Monday, August 3, 2009

The Dark Horse Cometh

Did I hear that right?

Last night while watching the finale of "The Next Food Network Star" my jaw fell open as I heard Melissa's name called out as the winner.

I looked at my husband to see his reaction as I was sure I misunderstood.

He, too, could have been knocked over with a feather. Of course, per the rules of irony, I never seem to have a feather around when I need one for the purpose of theory testing.

Hubby and I were pleased that it came down to Jeffrey and Melissa in the finale. We equally liked them both but for different reasons.

Jeffrey brought his likable energy and travel experiences to cooking. I really liked the concept of "The Ingredient Smuggler". As someone who doesn't travel (I'm lucky if I go to Walmart!) I appreciated that he could take foreign and/or exotic ingredients and put them in a dish that we could easily make. He made traveling and cooking--his two passions--seem tangible and accessible. Couple that with his smile and "I'm just a Dad who likes to cook with his kids" persona and I had picked out my winner.

I was sure The Food Network saw what hubby and I saw and agreed. I mean, c'mon, it's a shoe in, Right? Right??? I mean, isn't it?

Then there was Melissa. A little too perky and manic for me at times, she appeared to make coffee nervous. However, she was likable. IS likable with her almost self deprecating "I'm just a regular stay-at-home Mom kind of gal with no culinary degree" spiel. She made it clear throughout this season that she was representing what she saw as her target audience and appeal. Her tips for quick, inexpensive and thoughtful meals was what impressed the judges who evidently saw her as the stay-at-home mom's new savior. Her crown--while thorn less--nonetheless comes from the stuff of what some might see as tragedy; four small children, the oldest being four with her 18 month old twins rounding out her growing clan. Left her job to stay at home with children. Deceased Mom. Had to make her own family with her sorority sisters after her moms unexpected death.

And it worked. Why? Because there is nothing fake about Melissa. What you see is what you get. While she indeed used all she had, I don't feel she overly used her past tragedies to further herself in the competition. She always spoke with a smile and a sincere yearning in her heart to do nothing but bring her culinary appeal and tips to the stay-at-home masses. She didn't overly play for sympathy anymore than Jeffrey overly played his "good father" card. They both laid their cards on the table in an attempt to get on the judges--and America's--good side.

There has to be stories and a connection. It can't be all about food. Jeffrey, although happily married, would have perhaps appealed to the single or busy parents yearning to do projects with their kids, such as making crepes on a Saturday morning. While his travel experiences would have appealed to those who have wondered about their local foreign food market and how to utilize something new and different for their next dinner party.

Melissa won out.

So, I watched in awe as this self-proclaimed "dark horse" and stay-at-home Texan dynamo--who cooked and "tipped" her way into the judges hearts--take her culinary crown.

Once I was able to lift my jaw up from the floor, I then realized she had made possible for people to make a living not from degrees, but from sheer intestinal fortitude, self-taught talent, know how and personal experience.

She made me realize that if she could cook on national T.V., I could write my book and possibly, just possibly even get published.

The dark horse takes the crown--and in turn, gave back hope.


  1. you are such a good writer! I love reading your words.

    I was voting for Jefferey. I don't dislike Melissa... but I am anything but a stay at home mom. :o) And I"m totally into exotic spices and was really hoping for a new cooking show to watch that would used "smuggled" ingredients. Oh well, maybe another network will pick him up and I'll get my show after all. :o)

    But I agree... I love that she beat out all the "classically trained" chefs. As a self taught culinary wannabe... I can appreciate that!

  2. Hi, doll. Thanks for the compliment. Right back at you. :)
    You would be a perfect candidate for "The Next Food Network Star"; you, like Jeffrey, with your travel experience and culinary know how could bring a much needed breath of fresh air. Just promise me you wouldn't ever say "moozerellllla" like that pretentious bobble-head, Giada De Laurentiis--ha!
    However, Ed and I are both crazy about Ina Garten--she's like a warm fire and one who would make you feel as if everything wrong in your life will be right again after one visit with her.
    Nice hearing from you--I check your blog once in a while, too. :)

    P.S. Already have the prologue and three chapters done in my book and B comes home Saturday--good week. :)