Do you watch The Next Food Network Star? I watched every episode last year, though I'm falling behind this year. By falling behind, I mean that I've watched just one episode so far, though the DVR is supposed to be keeping them for me. Of course, last year it started when I was on maternity leave and spent large blocks of time sitting on the couch nursing Trystan. This year, couch-sitting time is more expensive than gasoline.
I've never been much of a reality tv fan, though I love a good cooking show. My husband and I have been watching the Food Network for over 10 years, and remember seeing Mario Batali on a rotating kitchen stage (there was a different kitchen on the reverse side). I still miss Ready, Set, Cook where a chef + a mere mortal were given a mystery ingredient, stocked pantry, and 30 minutes to prepare a meal. I gathered many tips for getting dinner on the table in a hurry that way. I'm a huge fan of Alton Brown, and was hugely disappointed that I missed a book-signing gig of his here in St. Louis a while back.
I'm not sure about The Next Food Network Star, though. The whole setup kind of gives me the creeps, like the Food TV execs are having a good laugh at the contestants' expense. The show is full of crazy challenges that are neither realistic nor telling of anyone's ability to cook or perform. They stuff them into a tiny apartment with no privacy (bunk beds? I shudder at the thought), and then line them up, firing squad-style, so the so-called "judges" can complain about their supposed lack of cooking talent and grace under fire. I bet those judges get to sleep in their own homes every night. And the grand "prize" from this show is the chance to film 2 or 3 episodes of a oooking show that the network will air at such prized viewing times as 2pm on a Sunday afternoon.
I know that FoodTV didn't invent this game. There have been dozens of reality shows before this one that made the mold. Food TV just mixed their own jello for it. I only watched one full season of The Apprentice, too, before I lost interest.
The cooking challenges would be more amusing if the people completing them were less vulnerable. Why don't they pull together a dozen of their reigning "Stars" and run them through a season of challenges. I'd love to see what Alton Brown could do with squid and breakfast cereal (and minus his crew). How would Paula Dean and Sandra Lee fare if they had to share a bathroom? Come on, Food TV, line up your big guns and see how *they* handle that firing squad!
Ready, Set, Cook!