Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Love at first bite
Unlike last year, the scenery shifts from San Francisco to Hollyweird and is mercifully revamped with a new host in former supermodel, Padma Lakshmi. Last year's hostess Katie Lee Joel (b.k.a. Billy's fembot child bride) had all the personality of a doorknob. Thankfully not everything needed to be tweaked and the fabulous Tom Colicchio (he gives White men with baldies a good name) and Food & Wine's Gail Simmons reprise their roles as head judges. I got reeled into the furious pace of simmers and sautés with the memorable cast of season one (loved Lee Anne, Harold, Dave, Lisa & Miguel....loathed Ken & Tiffani) and it's back and as scandalous as ever the second time around. The majority of pros this time around don't seem to be nearly as focused as the inaugural crew, but in the eye candy department, ladies (and gents), we have liftoff!
Behold the tall, chocolaty drink of water that is the brother to the right. Cute, ain't he? Meet Cliff Crooks, executive chef at one of the city's best spots for serious Italian and fan favorites to land in the winner's circle. I mean, he wouldn't have to utter a single word and I'd be already in mid-swoon. But factor in that he's sidestepped (so far) the A.B.M. stereotype with ease (that's Angry Black Male for the acronymically challenged) by being the three H's: humble, hardworking and helpful. His even-tempered approach to some of the wackiest tasks at hand while still remaining in touch with flavors and having the skills to finesse both sushi and comfort food classics (how's that for diverse?) is damn impressive. And all acquired without formal training... oh yeah, and did I mention that he's fucking hot? Check out the interview stream below with Jersey's Restaurant Guys Radio to get to know the brawn behind the chef's coat.
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And while I'm foaming at the mouth in full-on foodie frenzy, can I just weep tears of joy for the long awaited Stateside return of the domestic goddess herself, Nigella Lawson. Finally, finally, FINALLY! After a few years being banished to ungodly hours (and eventual fade-out) on the Style network, the sultry Brit cheftress is finally back where she belongs. Cut from the Catherine Zeta-Jones cloth of bombshell but without the apron strings, Lawson has more sex appeal in her lower lip than all the women on the Food Network combined, and with Nigella Feasts (airs Sunday afternoons @ 1 p.m. EST), it's a welcome retread back to the format of her earlier show, Nigella Bites. And what's not to love? Her food makes you want to lick the TV and she tosses off refreshingly English phrases like "bung it in" that give her show a welcome Eurochic sensibility which stands out in a cookie-cutter lineup of wholesome smiles and caffeinated perkiness. (Here's looking at you, Rachael.)
Because she cooks real food, is more concerned that she makes dishes that comfort herself and her guests rather than the phoniness of how pretty the meal is distributed on the plate. And best yet, she's unapologetic in allowing the cameras to keep rolling while clad in satin pajamas to raid the fridge for a late night munch. Now that's my kind of broad. In the age of diet-drink swilling skeletons who look at each bite of food as if it were arsenic laden, she is a testament to real women with curves and a healthy appetite. For that alone that makes her utterly irresistible, but then, I'm just the sort of lazy cook who goes in for maximum pleasure and minimum effort.
And while Giada and Ina are still my go-to girls in the name of everyday gourmet, Nigella remains the undisputed queen of how to look fabulous without breaking a sweat. Bow down and worship at the Manolos, ladies.
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