A reality show launched by the Food Network (who else?) in 2005, The Next Food Network Star pits a number of potential celebrity chefs against each other in a variety of challenges to test their skill at cooking and interacting with people— both in person and through the camera. In the first two seasons, eight entrants were considered (with one team of two appearing in the first season, for a total of nine participants), but the number of entrants has since been increased to twelve and then to fifteen for season 8, then cut back to twelve again for seasons 9 and 10. Contestants are eliminated every week until two or three finalists remain, who go on to star in a pilot that is screened during the season finale. The winner's pilot (or something similar to it) goes on to become an actual show on the network, although the staying power of this show and its star has varied greatly from season to season.The format for judging and selecting a winner has changed over the years, as viewers were given the chance to vote for the winner in earlier seasons, but they are now selected exclusively by the panel of judges. Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson, two Food Network executives, have been the core members of the judging panel since the beginning of its use. In the third season, a different guest judge would appear every week to assist them. Since the fourth season, the judging panel has consistently been Tuschman, Fogelson, and Bobby Flay, a chef who stars in Throwdown and Iron Chef America, among other shows. Giada De Laurentiis was added to the panel for the eighth season, as was Alton Brown.For seasons 1-7, the challenges in the show serve to both test and develop abilities that will be most useful for the contestant who will ultimately appear on their own show. A "Camera Challenge" is included every week, and requires each contestant to describe their food on-camera in an engaging way, within a set period of time. Usually, the particpants have also prepared the food they are presenting, so their dish is also judged as part of this challenge. This segment is the lead-in to the "Star Challenge" which is a more intense challenge that requires the contestants to work under pressure. Examples of these challenges include creating a dish with a specific theme for VIPs, preparing multiple dishes in a limited time (sometimes for the purpose of catering an event with hundreds of guests) or participating in some other test of skill inspired by another Food Network show.The format was Retooled and reversed for season 8. Fifteen contestants were split into three teams of five, lead by a mentor. Each week, the contestants were given the main "Star Challenge" which tested their cooking skills and ability to work under pressure. These challenges may be inspired by other Food Network shows, or the theme of the week. Each week, the bottom contestants were given a chance to redeem themselves through a "Producer's Challenge", which usually had something to do with that week's holiday theme (such as Mother's Day or Memorial Day). The "Producer's Challenge" tested the finalist's ability cook (again), but more importantly the ability to sell the dish in a recorded one minute clip. Whoever was the least successful would then be eliminated.For seasons 9 and 10, the format was once again revamped, with Bobby, Giada and Alton pulling double duty as mentors and (in most episodes) judges, occasionally joined in the latter role by Tuschman and Fogelson. The episodes subjected the contestants to a wide variety of challenges, many of them based on existing Food Network shows; generally, there would be a "dry run" or preparation phase in the first part of the episode, followed by the actual challenge, designed to test various potential qualities of the prospective star as both a TV personality and cook.Several well-established stars of other Food Network shows have appeared on The Next Food Network Star, not only to serve as guest judges (as previously mentioned), but also to present the star challenges. This includes Rachael Ray; one of her appearances was during season four, where she told the contestants that their next challenge would be a live demonstration on her show. Also, in the season five finale, Alton Brown (of Good Eats fame) actually directed and helped produce the pilots for both of the finalists.As of the Season Nine, Robert Irvine hosts an online show Star Salvation that allows eliminated contestants a chance back on the show as they battle each other through a series of challenges. For Season 10, the hosts are Iron Chef America's Geoffrey Zakarian and Season 9 winner Damaris Phillips.The show was renamed to simply "Food Network Star" from season 7 onwards.The winners of The Next Food Network Star from each season are:
Season One - Dan Smith & Steve McDonagh. A gay couple and the only two-person team to appear on the show so far, the two appeared in a show originally called Party Line with Dan and Steve, which was later changed to Party Line with the Hearty Boys. The show focused on food meant to be served while entertaining guests, with 32 episodes were produced in total. In 2006, Food Network decided not to renew the series and Smith & McDonagh have yet to star in another show on the network.
Season Two - Guy Fieri. To date, Fieri has been the most successful TV personality to have come out of The Next Food Network Star. In addition to his first show, Guy's Big Bite, which was produced after he won the competition, he has also starred in Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Guy Off the Hook, Minute To Win It (on NBC) and he co-hosted Ultimate Recipe Showdown with Marc Summers. From late 2013 on, he's the host of Guy's Grocery Games, a Game Show borrowing elements of Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen and situated in a supermarket. He also makes frequent guest appearances on other Food Network shows, including later seasons of Next Food Network Star.
Season Three - Amy Finley. Although she was originally eliminated in the week before the season finale, it was discovered in the days before the final episode that one of the two finalists, Joshua Adam "JAG" Garcia, had lied about his culinary training and military service. Finley was allowed to advance to the final in his place; however her show, The Gourmet Next Door, was short-lived. Only six episodes were produced and Finley herself declined to continue with the show.
Season Four - Aaron McCargo, Jr. The fourth season finale was unique because the judges did not eliminate any of the three contestants on the week before the finale. McCargo, Jr. beat Adam Gertler and Lisa Garza and went on to star in Big Daddy's House. In another unique development, runner-up Gertler has been tapped to star in two shows to date: Will Work for Food and Kid in a Candy Store, and it could be argued that Gertler has actually been more successful on the network than McCargo, Jr. Another notable runner-up is Kelsey Nixon, who got her own cooking show on Cooking Channel called Kelsey's Essentials. Considering that three contestants have gone on to have shows and that a fourth (Lisa Garza) now has her own line of clothing, one could argue that this may have been the most successful season in terms of finding a number of viable talents.
Season Five - Melissa d'Arabian. Unlike other winners who received most of their culinary training from formal institutions or the restaurant business, d'Arabian's primary experience came from being a stay-at-home mom. Her show, Ten Dollar Dinners, was created with this background in mind and is aimed at families shopping for meals on a budget. However, many viewers felt that the runner up, Jeffrey Saad, was robbed because many people felt that his pilot was more interesting that Melissa's (although he did get a webseries based on his pilot). He later starred on his own show on Cooking Channel and made it to the dessert round in the finals of Chopped All-Stars.
