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Monday, July 27

5 Reasons Why Melissa D'Arabian Is Going to Win The Next Food Network Star

After watching last night's episode of The Next Food Network Star it become clear to me who is going to win this season's competition. I liked Debbie from the beginning, but never really thought she had a chance of winning.

Here are my 5 reasons why Melissa D'Arabian will be the next Food Network star:

1. Melissa Has the Best Story Arc

Producers love to tell a story and carefully construct what we see (and don't see) of each contestant. Remember how all of Melissa's flubs and screwups were heavily featured in the early episodes? We were lead to believe she consistently needed help from the other contestants just to finish in time, couldn't keep up with the professional chefs, etc.

Now, in the second-to-last episode, Melissa is seen as triumphant and adored by the judges and guests. Her cooking skills even garnered the approval of top chefs John Besh and Francois Payard, among others.

Jeffrey, on the other hand, has stayed pretty much consistent (which is what we hear from TUSCHELSON over and over) since episode 1. He's good but not great. He's not good on camera, and while he might bring in a new audience, I think Food Network is more worried about keeping another audience it already has. Which leads me to #2...

2. Melissa Could Reclaim the Audience Amy Finley Supposedly Had

Bob Tuschman told me in our May 2008 interview that Amy Finley's show The Gourmet Next Door "was actually a huge hit--she was one of the highest-rated in daytime for the six weeks she was on." As you know, Amy's story is that she left voluntarily after those 6 shows. While Melissa doesn't act all "here's some French food based on French recipes I learned while living in France," her cooking style does seem very similar to Amy's and I think her show would have a similar look and feel as Gourmet.

3. Rachael Ray Isn't Getting Any Less Rich

I feel like the more money Rachael continues to make with her daytime talkshow, magazine, and other deals, the less likely it'll be that she returns to Food Network--at least in the same cooking show host capacity we've grown to know her.

Rachael's two-year deal with Food Network is quickly coming to a close and I haven't heard anything about any new deals yet. While I'm sure some execs would like to try a show with Jeffrey Saad and get a new audience, it's much safer to go with something tested and known.

Several personalities have popped up over the years since Rachael's debut, but I don't think anyone has had the same kind of likability and star-power that Rachael has. The truth is, they might not ever find someone else who resonates the way she did... but that doesn't stop them from trying. Melissa, unlike Rachael & Sandra Lee, really is a mother and has the potential to appeal to that mom market they know are watching.

4. Melissa Tells a LOT of Stories

If 50% of a successful Food Network host is cooking ability, the other 50% might be the ability to tell millions of stories about yourself & your family. If you're cooking hotdogs, you better be able to instantly talk about the time your Grandpa once took you to a ballgame when you were 6.5 years old and you were wearing a brand-new ball cap and that you ordered 2 hotdogs and ate both of them and remember the smell in the air and how it's what you always think about whenever you make hotdogs... even if it's not true. ;-)

Melissa seems to have a better knack about this. Whether or not this makes her food any better is debatable.

5. It Just Makes Sense. You Never Thought She Was Going to Win.

I always think I'm being tricked when watching reality TV show competitions. From the beginning, Jeffrey seemed qualified, was described as a "Greek god," and just seemed like he was going to go far. Melissa on the other hand did not seem like she'd make it past the 2nd episode. I think that's part of the trick--never thinking they'll make it from week to week and then, suddenly, they win.

After all, I NEVER thought Aaron was going to win.


What do you think? Is Melissa going to be on TV a week from Sunday?

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At 7/27/2009 11:02 PM , Blogger Judge Roy Bean said...

Melissa was an underdog from the start, hers IS a very good story. I feel she is the best choice aside from the reasons you mentioned, BUT when you add those reasons IN...it's a no-brainer...Melissa all the way!

At 7/27/2009 11:33 PM , Blogger DeathByGiraffe said...

You couldn't have posted this WEEKS AGO and saved me all the time spent in front of the TV?

At 7/28/2009 9:24 AM , Blogger Apryl said...

Your post is spot-on! Week after week, the judges have criticized the other contestants more than Melissa. I was surprised that Michael went as soon as he did but it was pretty clear Jamika and Debbie were on borrowed time.

