Food Network StarSo it’s been twenty-four hours since the newest episode of the Next Food Network Star, but we didn’t want to offer up our recap of this week’s episode until we could give it to you with a few “DVD Extras” courtesy of recently-eliminated contestant Teddy Folkman.  Hope you’re still hungry!

This week’s episode opened with a real surprise: Rachael Ray actually paid a visit to the Food Network studios to lead the contestants through a challenge.  The remaining six had to come up with creative ways to get kids to eat tofu, brussels sprouts and squid.  To judge them?  Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray and three precocious youngsters.

Seriously – these kids weren’t exactly Children of the Corn or anything, but they were far more media-savvy than your average ten year-old.  No complaining about squid…they talked about how Debbie’s presentation was better than Katie’s but both were good.  No pushing tofu around the plate…they liked how Jeffrey and Jamika engaged the audience with their narratives.  And no hiding brussels sprouts…well, actually, Michael and Melissa took care of that by frying it into a “puppet” and smashing it into potatoes, respectively.

At the end of the first challenge, Rachael Ray had some yumm-o feedback for everyone…except for Jamika.  She didn’t seem to have much to say other than to chastise her for poor time management in her direct-to-camera.  Ouch.

No ‘winner,’ per se, but all of the contestants were issued their second challenge: Come on Rachael Ray’s show and do a live (before a studio audience) demonstration in which pairs of competitors cook an adult version of a kids’ meal.

What they made, how they did, and a note or two on what we didn’t see (from Teddy) after the jump. (more…)

Teddy

Consider yourself warned by the title, but hopefully we haven’t ruined this week’s episode for anyone!

For Washingtonians tuning in to the Next Food Network Star in the hope of cheering on local chef Teddy Folkman, it has been a rough couple of weeks.  For some reason, we never really got to see the camera-friendly Teddy who earned his way onto NFNS with a great performance in his Throwdown with Bobby Flay.  Instead, we cringed as viewers across the country were introduced to a caricature whose over-the-top antics marked him for an early exit.

I guess we should count our blessings.  If Teddy had found his groove and won it all, who knows how often we’d see him in DC as he made his way from New York to Aspen to Los Angeles like so many other celebrity chefs?  Even so, it felt like the ride ended too soon to show what Folkman was really made of, both in the kitchen and in front of the camera.

Here at Capital Spice, we were fortunate enough to catch up with Teddy for another interview (like we did before the premiere).  This time, he called in from Disney World (not just for Super Bowl winners anymore!), where he was in the middle of a week-long family reunion.  We talked to him about his experiences with NFNS, some future plans brought about by the show, and – yes – his performance on last week’s episode.

Check out our Q&A after the jump. (more…)

nfns5 leftIf we had any question about the ‘narrative effect’ that goes into the editing of a show like The Next Food Network Star, this episode helped to put them to bed once and for all.

As you may recall, we left our aspiring TV personalities on something of a sour note, with just about everyone mad at Teddy for his actions and Teddy fighting tears.  Naturally, you might assume that such powerful emotions would carry over into the very next challenge that would be thrown at the group…right?

Not so much.  The distrust and (frankly) dislike of Teddy seems to have melted away as we head into the fourth episode of the series.  The remaining seven contestants (“the last seven people in the world” to have this opportunity, as Bobby Flay reminds them later in the episode) are going about their business as if none of the oh-so-dramatic events of last Sunday’s episode ever happened.

With Teddy Folkman out of town for a family reunion, we watched this week’s episode from the comfort of our own couch.  No commentary from fellow fans and well-wishers to accompany this one…but at least it was a quicker trip home at the end of the show!

IMG_6242The episode begins in earnest when the competitors assemble in the test kitchen to face Bobby Flay and another challenge: design a gourmet burger to appear on the menu at Bobby’s Burger Palace – a chain that Flay has been opening throughout the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT).  We’ve actually had burgers at the Eatontown, NJ branch, so we can say from experience that most of the dishes that the contestants turned out would have been right at home alongside the Miami, the Philadelphia, the Dallas and the Napa Valley Burgers that already appear on the menu. 

