Food & Cooking Reality Shows Update August ’09

There have been two food/cooking reality finales in the past week: “The Next Food Network Star” and “The Chopping Block”.  A third, “Top Chef: Masters,” is also nearing its finale. Two new shows are about to start as well: “Top Chef: Las Vegas” and “The Next Iron Chef”. Let us take a look at all the happenings.

The Next Food Network Star

The Next Food Network Star finished its season on August 2nd with Melissa d’Arabin (a.k.a. “Mommy Mayhem”) taking the prize. Melissa begins her own show “Ten Dollar Dinners” on Sunday August 9th. In what was described by the judges the most difficult decision in the shows history, Melissa edged out competitor Jeffery Saad. Both competitors were well qualified, however, Melissa seemed to be more charming and approachable than the more food knowledgeable Jeffery. Debbie Lee, the third place finisher, also had a good shot at it but made a few too many mistakes. Great to see another Texan on the network.

The Chopping Block

After a short time of being dropped by NBC, The Chopping Block was brought back to finish up its season on July 24th. Hosted by the culinary worlds first rock star, Marco Pierre White, sisters Kelsey and Vanessa Henderson walked away with the $250,000 dollar prize to start their own restaurant in Los Angeles. Kelsey and Vanessa won by taking Marco Pierre White’s advice to keep their menu and service simple. Runner ups, Lisa Stalvey & Michael Anapol,went the much more risky route in which Lisa cooked dishes that she had never cooked before. The third place team of Dean & Shari Della Ventura had a great shot at making the finals but failed due to being short handed in the kitchen and front of house.

Top Chef: Masters

The preliminaries of Top Chef: Masters are over and two of the six finalists have been eliminated. The final four include Michael Chiarello, Rick Bayless, Anita Lo and Hubert Keller. I really like the new scoring method with 5 points for the Quickfire Challenge, and for the Elimination Challenge, 5 points for the guest and each judge. I was rather put off with the challenges in the preliminary rounds, however, they have been much better in the finals. The chefs are not overly hand tied and can cook to their potential. My favorites to win are Hubert and Michael.

Top Chef: Las Vegas

Top Chef: Las Vegas (Season 6) starts August 19th. Padma Lakshmi returns as host alongside head judge Tom Colicchio, and judges Gail Simmons and Toby Young. Some of the guest judges scheduled to appear are Wolfgang Puck, Todd English, Natalie Portman, Daniel Boulud, Penn & Teller, Hubert Keller, Laurent Tourondel, Tim Love, Michelle Bernstein, Tyler Florence, Charlie Palmer, Paul Bartolotta, Nigella Lawson and Jerome Bocuse. The season will start with 17 chefs and it looks like we have our first set of brothers (or at least related contestants) competing Michael and Bryan Voltaggio. Curiously, a majority of the contestants are from Atlanta (3), Philadelphia (2), San Francisco (3) and Seattle (2).

The Next Iron Chef

Finally, we come to The Next Iron Chef. Michael Symon won two years ago to become an Iron Chef. Who will it be this time? 10 chefs will square off this fall. The show premieres October 4th.

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