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The Next Food Network Star: 7/6/08

July 8th, 2008 · by Cyndi · 3 Comments

Episode five of the Next Food Network Star is fun and is the first one really suited to figuring out if the contestant is someone who ought to have their own show.

There was just a single challenge, but it was a long one.  Each contestant was paired with a Brownie (a girl about 8 years old in the Girl Scouts) and had 10 minutes to plan a “kid-friendly” healthy dish with them.  Then the girls left and the contestants had 75 minutes to prep the dish using foods from the Food Network pantry.

The core of the challenge was to appear on Rachael Ray’s talk show and cook that dish in front of a live studio audience, using their Brownie as an assistant while being a guest on Rachael Ray’s show.  The segments were 4 minutes long.

My favorite contestant (from the beginning of the season) is Aaron.  His previous camera work was lacking but this time he really lit up the screen.  And he involved the girl far more than anyone else did.  They made pizza and she was rolling out the dough, with him right behind her helping to guide the rolling pin.

One contestant, Lisa, is an excellent cook who tends to do her own thing.  She’s a mom and related well to her helper but didn’t really listen to her.  She said several times that she doesn’t think “kid food” should be dumbed down versions of adult food.  I couldn’t agree more.  I don’t give Miriam typical kid food and I don’t serve it to other children either.

But “kid-friendly” means more than the food itself.  This was a cooking segment.  The best way, in my opinion, to get kids interested in trying new foods is for them to make it themselves.  I have a folding step-stool that lives in our kitchen for Miriam to stand on.  She knows how to use the blender and the food processor, how to cut food with a knife (right now she is only allowed to use butter knives), and is learning recipes.  Even before she was 2 she was able to identify condiments and get them out of the fridge at appropriate times.

Miriam is 3 now and does more cooking than all but one of those girls in the competition did.  Lisa talked about how the girl had a “sophisticated palate” but she didn’t involve her at all in the cooking (and only barely in the planning).  All that poor girl got to do was spoon some sauce on.

This was a hard challenge and I make no pretense that I would have done anything but bomb.  I’ve done live cooking demos before, but not with a child I barely knew, not with a famous host, not with a strict (short) time limit, and certainly not to a camera.  But I still have some food ideas.

One thing each contestant got right was to ask the girls what foods they liked and pick dishes based on their preferences.  But what I didn’t see anyone ask was what cooking experience the girls had and what they liked to do in the kitchen.

Miriam’s favorite dish to make is bean salad.  It’s super easy because we use canned beans (you could make it with dried beans but each one requires different cooking times).  Miriam can do everything except open the cans and dice the oregano.  She recognizes the oregano in the garden and can pick it.  She can empty the cans, add the other ingredients, and stir.  She doesn’t get amounts right and needs some physical help when it’s heavy, but she has the ideas down.  She even has most of the recipe memorized.

If I were preparing this live, I’d probably pre-open the cans and remove the lids.  But everything else could be done right there.  Dump the can contents into a colander and the colander contents into a bowl.  Add the oil and vinegar, stir and taste.  Make a point about the importance of tasting.  When the acid/oil balance is right, add the mustard, salt and pepper, and stir.  Taste again for salt.  Adjust.  Then make a point about how only grownups can handle the big knife and mince the oregano and let the child add it in.  If I were making another dish also, I would pre-measure the bean salad ingredients and put them into small bowls to free up some time.

Another good dish would be a wrap or taco.  The emphasis here would be on using leftovers that are already cooked.  I’d choose a protein (tempeh or fish would be my choices but you can use meat too) and bring it warmed to the counter.  And I’d have some sauteed veggies too.  Or, I could have cooked leftovers that were protein and veggies (like bell pepper strips, mushrooms, onions) and heat them in a skillet on the segment.  The tortillas can be room temperature or get a quick heat on the burner.  Spread the tortillas with some pre-made guacamole, add the protein and vegetables, add some shredded cabbage or lettuce or other fresh veggies, and (optionally) some salsa and it’s done.

If the child I was working with liked fish, I’d make some salmon salad from precooked salmon fillets which we would break up into a bowl.  Show some veggie cutting but mostly add pre-diced celery and red onion.  Add mayo and mustard, salt and pepper.  Serve on endive or small romaine lettuce slices.  Or roll into lettuce, serve on a salad, or put into a wrap.   Or just make a sandwich (to be ordinary).

Another favorite Miriam dish, and a real healthy kid-friendly food, is hummus.  Since I wouldn’t have time to prep dried beans, I would use canned.  But mention the option of dried.  It’s so easy.  You dump the canned beans into the food processor (drain 2 and leave 1 full), add the other ingredients, and push the buttons.  I would serve it with a salad, fresh veggies, olives, and carrots for dipping.  All while mentioning various serving options.  The problem with doing hummus on a short TV segment is the noise of the food processor for perhaps a total of 30 seconds.

If I wanted to use eggs, deviled eggs would be a great kid dish.  Or an omelet.  As an alternative to eggs, I would make a corn pancake with great fillings.  If there was masa in the pantry.

Another can’t go wrong dish is slushies.  Or popsicles if there was time overnight to freeze them (swapping out the freshly poured ones for done ones).  Of course the noise of the blender would be a TV killer, so maybe not.

Can you tell this was my favorite challenge so far?


Categories: Food · Food Commentary · Food Television · Recipes
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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 - News, opinion, advice » Brownies Make Delicious Food // Jul 8, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    […] Cyndi over at Norwitz Notions has a nice article about the Food Network show “The Next Food Ne…I watch that one occasionally. I mean who doesn’t think Guy Fieri is cool? Yes, I’m secure with my masculinity, thank you. Still, I prefer “Top Chef” over on Bravo. Okay, enough TV detour. Anyway, the episode that aired on the 6th had Brownie Girl Scouts featured as guest cooks. We all know that Girl Scouts are awesome and apparently the Food Network recognizes that, too. […]

  • 2 Josh // Jul 8, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Thanks for the write-up. I missed this episode. I have to admit to being more in the Top Chef camp of cooking competitions, but since I’m also into everything Girl Scouts related I’m going to catch this episode when it re-airs before the new one on Sunday. Thanks!

  • 3 admin // Jul 8, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Hi. I’ve never seen Top Chef, maybe I’ll check it out when it does a new season. I was a Girl Scout (including Brownies) for 5 or 6 years in elementary school. I still remember how to make a stove out of an empty tuna can, cardboard, and candle wax. But I’ll tell you I’m very happy that modern GS’s get to do more of the fun stuff vs the fashion shows, hospitality lessons, and telephone etiquette skills (I kid you not) my generation got. Thanks for your comments!


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