Sunday, July 20, 2008

Someone's In The Kitchen With...WHO???...

Scripps' The Next Food Network Star always boasts a wide variety of characters, and every season I tune in to see how these very talented chefs compose (or crack) under the pressure of hot lights, tough time crunches, and insane rules and regulations that they would never have in their own kitchens. The simple idea that the winner gets crowned and goes immediately to work (no American Idol press tour for them!) the following day in order to get the premiere episode of his or her show on-air in one week is daunting, to say the least. From the very first minute of this (fourth) season, though, it was clear who thought she was already more than ready: one Ms. Lisa Garza.

Now, Gordon Elliott basically told Lisa at one point that he doesn't want her to "come off as a smarty pants," and all I could think was: "Where the hell was this guy in the beginning of the season!?!?" That was Lisa's problem from day one: she walked into the studio with her overly orange self-tanned skin, her blunt bob haircut, and her chic designer clothes. Her lips were pursed; her eyes were squinty; her arms were crossed. She seemed serious and unapproachable: a bitch with a ladle. Right off the bat, judges and other contestants raised eyebrows about her "Culinary Point of View." Quite simply, they just didn't understand it. She used big fancy culinary terms and created sophisticated dishes that looked like they belonged in a five-star restaurant in any big travel destination. I thought she was a goner-- nay, I wished her to be a goner.

As the season went on, though, the well-put-together Lisa we all met on day one began to unravel. Perhaps it started when she slipped in the kitchen and spilled a jar of sauce all over her "three hundred dollar blouse,"but she seemed to focus less on the competitive desire to win and actually have a little fun. While her food was always on point and just as dressed up as she herself in her three-inch heels and custom aprons, she began to exhibit a semi-goofy side and showcased some of her lesser-known talents by singing for an auditorium of patrons. When Lisa loosened up, the audience (or at least I) warmed to her.

Lisa is me, just in a couture apron. She is driven, focused, passionate, and perhaps a bit misunderstood at first glance. She is also A.D.D., but she channels that energy into something creative and lucrative (no small feat and one which I'm still working on).

Having already seen the finale, I won't "give away the farm," but I will say that I was a bit surprised by who it boiled down to in the end-- though I was not surprised that this season's last second "twist" that was "unlike anything they had ever done before" was just to have three semi-finalists instead of the usual two (too obvs. for this savvy reality TV connoisseur!). Needless to say, I was pulling for Lisa's Beautiful Basics. Not only did she grow over the course of the ten-episode season, she was the most consistently comfortable with the cameras. She also seemed the most prepared to actually shoot her own show, preparing three detailed pitches for her pilot demo; clearly she's savvy enough to know in this industry, half the time the hits come from the "So, what else do ya got?" pile. Her confidence seemed to be bordering on superiority in the beginning, but that just proves that first appearances can often be deceiving, as in her actual show she managed to combine educational techniques with personal stories to welcome strangers into her kitchen.

Lisa may put on a hardened exterior when she has her "game face on," but she is a true softy underneath, and she even managed to make the Crayola Rachael Ray set look a little less cartoonish and a little more mod. Definitely a show I would watch! But I will I get to; was Lisa the one Brooke Johnson, President of The Food Network, chose to join their family? You'll have to tune in for yourselves to find out!

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