Season Six - Aarti Sequeira. The final episode of season six featured three finalists instead of two, but unlike season four, this was due to a change in format and not the result of the judges being unable to select someone to eliminate the previous week. Aarti was selected over fellow finalists Herb Mesa and Tom Pizzica to star in a show titled Aarti Party, which focuses on her specialty of making Indian cuisine more accessible to home chefs in the United States. Pizzica would later have his own show on Food Network, Outrageous Food.
Season Seven - Jeff Mauro. His show, Sandwich King, will "make a sandwich for every meal, and make every meal into a sandwich". He later got another show, $24 in 24, about eating three meals in a different city each week on a budget, and has as of early 2014 been a regular cohost of the network's Saturday-morning show The Kitchen.
Season Eight - Justin Warner, from Team Alton. His show Rebel Eats will focus on creating innovative dishes by breaking rules. So far, it's strangely only aired one hour-long episode (after nearly a year since he won the show) with no word on any follow-up episodes forthcoming. Word is that a full season is coming eventually.
Season Nine - Damaris Phillips. Her show, Southern At Heart, focuses on the relationship between food and love, especially in terms of Southern cooking. The show is currently completing its second season.
Season Ten - Lenny McNab.
The Next Food Network Star provides examples of:
0% Approval Rating: In the season nine premiere, an audience is given devices similar to dials that record how much they approve of the contestants's promotional footage for their shows. The general audience's reaction was showed on screen. A majority of the contestant's ended up in the red zone, and several even reached the ultimate low level.
Aborted Arc: In Season 7, the season known for drama, we learn of one sequence of events only in the reunion special's Clip Show: previously un-aired footage revealed a deep animosity between Chris and Jyll that we'd never really even seen hints of in the previous episodes. The massive amounts of drama that Penny was creating understandably took the lion's share of the attention that season, but given how much Chris and Jyll seemed to utterly despise one another (Chris is seen telling the other guys "She has no alliances because nobody really likes her!" and "I don't think she has the culinary talent. I think she's fake! I think she's boring!" while Jyll is seen gossiping to the other girls—even including an eager-to-listen Penny—that "He's a grown man who is self-indulgent and doesn't care about making anyone uncomfortable, and I'm over it!"), it's genuinely surprising that they didn't play up the Chris-Jyll rivalry during the season itself, and that the fans literally only found out about it during the reunion. When they re-air the clips during the reunion, we see Chris watching with a smug smirk on his face and Jyll watching with a really icy look as the montage of clips air. Geez, what exactly happened that got this feud started? They never tell us exactly, other than giving us a vague note that their personalities clashed.
Adorkable: Season 8: Emily and Justin from Team Alton
Season 6: Herb, Brad, and of course Season 6's winner, Aarti; Season 7: Susie and Jeff
Also Viet from Season 9.
All of the Other Reindeer:In S7, Orchid feels left out during the food truck challenge, as her teammates Vic and Jyll have already worked together on challenges and already have very good chemistry together (although Vic and Jyll seemed to be honestly unaware of how Orchid was feeling; they both adored her, so if she'd perhaps been more vocal, they probably would have accommodated her better). She attempts to stand out during the presentation and perhaps has a Freudian Slip when her part of the commercial comes up and she walks between Vic and Jyll and says "Hey you guys, don't start the party without me!" She said it in a cheerful voice, and it was something that the group had agreed she would say, but given how much she was talking about feeling like a third wheel during the confessionals, one can't help but feel that that this was indeed a Freudian Slip (perhaps Orchid added the line to the script herself, only half aware of her subconscious reason for doing so, in other words).
During the same season, Penny tries to invoke this trope and use it as part of a Wounded Gazelle Gambit due to the fact that the other women want nothing to do with her while the guys merely tolerate her presence...but she conveniently leaves out the fact that the other contestants are acting this way in response to her own Jerkass bullying ways towards all of them since she first arrived (indeed, even several weeks in after she'd been mean-spirited to them constantly, they still attempted to comfort her when she flubbed her presentation at the 4th of July barbecue challenge, so clearly the other contestants were making an effort to be friendly, even after she'd been mean to them). So naturally, nobody was buying it when she attempted to play the Wounded Gazelle Gambit for sympathy in front of the judges, or when she tried it again during Chopped All-Stars the next season.
Alpha Bitch: Penny from Season 7 got an instant reputation as the mansion's resident Alpha Bitch from her very first episode, in which she immediately started bullying Alicia in a blatantly vicious and mean-spirited way, constantly belittling her, making fun of her looks, and in general making life on the show hell for her. When Alicia's cupcakes are thrown out, Penny actually is so smug about it that she actually starts digging through the garbage can to count how many got thrown out and starts grinning and laughing about it. Later on, she moves on to other targets like Mary Beth and Jyll. She basically spends half the competition bullying other contestants, and the other half gushing about how hot she thinks she is. One year later, she returns for the Chopped All-Stars competition; during the round featuring her and other S7 NFNS contestants (Justin B, Chris, and Vic Vegas) and she immediately starts bragging about herself again, and tells Vic straight up that she specifically wants to take him down purely because he'd made it to the finale (she does). In the next round, she has the audacity to claim that Michael Symon and Marcus Samuelssonare intimidated by her. In any case, the fact that she's been reappearing on the channel means that she's well on her way to becoming the Food Network's resident Disney villain.
In Season 6, Brianna was also an Alpha Bitch (though nowhere near as notorious as Penny), and her favorite target was Serena. In one memorable incident at the mansion at night, Serena goes into the kitchen for a late-night snack and finds Brianna and Paul (who was also a major Jerkass and Man Child) already there cooking something. Brianna and Paul apparently don't want Serena in their presence and chase her out of the kitchen. Before leaving, Serena turns back and tells Brianna what all the fans had been dying to say to her: "This is not a way of treating people." Brianna simply bellows "OUT!" and chases her away.
