Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) Episode 11: Final

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Hello I am Zin and this is finally over!

It is the boring hour they fill with clips designed to show everyone how nasty their friends were behind their backs! People skype in with very boring questions and get even more boring answers! And everyone looks a little bit different. Especially Nikki because she is six months pregnant! The series was filmed earlier than I thought unless she was pregnant at the time.

We find out nobody in the cast thinks Rodney makes any sense either. We find out Danushka (remember Danushka, the “I am a Model!” Bored Chef?) does not know what a dragonfruit is, but it turns out she is a lot funnier when I am not worried she will be around forever! Viet, dressed as a leprechaun, finds a way to work in another reference to beating Bobby Flay in ICA! Alton and Giada do their brother-sister-bickering act! Susie looks overinflated in a blouse borrowed from a Victorian-age kindergartener!

The part that was worth the whole thing though was to find out Chris used to annoy the hell out of Rodney by singing or whistling while standing behind him! A proven way to get rid of Rodney: whistle!

Damaris wins. Everybody hugs.

I tried to watch Cutthroat Kitchen but I remember Frank from when he (seriously) threatened Marcel “I will beat you so bad your own mother will not recognize you” because Marcel moved his shaving kit off the kitchen counter when they had to cook in their apartment kitchen. And I just can not take any more cruelty-for-the-sake-of-cruelty right now. If video games desensitize kids to violence, do not “mean” shows do the same thing for meanness? I love you Alton but I just can not!

Thank you! See you next year!

Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) Episode 10: Network Pitch

Hello I am Zin and it is time to pitch!

There are no cooking challenges today! First they meet with Bobby, Giada, and Alton to fine-tune their ideas for a show. Then they do their perfected pitches to Susie and Tush and one of them gets sent home. Then the three that survive meet with Surprise Guest Mentor Guy Fieri at a site specific to their show concept and film a pilot. We see the pilot (or at least the parts they want us to see) and then the Viewers Like You (no that is PBS… the viewers nothing like you, then) vote up to 10 times a day until 9am Wednesday August 9th. I am not going to vote because I do not really care who wins. I will watch one or maybe two of whatever the new show is just to see how closely it resembles what they said it would be and that will be all I need.

Russell is excited because he is starting to peek – no, peak, I think. Damaris is nervous because the last time she was in front of Susie and Tush back in Ep. 5 she was drunk. Stacey has to figure out how to connect emotionally. Rodney is going to get confetti, roses, and a Food Network Sash around his chest. He seems to have confused this with Miss America! I am almost relieved that Nikki was spared this. Oh, shout-out to MoHub whose comments last week inspired me to make rice pilaf in honor of Nikki! Saturday I sautéed my rice mixture (brown, wild, white, and red though I do not understand red rice) and the usual veggies and my favorite tajine-like spice mix (cinnamon, ginger, cumin, allspice) then put in pine nuts and dried cranberries and and it was delicious! I added Canadian Bacon for Russell and faced south for Damaris (sorry, MoHub, I can not do Skynyrd) and said “Pie Style!” for Rodney because that is all Pie Style seems to be and made it in my Vintage Kitchen (and I am pretty Vintage myself) so I got the Final 5 in! I have a lot left over so I will be eating Sinful Pie Style Vintage South-facing rice pilaf for dinner for a few days! I hope rice pilaf freezes well!

Four Pitches and Three Pilots:

Stacey

Mentor Meeting:

She gives them two ways to do Vintage/Modern: first, she will go to restaurants doing the old stuff right, like burgers and French toast, and modernize it. Now, I wonder: why would you change something that is right? Her second idea is to go through old cookbooks for Grandma’s apple pie and update the recipes. Bobby does not think restaurants doing things right are going to be happy about someone coming in and modernizing. Hey that is what I said! Alton suggests combining the two ideas. I am not sure how you combine those two ideas but she is happy to find a way to get people to connect emotionally with food, which is certainly a Food Network phrase but a ridiculous idea since Americans already connect too emotionally with food, in NYC you can stop and frisk as long as you do not take away Giant Gulps! I think food may be the only thing we connect with these days!

Network Pitch

Stacey wants to show Susie and Tush she can connect emotionally so she starts with a teary recollection of how RI saved her restaurant! Susie and Tush feel sad! She wants help other people whose “dishes have fallen into disrepair” (which of course makes no sense, recipes do not fall into disrepair they go out of style, and if it is your dishes in disrepair, you need new plates) which is what they did in the last challenge, right? Susie and Tush are too depressed by her sad beginning to pay attention! It takes them a moment to grasp her idea. Susie finally thinks it is a natural idea for her to pursue. Giada guesses the tears were her attempt to give the human emotion they have been clamoring for. They all recognize it is a half-assed idea and even though it comes down to a supposedly narrow vote for the sake of drama with Alton casting the tie-breaker between her and Russell, Stacey is out. I am so surprised! I thought she was the Chosen One from the start but they wrote her off in the Mentor Meeting! That is why no one should ever listen to me! After all I thought it would be an X-chromosome final and it seems a couple of Y-chromosomes have worked their way in! Stacey goes back to the restaurant that clears $1 million a year. That is not a bad thing to go back to!

Russell

Mentor Meeting

His first idea is going to different restaurants and bringing them his culinary sins. The second is making a sinful dinner party menu. Alton points out he can not just show up and talk about sin, he has to do something! Russell will bring sin with him and give dishes a sinful twist like adding bacon and bourbon. This is what passes for a show on Food Network these days. I think they have written Russell off too.

Network Pitch

He is a Culinary Sin Artist! He revels in: Sugar, fat, salt, liquor, bacon, ice cream, offal! I was with you babe until you got to the offal. He will add bacon to vanilla ice cream to make it sinful. But wait he just said Ice Cream was already a sin… Never mind, Susie gets it and she likes him. She did not know why he was here before. Susie, he is there to get a show, what did you think, he was shopping for a lawnmower? Tush does not so much get it and sees a “tightness” to him (I do not want to contemplate that) but he likes the intriguing seven sins concept. Since he is marginally better than Stacey he makes a pilot.

“Guilty Pleasures”

He takes a metal briefcase loaded with his Seven Culinary Sins (I do not want to know how one puts offal in a briefcase, or ice cream for that matter) to an ice cream shop where they have cabernet sauvignon sorbet. The idea is he finds the guiltiest pleasure on the menu then makes his own guilty pleasure to top it. Does this make sense to anyone? Cabernet sauvignon sorbet sounds pretty good. I think he should say, “Well, you do not need me, bye!” But that is not going to happen, so he makes bourbon ice cream with bacon candy on top. He has a lot of trouble with scripted lines. He finally gets into it and has a good time being who he is, at least that is what he says. Sometimes he is very good on camera though like when he does little asides. Guy says he is very comfortable in the kitchen. That may be but it is a stupid concept and he can not talk.

Rodney

Mentor Meeting

He tells the mentors he will go to a restaurant, and make their signature dish Pie Style. Alton says, “Thank you. Second idea?” Because no kidding, right? He gives his second idea (call a musician and find out his favorite dish and then make it Pie Style, which is really the first idea in different clothes) but it does not matter because they are already planning the first idea. I wonder if they gave each of them, or at least Damaris and Rodney, their “idea” and then told them to think up another one because both of them had a “good” idea (in FN terms) and a terrible idea. Alton says you turn it into a dare with the restaurant saying “I bet you can not make pad thai pie!” The very thought of pad thai pie makes me sad. Throwdown Pie Style! Maybe that is why they want Rodney so bad, they already have the format set up. Rodney can talk for quite some time without saying anything at all: “Pie style is locked on, I am ready to roll.” Maybe that is why it does not matter that no one can understand him, because he is not really saying anything!

Network Pitch

He gets very cozy with the Network: “Well, Bob, Susie, my show is called Pie Style. So my idea for the show is, I can bake a pie out of anything, and we go to restaurants and take their signature dish and they challenge me to turn it into a pie. They will be like, ‘There is no way Rodney can make a pie out of this.’ Pie style is sweeping the nation!” Tush: “Pie style is Rodney style?” Yes! Tush thinks it is down to earth and comforting. But they do not automatically pick him, they let the mentors decide, and of course they are for him. Alton: “Rodney is just too fun to not give a shot.” Giada: “I would follow him anywhere.” I would not follow him anywhere myself, but I suppose it is a matter of opinion. Tush would rather take a chance on someone with a personality because they can figure out a show down the line if they have a star.

“Pie Style”

Guy Fieri loves Rodney! The two of them on my screen together give me a headache! But Guy does try to teach so I have to give him credit. Rachel Ray taught him “never burn tape” so just keep going no matter what (I thought tape was cheap but I guess not) and all about how to talk with your mouth full: You take a monster bite and “pack it away” in your cheek to talk, or you take a princess bite and talk over it! Either way you are still talking with your mouth full on national television! Is that ok now? Or is it just ok on Food Network where money > manners? Maybe this is why I find these guys so repugnant. And that is Pie Style: Talk with a mouthful of grilled cheese, and say “pie” every four seconds whether it makes sense or not. I am beginning to hate pie! Rodney: “The Pie Man don’t take no princess bites. I take prince bites, ’cause I’m the Prince of pie.” Sort of like the Sandwich King… I suddenly get the sinking feeling they want Rodney to win.