I interviewed Melissa right after she clinched a spot in the top four. If she won (finale was taped in April), she sure didn't let the secret slip, of course. I tried. :)

At 7/28/2009 9:52 AM , Blogger Little Ol' Liz said...

Just like the world of Soap Operas, it's all about the bottom dollar. To see who lives and who dies, all you have to do is look into who's contract is expiring (and if they've resigned). I'd be OK with Melissa taking over a spot from Rachel, but I think Jeffrey could easily take over a Michael Ciarello (sp?) does California cooking type program.

And how about Jamika takes away the On The Road program from the Neeley's (yea-less Neeley's)? She has a lovely personality when she isn't biting someone's head off.

At 7/28/2009 10:32 AM , Blogger Alec Smart said...

Actually your post is very on point. Or is that "en pointe" ? At this stage, and from gathering info at other FN sites, I think you need to ask yourself this, "Who gives a shit" ?

What your buddies Tuschwipe and Fogelberg have managed to do is create a major sense of apathy amongst loyal and intelligent FN viewers. While the shenanigans that transpired during this show might have reality TV addicts get all giddy, I think it was lost on many traditional viewers.

Probably right Melissa will win but but I don't think too many people care.

At 7/28/2009 11:02 AM , Blogger SpunkyLubbock said...

Jacob, your reasoning makes perfect sense to me. TNFNS is so edited it's hard to tell what has really happened. But Melissa certainly has the resume to have a show. I read her lengthy bio(posted by blogger "blasted") in the comments section of Bob's blog on the FN site. Whoa! That woman has a lot of varied experience which supports Jacob's point #4, she's got lots of stories & probably has a lot more to use when taping a show. I think Melissa has more potential than Jeffrey. Most like what we see with him but I don't know how much more he has to offer.

At 7/28/2009 10:26 PM , Blogger Charles said...

Jacob, say it ain't so....no new contract for RR @ FN??? WTF is the world coming too???????? Rachael has the most newest episodes every Saturday! It's very rare she has a rerun on the weekends. While some of the episodes aren't so spectacular, I just can't imagine FN "30 minute meals"-less. OMG I'm falling into a depression. OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG

At 7/28/2009 10:44 PM , Blogger Jani said...

I agree with you, Charles. Food Network without Rachael Ray is like oreos without the milk. Not good enough! Not the same... Whule I believe Melissa would do a terrific job if she wins, she could never take RR's place.

At 7/29/2009 1:07 AM , Blogger Kym D said...

If she does win, I hope she will spare us sharing tidbits of her mother's suicide as she is cooking..one of the grossest moments in Food Network, or any network history....ugh!

At 7/29/2009 2:51 AM , Blogger Lana said...


While you may be right about the long-standing, traditional viewer, I think FN has their sights on the MUCH larger new audience.

I am becoming more and more aware of the number of people who've only started watching the FN in the last year. They don't know who Amy Finley is nor Michael Chiarello. They're more familiar with Emeril's toothpaste commercials than his cooking show. And Fieri is "that guy from the TGIF commercials."

This is the audience who'll watch Melissa. And they out number the "oldies" by a significant factor.

@Jacob, you make excellent points. However, I'm not ready to write my "congratulations to Melissa" letter yet. Something tells me Jeffrey has been quietly groomed over the past few months. Just a feeling ....

At 7/29/2009 12:50 PM , Blogger Laura [What I Like] said...

Yes, she'll win. I always liked Jamika, but she was totally over it by the time she left. Melissa really wants to do it and she's decently likable. Good combination for the network...

At 7/29/2009 5:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What it should boil down to is......food! I would make the food that Melissa demo's - not so much for the others. In addition, I actually find her engaging to watch.

Jeffrey was interesting at the beginning, but has lost his appeal. Lobsters and blueberrys?? Come on........

At 7/29/2009 8:16 PM , Blogger Judge Roy Bean said...

I forgot about the lobster and blueberries!!! I don't think Jeffery runs very deep at all, where Melissa does. Melissa also takes direction well and learns fast!