Amazon Brigade: In Season 7 all the women (save Penny) were on one team for the pastry challenge, and they had a blast while working together. Unfortunately their food wasn't as good as the other team's and they lost that challenge.
Apologizes a Lot: Chris of Season 7, who stated multiple times that he wasn't used to making desserts. This was part of the reason he was eliminated.
The judges never are impressed (and probably rightly so) when the contestants overapologize for their food. Even if the food is crap, they'd rather see the contestants try to defend it then overapologize for it.
The following season, Martie also keeps apologizing for a rather bizarre reason: she keeps apologizing for being "old." It's really odd, because A. Martie looks gorgeous, and B. why on Earth would anyone need to apologize for their age? Martie really doesn't look very old at all (if anything she looks like someone in their early 40's), but the way she rambles on you'd think she was Methuselah or something! Alton actually made her pledge to stop mentioning that she's "old," and Bob Tuschman pointed out that a lot of the people on Food Network are her age or older, so she has nothing to be ashamed of.
Armor-Piercing Question: A humorous example: In Season 6, Brad is presenting a dinner to the judges and guest-judge Eva Longoria. However, he's coming across as extremely stiff, awkward, and rehearsed. The judges prompt Eva to ask Brad a question. Stumped about what to ask about his food, Ms. Longoria instead asks "So...when did you lose your virginity?" Prompting surprise and laughter from everyone, including a stunned Brad himself. It actually ends up helping Brad to loosen up and act more naturally.
On a more serious note, Bobby Flay is VERY prone to asking Armor Piercing Questions of the contestants to help see whether they deserve to stay or not. In Season 7, immature Man Child Chris is attempting to argue with Bobby over his criticism, and Bobby shuts him up by simply asking "Do you really want me to bring up that lobster rollfrom last week?" Chris immediately falls silent.
Be Careful What You Wish For: Winner gets a cooking show that usually airs in an early timeslot, and the show has only five or six episodes to prove it can get enough viewers to justify buying more episodes. Several of the show's winners don't even have shows on the network anymore.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: This one came as a bit of a shock for a lot of people, but Mary Beth from Season 7 appeared this way in the Reunion Special Clip Show. Previously cut footage revealed that when she was eliminated and Jeff was allowed to move on in the competition, Jeff moved to give her a comforting hug and Mary Beth shoved him away, growling "No!". Then, at the actual reunion, she declared that she wouldn't watch his show. This came as a shock to a lot of people because up till that point Mary Beth had seemed like a plucky, likeable foil against the universally-loathed Penny (who doesn't count as this trope because she was a bitch who never bothered wearing sheep's clothing). Mary Beth's sudden and last-minute transformation from a plucky underdog into an Ice Queen seems to have annoyed a lot of people, if the online reaction is anything to go by. It also put an entirely different spin on her antagonistic relationship with Penny, and made it come off less as Penny one-sidedly going after her as mutual antagonism between two similar people, especially since there's no evidence that Jeff did anything to deserve it.
Bowties Are Cool: Said word for word by Alton Brown when introducing Judson in Season 8. Brown has previously admitted to being a Whovian.
Break the Cutie: Poor Alicia. The first few episodes of Season 7 seemed to be one long Break the Cutie moment for contestant Alicia, who was not only criticized by the judges, but also seemed extremely self-conscious about her accent. It certainly didn't help that Penny took an immediate dislike to her from the moment they met and did everything she could to make Alicia's life on the show a living hell. And then Alicia got booted off the show. Meanwhile Penny remained for several weeks longer and moved on to new targets (namely Mary Beth, and Jyll to a lesser extent; luckily, Mary Beth was apparently much more ready to defend herself from Penny, and Jyll also had a Crowning Moment Of Awesome where she finally called out Penny for her bullying behavior in front of the judges).
The Bully: Season 7: Penny. Your Mileage May NOT Vary.
Season 6: Bitchy Brianna was rather cruel to Serena, though after being forced to work together on a food truck challenge, they ended up on better terms. Paul was also quite mean to Serena, making fun of her Italian accent and just generally demeaning her in every way possible (poor Serena was almost like a prototype for Season 7's Alicia in terms of how bullied and woobified she was that season!)
Danushka from Season 9 is not afraid to speak her mind about the other contestants behind their backs. Especially Nikki.
But Not Too Foreign: Season 6 winner Aarti Sequeira's show seems to have fallen victim to this trope. She made her way through the competition hoping to teach viewers how to easily prepare Indian food at home. So once she got her show one would expect to see Indian food right? Wrong. Apparently the Food Network execs changed her show to focus on things like "Bombay Sloppy Joes," and other such dishes which were basically American/Western dishes with a bit of cumin sprinkled on top. This stands in stark contrast to the way they forced Herb and Season 7's Susie to act more foreign. note The likely reason is they assumed that most viewers at home are familiar enough with Latin cuisine to be comfortable with it, which is why they pressured Susie and Herb to become one-dimensional Hispanic stereotypes. Unfortunately for poor Aarti, the execs likely assumed that housewives at home would be more unfamiliar with Indian cuisine and therefore too intimidated by it, which is why they pressured Aarti into cooking American food with Indian spices instead of cooking authentic Indian food. Which basically means that the execs are Completely Missing the Point of cooking shows: teaching people how to cook recipes they are unfamiliar with.
But Now I Must Go: In Season 6 when Giada was serving as a mentor (before she was a judge or a team captain), she stayed with the contestants and guided them until the last leg of the season where the show moved from LA to New York for the last few episodes, at which point Giada parted ways with them and wished them good luck.
The Cameo: Mary Beth and Penny meet Sabrina Soto, a regular on sister network HGTV, when shopping for table settings for a challenge. Doubles as Product Placement in this particular instance, since literally the entire point was for Soto to show off some products from a sponsor.
