Next Food Network Star 3 debuts tonight

The Next Food Network Star 3 debuts tonight at 9 p.m. ET on, you guessed it, the Food Network.

This season has 11 contestants competing for their own show on, surprise, The Food Network. The winners from the first season went on to star in Party Line with the Hearty Boys, while last season’s winner, Guy Fieri, is on both Guy’s Big Bite and a new series, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Like Design Star on HGTV, which aired long before Bravo’s Top Design, the series predates the Bravo version of this format, Top Chef. While I didn’t see the first two seasons, the first episode of the third season also seems to one-up Bravo’s show.

The Next Food Network Star stands apart because it isn’t as frantically edited, and the contestants frequently talk about what they’re preparing as they’re doing it. More significantly, the contestants are constantly judged on criteria besides their food, and that’s criteria that we can judge, too. The judges talk about the contestants’ stage presence, attitudes, and presentation, and that makes sense since they’re competing to be on television.

And amid all of that, there’s plenty of reality TV drama, from one contestant’s failure to immediately recognize that vegetarians probably don’t eat chicken stock to another’s refusal to point out the error. But I think that guy deserves his own show anyway: Cooking with Animal Products for Vegetarians.

The Next Food Network Star [Food Network]