Michael channelled Little Italy with a Mulberry Street Burger that included chunks of mozarella tucked inside the patty itself and a garlic bread bun.  Melissa’s Burlington Burger recalled her college days with melted Vermont cheddar and turkey chili atop the burger.  Teddy drew inspiration from the fresh Amish-grown produce that he works with in his restaurants, paying tribute to those farmers with a Pennsylvania Burger topped with heirloom tomatoes, peppery arugula, and other fresh flavors.  Jamika thought of New Orleans as she whipped up a spicy cayenne burger atop a flayed sausage link.  Debbie and Jeffrey stuck with their California comfort zones – a bulgogi burger for Debbie and a sweet-heat offering from Jeffrey.  Katie stuck to her green guns as she put together a San Francisco Farmers’ Market turkey burger…a risky move, as turkey burgers generally need to cook at lower temperatures for longer periods of time to avoid drying out.

So who ended up going home at the end of the show (SPOILER ALERT)?  And whose burger will be making its way to Connecticut?  Find out after the jump. (more…)

IMG_8222“They squirm so you don’t have to.”  With those words, Alex over at Brightest Young Things gave our TNFNS recaps a shout-out in her weekly round-up this week.  And that was BEFORE last night’s epsiode!

When it comes to competition cooking shows, this isn’t exactly our first rodeo.  We’ve been lucky enough to interview Spike from Top Chef Season 4 and finalist Carla Hall from the most recent season.  Each time, we’ve come away from the experience with the impression that – despite all the editing that you know goes into turning hours of footage into minutes of television – their television personalities were distilled versions of themselves.  Spike does have a swagger and a wink to him, and Carla is just that sweet and eccentric.

But we’re at a loss to figure out what’s going on with Teddy Folkman on The Next Food Network Star…this is DEFINITELY not the Teddy we know.  TV-Teddy wasn’t exactly making fans with his over-the-top performances; after tonight’s episode that may end up being the least of his worries.  Even with the friendly crowd at the Capitol Lounge rooting for him, this one had to be tough for Teddy to watch.

Details on the episode (so SPOILER ALERT) and some thoughts about what may lie ahead after the jump. (more…)

Teddy EsquireAs we mentioned last week, Teddy Folkman recently took over as executive chef at the Capitol Lounge, a classic Hill watering hole.  What better way to roll out some updates to the old bar-food staples than to show them off before this week’s episode of the Next Food Network Star?

A savvy observer might suspect that a chef would be unlikely to invite people out to try a new menu the week he gets eliminated from the show, but Teddy wasn’t talking as he settled in to watch after the evening’s abbreviated service.  And he was eager/apprehensive to watch: he hadn’t even seen this week’s episode before it went on, so he was as much in the dark about the judges’ comments as anyone else.  So we all settled in for this week’s ride.

It started off with a bang (and a holler from the crowd) as Teddy and the rest of the competitors received their opening challenge: to create a dish that the average Esquire reader would not only like, but be willing to attempt.  The catch: each contestant received a pair of foods that a reader would be likely to have on hand, regardless of how well they went together.  The other catch: this challenge would include their first direct-to-camera presentations, requiring them to describe their dishes to the TV audience in sixty seconds.

Some of the pairings were decidedly easier than others.  Pickles and ground beef?  Maybe I’m biased because I frequently use homemade pickle relish in my own burger patties, but this one seemed like a gimme putt.  Whiskey and porterhouse?  Beer and strip steak?  Again, not exactly tastes that are completely at odds with one another.  Others, however, took some thought: coffee and pork chops, bran flakes and rack of lamb, peanut butter and flank steak all required creative approaches.

Teddy HidingTeddy ended up with a ribeye steak and maple syrup, a combination that wasn’t among the most challenging but definitely needed some effort.  He stepped up to the plate with a beautiful presentation of steak coupled with maple-glazed butternut squash and caramelized onions.  His presentation to the camera?  Not quite as winning.  Once again, Teddy’s presentation suffered from a case of over-enthusiasm, and he ended up putting the judges off with his energy.  As Susie Fogelson put it, “If he were cooking this for me I’d take the steak and run.”  Ouch.

