Food Network Star 2011 Episode 4: Cougar Town and Paula Deen

Hello, I am Zin!

If the title does not scare you, nothing will!

Melissa D’Arabian is waiting for the contestants in the kitchen to introduce the Camera Challenge. Mary Beth interviews that Melissa is the quintessential Food Network success story, and that is who she wants to be. I think Mary Beth is sucking up; too bad, they skip over her in this part of the episode! They have to make a sophisticated bite-sized hors d’oeuvres for a guest arriving in 45 minutes; they will do the usual one minute camera presentation which has to include them eating the food and conveying how it tastes.. They must use one of many of the product placement items – cereals and crackers – spread on the table in little boxes on a tabletop little boxes made of ticky tack. They are assigned items so they do not have a choice. The surprise guest turns out to be Michael Simon.

Jyll finds Rice Krispies under her cloche. She is fine with hors d’oeuvres because she makes a lot of finger food. She is going to use the cereal as a binder in a crab cake with spicy chili aioli. Melissa loves the information about using cereal as binder – now she has a strategy! (oh come on). Michael says the spicy aioli counters the crab perfectly. In the Evaluation time Michael tells her she lights up the room and her dish was fantastic, so she is the winner! She says she has won two camera challenges in a row so she is a force to be reckoned with!
Chris will use his corn flakes to make chicken nugget lollipops! I think there are a lot of lollipops going around here, I am not sure that is a good thing. Anyway, he is chopping on his cutting board and calls out, “If this board’s a rockin’ don’t come knockin’” which he probably thinks is clever. He is, however, wrong. For his presentation he goes on about his childhood history with corn flakes and chicken nuggets. He gets down to five seconds and still has not taken a bite so he stuffs two chicken nugget lollipops in his mouth and waves goodbye. The scary thing is, this is actually an improvement for him. Bob says it is his best performance so far. In Evaluation Bob says he is full of personality and he took chicken nuggets to a new level. It is sad that chicken nuggets can be taken to a new level. But Chris comes in second for this challenge.
Penny gets flatbread crisps and she is happy with that. She crusts mahi mahi and serves with curry aioli. Melissa says everything was in the lower middle of the pack. Michael does not like it either. Bob says he was expecting warm and rich curry but it was sharp and sour and he reminds everyone she has made some wonderful dishes.
JustinD does not know what to do with his crispix cereal, and farts around for fifteen minutes thinking about breading but not getting any good ideas. He finally breads ham (breads ham?) and serves with Caribbean black bean puree. His presentation starts with his new POV, the Flavor Factory, highlighting flavors and textures. Would it not then be the Flavor and Texture Factory? He forgets to look at the time cards so he ends up ending early and stands around looking stupid for six seconds, which is a very long time on tv and in bull riding. Bob asks what he said, it tastes like human? JustinD is surprised to hear that – he interviews, “What am I, the Next Food Network Cannibal?” That was pretty funny, he should have said that! No, he said cumin, but no one tasted cumin. Bob points out he did not talk about flavor or texture. Michael says if you say a dish tastes like something you have to be sure the flavor actually is there. Oh, sure, like Giada never gushed over how delicious her pasta is when she forgot to salt it! JustinD feels like a failure. No, dear, the Cannibal line was the best one of the night!
Whitney has to use Pop Tarts so makes a parmesan cracker topped with goat cheese and pop tart. This sounds pretty stupid! She explains about the four taste buds (she leaves out umami which is probably too controversial since some physiologists say it does not exist as an actual taste) and how the bite includes crunch and creamy and sweet and salty. Melissa keeps glaring at Whitney through her presentation and finally says the pop tart is not the star of the dish. Bob thinks it is intelligent use of the product on a savory dish, even though the pop tart was not spotlighted. Uh oh. Calling someone intelligent on this show is not a good thing. But maybe that explains why Melissa was glaring. It is strange that what to me is the dumbest idea gets her labelled intelligent.
Vic gets shortbread pecan cookies and crusts a scallop with it. Michael likes his look (since I suppose they have similar looks) and says it is important for a man with cave man good looks to smile a lot
Susie uses Town House Flipsides as crumbs with ground pork and basil in some kind of lettuce wrap. Melissa points out that in her presentation she gets the name of the product wrong. This is the biggest sin on The Food Network, even worse than intelligence. Michael says it is the tastiest bite so far, but she got lost in the middle of her presentation.
Jeff has bran cereal. He is making a carrot ginger soup and a pork tenderloin dusted with bran. He makes some kind of joke about the obvious property of bran – his mission is to make the Iron Chef laugh – and boy do they let him have it! First Bob tells him not to make jokes about medicinal properties when the point is taste (see, product placement people do not pay for their products to be made fun of), and then Michael says he was ok until the joke. I am not sure if they cut the joke (he does not really say anything, just hints). Wow, they would not like Andrea from the first Top Chef, every meal she was talking about bowel movements, just ask Ted Allen. Jeff is in the bottom two. That is what happens when you invoke bowel function on The Food Network! But he is ok, it is his first real bomb, at least he thinks so.
JustinB gets cheeze-its which makes him very happy! He introduces himself as Big J from Atlanta which scares me! He makes mac and cheese and says, “Shiitake that is good” and I am not sure if the dish has shiitake mushrooms or if this is a new expression that is almost swearing. I think it is much too close to swearing for the Food Network. Bob loves the dish and says his culinary skill is not in question but his presentation is awful, he said very little of consequence. They ask what is in the dish and he goes on about Fontina cheese and drunken goat and bechamel which he never bothered to say on camera. Melissa tells him he is lovely when he smiles. But alas he is one of the bottom two. Hmm. Both of the bottom two were a little off color, I think others should pay attention! Funny is good as long as it is little kids with curly hair, not bowels and shiitake.

