We’re just over halfway through yet another fun season of The Next Food Network Star, and with the finish line coming closer and our opinions of the contestants growing stronger, I thought I’d check in and share my thoughts about the remaining finalists. The good news is that of nearly all the people left standing, I’d probably watch a show by any of them. Well, almost any of them.

Opinions after the jump…



My feelings trend positively when it comes to Aarti, but there are still some elements about her that rub me the wrong way. The first continues to be her silly show title, Aarti Party. I have yet to see any evidence that Aarti can throw a party, and that furthermore it would be a party I’d like to go to. The good news for her is that she always cooks up food that looks intriguing, but that might be because the Food Network has an overabundance of Middle American Guy Fieri junk and a dearth of “exotic” ethnic specialists who deal in anything beyond the Eastern border of Italy. As a result, Aarti’s stuff might look fascinating simply by default.

That being said, I do trust that most of her offerings thus far have been tasty, and she really is a natural in front of the camera. Would I watch her show though? Maybe. Maybe not. The perpetual flower in the hair drives me nuts, and there’s a general cutesiness that bugs me. Then again, full disclosure: I have a heart of stone.



I trust that when it comes to local ingredients, farm stand produce, and simple and fresh flavors, Aria is probably pretty awesome. Her “Family Style” angle is also very strong and compelling. However, as a TV personality, her Mommy voice is a real problem. I don’t think she can relate to adults. Only kids. Besides, there’s already enough Mommy crap on the Food Network (Giada At Home has gotten insufferable with all the doting on the baby), and while I realize that mommies are probably the major Food Network demographic, it’s just not something that resonates with me. Why? Well… I’m not a mom! Additionally, it’s one thing to appeal to moms, but quite another to appeal to Mommies. If you don’t know the difference, you’re probably a Mommy. Sorry.

Ultimately, I think Aria will go pretty far, but truth be told, even with her “Family Style” niche, Aria feels just a bit too generic for me.



Brad has been pleasant but bland all season; however, recently, he’s been growing more and more likable to the point where I think he might be a frontrunner. Sure, he had a misfire with the food truck challenge (I blame that awful Paul guy), but in general, his food is often well-received, and his personality is sweet. I’m not totally sold on his show concept (“Pro”), but I trust his expertise, and I like the idea of a cooking show targeted to the twentysomething urban male. It’s time for a new Dave Lieberman, and Brad could be it.

Oh, but he should lose the dumb hat.



Poor Brianna. This most recently eliminated contestant apparently had the culinary chops to wow over the judges week after week. However, her personality was kind of awful. And by “awful,” I mean bitchy, standoffish, insincere, and ultimately guarded. The idea of this generally cold woman being able to occupy thirty minutes of the Food Network’s cheery on-air schedule is laughable. For a moment there, it looked like she might come out of her shell, but alas, Brianna just could not open herself up to the camera. Even worse, she never really got a grasp on what her show would be. The last time we heard, she was still pushing for that generic “fun” angle, an angle which Susie Fogelson hilariously shot down by saying “fun isn’t really a point of view or a cooking style.” I guess it was funnier when she said it.



What’s the deal with this guy? Some weeks, he rocks it in front of the camera. Other weeks he spectacularly flames out. Here’s one thing that is always consistent: the guy is super annoying. Don’t get me wrong — he has a killer smile, and his healthy point of view is definitely an appealing one — but when Herb gets excited, it’s pretty much the worst thing since… Guy Fieri. Note that Guy Fieri is pretty much my benchmark for awfulness. Nevertheless, I might reluctantly watch a show by Herb, if only to learn some healthier recipes, but I swear, if he continues to call himself “The Energy Chef,” there’s no way I’m allowing him on my TV.



I gotta admit that I had high hopes for Serena. I thought she’d be able to bring some recipes from the old country here to America, but alas, it seems like every time she imports a dish from her childhood, it kind of sucks. Additionally, I really don’t know what her point of view is, and on top of that, she’s not nearly as dramatic as I naturally assumed she’d be (she is a lawyer after all. I thought she might get into more tussles). The good news about Serena is that she seems to piss off Giada, who clearly is not thrilled to have a rival Italian personality on the network. After all, Serena is not just from the home country, but she’s younger, and significantly less plastic surgery-ed. Catfight!

Nevertheless, I appreciate Serena presence, but given her frequent bumbling, I wouldn’t be surprised if she were next to go home.



Tom started off the competition lingering in the bottom, but lately, he’s risen to the top of the pack, thanks to solid cooking and a great personality. The guy seems to be enjoying himself at every turn, even when he totally messes up. He has a “bro” sensibility about him that isn’t obnoxious, and to be honest, it feels a whole lot more authentic than, you guessed it, GUY FIERI — who, I’m sorry, is not “cool” just because he wears sunglasses on the back of his head.

Whereas Guy is shrill and annoying (and yes, a total success), Tom feels boisterous yet chill — the kind of guy you’d like to have a beer with. Last time I checked, there were zero men on the Food Network who could fit that bill. Sure, Tyler Florence probably thinks of himself that way, but we all know that a beer swilling afternoon with him would result in him talking about himself the entire time.