Cannot Spit It Out: Most seasons seem to have at least one person with this problem. Season 7 featured Juba, who seemed like a perfectly nice, knowledgeable, and Adorkable fellow; problem was, he seemed utterly terrified of the camera, and would spend most of his camera time stuttering aimlessly, resulting in his quick elimination. His proposed show idea "Simple Complex" (In the words of Alton Brown: HUH?) was painfully vague because of his inability to function on camera; it did have some fascinating tidbits (supposedly he was going to integrate food, art, and science) but we never got any further explanation from him.
Season 8's Martie is another variation of this trope: while she can certainly talk, she cannot get to the point. The more nervous she gets (and she appears to be on the verge of becoming a nervous wreck), the more she rambles aimlessly, running out the clock and robbing herself of valuable time to explain herself properly.
Season 10's Luca presents a variant; he's an exceptionally handsome, charming Italian (leading to some snark from viewers about Giada's making eyes at him), but when the contestants are tried out on an instructional cooking show in episode 2 (the instructee being Alex Guaranaschelli), Luca turns out to be a complete dud, not even looking into the camera most of the time. It turns out that he's never actually had any on-camera experience before, and he gets eliminated (cue wistful look from Giada as he walks offstage).
Cat Fight: Mary Beth and Penny got into a verbal one of these practically every time they were in the same room. Worse, they repeatedly wound up having to work together on challenges, with predictable results. The same effect occurred between Penny (sensing a pattern here?) and Alicia when they were paired together in the season premiere, along with Justin D., for the first challenge.
Justin D. lampshaded it, telling the camera crew "Everytime those two get paired together, they end up in a Cat Fight. And not even a sexy one that I'd want to watch!"
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Penny of Season 7 quickly developed this reputation among the other cast members, and they didn't seem too choked up when she got eliminated due to how openly mean she was. During the second or third week, when Alicia's cupcakes were unpopular with the dinner guests and got thrown in the garbage, Penny actually seemed delighted by Alicia's misfortune, to the point where she excitedly began rifling through the garbage can (with her bare hands) to count how many of Alicia's cupcakes got thrown out, all while having a huge grin plastered on her face. The reason for her elimination was essentially that she wasn't likable enough for a television show, and this even continued after her elimination, when she served as Mary Beth's sous chef for the Iron Chef challenge. She was going so slowly that it's almost certain she was deliberately trying to sabotage Mary Beth. Jesus.
Clip Show: Right before the Season 7 finale, they aired a Reunion Special, the first ever.
Cooking Duel: For one, everyone is competing with each other for a job and their food is one of their primary weapons. Some of the star challenges in the last couple of weeks of a given season have involved a more direct competition, though.
Companion Cube: In S7, Jeff's bandana becomes this to him. He jokes that "This bandana was blessed by a monk in Indiana," and when he gets teammates Susie and Whitney to don their own headbands for the food truck challenge, he advises them "Just don't underestimate the power of the bandana."
Confession Cam: Featured in every season, but was the source of a LOT of amusement in Season 7 in particular...
Cordon Bleugh Chef: Since taking risks and using food in unique ways is something that will get contestants noticed in a positive way, misfires are inevitable. Most recently, the final four from season six participated in an Iron Chef challenge. One of them tried to embrace the creative nature of the show a little too closely when the secret ingredient was revealed to be bacon— he attempted to make a bacon steak. That's right, an entire steak made out of nothing but bacon. Bob Tuschman said it was quite possibly the worst dish in the history of the show.
One of the challenges featured breakfast cereal, and one person got stuck with Fruity Pebbles.
Bobby Flay had this reaction to one of Vic of season 7's dishes, a lasagna in a burrito that he called "La Changa", and flat out refused to eat it. Turns out it would have gone over better if Vic had remembered to mention that it was supposed to be made with leftover lasagna.
The judges were pretty revolted by the dish Aryen turned out in season 10 episode 1, which consisted primarily of raw shrimp and packaged puff pastry. Alton was shown pushing the dish away with a disgusted look on his face, and one of the other judges flat-out commented, "I have nothing whatever good to say about this dish".
In season 10 episode 3, the "Cutthroat Kitchen" crossover, Bobby literally spat out the taste he'd just taken of Lenny's dish when he heard it described as a sopapilla when in fact it wasn't - the first time in the history of the program, as he noted, that it'd ever happened. In the same episode, Kenny, who hadn't been hit by any sabotages in his round, and who had presented himself as a breakfast specialist, produced some kind of breakfast-in-a-glass parfait that was a nearly inedible mess. He was duly eliminated from the competition.
Season 10, episode 7, the "one of a kind experience" challenge in Las Vegas: Lenny, after a stellar performance in the previous episode (where he'd wowed a pool party with first-class lamb sliders) fell flat on his face when he tried to essay sea urchins, which he'd never worked with before. He paired that seafood with a cauliflower puree and truffle oil, which is notorious Schmuck Bait on Chopped. The judges were predictably underwhelmed. He survived the episode in large part because Emma, leading his team, totally bollixed up her presentation and did a bad job cooking the high-end pork cut she was assigned, even with help from Lenny, and so was eliminated.
A Date with Rosie Palms: Yes...this was actually invoked on this show. In an early S8 episode, Michelle describes the clams she's prepared for the judges as being "sexy." When Susie Fogleson asks her "So why is this sexy?" Michelle pauses, laughs awkwardly, then says "That broth...makes me wanna go home aaaand...*starts smiling and winking suggestively*." The judges, totally blindsided, chuckle awkwardly and Bob Tuschman quips "We're going to lose our G-Rating!" One can imagine that somewhere in the home audience, Season 7's Penny was enthusiastically nodding in approval of Michelle, given that in S7 she'd once described a piece of fennel as "sexy" and when questioned by Bobby Flay had replied that she found "the shape of it" to be sexy.
Deadpan Snarker: In S7, Mary Beth was this. At first glance, one might think of her as bland...and one would be mistaken. She surprises everyone with a rather wry and sometimes saucy sense of humor. Bobby Flay noted this in the penultimate episode when he said "The humor comes out when you least expect it, and I love that."