The STAR Challenge: They will cook lunch for the cast and crew of Cougar Town. Penny loves Cougar town, “being a cougar myself I relate.” Most people do not brag about such things. I do not think this is being strong or empowered, I think it is being flashy and cheap and obnoxious. It is one thing to accept yourself and another to flaunt your tawdry side. They will work in pairs (one trio) for different types of workers, Cast, Art, Vanities, Crew, and Writers. Paula Deen is the extra annoyance. She counsels the cooks not to edit themselves, that is what the editing room floor is for. Paula, you have not seen these people. Some of them need a lot of editing.

Mary Beth and Penny will cook for the Crew. They are advised to make something hearty for people who drag things around. Mary Beth interviews she is worried about working with Penny since she does not trust her. Penny is not so delicate in her interview: “Oh, no, I can not believe I am working with her. I am going to be nauseous.” I just read two short stories recently (“Ice” by Lily Tuck in PEN/O.Henry 2011, and “Familiar Music” by Walter Mosley in Tin House; this is a lot of nauseating for one weekend) that properly used “nauseated” instead of “nauseous” and I am sad to encounter the incorrect usage again. Orchid notes these two had a run-in over boxes in the last challenge. Mary Beth says she can work with anyone. They do some kissy kissy stuff that is over the top. I am getting a little nauseated myself because they are nauseous! Penny hates working with someone who is so square; Mary Beth is fake and phony (which she is, actually). Boy are they giving her the bitch edit, in spite of how supportive they are, I think she is going to piss someone off soon and she will be cast into eternal darkness. But then they show everyone in the house talking about Penny and she is sitting in the other room listening and it is pretty sad and mean of them to talk about her behind her back like that. And this is where she says she does not trust anyone and can not make friends, which seemed so out of place last week – I think they stuck it in the wrong week! Anyway, food: Mary Beth is making sweet and spicy glazed beef/pork meatloaf made with buttermilk and panko. Penny is making mac and cheese. At some point in the cooking time someone says something is burning and Penny assures everyone it is not her mac and cheese. She is wrong, however. No one is eating her mac and cheese, and the judges and cast say it tastes burned. They love the meat loaf Mary Beth made, and Paula wants to start using buttermilk and panko in her meat loaf. Penny is stunned that the mac and cheese tasted burned. At evaluation time Chris gets into the act (for no obvious reason) and she tells him, firmly but appropriately, to can it. That was kind of impressive actually. But how could she not tell her cheese was burned when everyone knew it – people walking by the table knew it, that is why they did not take any! I am puzzled, she has shown she can cook but she does not recognize burned cheese smell? They loved the meat loaf on the other hand, and Bob says she is like a suburban mom with a sideways sense of humor. I have liked Mary Beth from the start but the kissy kissy with Penny was over the top, then talking about her behind her back was mean. I can understand it, but it takes her out of the Wow category for me. Or what passes for a Wow category on Food Network Star. Still, I have a soft spot for writers.

Orchid and Chris will cook for the Writers, who are used to working eighteen hour days and eating takeout (tell me about it!), so they have to make something that does not look like it came in a little paper carton. Orchid says Chris means well but he has to keep it under control, so her mission is to make sure he is focused and they win. They have a code – Code Blue – and if she thinks Chris is going bonkers she will say Code Blue and that is his signal to calm down and think. Chris is making apple cider rosemary braised lamb shanks. The lamb is frozen in the store but he says it will thaw by the next day. You know it will still be frozen, right? And it is, but he cooks it anyway and it turns out rubbery. Orchid makes dirty rice and collard greens. When they do their table presentation, Orchid suddenly gets star struck and does not know what to say. Chris takes over. Nice teamwork! Giada says they need to know who Orchid is. But her dish was wonderful, even Paula, Queen of the South, loved the collard greens. Giada did not like the lamb shank because it was like bubble gum – I do not know if that means chewy or sweet. Paula wanted it more savory. Bobby says at least he did not do anything ridiculous. When that is what people say about you, is that really a good thing? Paula loves Orchid and her sweet Southern personality. I still do not get the Orchid love. She is ok but I do not see the magic they are always talking about.

