I forget why, at the end of the last season of Next Food Network Star, I told myself not to tune in again. It could have been the nonsense with Jag fabricating his military record (an issue that failed to be vetted by Food Network in advance), which was grossly distasteful to put it mildly. Or, it could have been the complete lack of interesting characters in the cast. Yes, I believe those were the reasons, or if they were not, they remain perfectly good ones.
When this season rolled around, I saw the previews but had no interest in the first episodes because of the ineptness I had witnessed before (that blame goes all the way around with that bunch of dubious would-be-stars, judges, and guests). Then more than ten years in the fashion industry got the best of me and after one glimpse of Lisa Garza's stylishness, I was forced to get myself caught up if only to be able to say that once upon a time I actually saw a beautifully dressed elegant woman appear on the Food Network (though, I have to admit, the heels were ridiculous, there are dozens of gorgeous flats which would have helped her to be taken more seriously).
Having looked back at the original shows in which she appeared (and it seems she really got the goat of the food bloggers watching and commenting on Next Food Network Star), I suppose there are moments when the blogging community might have found her abrasive, cold, and an unlikely television personality. Maybe these are bloggers who have not tuned in for the sparkling, effervescent, amusing, warm, and snuggly Martha Stewart Show. Well, don't feel you've missed her best shows. Our Omnimedia icon is no warmer than her chilled watermelon icepops. By the same token, a quick sail through beloved Paula Deen's book will yield her admission that she is tough and exacting. A moment watching Rachel Ray be herself is a study in forceful demanding egotism. Authority and warmth, in my experience, can be safely and effectively mutually exclusive. What's more, I would guess they are never good friends in the television environment where one has a very short time to ice the cake and tell you a story about their dear mama.
No business is a kind one. To be successful, you have to get hard. The nature of succeeding is understanding that you cannot be all things, you have to maximize your gifts, cut your losses, and keep adapting. The nature of accomplishing those feats can rub some the wrong way but not me. If Lisa Garza appeared in an interview chair before me I would hire her straight away. This girl is no push over. She learns, changes, and grows. She is tough and a survivor and a presentable and articulate business person. And make no mistake about it, Lisa Garza is a business, one that I hope will do phenomenally well and have longevity. People of this caliber are not easy to find, nor, in many cases are they easy to stomach. But their industry clearly needs them.
It was disappointing Lisa did not win. It seemed the concept she settled on, "Beautiful Basics," was both solid and elegant. Her demo was easy to watch and the food was, thankfully, not another Food Network venture into a thousand Betty Crocker recipes. She brought a level of polish Food Network has never before demonstrated. She did not throw on an over-sized man shirt (Paula, Ina) or a cleavage-bursting Michael Stars tee or half-caftan (Sandra, Giada, Rachel, Ingrid) in order to fit into the FN cookie cutter. She was different and I hate to think that could have been her downfall with the network.
Speaking of Food Network, oddly, we were never given the opportunity to mention any of this to the network as viewers: The viewers choice did not contribute to the winner and the network is accepting no comment feedback. This whole deal is a little fishy if you ask me but I could not tell how or why.
For a fleeting moment, she gave Food Network some elegance. It is not at all surprising the network neither understood or valued this trait in a chef. It is a shame. And though a curious and surprising one, hardly the worst one for the Food Network in the past year.