It’s that time of year again, where Food Network finds 12 seemingly unknown culinary hopefuls (with one familiar face), and pits them against each other in a set of challenges they’d probably never do on any actual network program. Food Network Star is entering its 13th season, and one person in this year’s cast of thirteen is hoping to be lucky enough to land a Food Network contract and maybe their own show (which isn’t really guaranteed anymore).
As is tradition, we at Funkhouser seek to give you a definitive ranking of the contestants as they make their way through Bobby and Giada’s world. Who is the Top Chef (TM) this week? Take a look at Week One’s Power Rankings.
#13 Blake Baldwin – Eliminated
Blake, seen above looking like a poor man’s Matt Bomer, joins 12 other seasons worth of first eliminations as someone you won’t remember being a part of this series. I’ve now watched this episode twice since Sunday, and still don’t remember anything about him. So there’s that.
#12 Toya Boudy
Toya gets to start off the season as this year’s waaaay too overconfident cheftestant, who already has a name for her show (and its own time slot). The cook from New Orleans quickly gets brought down a peg from the judges and her fellow competitors. During the cooking challenge, having her own POV is no help as she puts out a dish with no backstory, putting her in the bottom three. But most importantly, Toya will probably only be remembered in this episode as the woman that Matthew “whamsauced” while sprinting around the kitchen.
#11 Nancy Manlove
Shew, Nancy. This grandmother of eight, former NASA employee, competitive cook and culinary school graduate had the hardest time this week staying within the clock. Being the oldest cook in this competition may say she has the most life experience that she can bring to the table. However, if she can’t gather her point of view into an organized collection of thoughts, Nancy might just continue talking as they push her out the door and close it behind her.
#10 Trace Barnett
Woof. Trace is what you’d get if you took last year’s first eliminated contestant Havird, and mixed him with fellow contestant Jason and Justin Bieber. The cook from Alabama calls himself the “Bitter Socialite”, but the ones that should be bitter are the applicants that got denied in order to give Trace a spot. I mean, for his first cooking challenge, he cooked corn on a stick. Corn. On a Stick. Trace is only this high on the list because he wasn’t in the bottom three, but even then, he may continue to slide down the list if things don’t change.
#9 Suzanne Lossia
There’s a good chance that Suzanne Lossia might be on the wrong show. She comes off more “Real Housewives of New Jersey” than personal chef from Detroit, Michigan. The Middle-Eastern mama (not Penny Davidi) has a hard time getting her thoughts out, and is just so extremely timid on screen. She actually comes off the exact opposite of how you would think she would be, which I would normally hate, but she needs a little overconfidence and attitude to give her a shot in Food Network Kitchen.
#8 Rusty Hamlin
Rusty is like this year’s Rob Burmeister. Big guy who’s pretty rock and roll, considering he travels with the Zac Brown Band. His point of view is “Off The Cuff” cooking, which seems vague, but tends to work for him. The one chink in his armor is that he seems unable to cook and talk to others at the same time, which is pretty much a vital part of being a Food Network Star.
#7 David Rose
“Big Swole” as he’s known, is a Jamaican Motorcyclist from Atlanta with a culinary point of view of “French Southern Jamaican Fusion”. So, he’s got that going for him. Look for David to be the first person to get the “you need to pick one point of view” talk from Bobby, but continues to change his POV every week for the next five weeks, until he settles on something like “American Pan-Asian with a twist”.
#6 Addie Gundry
Addie is a former employee of Martha Stewart with the point of view of Easy, Elegant Entertaining. In some ways she reminds me of a young Melissa d’Arabian, which is a good thing, but I don’t know that she has the boldness to pull off a win in the end. She does have a good showing in the first cooking challenge, and her best moments come from her talking head segments where she actually does show some humor and personality. So, maybe there’s hope for Addie in the end.
#5 Cory Bahr
Poor, Poor Cory. Not the best initial showing from Food & Wine Magazine’s “People’s Best New Chef” and 2011’s “King of Louisiana Seafood”. Clearly Cory has the cooking chops to have his own show, but kind of blows it on his introduction to Bobby & Giada. Once he gets in the kitchen, however, his cooking skills are one of a “Top Chef” caliber contestant. But, that doesn’t necessarily translate to Food Network Star worthy if you don’t have the on-camera ability to back it up. If he can figure out the presentation part of the job, Cory will be a top contender for the title. I mean, he even looks like he could host one of those non-descript “Holiday ‘Insert Food Here’ Championships”.
#4 Matthew Grunwald
Ugh. Do we have to do this for the third season in a row? Matthew Grunwald made his first appearance in Season 11, where he was deemed the “Hashtag Guy”, with 10,000 POVs. He’s immature, young, a little too hungry, and possibly your next Food Network Star. He didn’t make it out of “Comeback Kitchen” last season, but they gave him another shot this year, and he won. He’s still as obnoxious as before, and I don’t know why Food Network continues to parade him out on our televisions. However, his cooking is way better than anything else that’s ever come out of his mouth. He just needs to make sure he doesn’t decapitate any more contestants while sprinting through the kitchen. Michael Symon would have decked the kid for that mid-kitchen collision.
#3 Amy Pottinger
First off, Amy makes it into the top-three of this week’s power rankings by the mere fact that she finished in the top-three this episode. That’s not to say that I really have anything against the military spouse from Honolulu, but she’s going to need to do a lot more to stay high-up in Funkhouser’s FNS Power Rankings. She just doesn’t have the big, bold personality that this competition requires. Amy puts together one of the best dishes of the week, but her presentation to the judges is scattered, and she even says “I cook what I crave”, which does not sit well with Giada. Honestly, I wish we just got a show on Food Network of a regular person at home on the couch who goes goes… “you know what I’d like to eat today,” and we go from there.
#2 Caodan Tran
Kao comes off as “too cool for school” in her on stage audition which, at first, puts her at the back of the pack. However, she brings out the big guns when it comes to her second opportunity later in the show. With a hip-hop vibe and a Vietnamese-American background, she wins over the judges with her unique style. Anyone who able to get away with saying “I’ve got Fish Sauce in my bag, swag”, definitely rockets to the top ahead of any other contestant. It’s something different than what you’d hear on Food Network right now, and that’s definitely a good thing. The only problem for Cao will be making sure her laid-back style doesn’t come off as apathy, but she’s got 11 weeks to prove herself.
#1 Jason Smith
“Lord Honey”, where to start with Jason. First off, the Grayson, Kentucky native is Funkhouser’s hopeful winner of Food Network Star. Between his ridiculous outfits and that eastern Kentucky twang, any opportunity to get two Kentuckians as the winner of FNS is a must have for us. Megan Suttles said it best back in the winter:
“The man that calls his fellow contestants “a bunch of drunks” and always has a difficult time opening the oven door needs a thirty minute time slot.”
The biggest hurdle that Jason, winner of Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championships, is going to have is overcoming the slow pace that his southern drawl naturally brings out. If he can do that, he’ll make for one heck of a Food Network star. Let’s hope he never runs out of his “Holy Kentucky Trinity” – Bacon, Butter, and Bourbon.
How do you feel about this week’s Food Network Star Power Rankings? Let us know below or @FunkhouserKSR on Twitter