'The Next Food Network Star' premiere recap: Who are you rooting for? Season 6, Episode 1

Last night's season premiere of The Next Food Network Star went almost directly into the kitchen without passing go, and without wasting time on drawn-out introduction packages for this season's competitors. That's just fine by me, especially since the brief 'œhellos' were spent in that enviably awesome Hollywood Hills villa where our 12 contestants get to live.

Host Bobby Flay welcomed the show's new mentor Giada De Laurentiis (clad in a sensational purple dress), then told the dozen hopefuls they needed to fill in the 'œultimate culinary blank canvas' by preparing chicken and potatoes in just 45 minutes, then filming a 15-second spot explaining what their dishes said about them. The episode's elimination challenge followed a similar cook-and-film template, as the chefs were asked to film 15-second promo spots for their dream series, then prepare part of a six-course 'œCalifornia cuisine' meal for the judges and tart-tongued guest Wolfgang Puck. (Sample critique of half-cooked beignets from soon-to-be-eliminated Alexis: 'œMy wife would divorce me if I gave her that to eat!') Based on these initial outings, I'm going to break down my three early favorites, and the three contestants I'm rooting against:

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