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Even I Know They're San Marzanos...and JAG's Crying Jag
Monday, July 09, 2007 | posted by Mike

So, how did we celebrate our record breaking day on Thursday? By breaking the record again on Friday, thank in no small part to the folks at the Good Eats Fan Page, who got a kick out of our post about Chris Cognac on the red carpet. Thanks for the link, guys!

I think it's all but official at this point...we'll be having our first female The Next Food Network Star winner. Even if JAG makes it through the next round, I can't see him taking the top prize. Especially after he displayed the poise and grace of a three year old when he pitched a fit about tanking in the Iron Chef challenge. After pulling the Johnny Fontaine routine, I really wish Alton or someone would have slapped him around and told him to act like a man.

But, yet again, tears were shed. And so:

As for the elimination, I feel kinda bad. Paul really seemed to want it. But, he was a perfectly nice and likable guy who I will completely forget about in 3...2...1...

Seriously, though, the San Marzano thing bugged me, and I think it's indicative as to why none of the remaining contestants are particularly enticing as candidates to host their own show. Two questions were asked by Alton Brown during the Iron Chef segments. One of them was why a dish was "Moroccan" and the other was where the canned tomatoes came from. In both instances, they simply didn't know, displaying a stunning lack of knowledge and/or preparation.

Here's a hint: Moroccan dishes use spices like cinnamon, cumin and coriander. That would have been a good place to start. Or you could have -- you know -- just asked the chef. As for tomatoes, when someone asks you where tomatoes come from, it's a good bet that they're going for San Marzano. Do I expect Joe Blow off the street to know this? No. But I do expect someone who has their own food show to display at least a familiarity with an ingredient that continually shows up.

The judges have been hammering home the notion of having a culinary point of view, and they're right to do so. Because, the fact of the matter is that none of them have demonstrated enough knowledge or virtuosity in the kitchen to convince you that you should listen to what they have to say.

You watch cooking shows for one of two reasons. Either the point of view or "hook" of the show is compelling (meals you can cook in under 30 minutes, authentic Southern cooking, etc.) or the host is an expert or just a general force of nature (Mario, Emeril, Giada, etc.). You can be one, the other or both (Rachael), but you can't go "0 for 3."

I will say that I have no doubt that Food Network will be able to polish the eventual winner into someone who can, at the very least, get from point A to point B on a recipe in front of the camera. They're professionals and their brand is so strong, they'll be able to plug the winner in and turn out a watchable show. But for the show to be inspired, it's going to take a dramatic leap from the winner that I'm not certain is possible.



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