The show that launched the career of TGI Friday’s pitchman and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives host Guy Fieri is now in its fourth season on Food Network. Is there another Guy in our midst, or will this season’s winner disappear right after his or her show flounders, like last season’s winner Amy Finley? This year’s crop has been hiding their Rachel Ray potential behind bad food and spotty hosting skills. But the challenges have been interesting, bordering on impossible, which may be the source of some of the bad food and poor hosting skills.

I’m a sucker for food-based reality shows. Bravo’s Top Chef is all about culinary skills and the actual cooking. Hell’s Kitchen is about running a restaurant (as a head chef, but not an owner, as Gordon Ramsey owns all the restaurants that his “winners” get to work at), and swearing. Yes, Hell’s Kitchen seems to be a lot about swearing. Interesting choice, oh wait, it’s on Fox, never mind.

Next Food Network Star is about foodies with personalities. On Top Chef, it didn’t matter that Marcel was an annoying brat, he had the food chops to carry him through. Personality is everything on this show, and the task is to find someone who has the food skills and camera skills to carry his or her own television show. This season, one of the most interesting personalities belongs to Lisa, a woman with impressive food knowledge, yet the hairstyle of a Romulan.

Talk To The Hand – That’s How We Romulans Communicate.

Other “personalities” this season include:
• fresh out of culinary school peppy cheerleader - Kelsey
• genuinely funny guy who can’t seem to cook yet used to run a restaurant – Adam
• frequently tongue-tied hospital chef who was able to do his best while on Rachel Ray - Aaron
• former child star, currently 19 year old French cuisine enthusiast - Shane
• the Midwest Indian cuisine purist who wouldn’t fuse her cuisine or infuse her personality into this show – Nipa, and
• former Last Comic Standing finalist Cory Kahaney, who was surprisingly unfunny and a surprising first elimination this season

This show is a creative mix of reality / contest show plus cooking show, with the bonus (from the perspective of Food Network) of being a great shill for their established network stars. You can see that from the parade of stars who introduce challenges. Dinner: Impossible Chef Robert Irvine shows up to have the contestants cook while on a train. Martha Stewart is on hand to judge the contestants’ “you in a jar” challenge where they make a food product which could be marketed for sale. Toughest challenge of all, the contestants had 4 minutes to go live on the Rachel Ray show and perform a food demo for a dish that they co-authored with a girl scout. Anyone who can cook, involve the audience and a grade school girl, and not become scenery for Rachel Ray to chew on has it together.

I was disappointed that Shane was eliminated as he was one of my favorites, and my daughter recognized him from an episode of The Wizards of Waverly Place. Hopefully he’ll land somewhere fun as he seemed to have more promise than some of the others still in contention.

Can I Interest You In A Delicious Bass?

This show is entertaining for folks who generally watch a lot of Food Network shows (we have our DVR set for every new episode of Challenge at our house), but if you’re not an aspiring foodie, it would probably would be just another Groomer Has It a/k/a Why Bother for people not in the industry who aren’t interested in culinary shows. Whether or not they find a genuine star, the challenges are interesting and you may pick up some cooking tips or recipe ideas (broccoli cheeseburger pizza, anyone) along the way.