Network Star. Could you name 10 people on the Food Network, let alone the 10 past winners of Food Network Star? Doubtful, which throws some cold water on the whole “star” label. However, Season Two’s winner was Guy Fieri, whose culinary POV was described at the time as “Off the Hook California Cuisine,” so obviously this is an important show. It was our gateway to Flavortown!
OK, here we go.
1. (tie) Arnold, aka The Drag Queen
Arnold was the co-winner of this week’s episode (“Savory Baking,” FYI), so obviously he has to go at the top of the list. Arnold is an adorable little man who makes postcard-worthy perfect food without ever breaking a sweat. You could give him a tin of tuna and a half-drunk can of Coors lite and turn your back for 5 minutes and he would’ve whipped up some four-course feast, complete with themed cutlery. I don’t know how he does it, I think it’s Mary Poppins magic. Dude made meatloaf look like cupcakes and still had time left over to pick out a tasteful centerpiece.
Arnold owns a restaurant and moonlights as a drag queen named “Suzy Wong.” He’s super likable and makes amazing food, but you can tell the straitlaced judges are only pretending not to be slightly scared by his super-queenie persona. He’s a lock to make it to the finals, and an even greater lock not to win. Remember, this is The House That Fieri Built, the one that sells food culture to Middle America.
1. (tie) Eddie, aka Johnny Football
This ex-NFL player, chef and personal trainer (allegedly) is also pretty personable, and the girl judges coo over his biceps, until Bobby Flay tells them to knock it off because that’s something men do on reality shows. This week Eddie knocked the judges socks off with some tasty-looking cornbread muffins and a cheesy story about how he once tricked a teammate into eating savory muffins by making him think they were cupcakes. Lol! Made you eat good food, bro! Uh… OK. The judges seemed to think this story was worthy of a TED talk. Maybe it was the biceps? I dunno.
Too bad Eddie’s POV, “Cheat Day,” makes no sense. “Everyone needs a cheat day,” he says. OK, but why do I want the healthy chef to teach me to cook unhealthy food? That’s like hiring a personal trainer to teach me to channel-surf.