I’m not 100% sure what Tom’s culinary point of view is, but that’s okay for now. All that matters is that he’s fun and his food looks good (most of the time). Do I think he can win this thing? Probably not. But then again, who knows…

Ultimately I’d like to see a final three featuring Tom, Brad, and Aarti (minus any annoying flowers or caps in or on the hair).

What do you think about this season? Who are your favorites? Who do you think should win? Who will win? Who should go home next?

15 replies on “Checking In On Our Food Network Stars”

  1. I think I’m really rooting for Brad and Tom, they are the standouts. But I loved Aria from the first episode, and I would love to see her in the top 3. I like her point of view, and I guess I don’t notice the mommy voice-I find her sort of comforting.
    I hope Herb goes next just to get him out of his misery.

  2. Jen,
    I love Brad and Tom too, and have from the very beginning. I also like Aarti, Aria, and Serena, but with the way Brad and Tom are bringing it, I think it has to be one of the guys. Also, Brad is adorable, and Tom is too, in a “slobby husband watching football on the weekend kind of way”. If the viewership is mainly female, and the food network wants more viewers, one of these two should win.

  3. I’m totally on Team Brad. He’s just so darn likable.

    When all is said and done, though, he might be a better personality for the fledgling Cooking Network.

  4. I for one am RSVP’d for the Aarti Party! She’s cute, funny, and has a natural presence. She and Serena are the only ones whose shows I would watch. Brad is boring, Herb sucks, Tom is boring, and Aria is condescending. It’s a lackluster bunch by-and-large.

  5. Team Tom! But I also like Aarti a lot…AND I think she might win just based on the fact that she’ll bring a sorely needed different kind of ethnic mix to the network.

  6. I find Serena to be so annoying. I don’t need to be stressed out with all of the speed talking and freaking out that seems to be her cooking POV.

  7. I want to see Aarti win, but I think if she fails, it will be her own fault. She needs to start believing in herself so the judges will too. If Herb takes Bobby’s advice and changes his POV to Cuban, he could be a contender. Otherwise you are spot on with the top three.

  8. I’m happy Brianna got booted. She was so pompous I couldn’t stand her. I like Serena — she just needs to get over her nerves. I don’t think I would like to eat anything Tom cooked — he looks like he needs a shower and a haircut. Aarti’s food is interesting, but I can’t get past the “Ahtee Pahtee” she’s pushing. I agree, she should definitely lose the hair flowers. Herb should be cooking Cuban and not that health-food energy crap. Aria belongs on Sesame Street and Brad, well… the “pro” angle just doesn’t work for me.

  9. i did not like Brianna either..she was so mean to Serena, and then , when working together, i think she realized that she was being a bitch, and tried to “play nice”. There is nothing substantial or honest about her. She wanted to ride Serena’s coattails. She lasted another week, she was cut at the right time.

    I am really excited about Brad and Tom, i like that they are doing well.

    In the beginning. Aarti and Aria were my favorites in the beginning, but alas, no longer.

    I would watch Brad (love him), Tom, or Serena. Ahrtees party does not interest me, although i think she is a very bubbly nice person i would want as a friend (i would yank out the flowers though), Herb is kinda bland for me.

    It’s hard when the frontrunners fail…

  10. oh I love that insight that Serena is a threat to Giada. I have NEVER liked Giada with her strangely large head and small shoulders and puffy arms. Somebody told her cap sleeves are flattering but she just looks weird all the time. Serena is authentic Italian with a backup occupation and young and just adorable. I’m for Tom though, in this competition. And I don’t think there’s a surfeit of exotic chefs/shows on Food Channel; rather, there are too few.

    1. UGH. I meant “dearth.” I don’t know why I wrote “surfeit.”

      Thanks for the heads up.

      1. They are both good words. I saw “jejune” used in a comment recently and had to look it up. Work that one in somewhere!

  11. Giada also does a weird thing with her smile…she is grimacing. It is like skeletor every time she smiles. Like she wants to eat you with her sharp teeth. So weird, because she is a very beautiful woman..

    1. oh yeah, it’s a creepy, wide mouth. All the better to chomp a big cannoli with I suppose. I also think it’s pretty obnoxious when she streams along in American English but pronounces the Italian words all Italian-y. We know you know them Giada, but don’t try so hard.

  12. From what I can see now, I like Aarti, Tom and Brad. Aarti has a different cuisine focus than anyone on the network, her food looks good and I think her confidence issue would go away if she won. Tom is just Everyman, which if they let him keep that persona instead of going over the top, would be fun to watch. Brad has a lot of knowledge and seems pretty fun… if only he can stop freezing in front of the camera!

    I liked Aria, but the judges are right – she’s very one note. It’s almost grating now. No way Serena gets her show unless Giada is retiring – they’re too similar. I’m not a huge Giada fan, but Serena bugs the heck out of me for some reason. Herb is either TOO MUCH or a depressing slump. And thank goodness Brianna is gone. Couldn’t stand her.

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