I’ve been watching a lot of shows about food lately. Not necessarily cooking shows, but a mixture of traveling chef (No Reservations, Bizarre Foods when it’s not too gross) and food competition shows (Iron Chef, Chopped, Best In Smoke, Top Chef). I’ve been getting really into seeing how different cultures cook and how chefs use their skills in competitive scenarios. I want to be able to eat the things they eat and cook the way they cook. Maybe some day.
The most recent food show addition to our viewing schedule is Next Food Network Star, a pretty self explanatory viewing experience. What I like about this set up is that it’s being judged by people who do the thing the contestants want to do (actual FN stars like Bobby Flay) or who choose the people to be on said shows (FN execs). Given the show’s long running time (90-120 minutes per episode so far) I haven’t actually seen a full episode yet, but I have seen most of the first two. You’ve got your general cast of people, some have had bum luck, others clearly don’t have the stage presence or temperament to be TV chefs, but one has started to stick out like a sore thumb: Penny. I’ve missed the very beginning of the first episode several times, so the developing and heated rivalry between Penny and Alicia (who doesn’t seem to be able to speak like a normal person at a normal volume or give me any reason to want to watch her show) completely befuddled me. For whatever reason, Penny seems to have set her sites on Alicia and continued to give her trouble throughout the episode, which of course included her and Alicia being put on the same team. Did something go down between these two in the first 15 minutes? Did Alicia run over Penny’s cat on the way to the first day’s taping? I must be missing something because Penny spent the rest of the episode throwing shade, but she didn’t reserve it for interview time, she just kept spouting off insults and character assassinations left and right WHILE THEY WERE COOKING. I also missed the beginning of the second episode, but I gathered through context clues (ie, outright statements by other contestants) that Penny won a lesser challenge early on and was able to choose teams for the final challenge and possibly ingredients. She used this power to hamstring the first episode’s winner and early frontrunner Orchid. When asked about it later, Penny basically owned up to it. So here’s the problem. This isn’t Survivor or a VH1 dating show. The point of Next Food Network Star is to present yourself as the kind of person that Food Network viewers not only like, but want to learn from. What I’m saying is that Penny’s playing the reality show game, but this isn’t your typical reality show, so it’s not going to work. There’s that age old reality show quote that ALWAYS pops up where the bitchy girl or asshole guy says “I didn’t come here to make friends.” Well, that might be the case, but you did come here to impress us and to come off as friendly. Can you think of any jerky chef with a cooking show on the Food Network? Nope, that’s not the point. So, Penny, I’m sorry but you’re just playing the right game on the wrong show. You’re a fun reality show villain, but playing the role completely discounts you as a viable candidate for the show’s final prize. I wonder if that’s what she’s going for. If so, I’m not sure why. Maybe she realized how gross her “kitchen sex” attitude was and just decided to play the bad girl? Now that you’ve shot yourself in the foot, keep switching up the theme of your show until you finally lose out to one of your competitors who’s actually charming and please don’t try and do the midseason turnaround after realizing the error of your ways. In fact, go balls to the wall with it and maybe you can get a cooking show on VH1.