The winner of the Esquire challenge, a rundown on the contestants’ second assignment (SPOILER ALERT, of course), and a taste of the new Cap Lounge menu after the jump. (more…)

Teddy_2_-_Ep_1Last night’s premiere episode of The Next Food Network Star offered plenty of Teddy Folkman – how often did they cut away from the action for a reaction shot or a comment by Teddy?  We counted something like ten!  Sure, it gave us a chance to get to know his competition, but from our seats at the Capitol Lounge (where Folkman has just taken over the kitchen), it felt like we were watching the Teddy Show.

Now if we’ve learned anything from the hours we’ve spent watching Top Chef and TNFNS, it’s that there are two types of contestants who tend to get a lot of face time – those who are going far, and those who are going home.  But try telling that to the home-team crowd that gathered to watchsupport…tease Teddy throughout the premiere.  They greeted each appearance with a cheer, but they didn’t hesitate to point out his numerous costume changes (three different shirts over the course of a challenge that supposedly happened in one day).

Viewing Party AnnouncementOne of the most interesting things about watching the show with Teddy was the juxtaposition of his on-screen person with his demeanor as the premiere approached.  After screening an early copy of the first episode, Joe Yonan over at the Washington Post warned that Teddy came off as ‘arrogant.’  But there was no arrogance as the clock ticked down to 9 PM.  Teddy was gracious, thanking everyone that showed up.  He was thoughtful, taking time to introduce old friends who knew him “before he came to us and told us about his plan to quit his job and start cooking for a living” to those of us who met him as the chef at Granville Moore’s.

But more than anything else, Teddy seemed nervous.  Even though he was the only person in the room who knew the outcome of the episode, he was on edge as he waited to see what his friends’ and fans’ reactions would be.  A beer or two later, he was settled in and watching, smiling and providing the “DVD commentary” to what was happening on TV.  (Note to Food Network Execs: Don’t worry – despite the room’s repeated requests, he wouldn’t tell us anything revealing.)

A recap of the episode (complete with SPOILERS about who stayed and who got cut) after the jump. (more…)

Image Courtesy Food Network

Image Courtesy Food Network

Sure, the contrived environment and sleep deprivation that food competition contestants go through are hardly the best conditions for showing off your cooking chops.  But with everything Teddy Folkman’s got going on here in Washington, his stint on the new season of The Next Food Network Star must have felt like just another month in the life of the Flay-slaying mussel man.

In addition to his duties at Granville Moore’s, Folkman has partnered with entrepreneur Joe Englert to take on consulting chef roles at both the H Street Country Club (opening tonight) and the Capitol Lounge.  He’s also working with Englert on a number of new restaurant concepts to debut over the next year or two on H Street, NE, and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE.  As if that weren’t enough to exhaust him, he is also a frequent participant in charitable events like last week’s Brew at the Zoo in Baltimore and the upcoming Brainfood grill-off.

So what was it like to go through the Food Network wringer?  After reading some of the notices responding to his bio video and Joe Yonan’s advance look at the first episode over at All We Can Eat, it sounds like Teddy may be rubbing some folks the wrong way…we wonder if the pressure may have had something to do with that (and we hope it’s a temporary condition).  Eager to get his take on the experience, we were lucky enough to score one of the first interviews with Teddy as the debut of the show (Sunday, June 7th at 9 PM) approaches.

We’ve been quite open about our friendship with Teddy and our desire to see him succeed, but it bears repeating.  We’re not even going to pretend to be impartial throughout this season.  Even so, we scheduled this interview through the Food Network’s PR people, just like every other food writer out there:

Teddy_1_-_Ep_1

Image Courtesy Food Network

Capital Spice: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today, Teddy!
Teddy Folkman: No problem, thanks for reaching out.

CS: So…what does it feel like to be DC’s Most Crushable Chef?
TF: I heard you guys did this while I was away…but I’ve just been telling myself that you meant ‘crushable’ as in “the chef you’d most like to tackle,” so I’m honored to know so many people want to crush me!

CS: That works.  So who’s your most crushable chef?
TF: No doubt – Ann Cashion.  She’s been a mentor and an inspiration throughout my career.

More Q&A with Teddy – including some teasers about what to look for on-screen and in-town when the episodes air – after the jump. (more…)