Eric Greenspan shows him his special Grilled Taleggio Cheese and Short Rib Sandwich on Raisin Bread with Apricot Caper puree. So Rodney turns it into a pie with a raisin walnut crust and the other stuff in there. Rodney is the sloppiest cook I have ever seen on television! I wish I had been there to see if he really knew what Taleggio cheese is or had a clue how to make short ribs. I do not think it matters because someone will be there to teach him how to cook. “I have rocked 40,000 people before but never had as much fun as today.” I have a confession to make: I like the concept of the show! Is that scary or what? But not with Rodney! If Bobby Flay did that show I would watch it the way I watch Throwdown: when I am waiting for something else and it is the only thing on. But I would rather just cut my toenails or roll pennies than watch Rodney.

Damaris

Mentor Meeting

The mentors look so bored when she talks about the History of the Modern South (I am so amused by history of modern anything I love it! But when you talk about the History of the American South you may want to be careful…) so she moves on to Idea #2: “When a guy cooks for me it melts me, so I want to take nerdy guys or beefy guys or, like, bros, help them cook a meal that will trap the girl” (which is getting scary close to date rape; if you accept a home-cooked meal from a gentleman will you now have it used against you in court as evidence that you wanted it?) and everyone screams “NO TRAPPING!” so it becomes “teach guys to cook to win her heart” (I am not sure that is the point). And by the way: SHE STOLE THAT! Andres was going to teach guys to cook! Back in Episode 2 you kicked him out because you said teaching guys to cook was insulting and he should do weight loss instead! Is teaching men to cook not insulting if they are using it in the service getting serviced? Did you want him to change his POV because you wanted a woman to do it? Because a man teaching a man to seduce with food is slimy but with a woman it is romantic? That is sneaky and mean and underhanded! /rant (I am supposed to use rant tags now to make rants easy to find though I do not know why). By the way, I now know what a “bro” is. Since my slang lags behind the times I was a little worried there for a while. I am still worried but not as much. Alton is thrilled to pieces because he started cooking in college to get dates. But he wants to know what her scenario has to do with Southern cooking and she talks about the recipes her grandmother had. Bobby stops her. “What is the best food in the world?” “Southern Cooking,” says Damaris on cue. “Southern food is the food of love…I can show you how to make a pecan pie that will make a girl cry.”

Network Pitch

“Eat Date Love” – Tush did not know Southern food is the food of love but when she says it he believes her! He asks if she has used this technique herself. “I have caught and released a lot of gentlemen,” she says, and they are so happy! I am still angry! They got rid of Andre because of his POV but they love it when the flirtatious Southern girl steals it! I think Andres should complain! In a few years Damaris will be ready to lick Robert Irvine’s belly and have her face on every ham in the supermarket! Tush is excited (and he really is; yes, that is Tush excited!) because he has no idea what she is going to do next and wants to be along on the ride. She is the only one they both specifically pick (they have the mentors pick the other two) so I think it is a foregone conclusion that Damaris is the winner. I think they are deliberately putting her up against two guys who can not talk so she is sure to win!

“Eat Date Love”

She films her intro about southern food as the food of love and Guy is so excited he runs over yelling “Money, Money, Money!” while high-fiving her hand hard enough to break it. “Medic!” she cries. Some actor named Josh comes in and pretends to need help seducing his foodie girlfriend. Damaris suggests peppererd pork loin and a sweet potato biscuit with apple butter mustard. What does that have to do with Josh or anything at all? Nothing, but who cares. She keeps forgetting to look at the camera and Guy keeps teaching her how to turn from Josh to camera to explain things because she can never forget that Josh is just a prop for her act! She does look gorgeous I have to say! And she is very comfortable on camera. She slips in a couple of sly puns like “use a cup” and some “adorable” Rachel-esque catch phrases like “you do not want humpy biscuits” and I think the hole in their Hypersexual Southern Queen department has been filled!

Final observations:

I thought this would be an X-chromosome final three but it seems it is more of a Y-chromosome season! The Seven Culinary Sins probably appeal more to men than women (women would have things like chocolate and bread) but I think they have made it clear he will not win no matter what the votes say. Damaris is doing soft-core porn which is normally more for women but with Damaris it is a different matter. I think women will like her, but with men she is going to be hotter than Giada (I wonder if that is why Giada loves Rodney so much)! Rodney appeals to “bros” now that I know what the term means. I think no matter what they are going to find a way to put him on TV. They may take a while to whip him into shape but I am pretty sure he is coming to a TV screen near you.

Next Week

We find out if the Food Network wants more Guy Fieri, more Paula Deen, or both!

Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) Episode 9: Menu Impossible

Illuminated manuscript

Hello I am Zin and the theme of the day is: Stacey vs Nikki, a Culinary Joust! Oh the stated theme is “A Food Network Star is a Culinary Problem Solver” but that is just the pretense for the Grand Battle that awaits! It starts from the first moment as they are in separate cars and size each other up and ends with of course tears and defeat.

Product Placement Challenge:

For the little challenge in the beginning they have to take product placement cereals and make a dish with them. They are assigned either breakfast, lunch or dinner. Then they give a one-minute presentation that explains a creative way the cereal was used, and includes a culinary tip.

Stacey is a working mom so this is what she does! She can make a gourmet dinner from any pantry item as long as your idea of “gourmet dinner” includes a cereal crust on chicken. Alton warns her before her presentation that she has intimacy issues which is a terrible thing to say to someone about to go on camera! She did so badly last week she wants to do a really good job this week. She is not trying to keep people at bay! I thought her presentation was pretty much the same as she always does but Alton says she was more at ease. These are not the droids you are looking for. He tastes her dish and says “If you are a mom cooking for kids this is a sweet spot” which I think means a grownup would not touch it, right? Except somehow Stacey Wins. Shrug. She get an advantage for the main challenge. Nikki looks sad.

Russell makes his dinner with grilled ribeye, Provençal salad, and potatoes crusted with popcorn chip sea salt. I was wondering what “popcorn chip sea salt” is and I find out it is an actual thing, or at least sea salt flavor popcorn chips are an actual thing. Does that mean he just put them on the plate? That does not sound like a solution to any kind of problem other than the problem of what am I supposed to do with cereal for dinner. Alton tells him for his presentation his only goal is to finish as strong as he starts. I do not know what that means. He starts with “At home you want something simple.” No, that is what the Food Network thinks people want. I think he runs out of time but I am not sure, he just stops talking when they say Time. I do not think he started as strong as he finished but all Alton says is he needs to make more “eye love” with the camera. Eye love? You want eye love? I will give you eye love, Steve Almond style (warning, that story is not only rated R++, it is also very, very weird, and pretty disgusting but you want eye love, that is what you get). The point Alton was making before I got carried away (I never miss an opportunity to include a good eye love story) is that he keeps looking to the side when he is talking and it appears he is looking to someone else for an answer. Alton likes his dish.

Nikki watches Chopped and she is not going to just sprinkle the cereal on the salad to make her lunch like they do on Chopped (though they usually get yelled at for it and often go home)! She is going to make cereal croutons! Alton tells her to be sure to show depth of authority by answering the question “Why?” in her presentation. But she has bigger problems than Why because she burns the croutons! She was deep-frying them and either the oil was too hot or she forgot to take them out so they are burned to cinders! Alton holds one up with tongs and mugs to the camera, “Do not do this at home!” Now she has only two minutes so she ends up going Chopped style after all and sprinkling cereal on salad! She is nervous about her presentation because she had a good speech about the croutons but this is a crappy dish and she is not sure what to say. She talks about using the little bit of cereal at the end of the bag which sounds like a terrific thing to say! She says the acidic dressing is good to balance out the sweetness and that sounds good too! Alton tells her she did not say where the sweetness was coming from. The cereal right? He is really reaching for a reason to criticize her! He liked her salad a lot. It was a salad.

Rodney does a Pie Style Breakfast! More popcorn chips! See I learned something from Food Network! They have expanded my knowledge of junk food! He wants to make it hearty not heavy so he makes a popcorn chip crust pie with ham, egg, canned crab (ewwwww… that shows a lack of culinary authority right there) and cheddar cheese sauce. That phrase “not heavy,” Rodney: I do not think it means what you think it means. Alton warns him to include useful information about why. Why what? Why he is still on this show when he should have been sent home in week 3! Alton says he needs to move from Entertainment to Authority. When he finishes Damaris in the back says “Well Done.” Afterwards Alton asks him what his tip was. “Catfish and fried chicken,” he says. How is that a tip? But it turns out it does not matter because he did not say it anyway. He does not even realize he did not say it until Alton assures him he did not.

Damaris is going to make cereal-crusted French toast for breakfast! Alton reminds her to teach when she gives her presentation. He worries that she does not have stale bread! Alton seems to think everyone soaks French Toast bread in egg overnight but that is crazy. I thought she did very well, but Alton says “When you give answers, it is nice to tell us what the problems were.” See, she was playing Food Network Star Jeopardy! When Alton goes to taste her dish she warns him not to taste it which sounds really scary but he thinks it is good.

Culinary Impossible challenge:

They meet Alton, Giada and Robert Irvine at a restaurant; Bobby Flay has the night off. Stacey tells her Restaurant Impossible story. I have not seen that show but it is strange that her restaurant was so bad off they needed Robert Irvine to fix it and now she is a potential Food Network Star. The restaurant has a menu that needs updating, so to further test their skills as culinary problem solvers, they each get to reformulate one dish. Since Stacey won the pantry challenge she gets to assign all the dishes. Three people from the restaurant are there to tell them what the problem is with each dish and to join the judges in tasting and will give their impressions of the presentations the contestants give.

