OMG, you guys! Okay, so though I may have never officially committed my feelings about Rachael Ray to print in the past, it has never been a secret how little I care for her. Her loud "Italian" mouth, wild hand gestures, and abrasive laugh all scream "I'm drunk" a little more than I enjoy my talk show hosts to. Plus, I just don't find her cute. I'm sorry; I don't. She's not some spunky, petite, little firecracker in the kitchen; she's just plain annoying. And she's one of Oprah's protégés, which, let's face it, makes me like her even less.
Needless to say, when I saw her pop up on The Next Food Network Star last year, not only was I shocked that she agreed to allow these "wannabes" onto her "precious" program (I attributed her ultimate commitment to the fact that she was, in fact, drunk when her assistant or manager or producer or whoever got her to sign the paperwork), but I was also bummed that this would be an episode out of which I could half-tune. But this season, oh this season! Working in Video On Demand, one of the perks, I guess you could say, is that content is often delivered to us prior to it airing linearly. We process it and prep it for pitch out to the cable companies and affiliates, and while its start date is more often than not after the first linear airing, it often sits in our library for weeks prior. Every now and then I sneak an early peek. Ssh, don't tell anyone ;)
This week (it airs Sunday night; set your TiVos!) on The Next Food Network Star is once again Rachael Ray week, and immediately I groaned inwardly at the thought. However, the surprise twist was that not only would each contestant have to create a fun "kid friendly" meal to prepare in front of her live studio audience-- and in only a four minute segment!-- but that they would each be working with a Girl Scout in order to do so. The challenge was one part cooking, one part playing to the audience, one part engaging the kid and Rachael, which is no short order! While some contestants admitted they were overwhelmed by the lights, cameras, and audience members, one said she was intimidated by Rachael herself, and to that I have one piece of advice: hide the knives and the wine! A few contestants really excelled in this challenge, using their honest, open personalities to make everyone feel involved, as well, but of course the best moments came with the contestants (or in this case one in particular, Kelsey) who stepped on Rachael's toes. And that's when I sat straight up in my chair and removed my finger from the fast forward button.
Kelsey is one of the youngest chefs in this competition and also one of the smallest. She is tiny and blonde and looks like she belongs more in at a pep rally or sorority house than commanding a kitchen, so one of the criticisms given to her in weeks past has been that she really has to step up her authoritativeness to let everyone know she's in charge. And that she did with Rachael.
Rachael always smiles a big fake smile like being paid millions to stand in front of the audience for a few hours a week is just torturous work. Then along comes perky, cheery Kelsey, whose smile is always big, bold, and ridiculously genuine, and suddenly, standing next to her, it is just painfully obvious (even to her supporters) that Rachael has something stuck up her nether regions. Something tells me she will now decline any future involvement with this show. Kelsey starts at the top by throwing a task Rachael's way: one that is probably a bit menial for such an "experienced" chef; she asks her to prepare an egg for a breakfast sandwich. Rachael tries to make a joke about how she's getting stuck doing Kelsey's job, but in Kelsey's innocence and sweet, bubbly nature, it just makes Rachael sound bitter, and the tension begins. Kelsey further adds to it (probably without even realizing it) by calling her "Rach," to which I thought her eyes would pop out of their sockets, and she'd overturn the hot pan of eggs on the younger chef's head. Thankfully, there was the kid there to act as a buffer, though she was smart enough to stay on the other side of Kelsey, safely out of Rachael's path and wrath.
The rest of the show, "judge's table" included, was far less eventful, but I kid you not, the four minutes between Kelsey and Rachael were well worth the price of admission. I hereby submit them into the blogosphere as Best Reality Duo-- like the cooking Odd Couple! I won't spoil the outcome and tell you how the judges thought Kelsey (or any of the others) fared. I will just tell you that if you've never tuned into this show, now is the perfect time to start! I can't wait to see what craziness gets cooked (get it?) up next week!!!