At 7/30/2009 12:00 AM , Blogger high over happy said...

Everything you say makes sense. But my husband and I saw Jeffry at last month's seriouseats' Great American Food Festival with the Foodnetwork team. He was the only contestant from the show there so my husband is convinced he is going to be the winner. 2 cents :)

At 8/01/2009 12:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeffrey's offering a cooking class in August in L.A. for $95 a person. He probably wouldn't be doing that if he won.

At 8/01/2009 5:33 PM , Blogger Judge Roy Bean said...

I hear Debbie is offering a Kimchee class for $1.99 at a homeless shelter.

Ya know, Shes Asian!

At 8/02/2009 12:08 AM , Blogger Janet said...

I really don't care which one wins - I like them both. However, I think the Food Network is at present, very female heavy and may be looking to add a male. Mario is gone, Ming is gone, Michael went back to being a chef, Tyler is a rare occurence, I can't stand Michael Symon and Bobby Flay and Guy seem to be the only ones competing with Paula, Ina, Giada, Rachael, Sunny, Anne, Sandra.
But then, a male won last year - maybe they like to alternate.

At 8/02/2009 10:24 PM , Blogger Katherine said...

Hi all,
I knew Melissa was going to win. Bobby had nothing good to say about Debbie and was intimidated by Jeffery. In the Miami challenge Jemeka was only given celery root while Debbie had all her spices taken and given 3 ingredients to use. Bobby was all over her for forgetting the capers. He was always ready to find fault with her. Did anyone notice that in Melissa's demo she didn't use any seasoning on the chicken or in the flour? Bobby would have been all over if that had been Debbie. As for Jeffery - I've been team Jeffrey since Debbie was gone. I've been looking for harissa since his demo aired. I think Debbie and Jeffrey's concepts were unique and fresh. Melissa has that deer in the headlights look to her like Amy Finley. And where's she? Food Network got it wrong this time. Maybe next year! Melissa is another Robin Miller or Sarah Moulton - they may cook, but not passionate.

At 8/02/2009 10:38 PM , Blogger Java Bean Rush said...

Before the finale I thought it would be a tie.

However, when they showed the two talking about their experience just before showing the pilots, you could tell that Jeffrey (still in his lavender shirt) was depressed and Melissa (still in her red dress) was still her perky self, suggesting that JS had lost. I told mom this halfway in, but we were still hoping JS would get it.

I should have known when the editor kept showing the judges praising JS in the deliberation room that his head was on the chopping block.

I like Melissa's 4 step chicken idea; if she would do that multi-step cooking every week it might be worth watching. However, if she's not, then it's just another home-cook show, of which FN has plenty already.

I love Jeff's idea of showcasing a different ingredient every week. I would tune in for that show and want to try new stuff. My only problem is that he did not explain the ingredients of the Harissa condiment. Even though anyone can look it up (I have), it would make the show fuller, more substantial if he went into more detail about the ingredient he was showing off. But that's fixable.

At 8/04/2009 4:14 AM , Blogger Michael&KathyWing said...

At 7/29/2009 1:07 AM , Kym D said..."...I hope she will spare us sharing tidbits of her mother's suicide as she is cooking..one of the grossest moments in Food Network, or any network history....ugh!"

When I heard Melissa's comment, it shocked me -- since we'd had no hint of that as part of Melissa's story, it hit us like a bombshell when she seemed to blurt it out at the dinner.

But if, however, you were to go back and read her comments about that night, you'd learn that it had been shared in the course of a lot more information, over a much longer time period. In other words, we (viewers) were hit by editing again.

Within the context of the evening, the converation was probably much less abrupt -- but the editors spliced it in for shock value. (I.e., get more eyes in fromt of TVs.)

At 8/10/2009 9:48 AM , Blogger frankly_speaking said...

Oh My Lord!!!! Melissa won? ROFLMAO

Melissa .... blonde with huge bright white smile.

Jeffery .... pompous, arrogant, and bad hair.


One last comment ....

THANK GOD that the fast talking frog in my throat "evoo pia" rachel 'stfu' ray's contract is almost done. SHE NEEDS TO BE REPLACED.



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