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An Early Taste: Teddy Folkman on the Food Network

Teddy Folkman, ready to cook. (Food Network)

Every season, “The Next Food Network Star” seems to try to be more like the category leader, “Top Chef” – that is, less earnest and, well, bitchier. This season’s preview plays up the conflict from the outset by showing blood (or at least a bruise), sweat and tears. “I’m not really good playing with others.” “He’s lying through his teeth!” “That’s questioning my integrity!”

The season doesn't kick off until June 7, but since I just got the press preview tape, I can't help but share. The episode begins with the obligatory meeting of the cheftestants, and the stereotyping is off and running. After introducing herself as “your true island girl” because her mother is Trinidadian and her father is Jamaican, Jamika Pessoa of Atlanta says, “The first person I see is Jen, and I immediately think, ‘Barbie!’”

There’s the dyed and pierced Michael Proietti (“The Food Network needs to pizzazz it up a bit, honey”); faux-hawked Eddie Gilbert (“You can’t really keep a tiger in its cage if it doesn’t want to be caged”), hug-obsessed mom Melissa d’Arabian (“I’m the ultimate home cook”), and more. But for the local crowd, all eyes will be on hometown favorite Teddy Folkman, chef-owner of Granville Moore’s, who last year beat Food Network star Bobby Flay (one of the judges of “TNFNS”) in a “Throwdown” over moules frites.

Only those who know Folkman well can say whether this is creative editing or not, but unfortunately he appears to be cast, at least at the beginning of Episode One, as The Arrogant One, in the mold of Stephen Asprinio from the first season of "Top Chef." Folkman’s introduction to the camera: “No matter what I set forth for myself, I succeed. When I first started cooking I wanted to be the best darn line cook I could. I now own my own restaurant. My next goal is to be the next Food Network star.”

Folkman, 33, who reminds me of a young Ray Liotta, comes across as more likable in this profile video posted on the network’s Web site, so hopefully it's a temporary condition.

Episode One, titled “Sweet Sixteen,” involves organizing the cheftestants into two teams to make dishes for a party to celebrate the network’s anniversary, attended by Giada De Laurentiis, Duff Goldman, Anne Burrell, Alton Brown, Ted Allen and the like. I don’t want to spoil anything (and couldn’t disclose the outcome if I wanted to, because the Food Network cuts off the preview tape before the judges announce anything). But you know what happens eventually to the arrogant ones in reality shows, right? They get their comeuppance. Usually. Except for the times they don’t, and win. (Evidence: Hung Huynh.)

Anyway, Folkman runs into his share of difficulties – I can’t imagine he will ever make potato gratin exactly that same way again – but whether he overcomes them remains to be seen. If the Ray Liotta resemblance is more than physical, the other cheftestants should probably worry. Then again, stereotypical reality-show competitiveness might have jumped the shark. Another hometown favorite, Carla Hall, came thisclose to winning "Top Chef," remember? And she did it all with love.

I'll interview Teddy when we get closer to the premiere date. What do you want me to ask him?

-- Joe Yonan

By Joe Yonan  |  May 12, 2009; 7:30 AM ET
Categories:  Television  | Tags: Food Network, Joe Yonan, television  
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