I spent most of last week’s Food Network Star recap raging against the Great Bob and Susie Bait-and-Switch of 2015.
So I shan’t say another word about how irksome it was to spend tonight’s Season 11 finale watching pilot episodes that relegated the Top 3 finalists — Dom, Jay and Eddie — into roles that could’ve been filled by a Kardashian with a Teleprompter*, while abandoning each of their culinary POVs. (Sorry, I shouldn’t put such horrific concepts out into the universe — and I accept full responsibility if Kourtney and Khloe Take the Kitchen is greenlit in the next six months.)
Jay, the guy who spent all season making Cajun fare, is now your tour guide through… Deep-Fried America? Eddie, a man who for better or for worse ping-ponged between Caribbean flavor and NFL pro healthiness, is now trying to sell us… BBQ Blitz? I guess we should be glad Dom — whose traditional Italian dishes consistently looked the most “must-make-at-home worthy” all season —is pitching Big Flavor, Little Italy (even if he’s apparently not going to even be adding salt to a pot of water during his guided-tours of family-style restaurants).
The Season 11 finale made a solid case for each member of the Top 3 — even if, like me, you die inside knowing we’re not getting anything more than another slight variation on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: If you went into the hour supporting one contestant over his competitors, chances are you didn’t change allegiance — as their potential pilots were all slick and entertaining and packed with enough information that you didn’t have time to drift off and wonder, “What happened to that tool who won Season 10?”
Most of the episode was spent recapping Dom, Eddie and Jay’s journeys — with occasional detours into Arnold weeping, Michelle quitting and That Hashtag Dude being totes obnox. #keephimoffmytv
We got a few minutes devoted to the aforementioned pilots, however, and Jay’s placement as first-at-bat told my reality-competition-veteran heart that he was destined to lose. That thought was reinforced by the fact that three out of four doctors would ban the title Deep-Fried America from your DVR — and the fact that it contained fewer food-based specifics than his rivals.
For my money, Dom’s slightly rushed but effortlessly excited tour of a red-sauce joint in NYC — his description of a slow-cooked beef chuck and pork shoulder ragout was heavenly — would’ve gotten my vote (and based on the way Giada bared her teeth while discussing it, I’d guess she agreed).
But Eddie’s folksy (perhaps too folksy?) southern-guy persona will probably draw its fair share of eyeballs — and I never find myself questioning whether he knows what he’s talking about. When Bob weighed in that Eddie is Food Network ready because he clearly loves delicious treats but still manages to maintain his former pro-athelte physique, you knew how this was gonna end.
The winner of Food Network Star Season 11 is… Giada’s cleavage! (I kid! I kid!) The winner is Eddie Jackson! (Check back at TVLine tomorrow around lunchtime for my Q&A with the victor!)