Fresh and full from a dinner of fettuccine alfredo, I come to you as Guest Blogger, Josh. Liz could not make it to this exciting event, and so I’m here to fill in for the review. This week, on the Next Food Network Star: Winner’s Edition! America has made its decision, and (as I feared) we have to sit through an entire episode until the suspense is over. At the very least, I pray it’s palatable enough to sit through.

At the show’s opener we are greeted by… none other than Marc Summers and a live studio audience! Who’d have thought? I was almost sure Guy Fieri was going to host this shindig. Ah, well. No, Marc, I’m pretty sure the votes have already been tallied – they’re not being tallied now. Oh, a recap. This is useful for me, since I missed the first episode – I think I started when Nikki got sent home. Plus, this is a nice way to remind us, hey – there were a lot of other people who didn’t make it this far. Remember them?

I have to admit I’m a little sadistic – it’s amusing to be reminded of the slip-ups that happened throughout the series. Among my favorites: “Plummy!” That is classic television, folks. If you missed that Iron Chef challenge, I desperately hope the TiVo didn’t. So, in ten minutes, we’ve got the entirety of the NFNS show summarized for us, in case we missed it. Then again, it’s been advertised so often on the Food Network, how could we have?

I’m a little apprehensive about this reunion thing, though: is JAG going to be the drama-queen we’ve had to suffer through until now, or will he be graceful and let these two ladies share their moment in the spotlight? Are the others going to have something to say about the whole affair, or will this be a genial reunion? Oh, the suspense!

Now we’re back and we get to peek into the personal lives of our final two contenders. First up, life for Rory in Vega: I wonder if they’re going to mention her stint on that other reality TV show – the one where the goal was to make yourself the most popular person in town, so you can win some cash? Yes, yes they are. Her hometown reminds me a lot of mine (back in North Dakota), so I can respect that she appreciates the people and the culture. Either way, I see Rory did well for herself on that reality show: these people seem to genuinely like her.

Next, we get to glimpse into Amy’s San Diego. You can tell that her family is very important to her: she lives a bock or two from her parents and siblings, on the same plot of land. That’s dedication. It’s a stark contrast to what I percieve as Rory’s self-sufficiency. The other thing that struck me is that Amy didn’t come across as a snotty city girl in this video vignette, not at all. She seemed very genuine and down-to-earth – gourmet next door to a tee.

Finally, the happy reunion, and another commercial! This is finally starting to get good. New footage: Tommy snores. Rory is wearing some kind of T-Shirt to bed that had to have its words blurred out. Amy talks in her sleep. That’s awesome.

Mark is totally stirring up trouble – bringing up old problems. Strangely enough, Paul seems to be at the center of them all: Tommy’s chicken-stock, Colombe’s grocery fiasco, and Meatloaf-Gate. And now it’s the JAG issue. Gracious JAG! This is good to see; he’s upbeat and awesome. The JAG I liked watching during the first half of the show. We also get to see a little bit of weirdness and fun in the house, one clip at a time. It’s nice to see that they’re real people, despite having had a taste of stardom.

I have to interject here: this particular commercial break showcased a new FN show that I am already anxious to see. They call it “The Next Iron Chef.” It’s no small leap of logic to figure out what will be going on there. Talk about awesome.

Back to the show: the selection committee is back on set. Bob and Suzy seem a lot more personal – almost apologetic. And when Paul asks Suzy what it would take to make him the Next Food Network Star, she tells him (in effect): “Come back when you know more about food.” I suppose that’s fair. We get to explore Paul/JAG love for a brief moment (I’m not sure whether I think it’s cute or creepy…). When we come back: the winner!

Whew.

Just before they announce who won, Marc grills the girls about what they plan to take away from the NFNS competition.  Amy plans to take away her new friends. Rory plans to take away her pride. That sounds fitting, as a summary of of their personalities, I think. And at long last, Emeril is here to tell us who the winner is. He dispenses with the preliminaries, we meet the Network President, and the winner is…

…….Amy!

Yes!  Amy won the Next Food Network Star!! Great success! This pleases me on a number of levels. I’m sure Rory would have had a decent show, but Amy – as a person and as a chef – interests me much more. I am terribly relieved. Amy has not forgotten who she is: as we leave the show, she thanks America and tells us she looks forward to being the Gourmet Next Door. Marc informs us her show will appear this fall. I’ll be watching. Congrats, Amy!

(You have to feel a little sorry for Rory though – two reality shows, two runner-up spots. She does need to catch a break…. Just not this break.)

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