Rodney sneers at Chicken Cacciatore with pasta! It is old school, it is not pie and it is not seasoned well but mostly it is not pie and he will change that. He will make Chicken Cacciatore Pie! He makes some chicken in tomato sauce and puts it in a pie crust then deep fries that but it does not seal well and the tomato sauce leaks out. He makes more but they are very pale! It looks barely cooked. When he comes out the lady from the restaurant looks him up and down, takes in the Pie Style belly he shoves in her face and the flour on his shirt and the tattoos… “Oh…” she says. Next to the guy who sassed Bobby Flay it is my favorite FNS moment ever! You can find it at about minute 26 on the video. I try not to make fun of physicality but I have to make an exception in this case because the look she gives him is priceless! He does his shtick for the judges and the restaurant people and tells them all about Pie Wave, Pie Style and Contagion! Robert asks what Pie Style is and I held my breath because I thought we would get an answer but no we get the usual words without meaning: “Pie Style is a Way of Life.” The restaurant guy thinks it is a good concept but will not work for his restaurant. Alton likes dough but not raw. I confess: I have been known to eat raw pie dough. Go ahead, laugh. They used to laugh at me for eating raw cookie dough until everyone started eating it that way. You sprinkle a little salt and cinnamon sugar on raw pie dough and it is pretty good! But you can not serve it in a restaurant as dinner especially with chicken cacciatore inside.

Damaris has to make tournedos of beef and mashed potatoes. She does not like steak so she is not thrilled. The restaurant people say the problem is the toothpicks holding the mushrooms on the top of the steak are tacky. Why do they not take them off? I do not understand! It is not like it is a requirement! And sometimes the bacon that wraps the tournedos is overcooked or undercooked. Hey! That is an easy fix! Cook it properly! Also they use half instant mashed potatoes and half fresh which is again puzzling. You need expert help to tell you not to use instant potatoes? What is wrong with you people that you can not figure that out? If that is the level of expertise expected from these people it is a pretty low bar. Damaris turns the tournedos into beef filets which seems like a completely different dish, not a reworked dish. Does the restaurant not have beef filet on the menu already? If not it is probably because it is too expensive. She replaces the button mushrooms (sneer… “I did not know they still grew button mushrooms”) with shiitakes. Again they are twice as expensive so she has now tripled the price of this dish! Tip of the day: Use more expensive ingredients! She steams some broccoli and makes garlic smashed potatoes. She has a hard time with the potatoes because the skins do not break down and it gets gritty and thick. She is shoving it through a sieve which may be why it is thick! I love gluey mashed potatoes (I have weird tastes) but that means I know that the more you handle, stir, whip, beat, and sieve potatoes the glueier they get. She finally gets a food mill which is what she should have used in the first place. No what she should have done is peeled the potatoes if she did not want peel in them! She gives her presentation and Robert asks where she is from. “New York,” she says with a perfectly straight face. Then she laughs and says she I kidding. That was pretty good! She faked me out! I though wow she moved to New York? Alton asks how they liked her and they say she is a sweetheart. Robert does not particularly like her food though. Alton agrees it is more simple than it should be.

Stacey takes crab stuffed halibut with baked potato as the dish she will remake. The restaurant people say the problem is that it looks like an omelet instead of seafood. I think it takes a lot of talent to make fish look like an omelet. This is what Stacey does, she updates vintage food. She makes a crab cake halibut roulade with green beans and white truffle potato. She tells them she liked the “crab cake fixings” so she just went with that. She uses canned crab too. They use canned crab because nobody can taste the food anyway and what do you think this is, Top Chef? And canned crab can get a product placement fee but real crab can not. And these people may not know what to do with real crab. America’s Test Kitchen just did a very good taste test on crab and explained what the problem is. But this is not America’s Test Kitchen is it. The restaurant people think she is intelligent and speaks well but seems fake. Everyone says that but I do not get it! Alton agrees she is not connecting. They also think the dish is too dry. Stacey worries because this is her challenge and it would destroy her if she were went home on this one. It does not sound good though.

Nikki hates salmon and Stacey knows it so of course she assigns Nikki the salmon with onion pepper relish and rice pilaf. The assignment is such a big deal they actually put a commercial break in between “I’ll assign this to…” so everyone can wonder if she is really going to screw Nikki over. Everyone hates Stacey already (really, TWoP is brutal on her for reasons I do not understand) and this is not going to help. The restaurant people say the issue is dryness (again, they should not overcook it so badly!) and it is not really rice pilaf (so why do they call it that? I am so confused by these people I could scream!). She focuses on the broccoli cake and a “vibrant” rice pilaf that looks like the rice rings they used to make in the 60s. Her “meat on the side” thing which is beginning to sound like “make your usual meal but serve less of the meat.” The restaurant guy asks her “Is this what you call a rice pilaf?” She defines pilaf as “rice with stuff in it.” That is true as far as it goes but pilaf like risotto is a technique. In fact they are similar techniques except the risotto is stirred to create a creamy starch sauce where the pilaf is simply baked. I thought it had orzo in it but I guess that is just the Rice-a-Roni version! Hey do not laugh I love Rice-a-Roni! Nikki interviews “There are plenty of people out there who do not know what makes a pilaf” but the problem is, as a Food Network Star she is supposed to teach them! Apparently there are some diners who know exactly what a pilaf is either that or producers told them to say “This is a plate of rice.” I strongly suspect the latter. Apparently it is Dump Nikki day and they will do what they must to do it. Backstage she asks Damaris the teacher (I keep forgetting Damaris teaches at a culinary school) what a pilaf is and Damaris tells her the rice is sautéed before which is pretty much the jist but she should have asked before cooking not after. At judging they really let her have it. Alton thinks her body language looks like she is apologizing (he says while scolding her for not knowing the definition of pilaf… can Rodney define a pilaf?).

Russell has to fix the dry feta-stuffed chicken with rice pilaf (uh oh more pilaf!). He wants to prove he is not just bacon and bourbon (wait… that is your shtick!) so he focuses on a more health-conscious dish. What? He gives it a safe, comfortable amendment. Huh? He makes spinach-wrapped chicken poached in onion vermouth broth with lemon risotto. Now risotto is something a lot of Top Chef people go home for so I am surprised no one comments on it. Robert asks why he should be the new Star and he says “I am the old dog with new tricks” which is a good line and this is all about good lines. Alton is surprised by the dish! In a good way!

Judgment:

They have to pick the four people they will turn over to The Network (that is Susie and Tush) next week so they think in terms of who could actually be successful on a show.

Russell had the most successful dish so he is safe! Alton tells him he has shown real growth throughout the competition.

Damaris made a dish they could get anywhere. It lacked her Southern mark (wait… Russell deliberately made a dish that lacked his Sin mark and he won! I love the inconsistency as they trip all over themselves figuring out how to explain the decisions that were actually made a long time ago). Her presentation is memorable; she is comfortable; now she has to turn up the volume. You are perfect now change! This was filmed before Paula Deen self-destructed and anyway you can never have too many Paula Deens in your lineup (has anyone asked Damaris if she has ever used the n-word or planned a plantation wedding complete with well-dressed slaves? Maybe that should become part of the casting process for Southern chefs to avoid potential problems down the road because Damaris can not use age as an excuse) so Damaris is Safe!

Rodney is outgoing and nuts and it worked for Guy Fieri so why not get another one since Guy Fieri suddenly wants to direct (he will direct the test pilots next week). Robert says the concept for his dish was good but the execution was bad. Everyone around the table said “Star.” That is because Alton said, “Hey, everyone, say “Star!” and they did. During the private negotiations Alton points out that his shtick is Pie and pie is hard in an hour which is what all these challenges have been. Giada has seen glimmers of cooking chops but he has been inconsistent. Add in the hat and the shtick and it is good enough: Rodney is Safe!

Stacey is still guarded but her presentation was good. Robert tells her people want to know who she is. I am not in the slightest interested in who Christopher Kimball is or Jack Bishop or Ming Tsai or any of the PBS cooking people and I watch them all the time. No one ever knew Julia Child was a spy in China until long after she stopped making regular episodes. I do not even find Stacey particularly guarded. But that is how they are selling her. Privately Giada says as a package she has all the elements she is just missing the connection. Still Stacey is Safe.

Which leaves Nikki. Alton says she does not know what a pilaf is and she says I do now but it is too late she did not know yesterday when she made rice with stuff in it. Alton thinks her ability with food outstretches her ability to explain what she is doing and she does not know enough to teach. Robert thinks she is the one who stands out least. Alton worries about her authority but she has a good POV. This is the problem: she does not wear a silly hat or say “Pie Style” and act like a fool so Nikki is Out.

If they thought she knew what a pilaf was, it would have been something else. This was decided long ago I am sure of it. She says, “With a name like Nikki Dinki you are not easily forgotten.” Oliver North is getting rich selling gold; Mark Sanford came back from the Appalachian Trail; Eliot Spitzer is running for office. You would be surprised what people forget.

Backstage they say goodbye and everyone is weepy as Nikki leaves. Then Rodney says “You know, I am sad and all, but guess what, this is pretty awesome – Final Four!” and everyone cheers up and parties. You would be surprised how fast people forget.

Next week:

The four do a pitch meeting with Susie and Tush and then three of them make pilots with Guy Fieri who has suddenly decided what he really wants to do is direct.

Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) Episode 8: Food Stories from the Road

Madwit Shticks

Hello I am Zin! It is time for the Salvated Star to return!