Dualvertisement: Some of the ads will not only advertise the show, but shows and products related to Food Network's sister station HGTV.
Dumb Blonde: Danushka Lysek from Season Nine could definitely be considered this.
So could Sarah Penrod from the current Season 10, at least at the beginning; in the first episode, she got zapped by Alton, Bobby and Giada for acting more like a former beauty queen/pageant contestant than a professional cook. However, she took the criticism to heart and did much better in Episode 2.
Epic Fail: "Team Emma" in Season 10, Episode 7. They (Emma, Lenny and Loreal) were supposed to put together a "one-of-a-kind" Vegas dining experience for the judges (as were their opponents Sarah, Luca and Nicole), but they comprehensively bungled it. Highlights (lowlights?) include Loreal scattering rose petals on the judges' table for no apparent reason, and Emma's relating a supposed "folklore" story about the origins of pork that left Alton gawking in total consternation. About the only things the judges really liked was Lenny's pairing of wine to food, and Emma ended up finally getting cut after having been in the bottom group three times in a row.
The Fabulous Fifties: Adored and invoked by Season 8 contestant Emily, whose perspective is "retro rad".
The Fashionista: Lisa Garza of Season 4 was very much the embodiment of this trope. Today she actually has her own line of clothing.
Fiery Redhead: Bobby Flay can be quite prickly as a judge, although most people agree that it's just because he has high standards and cares about seeing the contestants create a quality product.
Fire-Breathing Diner: One of the camera challenges from season four required the contestants to swap dishes with each other and present them on-camera with no prior knowledge of the ingredients. This resulted in one participant taking a big bite out of the mystery dish on-camera... and coming to the painful realization a few seconds later that it contained habanero peppers.
In a Season 8 challenge, Justin made a corn soup with chili oil. He didn't explicitly mention this in his presentation, so both Suzie Fogelson and guest judge Paula Deen neglected to stir it and wound up with huge amounts of chili oil in their first bite.
Lenny inflicted this on himself in Season 10, Episode 6. He was making a hot sauce (the challenge was to create a packaged food product and then make a commercial for it), and Giada advised him to try each ingredient so that he'd have a good notion of their characteristics. The only problem was that virtually all the ingredients were peppers, each hotter than the last, and Lenny ended up having to chug a whole carton of milk to soothe his scorched gullet (much to the amusement of Bobby and Giada).
Flanderization: The participants are encouraged to come up with a theme or angle for their cooking which can then be used as the basis for their show. The extent to which someone is inflating the importance of a particular aspect of their cooking varies from contestant to contestant. However, the ones who struggle to find a direction are usually the ones that latch on to a small part of their overall skills and try to make it their angle in hopes of avoiding elimination. The earlier seasons were more focused on developing the contestants television presence and acted more as a pilot. Newer seasons put almost no emphasis on the television aspect of having a cooking show, and instead focus more on food challenges. The focus on a "theme" often results in this theme seeming to dominate the contestant's entire personality.
In S8, Malcolm actively resists Flanderization, openly talking about how focusing so intently on a strict POV isn't always necessary and implying that the whole premise was too limiting. Bob and Susie, however, were very much not amused. Susie grills Malcolm about it and he still resists Flanderization. They then glare at each other, both with very forced smiles on their faces that really seem to imply that they were giving each other some choice four-letter words in their minds. Not surprisingly, Malcolm is eliminated. When he returns for the Clip Show reunion, Susie goes in on him about having a POV again, and he again says he doesn't think it's necessary. Susie goes "Ooookaaaaay,' looks at him with another forced smile, he looks at her with another forced smile of his own, and the Parenthetical Swearing appears to occur again.
Funny Foreigner: Season 8's Linkie of Team Giada is from South Africa and has the accent to prove it. Speaking of Team Giada, in one S8 episode Giada mentions that she herself was this trope when she first immigrated to the United States from Italy at the age of 8 years old. Also from Italy was Season 6's Serena, who spoke with an Italian accent. Season 10's Luca is from Italy - specifically, Torino (Turin) - and gets admiring attention from a number of the female contestants.
Genki Girl: Orchid of Season 7. Also Susie from the same season, leading Jeff to do an Affectionate Parody of Susie's tendency towards this (as well as of the ethnic Flanderization that she was being forced into by the judges). Susie herself thought it was hysterical.
Emily from Season 8 has elements of this as well, as do Season 10's Sarah and Donna.
Gentle Giant: Vic from Season 7. He's extremely muscular, has a shaved head, and arms covered with tattoos. His proposed show title? Mamma's Boy.
Girl on Girl Is Hot: Implicitly invoked by Season 8's Nikki, who has named her prospective show "Girl On Grill" (with a seductive grin every time she mentions the name). She repeatedly asks the audience if they're "ready for some Girl on Grill action." Bobby Flay found it amusing, but Bob Tuschman is currently hand-wringing that it might be too "provocative."
Nikki has since let go of this title, opting instead for the "softer" persona of "The Grill Next Door".
Ha Ha Ha No: When Mary Beth in Season 7 makes a metaphor that sounds like she bathes in lobster bisque, Alton Brown pulls one of these.
Heroic BSOD: In S8, Justin has one of these when fellow Team Alton member Emily is eliminated and makes her tearful goodbye to him, Martie, and Alton.
Martie has one later when she knows that the judges must choose between her and her new BFF Justin. Turns out they just choose them both to shoot a pilot.
High School AU: In Season 8, the utterly Adorkable Emily from Team Alton actually starts imagining this trope on camera. Emily proposes that if this show were a High School AU, "Team Bobby would be the jocks, Team Giada would be the cheerleaders, and we on Team Alton would be the nerds and the geeks." If one applies the trope to previous seasons, Season 6 could have featured Herb as the Lovable Jock and both Serena and Aarti as the Foreign Exchange Students, and Season 7 would have definitely featured Penny as the Alpha Bitch. Bobby Flay and Alton Brown would be the Stern Teachers and Giada the Cool Teacher of course.
