'The Next Food Network Star' cuts no one, opts for Final 3 finale
By Christopher Rocchio, 07/21/2008
None of the remaining finalists were eliminated during last night's The Next Food Network Star penultimate fourth-season broadcast -- meaning for the first time ever on the show, three contestants will compete for the reality competition series' grand prize instead of just two.
Aaron McCargo Jr., a 36-year-old executive catering chef at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital from Camden, NJ; Adam Gertler, a 30-year-old former restaurateur, server and actor from Philadelphia, PA; and Lisa Garza, a 32-year-old kitchenwear fashion designer and owner of Suze Restaurant from Dallas, TX, will all compete during next week's finale for the grand prize of his or her own six-episode Food Network series.
The Next Food Network Star's penultimate fourth-season episode began following the previous elimination of Kelsey Nixon, with the remaining three finalists still in Las Vegas.
Bobby explained that each finalist would receive a 30-second promo written specifically for them, which they'd have to learn and deliver on their own to promote their shows. Each finalist would be shooting in a different Las Vegas location and either Bobby or Guy would be there to lend a helping hand.
"I know that Lisa and Adam have got this," opined Aaron. "But I also know that I've got what it takes to get it."
Lisa arrived at Aureole -- a critically-acclaimed restaurant at Mandalay Bay -- where she was met by Guy, who revealed she'd be delivering her promo while suspended from the ceiling in front of a giant wine tower. She immediately had a hard time remembering her lines, which in turn made her "lose all confidence."
"I can't remember what I'm supposed to be doing, and I get really frustrated and disappointed," she said. "I'm just beating myself up."
Aaron met Bobby at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino and learned he'd be delivering his promo right on the casino floor.
"It's definitely a little intimidating," said Aaron.
Aaron's nerves initially showed, however he eventually relaxed and got better -- delivering his lines with confidence and only a few more flubs.
"I have no more fears," he said. "I feel good. I really feel good."
Adam arrived at the Jubilee Theater, where he was met by Guy and several showgirls. Adam learned he'd be gracing the stage with the showgirls for his promo, which was more complicated than the others because it required choreography. However Adam was confident since he'd been on stage "many, many times" before and acting and performing is a "passion" of his.
Despite the confidence, Adam initially struggled delivering his lines while also sticking with the choreography.
"This isn't looking good for me right now," he opined.
The three finalists then met Guy at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort & Country Club for their next challenge, which would see them each create their own "lavish, over-the-top monster buffet."
In addition to impressing the show's judging panel -- Bobby, Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson -- Guy revealed the finalists would also be feeding and entertaining some of Wynn's chefs and entertainers. To create the buffet, the finalists would receive six hours and a $1,000 budget.
The challenge commenced with the finalists traveling to a grocery store to shop for their ingredients. While things seemed to be going smoothly, Lisa hit a problem when part of her fish order fell out of her shopping cart and she didn't realize it.
The finalists returned to Wynn's Tryst nightclub, where they'd be preparing and serving their buffets. Guy then revealed previously eliminated fourth-season finalists Kelsey, Shane Lyons and Jennifer Cochrane would be serving as the challenge's sous chefs. Lisa picked first and chose Kelsey, Adam picked Shane, and Aaron and Jen were paired up.
Adam's buffet consisted of smoked pork chops, chicken wings and mushroom pizza; sweet potato fries; crab salad; and banana cream pie. Aaron's buffet consisted of sirloin bruschetta; orzo salad; chicken bow-tie pasta; chicken tortellini salad; crab cakes; and chocolate fondue. Lisa's buffet consisted of monkfish piccata; pork roast; twice-baked potatoes; asparagus vinaigrette; tomato and mozzarella salad; and poached pears.
Adam built a makeshift smoker out of some woks in the kitchen and Aaron wasn't concerned about having three pasta dishes on his menu. However Lisa immediately realized she was missing a bag of fish.
"Instead of having 50 four-ounce portions, I am going to have to figure out how I can stretch that," she said. "I'm really upset by the fact that I made such a dumb mistake."
Things only got worse for Lisa, as she burned her pork dish since she was working with ovens she wasn't familiar with. She quickly scraped the outside of the pork to cover her mistake before slicing it and plating it.
The challenge ended and the judges and special guests -- which included showgirls, the cast of Spamalot, some celebrity impersonators and the Wynn chefs -- arrived. Each finalist introduced their buffet using a different method, with Lisa stealing the show via her singing; Aaron bombing with an ill-performed comedy routine; and Adam taking a straight-laced approach.
The buffet commenced and the judges and guests sampled the various dishes. Lisa's overcooked, dry pork was called out by Guy and Bob; Aaron's lack of creativity was criticized; and Adam's dishes were largely enjoyed by everybody, especially his dessert.
The Next Food Network Star's penultimate fourth-season judging panel then commenced, with Bob, Susie, Bobby and Guy determining which two finalists would return to New York for the finale.
Aaron's promo was complimented by Bobby for having "the flow," and Bob added Aaron "held the camera" and had "winner's energy." However Bob also thought Aaron's buffet introduction was risky and "didn't work" before adding three pasta dishes negated the "unbelievable variety" of most buffets.
"I've had better food from you in the past than I had from you at the buffet, unfortunately," said Bobby.
Lisa's promo was recognized for being difficult and Susie thought her buffet introduction was a risk that paid off. Bobby thought Lisa's buffet was "incredibly elegant" and liked his portion of pork, however Guy couldn't say the same.
Adam's humor in his promo was praised by Susie, however Guy and Susie both noticed his buffet introduction lacked preparation and was boring. In addition, Guy thought the smoker might have been too much of an undertaking. However the majority of Adam's dishes were praised, with his pork chop taking the "favorite overall dish" from the special guests.
The judges then deliberated their decision.
"I don't know who to kick off," opined Bob. "There are parts of each of them that are wildly imperfect, and there are other parts of them that exceed our wildest dreams of what we want to find in our star."
Bob then revealed that none of the three remaining finalists would be eliminated and all would be moving onto the finale.