Did you forget all about that? Because I did! I do not spend lot of time between weeks wondering about this show, but still, I am surprised I did not remember when I remembered it was on tonight. Lovely returns! That is not much of a surprise is it. Russell is worried because she is going to bring a whole new set of skills they may not know about. I think he forgot she was on the show a few weeks ago!

Little Challenge:

For the first challenge this week, Giada wants Italian food. Of course she does! And they had better pronounce everything right! Yes I know her pronunciation of “spaghetti” makes a lot of people crazy but I am not Italian and she is so I must defer! They will all cook a dish and then present it in a way that makes the judges want to eat it. Did they not do this last week? As it turns out, no they did not! After the cooking when everyone has their little stories in mind (except Stacey who is trying to seem less rehearsed) they present in pairs and switch dishes so everyone is tasting and presenting an unfamiliar dish! Everyone knows something is up when they send everyone but the first two people backstage!

In this case the judges do not taste the food so it does not matter whether it is good or not, what is being judged is their ability to describe. I suppose someone could say a dish tastes terrible but that would probably not make the judges want to eat it so they will at least talk about how it should taste!

Stacey has been rehearsing being spontaneous and now she gets to Be Spontaneous Live! She does not know if she can handle Spontaneous Spontaneity! Rodney tells her his dish is called “Late Night in Little Italy” and he gives a mini-presentation just telling her the name but tells her nothing about the ingredients. I do not think he is being cagey I just think he does not understand he is supposed to tell her what the dish actually is which is clams, shrimp and oysters in tomato sauce over pasta. That is a pretty cool dish for Rodney! If it tastes anything like it sounds it might be a pretty good meal! But Stacey seems to actually know something about food! She talks about garlic and basil and recognizes pecorino romano (which I think is pretty impressive) and starts to go into how it is like eating pasta with her kids but time is up! The time went fast!

Lovely presents the linguini with meat sauce that Damaris made. “When you think about tomatoes you think about acidity…” and she gets the Bolognese from “meat sauce.” It is a good start and she does well except she does a lot of “nice” and wonderful” and ends with “Join me now in this mouthwatering journey” which is exactly the kind of canned speech they love but also the kind of canned speech they sent her home for. This is a tough gig!

Rodney has had a lot of trouble adding to his vocabulary but he has been studying like crazy to go beyond “suckah” and “awesome” and it is going to be awesome, suckah! has to present the saltimbocca with brown butter pasta Stacey made and it seems he has no idea what saltimbocca is or brown butter for that matter. He says it is sweet, with a nice sweetness and nice sweet sugary ham. Either Stacey made a dessert saltimbocca, or Rodney does not know any other descriptive words. The food authority thing is not going well for Rodney. Maybe that is why they paired them because they figured Stacey would make something complicated. Now that is Pie Style!

Damaris had a great story about her dish but now she has to talk about mascarpone fettucine alfredo with lemon shrimp that Lovely made and she does not have a story about that! See that is what FN does they get them all tied up trying to think of stories instead of cooking or even talking! All she has to do is use the 'Heart Breaks in 2' by buttersweet on flickrsame story because nobody will know the difference but I guess she is not used to lying! If she gets a FN show she will learn! She stalls for time by asking the judges if she has anything in her teeth. She tells a very long story about the first time she got her heart broken and she laid on the couch and cried and after a week her brother came by with some pasta and it was warm and creamy and felt like a hug TIME! Wait: what is the food? I think the judges feel sorry for Damaris but I doubt they really want this food: Eat this pasta, it tastes really good after you have been crying for a week! She gives herself a 4 out of 10. I agree with that but I also think if she had said “shrimp” she would have won because that is how Food Network goes!

Russell has been discovering that even though he talks about food all the time it is different to talk about food on TV and to think about food from a Food Network perspective. Yes on FN it is more important to have stories than knowledge! He has decided to choose between Revolution and Sin and decides to keep Sinning. He gets to present the dish Nikki made. She tells him it is “Fire Island Burst Tomato Pasta” and that it is made with rosemary and pretty much everyone wants to taste it right then but she is not the one presenting! So Russell takes over and makes it sinful. He had to work hard at that because there was nothing sinful about it. Of course not she is Meat on the Side! That is why they paired them! He talks about being the Food Network Culinary Sin Bastard (no, no, it was Master, I think) and talks about basil and goat cheese and creaminess and bright lemon and garlic TIME! He did not do too badly, he got some good words in. Some bad words too. Except no he did not that was just what I heard.

Nikki present the veal sugo Russell made. She talks about ground veal and meaty but salty and sweet carrots with texture and how meat broth coats pasta TIME! She does pretty well but not great, she is reporting on what she tastes.

The judges think Nikki was the only one who made them hungry! I carburetoram a bit bewildered by that but I guess they wanted Nikki to win. Alton likes the sense of discovery she conveyed like they were eating it along with her and everyone else read a parts list which is only sexy if you are rebuilding a carburetor. Alton I do not know how to break it to you but there is nothing sexy about reading a parts list while rebuilding a carburetor. In fact that would be a good challenge for ANTM! See who can make it sexy! I do not think Nikki did more than read a parts list but I do not think she did any worse than anyone else either. The point is Nikki wins.

Main Challenge:

They break into two teams of three to write, direct, and produce a field story about a selected location. Rodney is happy because talking to people about food is what he does! Rodney you told us you play guitar and sing and make amazing pie jars too! I am not sure we can believe you any more! They will be evaluated by the judges and by some Hollywood reporters. Or people from the Hollywood Reporter, I am not sure. Because Nikki won she gets to pick her team and she goes with the girls she knows. Also all the people who are likely to win this competition. Rodney, Russell, and Lovely are a train wreck waiting to happen! “We have to win,” says Stacey, and Nikki realizes, oh, yes, if we lose one of us will go home! Now she regrets pulling all the strong players! “We… have…to… win,” repeats Stacey. She knows the game all right.

Donut Shop:

Strawberry DonutNikki, Damaris and Stacey go to a famous Donut Shop and talk to owner Jim about his signature Fresh Strawberry Donut. That is not just a fresh donut with strawberry flavoring you understand, or a strawberry jelly donut or even a donut with little pieces of strawberry mixed in but a donut stuffed with fresh strawberries! I wanted one just looking at it! Stacey does the kitchen segment with the owner and I am surprised that she is the big problem! When they rehearse and she explains what she wants him to do and she is so rushed he says “I will just keep my mouth shut” which is not how you want to make the guest for a food story feel! She wanted to let magic happen but he does not talk fast enough for her!

The intro with the three of them is very good! Damaris does the set up segment real well and they got some good food porn shots too. She is just a little over the top but she has learned to be fun without the boob shimmy. Stacey is downright embarrassing! She asks a question then talks over the guy before he is finished answering! She does the glazing which is a good idea for a segment like this and then she steals a strawberry which is great but the damage is done! She does not care about the guy or his information! No magic here. Then Nikki finishes by asking a little girl what her favorite donut is which is a great way to end. It was a very good segment except for Stacey and some of the decisions were good but she needs to not talk over the people she is interviewing. I remember Chris Hayes (who talks very very fast) saying he had a guest on who was talking very very slowly and he was worried that it was not good TV but it turned out to be wonderful because he forgot about time marks and just listened to what the guy was saying. Stacey needs to learn that! All of Food Network needs to learn that! It is not about how many words you can cram into the shortest possible time it is about giving a guest the time they need to tell the story!

The reporters liked Damaris and Nikki a lot – Damaris had charisma and Nikki was a terrific leader and had food authority – but Stacey was not listening, she treated the guy like a prop, and she did not follow up on the potato flour. You know something: if she had asked about the potato flour they would have said, “All you talked about was potato flour! What about the frying? What about the proofing? What about the glazing? Those are visual, potato flour is too conceptual!” Because they are doing to Stacey what they did to Aartie: it is her time to crumble and then she can have a rising arc! Or maybe she is more like Aria who they loved at first but got bored with.

Bobby says everyone is hungry for donuts so they are the winning team no matter how bad Stacey was and everyone is safe! Stacey cries because if they had not won she would have gone home and she works hard to be there. There was no way this team was going to lose.

Pizza Shop:

Russell, Lovely and Rodney to go a pizzeria where the guy makes the pizzas from scratch. And really, really scratch! Like the yeast is 500 years old! I have heard of 99 Year Old Sourdough Starter (though it seems that may be a myth) but this sounds a little fishy! Or yeasty! But still it is something you would ask about like where did he get it and what does it take to keep it going. Here is the basic problem: no matter how delicious the pizza crust is or how interesting the story about the yeast may be, there is just no way to make a vat of 500-year-old yeast as visually appealing as a fresh strawberry donut! Russell wants to be natural and bring in sin. Rodney is going to hang out with Vito and bust his balls and hope he busts his balls back! Oh yes that should be fun to watch.

Russell does the opening and he does pretty well except he tries to make the yeast sinful which is a little silly. Rodney makes pizza pie with Vito and zips through the yeast starter to an ex-wife joke because everyone loves an ex-wife joke! Especially the ex-wives who watch Food Network! They go into the yeast and it is a family secret the guy could tell him but then he would have to kill him. That is classic Food Network spiel! Then Lovely interviews two patrons. One is named Dr. Kute and she asks him what his real name is and he say it is really Dr. Kute. He should have asked her what her real name is (Connie, is it weird I remember that?). She asks the two guys if they like their pizza and they say yes and that is it. See that is the problem with Lovely she is all style and no substance! Ask open-ended questions! Act interested even if you are not! What would you like to know from the patrons of a pizza shop you are thinking about going to? But no, she just asks “Do you like the pizza” they say “Yes” and that is the end. But do you know what? I watched this again: the other team got a really cute and perky little girl and Lovely had to talk to two bored old guys in a run-down pizza shop so I think the fix was in from the start.