I'm Not Here to Make Friends: Penny Davidi. She actually quotes this trope title repeatedly. Its probably more than just usual realty show stuff as apparently she alienated everyone female, which is quite a trick with a large group. Unsurprisingly, she gets eliminated.
Jerkass: Season 7 features Penny Davidi (as you can tell by reading this page). She seemed to go out of her way to be cruel to the other contestants (particularly female contestants), gushes about how sexy she thinks she is, and creates drama with the other contestants, to the point where they utterly despise her for her shenanigans. Honestly, Penny's jealous and bullying ways towards Alicia and Mary Beth made her come across less like a celebrity chef and more like a freaking Disney villain.
Puck also insulted a contestant in the first week of Season 6, and made it a pretty stinging insult at that. He ended up bringing the contestant to tears. Worse, the contestant had been a huge fan of Puck's until that day.
Season 6: Brianna was very bitchy towards Serena, but eventually they did end up on better terms. Paul was also quite a jerk towards Serena (poor girl just couldn't catch a break that season!), constantly belittling her and even rather viciously making fun of her Italian accent.
Nikki from Season 8 quickly sets herself up as one. The very first thing she does after introducing herself in the first episode is bash fellow contestant Linkie. When she and Linkie later face off in the producer's challenge midway through the season, Nikki brags that she's going to "put grill marks on Linkie's ass" and send her home. Needless to say, she didn't exactly endear herself to the fans.
In Season 10, Sarah has gotten accusations of Jerkassery from many online commenters due to her behavior; she got into a hissy fit in Episode 6 because Chris took all the beef tenderloin that she'd had her eye on, for example, and wouldn't give her some, and has drawn unfavorable notice for a tendency to smirk and snigger when other contestants get into trouble. It hasn't gotten any better ever since.
Jerkass Fašade / Jerk with a Heart of Gold: While Bobby Flay can come across as rather brusque and short with the contestants, for the most part it's because he has very high standards and pushes people to be their best. Most former contestants have gushed about how easy-going and nice he actually is, with one of Season 7's contestants actually saying that Bobby Flay is now "one of my favorite people." He's a Stern Teacher, but—just like with mostStern Teachers—it's because he genuinely cares about pushing people towards doing quality work.
Lovable Jock: Herb from Season 6 is a personal trainer and very muscular. He's also extremely nice, cries often because of how much he misses his wife and daughters, and in general seemed to be a fun-loving source of encouragement for the other contestants. His Adorkable personality—as well as his cooking talent—helps get him to the finale.
Man Child: Chris of Season 7 very much came off as this (Jyll notes in the reunion special that "I used to write in my journal every day 'Please! Just act like a grown man today and don't distract me while I'm working!'"), with Guy Fieri even lampshading that Chris seemed like he could be on Jersey Shore. Even moreso during the Clip Show reunion special, where the previously unaired footage revealed him to be even more of an immature and self-centered guy than he'd already appeared to be. Since then, Chris has unsurprisingly resurfaced on a VH-1 reality show, and actually ended up dating one of the Jersey Shore cast members.
Lampshaded when poor Orchid ends up having to work with him as a partner and—due to how much of a goofy, frantic mess Chris usually was—she comes up with a codeword for Chris to use when he's in trouble. Led to a Crowning Moment of Funny when during the cooking process Orchid asks, in the most maternal voice ever, "Now Chris, what do we say when we need help?" and Chris goofily starts singing "Code Blue! Code Bluuuuu-ooooh!" and dancing around while he's cooking, really hammering home the point that Orchid was essentially tasked with parenting Chris in addition to cooking. Luckily Orchid, being an adorable Genki Girl, took it all in stride and maintained a fun but Determinator-like attitude that got the pair through the challenge.
Paul from Season 6 was a major Jerkass and extremely immature.
Manipulative Bastards: Many, particularly on Food Network Humor, have argued that judges Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogleson are this trope. A lot of the online commentary seems to have settled on the opinion that these two are heartless corporate types (Tuschman is the General Manager of Food Network while Fogleson is in charge of the network's marketing and "brand strategy"). In particular people complain that they pressure the contestants to become one-dimensional Flanderized versions of themselves and that they will often harshly criticize contestants for following the advice that they themselves gave them the previous week. Fogleson in particular takes flak for appearing to be very much a stereotypical greedy corporate exec (or at least she gets accused of coming across this way). In one Season 7 episode one contestant starts reminiscing about her life story and breaks down into tears talking about a family tragedy...meanwhile Susie Fogleson's face practically lights up as she begins cooing about how "I see star potential in you," or something to that effect, completely ignoring the seriousness of the woman's memories and focusing completely on making money. Perhaps she was just being supportive, but she certainly didn't come across that way to a lot of people, if the online reaction is anything to go by.
Motor Mouth: In Season 8, Team Alton's Martie keeps rambling on and on every time she speaks, much to the judges' (and her teammates') frustration.
Mrs. Robinson: Penny of Season 7 seemed to going for this image, putting an emphasis on being "sexy" and frequently leaving the top of her chef's jacket unbuttoned to show cleavage. She even said that her favorite show was Cougar Town and said that it was because "I am a cougar." Oh, and her original show title: "Stilettos in the Kitchen." When doing the promo challenge in the first episode, she kept mentioning "bringing sexy back into the kitchen" and declaring "I can't turn the sex off!" Alton Brown, who was directing the contestants' promos, was practically rolling his eyes before long and even told her that she should try to tone it down, saying "You can be sexy without being so...overtly so." Bobby Flay, being Bobby Flay, later put it much more bluntly and told her she was "coming across as kind of trashy."
Never Trust a Trailer: Nigh constantly, but it's gone beyond ridiculous in season eight. Special mention goes to the trailer for the Chopped episode, which had Michele freaking out over one of the judges staring at her. The trailer depicts it as AlexGuernaschelli (who is known for being intimidating and critical of chefs); it's actually Michele thinking it's Giada, who isn't doing anything. WHAT?
