Monday, June 17, 2013

Viet Pham Hanging In On Next Food Network Star

Viet Pham at his restaurant, Forage.
After two episodes, Viet Pham seems to be in the middle of the pack on "The Next Food Network Star." He hasn't made any major missteps, but he hasn't jumped to the top of the class yet.

From what I've seen of the competiton, and what I know of Viet personally, his cooking skills and his creativity are his biggest assets. He doesn't have a bold (or bizarre) personality as some of the other contestants — shoulder-shaking Damaris, "Glam it up" Lovely, or "The Pie Guy."  In some ways, that's a good thing, because over-played gimmicks can get annoying.

But it seems the judges want everyone to have a cooking "point of view" that can be summed up in a quick sound bite. Hence, the "Pie Guy," and the "Barbecue Guy," and Nikki's "Meat On the Side" vegetarian cooking.

But the mentor/judges also seem to have preconceived notions as to what that "point of view" should be. Alton Brown, Giada di Laurentiis and Bobby Flay all jumped onto the idea that Andres had lost a lot of weight through cooking; but he was reluctant to bill himself as the "calorie-cutting chef" that they had in mind. So when it came down to Danuschka or Andres, they sent him packing.  (And they might have also wanted Danuschka to keep around so viewers would have someone to cheer against!)

I'm wondering if the judges want to label Viet as a stereotypical "Asian chef?" That would be a mistake, because his cooking is so much more.  But it would be hard to sum it up in a sound bite; maybe I would go with something like "creative global cuisine," or the ability to create something amazing from basic ingredients. While "I beat Bobby Flay" is a great bragging right, it doesn't describe Viet's type of cooking or what he will teach us on his show.

Viet Pham was the runner-up on "Extreme Chef." 
I was also surprised that Viet seemed a little camera shy.  This is the guy who was cool and confident through every bizarre episode of "Extreme Chef!" And beating Bobby Flay on "Iron Chef" tested his culinary mettle.
But, perhaps Viet is used to letting his food do the talking, instead of making a sales pitch about himself.

Still, he's connecting with viewers, because when I checked tonight, he was the second place Fan Favorite, behind "The Pie Guy" Rodney Henry.

It's been a few years since I watched "The Next Food Network Star" through a whole season. And it seems that instead of finding "unknowns" out there, the producers are recruiting cooks who are camera-ready because they've been on other TV series. Stacey Poon-Kinney's restaurant was featured on "Restaurant: Impossible." Russell Jackson competed on "Iron Chef." Rodney Henry has been on "Chopped," "Down Home With The Neelys" and "Paula's Home Cooking."  Danuschka competed on "Chopped." Chris Hodgson was on "The Great Food Truck Race."  I guess it's to be expected now that there are so many other food competition and reality series out there.

At any rate, I'm getting a chuckle out of some of the judges' comments.  Giada complaining that Lovely is too slick and polished?  Um, what do they say about "pot calling the kettle black?"

1 comment:

Donna said...

I am totally cheering for him! But you're right, I am afraid he's a little too "normal" to be a Food Network star!!!