The reporters like the presence Russell has on camera. They could not understand Rodney which made the judges laugh since they have been saying that all along! They could not tell if his shtick was real or fake but he was believable. I could be wrong but I believe that if you can not tell if someone is being real or fake, he is by definition not believable…. yes? But this is Food Network. They did not find Lovely engaging because she was too crafted and polished. No, no no! It is not because she is too polished! It is because she was posing and she should have been reporting! Or at least pretending to be interested. But all she was interested in was looking good on camera and smiling and saying her lines. Nobody wants pizza.

The judges tell Russell he does not have to sin all the time. Bobby continues the inexplicable Rodney-love-fest: Rodney is most memorable but he is very disappointed he just skimmed by the yeast. The reporters used the word “shtick” and what they do not realize is that the shtick is him. I am not sure it is good to be a shtick. They want him to add culinary authority to shtick. I hope it does not sound like I am being mean but I do not think Rodney is “smart” enough to do what they want him to do! I do not mean IQ smart I mean verbally smart and food smart. I think he has been talking in patter because he genuinely does have anything to say and has no thought connected to his mouth. He is however Guy Fieri 2.0 and that may be enough! With Lovely we pick up exactly where we left off: too polished and mechanical but that is Lovely. “It takes years to get the kind of polish you have but on Food Network it does not work.” They want Pie Style! Giada wants her to put her arms around the guys and be a family. Dear Giada, when was the last time you put your arms around a stranger who calls himself Dr. Kute?

The Decision:

In the end Lovely is out.

She is still proud of herself for winning the Star Salvation. “I sent six people home! I Built That!” She needs to go work for Mitt Romney! If any of those six people had stood a chance of winning I would smack her! No, Viet never stood a chance, he is just there to be punished for beating Bobby Flay in ICA. Russell has been in the bottom five times but now he has found his voice! Sure you have Russell. But fact is the three women that remain are the only ones truly in the running though they seem determined to give Rodney and his shtick some kind of role in Food Network programming. Rodney: “Maybe I do not have Food Authority but I make connections with people and that is Pie Style.” Make it stop!

Next Week:

Nikki burns down the kitchen! Then they do a Restaurant Impossible mission with The Most Repulsive Man on Food Network, Robert Irvine. I am sorry I do not know why he bothers me so much but I feel dirty and slimy watching him!

Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) Episode 7: Star Charity Auction

Hello I am Zin! Today Alton will auction off some Food Network Stars!

We open on Bobby cooking! Actually cooking! Stacey is scared of him in his chef whites. He explains they will taste the dish he has made for them (slow-cooked salmon with ancho honey glaze, black bean sauce, blistered jalapeno crema, and tomatillo salsa) and then describe it in one minute. They should think of it as radio because you never know when the picture tube will blow or the studio lights will cut out! They are not allowed to use words like “delicious” or “incredible” or “sexy.” He has a nasty buzzer and when they use one of the Forbidden Words he will shock them! No but that is what Alton thought of and I agree!

Rodney knows he speaks differently from everyone because he is Pie Style. He gets a lot of buzzes and talks about creaminess a lot! He stares at the plate looking for answers! Bobby tells him it was a total disaster and that he should use those words only as accents. Rodney wanted to say “boss,” but that does not count either. He says this was his worst presentation! I think there is a lot of competition for that spot.

Nikki wants to project authority and confidence and redeem herself. She starts with visual and textural which is a good idea. She does one “delicious” but bobby tells her she did a pretty good job. She feels good!

Chad knows vocabulary is not his strong point. Well, gee, Chad, what did you think this gig was? It is not like you need a dictionary: sweet sour salty bitter, heat, texture, contrasts, combinations, done. He talks about tenderness and woodiness (that makes Bobby do a frowny-face) and acid and only has one buzzer but Bobby is not happy because he is searching for words and starts and stops a lot. “If you start reaching it is going to be a long minute, and it was a long minute.” He needs to start with an outline.

Damaris uses a lot of good words like buttery and earthy and caramelized and she does pretty good but Bobby tells her she was boring and clinical and just listed words, she needs to be more conversational! He expects more from her because he has seen it all. Or just seen it.

Russell mutters, “If you can not do this, what the hell have you been doing all this time?” You know what that means! But he is right! I think… he needs to… stop talking… like William Shatner… in little… phrase clumps. He gets buzzed for “flavor bomb” which is pretty inventive even though it is completely uninformative. Russell can not talk. He has never been able to talk, even though they are pretending to be just noticing that now.. I understand that because I can not talk in real time, that is why I write, but I would also not expect to get a TV show. Bobby says it is like he never cooked before and if he does that on the Today show his career will be over. Oh I do not think he has to worry about the Today show.

Stacey talks about an abuelita living on the border and Bobby just about pees himself he is so happy! She was the only person to tell what FN calls a story. He tries to make it sound like it was close but it was not, really, not at all, and Stacey wins. She gets an advantage in the next round.

The Auction:

The Gastronauts are coming! The Gastronauts are coming!

There is a real Gastronauts but I am not positive these people are actually from that group! They are Adventurous Eaters and I suppose eating at Food Network is adventurous. Alton says they have sophisticated palates and they know what sounds good and tastes good.

The contestants have one hour to make a dish that reflects their culinary message and then they get one minute to describe it so that the Gastronauts will want to bid on those dishes at auction. The money goes to Share Our Strength which is a perfectly good organization. The highest bidder gets to eat with the judges! In fact the highest bidder for each dish is the only one who gets to eat at all so I hope they are not terribly hungry. I suppose there are people who would pay $150 to sit with Bobby and Alton and Giada on TV.

They are suppose to make the dishes sound really yummy so the bids will go higher. The contestant whose dish gets the highest bid will be safe! Stacey because she won the last round gets $10 added to whatever is bid on her dish.

In general the women do well and the men are terrible! Not one of these men can talk! I have decided Rodney is only there to make everyone else look good! That is not a bad tactic by the way! Many years ago when you only saw the top three skaters at the Olympics it was easy to think everyone could skate like that and it is not until you see people at Regionals or even down in the seed at Nationals that you realize it is harder than it looks since the objective is to make it look easy! Rodney is there to remind us that it is not easy to talk. Russell is there to remind us that it is not easy… to say… a complete sentence… in one phrase. And to look dangerous. Because what this country needs is more dangerous-looking dark-skinned men on TV. Chad is there because someone in the audition process though the was eye candy but it seems they were wrong.

Stacey makes maple bacon cheesecake based on the lemon cheesecake her mother made and then she added bacon and maple because her restaurant is a diner. It is her signature dessert! It does sound good. She is worried because Russell is smoking his meat right next to her and she is worried it will get in her cheesecake. I do not think that would be a bad thing actually since it already has bacon. But nobody mentions it so I guess it is not a problem. She starts plating and the cheesecake filling sloshes and oozes right over the crust. Wait! I have never had liquid cheesecake! It is supposed to be a little bit jiggly in the middle when it comes out of the oven but not sloshing like that! She is going to be late so she asks for help and Nikki comes right over to help her plate which is very nice of Nikki. Only on competitive reality TV is ordinary human interaction considered “very nice.” She tells a story about her vintage kitchen and takes a while to get to the food part. The other contestants watch from a monitor in the lounge and afterwards she thinks she is getting the cold shoulder. She might be right! In spite of her lack of wabi she is the most Food Network Ready person there! A lot of people on TWoP think she is fake but Food Network is all about fake. The Gastronaut who wins the bid likes the crust. Everyone likes the crust and no one mentions the cheese-pudding filling. Giada calls it a solid presentation (which is more than it seems we can say about her cheesecake) but of course they want more spontaneity, because that is her official Weakness. She got the highest bid ($180) so Stacey wins! I am not surprised that cheesecake with bacon got the highest bid! I want some right now! But not the sloshy version please!

Nikki is going to show Authority if it kills her! She knows the Gastronauts have sophisticated palates so she makes wild mushroom pasta with marsala wine sauce and grilled shrimp on the side. I am not sure how sophisticated that is but it sounds good! And that is before she has even talked about it! See it is in what you combine not in how you say “creamy” or “acid.” It is not up there with “bacon cheesecake” but it is a perfectly respectable dish. She tells them she is giving them the best bite of their lives and going wild for wild. She tells them “On the Food Network I am the veggie expert” so they know she is an Authority! Damaris and Stacey are jealous watching backstage because she is so good! Everyone likes her dish and Bobby is happy that the mushrooms have an impact. At judging Alton tells her she nailed it: she is no longer apologizing for her food, she is presenting proactively, and the dish was exceptional. She only got $130 in the bid but it was the best presentation and they liked the dish so she wins! Wait I thought Stacey won? Oh Stacey won the Bid so she is safe but Nikki won the challenge on merit so she is safe too. Oh. I love this show!

