I was certainly skeptical.
I’m just concerned is all. I mean, it’s okay to relegate mediocre FNS finalists like Artie and Sammich Man to 2 p.m. Sundays and hope they pull an Amy Finley. But Justin Warner was not your average FNS winner. He didn’t just have viewers and voters; the kid inspired an uprising, a following. And this tidal wave occurred because viewers really enjoyed watching the man cook. So your first venture out is to do one of those shows where he has a few bucks in his pocket and goes out to find the weirdest hush puppy?
I am not unentitled to such skepticism. Food Network does have a strange way of snatching shit from the jaws of victory. I mean, they let Chef Madison compete on Chopped, become the Chopped champion, have him compete on Iron Chef America, and see all that talent and don’t even put him on the TV? Look where he is now.
And the last winners to come out of Food Network Star seem to keep getting relegated to weird half-hour milquetoast instructional programs. So I personally have been a bit fretted about how Food Network handles the broadcast chef who shall now be known here upon first reference as Mighty Mighty Justin Warner.
I’m still fretting, but if last night’s broadcast of the excellent “Rebel Eats” is any indication of how Food Network intends to utilize Mighty Mighty Justin Warner’s talents, he’s in good hands.
I was concerned that the “road glutton” genre would not allow Warner to cook. But watch him schmooze into a greasy spoon’s kitchen and convince the line to prepare deep fried duck liver with jelly sandwiches—and watch the line gobble them down and swear by them. Wake up with Warner at 4 a.m. just to witness barbecue masters stoke their initial flames. See Warner work as a scuttler on a jellyfish boat and manage in the meantime to tell a poignant story of they fisherman he’s working with, who made a bold decision to change from shrimp to “jellies” in order to appeal to a strong overseas demand.
Watch him then prepare the stuff for said fisherman, who has never actually sampled the product.
The fact is that “Rebel Eats” is the best television Food Network has produced in years. Finally, a Food Network program that slides formulaic programming out the scuttle hole. It’s clear that there’s no throwing reigns on Mighty Mighty Justin Warner, but why the hell would you want to do that for anyway? I say Food Network’s best bet with this raging new talent of theirs is to let him do whatever he wants.
Catch “Rebel Eats.” Seriously.