Jyll and Vic are assigned “the Vanities” meaning hair and make up artists, who are commonly vegetarian, so they will make Vegetarian dishes. I think they made that up, maybe it is different in Hollywood but I do not know any hairdressers who are vegetarian! As it happens Vic has his father the hairdresser and whether he is a vegetarian or not is not disclosed, but Vic does think vegetarians get robbed so he is going to make roasted veggies and baked potato (I think he said potato, maybe it was penne) with pistachio pesto. Jyll makes a salad with pumpkin seed hummus. Bob calls it a vegetarian nightmare, just lettuce. Bobby thought Vic did well with food, especially the pistachio pesto. Bob says he is moving up in the pack. Paula thinks Jyll is polished but is not someone she would want to watch.

Whitney, JustinD, and Susie will serve dishes designed for the Cast, and are advised to keep it nice and light. Whitney wants to make a Mediterranean roasted vegetable platter (roasted carrots, pickled green beans, and other things) that uses many different veggies and a variety of techniques. Susie wants to use quinoa. Whitney is worried because Justin can get spacey. JustinD goes to the warehouse store to get bulk supplies, and Susie tells him, both in person in the kitchen and over the phone, she needs ten boxes of quinoa. He hears two, not ten. They are feeding 150 people, so Susie has to redesign her chicken and quinoa stuffed peppers. JustinD is looking for five ingredients for his dish: fennel, endive, and raddichio, for example, but he can not find them. He is lost. JustinD is having a terrible week. I think JustinD needs some Prozac. He makes poached salmon salad with celery and red cabbage. It is not the dish he wants to make but he has to make something. All anyone remembered about JustinD was his glasses. Ouch. At evaluation Bob asks Justin what is wrong, and he says he dropped out of high school and is insecure and emotional, and Bobby says he too dropped out of school, in ninth grade (that is nice of him to tell him that on camera) but here those who do, do, and those who do not, go home. That is profound for someone who dropped out in ninth grade. Giada tells Susie that the actress licked her plate it was so good. The Mediterranean platter Whitney made felt like a snack (hey, they told them to keep it light!), and her presentation is cool and precise but misses magic. Paula calls Susie a spitfire. She says Whitney is sweet but needs some sparkle. Food Network people think unless there are sparklers hanging out of your ears you need more sparkle.

Jeff and JustinB cook for the Art Department. Jeff plans thai basil chicken lettuce cups, which will appeal to art people with green lettuce and red bell peppers, but he can not find ground chicken or turkey, so he gets tofu! JustinB groans. Not tofu! But Jeff thinks by being outrageous he will either die or rise to the top. He will cook the tofu to dry it out, which sounds odd to me, but I have never cooked with tofu and only eat it under extreme duress. JustinB makes seared tuna over couscous and says it is important everyone take everything together in one bite because couscous has no flavor. Well, that is why you cook it with seasoning and broth and spices and minced veggies and interesting things, right? You can not order your customers to eat a certain way! Jeff sells the hell out of his tofu dish – it has ancient spices! It has delicious things in it! – and it turns out to be very good which surprises everyone especially Paula Deen! Jeff does a presentation that is very funny – trust a big Italian from Chicago to make tofu! Bob likes the presentation. The tuna does not go over well, it is very bland, though Justin serves white balsamic tableside. Bobby wants to like him but there is an awkwardness to him that makes everyone uncomfortable. He was like a waiter reciting the special of the day, and they are disappointed because when the camera is not on him he has personality. Both Justins are having a bad week.

There is a weird interstitial (they are copying every aspect of Top Chef, yes?) where Chris finds a raccoon in the back yard and chases it with a broom, and while he is focused on the raccoon, Vic throws a pool float at his back and scares him. I think I have become very old.

About this point I begin to realize that the cable TV directory thing lied when it said this was an hour episode. They have not gone before the Inquisition Board yet! Some of the comments I have put in above have not happened yet! It is another hour and a half show! Do they not realize people make plans? I will have to see the Glee project another time! I think people who use recorders are going to really be mad because I guess that means they did not get one third of the show. Good move, Food Network! Or Time Warner Cable, whichever screwed up.

The judges pick a winner from each team: Jeff, Orchid, Mary Beth, Susie, Vic. That means JustinB, JustinD, Chris, Penny, Whitney, and Jyll are at risk. They talk about them and draw it out for maximum suspense (not!) and finally JustinB is out. He is very surprised. He looks surprised. He says he is surprised. I am not surprised. If he was improving in his camera appearance his food could keep him around for a while but he has not, he is as bad as in the beginning.

Next week it looks like Guy Fieri will be celebrating the Fourth of July with them. Oh goody.

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4 responses to “Food Network Star 2011 Episode 4: Cougar Town and Paula Deen

  1. ““Oh, no, I can not believe I am working with her. I am going to be nauseous.” I just read two short stories recently that properly used “nauseated” instead of “nauseous” and I am sad to encounter the incorrect usage again. ”

    I think I love you. I have rarely, if ever, encountered the correct use of nauseated/nauseous/nauseating.

    Also – why didn’t Penny taste her mac and cheese before serving it?

  2. Welcome to the Grammar Geeks!

    I do not know why Penny did not taste her dish! She is a good cook, for her to fail so much – first to burn, then not to smell it when everyone in five miles of the stuff, in the kitchen and on site, could, and finally not to taste – is inexplicable! Maybe she did not have enough product to make more so she tried to bluff her way through?

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