Damaris wants to show people what Southern food is really like so she makes green bean casserole. Really? Her father is from the South (wait, I thought she was from the South… I am so confused) so she likes to keep traditions and carry on his legacy with green bean casserole. “If you have had a good green bean casserole it will make you punch somebody in the face.” But I am a gentle Zin! There will be no punching! She refers to her mornay sauce as cheese gravy which is not inaccurate but sounds awful. Then again it sounds just like Food Network. She adds caramelized onions, kale chips, and oven roasted tomatoes. That sounds fine but come on, there is cheesecake and pasta and pie on the auction block… green beans? She says it is the best green bean casserole anyone has ever had and I do not have any trouble believing that, but it is not a very high bar to clear. By the way the green bean casserole was invented in 1955 at the Campbell Soup Company by a team led by Dorcas Reilly. Ms. Reilly grew up in Camden, NJ and got a Home Ec degree in Philadelphia. “But Reilly, 79, doesn’t remember having a hand in it, saying the dish was among hundreds created (after all, she helped create a tomato soup meatloaf, a tuna noodle casserole and Sloppy Joe-like “souperburgers”)” says USA Today. I am not sure it would be high on the list of foods I would think of when you say, “Southern food.” Anyway she does not want to be boring in her presentation! She wants to sell her damn casserole! “Have any of you ever wondered why casserole is so popular in the south?” Crickets chirp…. “Well, I will tell you! It is because it makes you happy!” There is a little bit of Zin in Damaris. That is not necessarily a good thing for FN though. She talks about happy warm bubbly snap beans hanging out in a mornay hot tub which is 100% Food Network stuff! She does not see pity in the other eyes of the other contestants so she figures she did ok. And she did! Even I thought she did very well! She hit that middle ground between drunk and boring. She tied with Nikki for the lowest bid of $130… uh oh… but Bobby says she sold it well with the hot tub line and green bean casserole is not a natural sell. No it is not! Everyone thinks Thanksgiving and mushroom soup! But they liked her dish and her presentation was very good so she is Safe.

Rodney makes pie! Really? Yes! so he makes a strawberry rhubarb pie with bacon fat crumb topping. Now I will admit that sounds good! If he would just say that I would try it but once he starts talking it is all downhill: Rodney Goes Rogue! “My presentation is going to be like no presentation they have ever seen.” Yes that is what we are afraid of! If he sings I will cry! But he does not sing! Thank you God! He does a comedy routine instead! Hey, God, I take back my thank-you… It is a standup thing about the astronauts with a pretend phone call from Bobby. There is puzzlement in the audience. There is puzzlement from the judges. Then he talks pie. It will make the electrodes in your mouth shoot back to your ear holes. But I do not want any electrodes in my mouth! Stay out of my ear holes!! Is this pie going to electrocute me? I am afraid! The other contestants in the lounge make fun of him while he is presenting but Stacey interviews “he is so loveable you just like it” because they told her to say that. Do not listen to her! He is not loveable! Vic was not loveable either! Nor was the Cuban fitness guy! I am sure they are very nice people but they do not come across as loveable! Someone who shoots electrodes out your ear holes is many things but not loveable! They always pick someone to call “loveable” just to see if they can convince people! Resist! The thing is I like people who refuse to play along and who go their own way but foolish is not talented and his own way is not fun or informative! His pie gets $140, though, a higher bid than green beans or pasta. Everyone loves the pie! The pie was their favorite dish! Ted Allen said it on Top Chef long ago: “if you want to make people happy, give them bacon.” Electrodes are not necessary. Because the pie is so good – “by the pie and pie alone” (™ Alton) – Rodney is Safe.

Chad says the words “Texas Poutine” and immediately starts a war between Quebec and Texas. I live in Maine which has a pretty strong Francophone community right down to the La Kermesse Festival but we are not allowed to mess with poutine unless we can trace our ancestors back to Quebec! Only there can they mess with poutine! So you make your fries with bbq and cheese but do not DARE call it poutine! . Wait… it seems Texas Poutine is a thing! A Revolutionary thing! But that is what Russell does! Oh I am so confused! The Pie Guy does comedy and feeds us electrodes, the BBQ Jew from Philly does Revolutionary Texas style Canadian food, Damaris turns a soup can recipe (invented by a lady who does not remember doing it) into authentic Southern cuisine inspired by her Southern father… is this the Comedy Channel version of Food Network? But the main problem with Chad is that he can not talk! He goes “um… um… ooey-gooey deliciousness…. um… flavors explode in your mouth…. um… um….”I dare you to see why I am the BBQ King!” He looks threatening! He knows he did not do well and he is worried. But Russell says the Poutine Movement is on! The Gastronaut likes the smokey cheese but the potatoes are soggy (Chad knew his oil was not hot enough) and not exciting. Giada thinks it lacks flavor. He made a dish with smoked tenderloin and kielbasa and cheese and fries and it lacked flavor? Still he gets $150 in bids which is more than Nikki or Damaris. Giada asks him, “Why a poutine?” and he goes into a truly relaxed and comfortable explanation about “loaded fries and brisket” that he serves at his restaurant and how he could not make that in an hour so he made poutine. “You did not give us any of that chat!” says Giada. And Chat is what this is all about. His manner was so much better too. The official verdict is that his dish is not good and his presentation is awful. I can testify to the second half. Despite the bid he is up for elimination.

Russell is revolutionizing eggs and bacon with a sandwich that is really smoked trout egg and pork belly braised in bourbon on a puddle of starch that used to be bread. With horseradish ice cream. Except for the “bread sauce” it sounds interesting! And very cheffy. I am not sure pork belly can be braised in one hour but how would I know. His presentation is the usual Revolution… Sin…. Bacon… Booze…Horseradish. Ok that last one is new but you get the idea. The Gastronaut likes the pork belly and horseradish ice cream together. Bobby does not like the texture of the pureed bread. I do not even like typing “pureed bread.” Giada thinks it is too deconstructed but for Giada I think “dressing on the side” is as deconstructed as she gets. Alton thinks it is conceptualized to the point where it is hard to eat. The Gastronaut again says the ice cream is wonderful. Alton tells him he needs to pick a POV: sin or revolution, and some thinks worked like the ice cream but the bread sauce killed the dish. He tied with Chad at $150 and at doing a bad dish and a bad presentation so he is up for elimination.

The Cut:

Chad started well but has not grown. He may not be able to connect to the material. Russell needs to stabilize. Alton is not sure Russell is the cook he thinks he is. Giada and Bobby think he is a better cook than Chad. He grabs attention a little better. Chad it out! I do not think it matters. Nikki has the POV and Stacey has the FN Aura.

Next Week

Food Based Field Story: go to a donut shop or a pizzeria and tell a story. The Star Salvation winner comes back and everyone pretends it is a big surprise.

Star Salvation: Final Chance (the short answer is: they do not tell us who won)

Chad vs Lovely

They have twenty five minutes to show their culinary POV by putting their hearts on a plate: celery hearts hearts of palm (why are hearts of palm not called palm hearts?), artichoke hearts, romaine hearts, goat cheese shaped into hearts, and chocolate hearts. I think someone got the calendar confused and thought this would be aired on Valentines Day.

Lovely makes a salad because what else can you do with celery and romaine? But she will elevate it and make it a Party on a Plate! I see the Party has moved out of her mouth to her plate. She adds bacon because everything is better with bacon (see, she was listening to Ted Allen) and gives us a Chef Lovely Tip (which only 61,300 Googled websites know about): use the bacon fat in the honey Dijon vinaigrette. Then she makes goat cheese fritters but they fall apart. She tells Robert about her unique hip POV which seems to be party food and how her passion comes across effortlessly. Robert notices something went wrong with the fritter and Lovely tries to sell it on flavor but he is not buying it: “You said you were going to create a mind-blowing experience. This is not it.”

Chad makes bbq sauce of course! What did you think he would make, Canadian food? He puts the sauce on a grilled peppered egg which is an egg cooked in a grilled bell pepper with a side of celery heart, artichoke heart, and heart of palm cole slaw. Robert thinks the concept is interesting but the pepper is unevenly cooked and while the sauce has good flavor there is not enough. Chad basically has the constant problem that it is not possible to produce barbecue in the kind of time limits this show imposes and probably not in the amount of time FN is willing to entrust to a novice Star.

We will find out next week who won and who goes back into the fray! I do not think it matters but at least Lovely can talk and she can talk at a Food Network viewer level.

Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) Episode 6: Product Pitch

Contestants are told from the beginning that they have to sell a concept, and it has to be pretty specific: sandwiches, cheap dinners … or, you know, yelling in shorts. It’s nowhere near enough to be a good cook, or a great cook, or a great teacher. The specific objective, as it’s explained over and over again, is to create a sense of constructed familiarity that will get viewers to like you, to invite you in, to listen to you, and to care what you say. You have to cook good food, but it’s enormously more important to look good on camera and to be engaging.

~~ Linda Holmes, Monkey See on NPR.org

Hello I am Zin!

[rant] A few weeks ago in response to certain high-profile events in the foodfame world, Linda Moore of the NPR Blog analyzed Food Network Star. She got it right! You can read her entire article here.

All of the ridiculousness of Food Network Star and of Food Network in general can be traced to this root! Alton Brown even hinted as much (it is very worth following his Twitter feed because he does these post-it communiques which are sometimes very scathing! I do not know how he gets away with it!) when he explained why he is judging and commentating on all these contest shows but not doing Good Eats any more! Just like I am sad that Tim Gunn is still associated with Project Runway, I am sad Alton Brown is still associated with Food Network. This is a guy who was a perfectly good videographer and he went to culinary school, people, not a correspondence course or a two-week workshop, he went to a real culinary school for two years so he could make the tv show he had in mind. No shortcuts. Food Network is now all about shortcuts (I do not think it was at first). This makes me sad. But it makes people rich and in America that is what counts! [/rant]

And now our regularly scheduled recap!