Nice Guy: Jeff of Season 7. It's one of the major reasons he wound up winning. Even Penny had no trouble complimenting Jeff on how warm and easy/fun to watch he was.
Not Quite Dead: Or not quite elimnated, in the case of Lovely from season 9, who managed to get back into the competition through Star Salvation. However, it means absolutely nothing as she is sent home again in the same episode that she returns.
Worked out much better for Luca in season 10, who got back in the competition through Star Salvation as well, but managed to make it to the finale.
Odd Friendship: In S8 Justin and Martie actually become close friends. This came as a surprise to many people because in the earliest episodes their interaction wasn't featured very much on-camera and because Martie came across as a traditional Southern Belle while Justin came across as a wise-cracking urban Hipster, and because of their age difference. But they ended up becoming close friends, to the point of becoming True Companions by the end, and when Justin as crowned as the winner of the season, the sweetest moment in the ensuing celebration is when he and Martie hug and share some very tender words. It definitely counts as one of the biggest Crowning Moments Of Heartwarming in the show's entire history.
Only Sane Man: For the first several seasons, Bobby Flay very much came across as the Only Sane Man on the judges' committee; while Bob and Susie were working themselves into a tizzy over whether a contestant was "telling us a story" or not, Bobby Flay kept a laser-focus on the food and whether the contestant's general demeanor was charismatic or not (without obsessing too much about stories). It really made Bobby come across as way more sensible than Bob and Susie.
Alton Brown, whenever he guest-starred in the first several seasons, he came across as way more grounded than Bob and Susie and way more than several of the contestants (particularly in Season 7 when he was tasked with directing the S7 contestants disastrous promos in the season premiere).
Oven Logic: Due to frequent time constraints, contestants have been known to try taking shortcuts to get their dish completed on time. In the second episode of season six, a contestant decided that frying his food in a commercial deep fryer would be a good way to save time. Unfortunately, he had never used one before and the end result contained raw dough... which was then served to Wolfgang Puck.
Season 7 had a brisket done in 2 hours. And it tasted like a brisket done in 2 hours...
Parenthetical Swearing: After Penny and Mary Beth wound up having to work together again they would say things to each other like "I really love you" but their tone made it quite obvious that they were thinking something else.
A similar reaction happened between Judge Susie Fogleson and contestant Malcolm when she grilled him in one of the Miami episodes and again in the reunion about having a POV. Malcolm said he didn't want to be pigeionholed, and Susie got insulted. Just like with Mary Beth and Penny—as noted above—both times they ended up making very forced niceties but their tone made it clear that they had some other choice words in mind.
Product Placement: Some mini challenges require cooking certain brand foods as ingredients, such as Hershey's products for dinner, Kellogg's products for appetizers, and Post cereals for dinner. It's become more apparent in later seasons, though its use is Justified considering promoting a food product is part of being a TV chef.
In a more straight example, practically every episode will have an extended shot of one of the contestants turning a "magic touch" Delta faucet on or off.
Real Men Wear Pink: Vic of Season 7, a self described Momma's Boy who's built like a brick wall, but actually pretty gentle.
The previous season, Brianna had been a cruel bitch specifically to Serena for a good portion of the early episodes. When she and Man Child Paul rudely chase her out of the mansion's kitchen when she stops by for a midnight snack, Serena leaves, but not before giving a short-and-simple "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Brianna: "This is not a way of treating people." Later on though, Brianna and Serena end up on better terms.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: Chris and Justin B. of Season 7, with Chris being a Man Child and Justin being a consummate professional. Needless to say, having them on the same team was all sorts of interesting.
Retool: It's been announced that Season 8 will follow a new format. Apparently, the Food Network execs caught on to the fact that Season 6 was disliked and that Season 7 was reviled. (At best Season 7 was a Guilty Pleasure show, and at worst it was a Soap Opera-ish clusterfuck of a disaster that one couldn't help but stare at in awe/horror). The Retool apparently is based off the format of The Voice, and involves Bobby, Giada, and Alton coaching teams of contestants, taking them under their wings to learn, as well as the return of viewers' ability to vote for the contestants they like, which is probably a smart strategy, since combining fan votes with coaching from the experienced hosts increases the odds of creating a new star with actual staying power.
Starting with Season 9, the format has been changed again, so that Bobby, Giada and Alton now operate as a team, coaching the contestants jointly through a series of challenges and sitting as the judging panel at the end of each episode. The usual format is a "dry run" of some sort riffing on the episode's theme, followed by the actual challenge (e.g., in Season 10 Episode 4, the contestants were tasked to make "selfie" videos of themselves on the FNS set, then divided into teams to produce marketing videos to be posted on YouTube.)
The Runner Up Takes It All: Adam Gertler in Season 4. He came in second but was likeable enough that the network gave him his own travelogue show (Will Work for Food), which proved popular enough that he got a second show (Kid in a Candy Store). Probably justified, since Adam is quite arguably more popular than the actual winner from that season, Aaron McCargo.
Seemingly Wholesome '50s Girl: Emily initially appears to attempting to imitate a standard, stereotypically innocent 1950's archetype (and she does adore the 50's). That being said, she also loved being a little flirtatious in front of the camera and made sure to show plenty of cleavage, at one point actually storing ingredients in that area of her dress.
Self-Deprecation: During the Comedian's Roast (where they not only cooked a roast, but were themselves roasted) Jeff, who actually used to do stand-up comedy, indulged in quite a bit of these. He also described himself as looking a bit like a sandwich.
Self-Parody: Many people, particularly some people on Food Network Humor, have begun serious speculation that as of Season 7 (and possibly as early as Season 6), the show has become a deliberate Self-Parody. There seem to be just too many intentionally corny moments, blatantly obvious Flanderization and Product Placement, and moments edited to look humorous.
Season 8 seems to be an attempt to get serious again about finding a viable star, with a much-needed Retool being implemented to create more reasonable challenges and a process that seems more likely to support the higher-quality contestants.
