The fifth season of The Next Food Network Star premiered tonight with ten mostly amateur chefs all competing for a television show slot on Food Network. It was a little tough to judge who we'd grow to love and who'd make us cringe, but there were some definite favorites (cough, Michael). The contestants were thrown into a house Real World-style, but there was no time for hot tub introductions. The gang was immediately split up into two teams at Butter restaurant in Manhattan, cooking for 75 guests at Food Network's Sweet Sixteen bash. The invite list mostly included food hotshots (Giada de Laurentiis, Bobby Flay, Iron Chef Morimoto) and for some reason, Nancy O'Dell from Access Hollywood. After the jump, meet the contestants, see what they cooked and some favorite quotes from the episode.
[Warning, spoilers ahead.]
Sales associate Orlando, Florida
Dish: Ouch, not good. Green beans with toasted walnuts and grape tomatoes
Judges' reaction: "This green bean you can buy around the corner at the grocery," Morimoto commented. All the judges agreed—Jen's beans kind of sucked.
Best quote: "I'm house wife version 2.0."
Personal chef Atlanta, Georgia
Dish: Floribbean Shrimp cocktail with mango-jicama slaw
Judges' reaction: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," Bob Tuschman said in reaction to the slaw (the best) and the shrimp (worst). "I thought the shrimp was a gate of badness," said Alton Brown.
Best quote: "You have the sweetest smile," Nancy O'Dell told her at dinner. Aw, there was something pretty lovely about Jamika.
Co-owner of Granville Moore's gastropub in Washington, D.C. Alexandria, Virginia
Dish: Herb and truffle-infused potato gratin
Judges' reaction:: If the potatoes were cooked, it could have been a winner. Usually cooking stuff helps your odds in a cooking show.
Best quote: "It's a little intense, I'm a little intense."
Dietitian Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Dish: Salad with orange, pomegranate, goat cheese, and red chard
Judges' reaction: It was a very safe piling of a lot of ingredients. Bobby Flay went as far to call it "a throwaway dish."
Best quote: "Digestive health, digestive motility to be exact," in response to Alton Brown asking her why he should eat her dish. Mmm, motility!
Executive sous chef at Doral Arrowwood Hotel in Rye Brook New York, New York
Dish: Roasted filet mignon in a red wine mushroom sauce
Judges' reaction: Eek. They felt like they were in jail or the army eating it. Giada De Laurentiis compared the mushrooms to snails.
Best quote: "I think I just poot my pants," the Green Team captain said when Butter chef Alex Guarnaschelli accused him of dissing her kitchen.
Executive chef of Radisson Hotel in New Rochelle City Island, New York
Dish: Five spice filet mignon with pickled veggies
Judges' reaction: All smiles. It was Susie Fogelson's favorite, and she's a tough cookie.
Best quote: "It's global a-go-go, hunny. I bring you everywhere from Bed-Stuy to Bangkok." (Priceless. There's no way he's going home anytime soon.)
Talent agent/kitchen apprentice Manhattan Beach, California
Dish: "BLAST Bowl," a bite-sized BLT
Judges' reaction: The avocado, tomato (and Eddie's personality) had no flavor.
Best quote: "Recipes are a foundation that you have to allow your hands to create a symphony," he said when presenting his dish. Uhh, is this a brand management meeting with a Powerpoint presentation? Falling asleep here.
Stay-at-home mom Keller, Texas
Dish: Apple tart with caramel, inspired by her daughters
Judges' reaction: Big fans. It was Bobby Flay's favorite. Anne Burell might have liked it, but said if she had to watch a whole show of Melissa, she might get twitchy.
Best quote: "Good evening and happy SAW-eet 16!!!!" Melissa had more energy than a wind turbine. Definitely some shades of Kelsey from last season here.
Restaurant consultant Los Angeles, California
Dish: Crab cake with spicy mayo
Judges' reaction: They thought the Red Team captain's spicy mayo was bangin' (potentially the highest compliment for a spicy mayo) even if she screwed up the angel food cake dessert.
Best quote: "I grew up on fried chicken...my mom didn't know how to make kimchi and I don't speak Korean."
Food consultant/recipe developer/chef Los Angeles, California
Dish: Cumin-rubbed grilled zucchini with a ragu of citrus and red chili
Judges' reaction: Very earthy and tasty dish. I think they were into his hair too.
Best quote: "Is this a Greek god or a chef?" the other contestants wondered when Jeffrey first walked through the room.
Winners: Jeffrey Saad, Melissa d’Arabian, and Michael Proietti
Loser: Jen Isham