Today is Product Pitch day! This is another of my favorite FNS episode types! I am always amazed at what contestants come up with. Remember the woman who mixed sugar and cayenne pepper and tried to convince everyone her Popcorn Seasoning was worth buying? This year is extra special because Russell will show us exactly the difference between Top Chef and Food Network Star! This episode IS Food Network!

A lot happens in several parts so pay attention because I am only going through the roster once and covering all the different rounds. First the contestants have one hour to make samples of two different “uniquely you” products for the Alton, Bobby, and Giada to taste. They will give “brutal feedback” (“Brutal,” reiterates Alton; he is really having fun with this Mean Old Grump persona!) and advise them to use one or the other as their product. Then they meet with a graphic designer to come up with packaging! Except the packaging is more or less a jar with a computer-printed label: Chad misjudges and Rodney overshoots the limits of reality! They will produce their product and have one minute to present to three corporate executives from Cereal Box, Blue Box, and Big Box (the Other Big Box Store) who will decide if their ideas are worth pursuing for the customer base. And then the judges decide who goes home! And no, nobody will see their product produced.

On Food Network Star, they make you talk about your family a lot. The attitude is that if you can’t tell a personal story about a recipe, there’s essentially no reason to make it on television, which is a pretty high bar as far as coming up with reasons why you totally care deeply about those turkey burgers.

~~ Linda Holmes, Monkey See on NPR.org

The Best Three:

Stacey makes diary-free, gluten-free orange cardamom cookies since that is what she has to make for her son but they do not come out very good so she does what every good cook does when something is not working: She adds sugar! She also makes butterscotch but because she waited too long to add the cream it is too soupy so she melts more sugar to fix it. Maybe she can get the concession on diabetes medicine now! Bobby loves the story about her family (Stacey has this “family story” thing down, yes?) but Alton makes a face and Giada wants some water! The cookies are not good! Her Cayenne Butterscotch is better and Alton foresees a whole line of sauces! It is not a product unless it can be a mass market Empire! That is the FN way! Stacey meets with a graphic designer (“packaging represents brand promise” – you can not tell me she has not been coached) to come up with a 50s style Vintage Kitchen label for her Hot Mamma Butterscotch. She memorizes her script and gets lost when she misses a word! She gets giggly! But they wanted her to be less perfect so there it is! The corporations like the unexpected but delicious kick! They ask her why she would be the one, and she talks about the lineage of women in the kitchen since she learned to cook from her grandma and mom making her vintage but being a working mom she is modern. The corporations find her pitch polished but a little boring! See that is how Food Network Star is selling her to us! Even when she does a mediocre presentation she is polished but boring! Bobby criticizes the rehearsed quality (which is very accurate) and tells her to be more spontaneous. The judges like the product, they like the packaging, and she demonstrated her Vintage point of view but they want “more you.” But of course she is in the Top Three anyway! Except for her uncooked Pot Pie she has been in the top every week!

Russell does sweets! He says he has a product line but it is so small it is more like a hobby. Last week I predicted he would do bacon booze sugar butter jam but he does bacon candy with bourbon so that is like solid jam! He also makes ginger chili ice cream which sounds really good! “Come on give it to me” says Giada and I do not think she means ice cream. She loves his candy and Aton likes the ice cream but the bacon candy is unique so he goes with that. He designs a flying pig label. Hey we have When Pigs Fly bread in Maine and I like it better! He does a very good presentation! He talks about the food revolution to embrace sin which is the first time his revolution has made sense! They are laughing when he talks about the five sins in his Bacon Candy! “Come with me and Sin!” Everyone is happy! One of the Box people says it flies in the face of everything that is happening in Wellness (that is what a revolution is!) but so what, she owns lots of Big Pharm stock. They find him authentic and endearing (I am getting Puck from Glee these days) and his product is good but it does not come off as candy! Because when you say Candy to a Mass Market Box person it had better be chocolate or bright red or green sugar! On Top Chef they cook with salmon candy but the type of people who buy FN products would not understand bacon candy. That failure by the way is on the judges because they tasted the stuff and did not complain that it was not candy! Giada says it is the first time she has wanted to join him on his Food Revolution because he made it fun! I somehow do not see Giada chomping down on Bacon Candy very much!

Damaris talks to her peaches. They are pretty! She makes a grilled peach and chili pepper jam and a bourbon honey vinaigrette except Russell uses all the bourbon so she makes a whiskey honey vinaigrette. Alton wonders if her salad dressing has to be sold at a liquor store. It is very one-note. The jam is spicy but Bobby thinks that is who she is so she goes with the jam. She uses a raffia tie which makes sense. In her presentation she concentrates on channeling Stacey! She talks about the South being the best-kept culinary secret in the country. Since when is the South a culinary secret? She runs out of time! The Box People like the ginger in the jam and the labeling is exceptional! I do not know about that, I like idea but the colors do not have enough value contrast but now that I have seen all the products I realize they only had pink and grey ink to work with! Nobody explains what “BPG” means. They say she has a “reserved charm” and Alton thinks that is hilarious! Bobby is disappointed because they want her true personality. I love Food Network Star. She has given them her true personality week after week and they have told her to tone it down but now she tones it down and they want it back! Do they think we are idiots? Do they think we forget from week to week? Alton tells her she would have won if she had been less restrained because her product and packaging were great! Maybe she should have drunk the whiskey instead of putting it in the vinaigrette!

But if you’ve watched more than five minutes of Food Network Star, you know that they only care what’s in your heart to the extent it happens to be congruent with what people think is in your heart. You can be the nicest person on the planet, and if it’s not coming across, you’re out. It’s not about who you are, but about who you seem to be, because cooking is personal and touches people’s families in all the most constant and important ways, so, you know. You’d better be able to make the sale.

~~ Linda Holmes, Monkey See on NPR.org

The not-best Four

Chad decides on baked beans because all you can get in a supermarket is canned beans! So he makes… canned beans! No, he will put them in a jar and that makes all the difference! Wait! B&M makes jarred beans! They are a Maine company (or they were before all the little fish got gobbled up by the big fish) and they used to have a plant so close we could smell it (it is a terrible name for a bean company though, yes?) so I can get jarred beans any time! He also makes dry rub. I was wrong last week! I guessed he would make barbecue sauce! Dry rub is almost barbecue sauce but not quite. His dry rub has 16 spices and some are secret. Alton likes his beans “a little” but Bobby tells him there are so many rubs already it is hard to differentiate (and Bobby has a few recipes himself) so Chad sticks with the “little bit good” jarred not canned baked beans. He tells the designer he wants a see-through jar so they can see the green peppers and onions and three types of beans! He calls them Big Boy’s Barbecue Beans. His presentation is good except they do not understand what makes them “Big Boy” and he explains it is more grown up than regular canned beans so it is the Big Boy version. The execs (all women) do not look convinced about the name (I think it is downright obscene) but they want to do Chad anyway. No, they are just “ready to taste.” The beans. They say it sounds appealing but if it is in a clear glass jar it had better look good and this looks more like sloppy joe mix. Bobby thinks it is too sweet. Bobby does not like the competition for Hot Grill Guy!

Rodney talks in catchphrases and sound bites that do not really make sense. No wonder they seem to love him! Food Network where Articulate is optional! He fell in love with pie when he was a little kid stuck in a room of pies. I would think that was weird if I did not think it was utter bullship. He makes two pie kits: spinach and goat cheese quiche, and mixed berry. Alton likes the quiche. Bobby warns him to tune down the Big Ideas because simple is better. Alton tells him to keep it simple when he pitches. Rodney says, “Screw that, I have ideas in my back pocket.” Just because you have ideas, that does not make them good ideas! The pie kit is in fact a good idea (I do not know if Rodney understands the Ikea Effect but a pie kit is a textbook application) but he turns it into a mess! He tells the graphic designer he wants a coat-hanger wire handle taped to the jar, and the dough wrapped around it like a rolled towel. Of course they can not produce such a thing so they literally have a coat hanger duct taped to a jar. It is truly horrible! Frightening! He does the same nonsense phraseology in his presentation then OH NO he brings out his guitar! Maybe he can actually play and sing in certain settings like when everyone is drunk and happy but this is the second time he has tried to perform on this show and he seems very amateurish to me! The Box people all get that he believes in pie but they do not know what the product is! His personality overshadows it! Alton tells him he had no focus and left them confused so even though the quiche was good it did not work! He tells them, “But I had a blast!” and Alton says “But no one will buy your pie kit” and, well, usually I prefer art to commerce but there was no art here so commerce would have been far preferable!

Nikki makes Nikki Dinki sauce. Now it is not her fault her name is Nikki Dinki but I am not sure saying it over and over is a good thing when lack of authority is her main note. She makes two pureed veggie sauces, one spinach eggplant and the other roasted pepper tomatillo. the spinach eggplant is predicatably ugly (it was brown so she tried to make it green which meant it was that lovely green/brown mothers of infants know so well) so she goes with the other. Even she does not like her product! The Box people ask her where it would be merchandized which seems like an odd question! In my supermarket there is an entire aisle for condiments and sauces. She guesses with tomato sauce. They think it is too chunky for a sauce. Giada liked her energy but they did not know what they were getting because saying “roasted pepper and tomatillo sauce” is not good enough and no one told her to make it a salsa (or a dip which is what I guessed she would make last week)! She still Lacks Authority because she does not have a supermarket layout in her head and, well, that is how they are selling her to us. I still think her POV is the best in the competition and whatever they do with her on this show I bet FN will have a Meat on the Side program within the next year!