Show Within a Show: By the time the season finale airs, the show contains at least two other shows featuring the finalists. Also at the beginning, the contestants have to do promos for their prospective shows.
Silent Snarker: The camera challenges for several seasons now have usually featured the same cameraman, who has been bearing silent witness the to the wacky events of the past several years, and sometimes seems almost like a he might very subtly be a Silent Snarker, judging by his facial expression at the end of many of the camera challenges.
Cristie, also S8, came across this way as well, though it's hard to tell as she was eliminated in the first episode.
Special Guest: Every week, the contestants meet up with one of the established Food Network personalities, who usually presents them with that weeks' challenge, and subsequently helps the judges analyze the contestants' dishes and presentations.
Spicy Latina: In Season 7, Susie didn't start out this way, but was pushed towards a version of it by the judges (in the sense that they weren't pushing for her to change her personality per se, since they enjoyed her usual personality, but they wanted her cooking to be restricted to being entirely Latin-based, which rubbed a lot of viewers the wrong way since it felt like they were limiting her due to stereotypical expectations). To conform to this, Susie did start to play up her ethnicity more. This was lampshaded by Jeff, who—as shown in previously unseen footage during the Reunion Clip Show—did an Affectionate Parody of the way Susie was portraying herself, complete with Spanish singing (the other contestants, including Susie herself, loved it; Susie, bursting with laughter, gave Jeff a thumbs up).
As of Season 8, Martita presents this image, as her theme is based around her Mexican heritage and she's known for her energy.
Spin-Off: In a way, each winner's show is a spin off of Next Food Network Star.
The Starscream: Chris angrily accuses Justin B of being this trope in Season 7; Chris had been the (self-appointed) leader of a team consisting of all the guys plus Penny for the pastry challenge, repeatedly bragging to the Confession Cam "I'm taking responsibility for my team!." The other boys and Penny, for their part, merely viewed him as an annoying nuisance who was bossing them around despite the fact that they hadn't actually chosen him to be their leader. When Chris ends up making a mess of things, guest mentor Robert Irvine surveys the sorry scene and demands to know "Who's in charge here?" When Chris nervously raises his hand and says "I've been taking charge, chef," Robert Irvine bluntly states "That didn't work for me." He then asks for volunteers to take over and Justin B offers (while Chris jealously shoots him a Death Glare). Robert puts Justin in charge...and he does a magnificently successful job of being a turn-around manager and puts the "Boys + Penny" Team back into serious contention...and they end up winning in the end, despite the fact that the girls' team had held an initial advantage (i.e. while Chris had been "leading" the boys' team and mucking things up). Chris then whines to the Confession Cam that Justin is The Starscream, and again accuses him of this at the Clip Show reunion at the end of the season, making it sound as if Justin had secretly been cravenly plotting the whole time to topple him, even though it was quite clear to everyone else that this wasn't the case, and even though the others didn't consider Chris to even be a leader in the first place. At the reunion Chris whines that "Justin is boring, and I'm exciting," and claims that he can throw down and beat Justin at cooking any time. "All day, every day!" gloats Chris, while everyone else rolls their eyes.
Take a Third Option: In the final episode only one contestant from each team was going to move on. This was relatively easy until Alton's team, Martie and Justin. Both of their pilots were excellent, but one of them had to go. They chose Justin to make the pilot. They also chose Martie. They couldn't bear to send either of them home!
Team Mom: Giada was brought on board in Season 6 essentially to play this exact role, by being a mentor to the contestants throughout the competition. In Season 7 she became a judge, and had to distance herself from the contestants but she still showed shades of being a Team Mom. Now, as of Season 8, she's gone back to being a Team Mom in an official capacity by being the head of her own team, as part of the new format after the Retool.
In S8 especially. Giada proves to be a very enthusiastic team leader. Whenever her team members face a setback, she seems genuinely sad. When they have a success, Giada seems ecstatic on their behalf.
Team Switzerland: Vic Vegas served this role in Season 7 in the midst of the various conflicts going on that season. He was the one person other than Jeff that everyone apparently trusted enough to confide in, and at the same time, he tried to steer everyone away from conflict (he even actively tried to comfort Penny throughout the competition even though she was a bully; that's how nice Vic was). Epitomized at one point where we see Jyll confiding in him about a fight she was having with Chris, and Vic simply groans "This is a mess!" rather than stating whose side he was on. He then told the Confession Cam that in his view it would be best for everyone to just calm down, get some rest, and then come back with a fresh perspective in the morning. It really ended up adding a lot to Vic's likeability.
Season 8's Josh was also this, constantly alluding to his past leadership of a rock band and emphasizing how "rock & roll" he was, it just came across as trying too hard, which got him on the bottom three in the first place.
Season 9's Rodney definitely has a Fieri-esque vibe to him, especially in regards to the manner of speech and excessive use of slang.
True Companions: The three remaining finalists of season 7 described each other this way, even knowing one wouldn't be able to make a pilot.
Team Alton in S8 also became this, definitely by the point where Emily was eliminated but especially once it was down to Justin and Martie. Just watching them both and Alton crying when they think one of them is about to leave is a Tear Jerker.
One Steve Limit: Averted in Season 7 with Justin B. and Justin D. (Season 8 also features yet another Justin, who is now the Season 8 winner)
Valley Girl: Alicia in Season 7 talks this way. Because she can only tone it down by not speaking as loudly, she had to struggle between sounding pleasant and being heard.
You Look Familiar: Some contestants on NFNS are chefs who have previously competed on different Food Network competition shows like Chopped. Conversely, some of them start to appear on these shows after having made a name for themselves on NFNS.
Season 10 examples: Before participating in NFNS, Chris Kyler appeared on Cutthroat Kitchen (which he won), and Lenny McNab, the eventual winner, appeared on Guy's Grocery Games.
Whenever Bobby or Giada criticize a contestant, that contestant's online fans will often rabidly accuse Bobby and Giada of "being jealous and feeling threatened by" the contestant's talent. Most people will then point out that Bobby and Giada, being Food Network icons, would have no real reason to feel jealous.