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We are getting closer and closer to the season finale! I’ll be sad to see the competition to end, but it’s all very exciting nonetheless. The only bad thing is that I now really, really like all of the remaining contestants. I’m going to be so sad to see them gradually eliminated.

On that note: Brianna has become the most recent competitor to be eliminated from the competition. I can’t say I’m all that sad to see her go. She was clearly a phenomenal cook, but she lacked the personality to be a star. And, to be honest, she kind of scared the crap out of me. I had a feeling that her number was up this week, so the decision didn’t come as a surprise in the least. What I was really surprised about this week was Arti’s poor performance and, consequently, placement in the bottom two. You knew she wouldn’t be eliminated, but, as the competition nears a close, no one is safe any more. She’s really going to have to step it up and regain her confidence in order to be safe next week. I wish her well.

But Arti wasn’t this week’s biggest surprise–that honor goes to Brad and his unusually stellar performance. Brad is adorable. As I think I mentioned last week, he reminds me of a little puppy dog, something I mean to be a compliment. He’s sweet and I’ve really wanted to like him. But every time the camera turns on, he loses all his sparkle. Not the case this week! Brad really turned up the charm, starting with the camera challenge, where he pulled off his assignment to make Bachelorette Party food with humor and charisma. Then, at the star challenge, he really channelled Frank Sinatra, former owner of the Palm Springs estate where this week’s challenge took place, and charmed the guest judges and selection committee alike. He clearly has the culinary chops. If he keeps this up, he’s one to watch in this competition.

Bye, bye Brianna--Brianna becomes the latest contestant eliminated from Food Network's The Next Food Network Star (All photos courtesy of foodnetwork.com)

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Who is as obsessed with The Next Food Network Star as I am? Anybody? Anybody? Ok, so I’m well aware that this particular obsession of mine is one that isn’t shared by the masses. (Just as I am well aware that the logo above is from last season. I couldn’t find the current one in non-wallpaper form.) But I do know that there are plenty of loyal Food Network devotees out there who claim the show as one of their guilty pleasures. And, with any luck, they might just find their way to this blog!

This week– I thought it was a good episode. Pretty exciting and some interpersonal drama, which, as NFNS is pretty focused and benign, doesn’t come around all that often. The drama, of course, is the ongoing Brianna-Serena clash, something that was really played up in this episode. I have to admit that I don’t care for Brianna all that much. I think her food looks amazing, but her personality rubs me the wrong way. Probably because I related much more to the slightly over-sensitive Serena. Neither woman is my top pick, but I like Serena a lot and find myself rooting for her. When I saw the two were paired for the lunch truck challenge, I smelled disaster on the horizon. Fortunately, neither food nor conflict ended up burning in Two Chix in a Truck–and the only smell was the sweet smell of success when this unlikely team came out on top. They also shared a lovely moment when they won, something that endeared me to Brianna a bit more.

I was also really surprised by Tom this week. He really hadn’t done much for me before. I liked his goofy, laid back personality, but I didn’t think of him as someone I would like to watch on a weekly basis. He had a great week this week, however, and really seems to be coming into his own in this competition. I hope he does well. Of course, I’m rooting for Arti, who I think is the complete star package, has a unique point of view, and, unlike season 4’s snippy Indian cook, Nipa, a warm and wonderful personality. But I would still be happy to see Tom hang on a bit longer.

But enough about all that. Let’s get to this weeks biggest reason to celebrate: Paul is gone!

I have passionately disliked Paul since the first or second episode. I don’t know if it’s the fact that he, despite having worked as a comedian, totally fails at being funny. Or if it’s the fact that his jokes often come out more-than-borderline sexist or racist. Or if it’s the fact that he just seems like a jerk. Whatever the reason, I’ve been carefully watching, hoping he will screw up badly enough to be eliminated.

When I saw Paul standing in the bottom two, alongside likeable puppy dog Brad, I knew his number was finally up. And I very calmly remarked to my boyfriend, who has been roped into being my viewing companion, that I was pleased to see him go. Er… if pumping both fists into the air and screaming, “YES–FINALLY!” can be construed as calmly remarking. Yeah.

Anyway, it’s peace out, Paul. You seem like a talented chef, but this gig just ain’t your thing.

Next Food Network Star says "so long!" to Paul Young. (Photo source: http://www.foodnetwork.com)

P.S: I hate to associate my favorite author with my least favorite contestant, but does anyone else think he’s the spitting image of David Sedaris? This picture doesn’t show it particularly well, but it’s been driving me absolutely nuts!

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