Chris is worried because it is not easy to bottle passion for sharing food with other people! That is why he can not be the Next Food Network Star right there! Passion only counts if you have a Product easily summed up in a catchphrase! He makes sweet corn bisque and a smoked apple red pepper jam which is his childhood in a jar. The judges think the corn soup is too spicy; Giada frowns! She and Bobby like the jam but Alton says there is nothing jamlike about it because you can not put it on cake (excuse me: savory jams like onion, tomato, bacon, and pepper have been around a long time now) so they suggest he call it something more savory and he comes up with: Ketchup! I do not belive this! I guessed last week he would make ketchup! I really did! I was kidding but he actually made Ketchup! He is confident going into his presentation because he is a sales person! But because they have been yelling at him for being loud he shuts down completely! It is bizarre! He sounds like he is a bad actor reading for a cheap infomercial. The worst mistake though is that he says a percent of profits goes to charity which no no NO that is not what anyone wants to hear! They do not feel a connection with the pitch and what do you know, it turns out he left out the part about childhood in a jar and his uncle having an orchard and the biggest applewood smoker in Ohio. Bad move! He left out the good stuff! This is what they do to people! They tell them to be who they are, then tell them that is not good enough, then tell them they are not genuine! He has many problems but what they probably see most is a lack of a culinary point of view that can be conveyed in a title so they will twist him inside out until he fails while trying to please them.

It’s not being a bad person that gets you fired from Food Network, any more than it’s being a bad person that gets you kicked off their competition show. It’s being ineffective at making people want to hang out with you and watch you make food and tell stories.

~~ Linda Holmes, Monkey See on NPR.org

Decision Time:

I was sure Rodney would be out but no, Chris is out! That is what having a clear culinary point of view does for you!

In the aftermath Nikki feels like a child again! They make you lose what makes you You in the real world! Yes they do! I am not sure I know or like the You Nikki is in the real world but that is the technique they use! Rodney resolves to work more on presentation and less on tunes. I think that is a great idea! Chad is traumatized by his first trip to the Bottom!

Food Network is a sandcastle of manufactured intimacy, and your ability to convincingly maintain that intimacy is your most important job skill.

~~ Linda Holmes, Monkey See on NPR.org

Next Week:

Do you know how to describe food? I mean how to really describe food? Can you make people taste the food through the screen? See, when I hear “grilled peach and chili pepper jam” I can taste it! I do not need someone to start in with words like “smoky” and “sweet” and “hot” because it is all there in the title! But it seems Food Network does not trust viewers to translate Sweet Corn Bisque into sensory imagination so they train people to talk in sensory adjectives! This is where Rodney will fall to pieces. He will say things like “pie in the sky” and “zen pie” and “live pie or die” and nobody will have any idea what kind of pie it is. Will he still inexplicably be safe? Will they arrange it so he has some kind of immunity?

Cooking TV is a personality-hawking business. They tell you that when you’re angling for the job.

~~ Linda Holmes, Monkey See on NPR.org

Star Salvation

Lovely and Chris have to make a dish “featuring potato chips as the star.”

Lovely wants to be creative and edgy and over the top so she makes salty sweet dessert with caramelized apples in rum sauce, a potato chip crumble, and mascarpone cream. She tells Robert Irvine it is sweet and sinful and it is a party in your mouth! He agrees it is a party in his mouth but he is not sure if the potato chip is the star.

Potato Chip Art by Eric Bass

Potato Chip Art by Eric Bass

Chris makes a potato chip bisque – wait, he is stuck on Bisque today! What makes a soup a bisque? “Bisque is currently used as a general term for a thick puréed or otherwise creamy soup that’s usually made with cream or crème fraîche. Traditionally, “bisque” refers to a complex shellfish soup that is classically made with lobster, crab or crawfish.” So I suppose if you puree potato chips in milk that qualifies * shrug *. It sounds terrible! Believe it or not there are recipes for potato chip soup but I think it is a little different from what Chris does. He adds smoked salmon and says it is a play on fish & chips which is cute but it still sounds awful! Robert finds it unusual, and very salty! That is because they used cheap potato chips! The better your potato chip the less salt it has because the chip itself is more flavorful!

So Lovely made delicious dessert that barely used the chips and Chris made a horrible mess but embraced the chips with both arms! Chris is out!

I can not argue with that! I think anyone who even considers pouring milk over potato chips and serving it should not be on a cooking show! But the thing is it could have worked and no one would have ever known it! I bet if someone like Grant Achatz played with the idea he could make something wonderful but it would take months to develop and hours to cook not 20 minutes! I would have made a soft-cheese-and-potato-chip stuffed tomato broiled with potato chip topping because I know those things can work in 20 minutes. The crumbling thing was obvious but if you have 20 minutes and no do-overs maybe obvious is best!

Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9), Episode 5: 4th of July Live

Hello I am Zin and it is time for the Fourth of July episode which is also a Live TV episode! No of course it is not live but it is pretend-live. Or it was live and is now on tape. Do not think too much about it. That is good policy when watching the Food Network overall. But always remember: while the contestants are selling their food and themselves, the judges are selling us on how they perceive the contestants so we will see them the same way!

Skills Challenge:

They must do a three-minute live segment with someone named Terence Jenkins. I do not know who he is but it seems he is an Anchor for E! News. E! has news? The contestants have to demo a sausage and pepper sandwich and the winner gets “an advantage” in the Star Challenge!

What the contestants do not know is that the producers will manufacture little disasters to distract them! They did this in the first couple of seasons. I love the Dirty Tricks challenge! I am so glad they are doing this again! I suppose that is mean but it is fun to watch.

Russell is fine with live TV since he has worked in open kitchens most of his career which is the same thing? The lights go out while he is making vinaigrette! But of course it is a TV studio so it is too dark for TV but it is not like it is pitch black so he just keeps working and says “I like working in the dark.” He interviews that in the world of underground restaurants he never knows what to expect so it was not a big deal. Giada says he recovered very well.

Damaris is worried because she has never been live before. She is distracted by dishes falling off the shelf. She thinks it is pollster-guys. When she finishes she throws her arms up in the air to celebrate! Giada says she did good and the polter-guise comment was adorable.

Stacey lives for this stuff! She finds her whisk is missing which seems like a pretty minor disaster to me! Especially for a sausage and pepper sandwich! I suppose it is needed for salad dressing but she uses a fork and it is all fine. I confess I do not even own a whisk I always use a fork! It is nice to have a whisk though. Some day I should get one. Giada says she did good. She did better than good. She reminds me of Aarti in that they keep complaining about her when she is really doing everything right so there is some suspense but just remember two words: pot pie.

Chad only knows about live TV from watching sports. He has to deal with a dying host! Terence has some kind of coughing fit and leaves the set so Chad just keeps working but he does not say anything. Giada tells him “Even if you think something is not right, go on” which is exactly what he did except he did the silent TV version! I suppose if someone collapses on the floor someone else who is not on camera will call the ambulance. Television is a tough business!

Viet worries about growing up poor and closing himself off and his lack of confidence but he should be worrying about peppers! He does a run-through and the peppers are sitting there but when he comes back to go on they are gone! It is pretty hard to make sausage and pepper sandwiches when there are no peppers. I am not sure if they edited the live-to-tape to make him look so befuddled and stuck or if he truly stands there saying “What happened to the peppers” over and over again! He finally snaps out of it after about a minute and a half! As soon as the segment cuts he says, “What happened to the peppers?” Giada tells him it is all in the comeback. That is profound advice from someone who when she started took 15 hours to tape her own 22-minute show and actually taped it twice to do both long shots and close-ups! But Viet does not have the boobs to get away with it.

Nikki is worried because she does videos and not live webcasts. While she is working a fire alarm goes off. She stops! I do not understand why she does not leave! Is that not what a fire alarm is for? I told you television is a tough business! Stopping is worse than running out though. If she ran out at least she would have the Fire Marshalls on her side! Since the alarm is blaring she can not talk so I do not know what they expect her to do. She finally catches on (“Oh this is part of the challenge!”) and gets going. But we still can not hear anything she says.

Rodney is happy because he is good at thinking on his feet and he likes to be improvisational. He concentrates on taking his time so he speaks understandably. He finds out his time has been cut in half so he does not really finish but he kept going and Giada had a good time watching him and understood everything he said. That is what they are selling: Rodney is fun to watch. He is not. But that is the plot.

Chris is cooking when Terence knocks over the olive oil. That is a problem? Really? Terence tells him he is too loud while they are doing the segment! After, Giada says he handled the oil spill much better than BP but he is very loud and needs to work on that. If you are too loud for Food Network you should definitely tone it down!

And the winner is… Rodney! A couple of years ago they had a guy Herb and they kept talking about how great he was and I did not get it at all. This season it is Rodney. I see nothing appealing about him!

Star Challenge:

It is 4th of July! Of course it is not when the episode is being filmed but Food Network never lets reality get in the way of appearances so they are doing a Fourth of July Live episode like the Thanksgiving Live episode they did where everyone comes in and does a dish and they all sit down and eat together. Except without the sitting together to eat. The judges will eat together while the contestants are safely tucked backstage.

Because Rodney won he gets to pick the dish he will make and he gets to assign dishes to the other contestants. He picks dessert! Of course he is the pie guy! And he gives everyone a dish that he thinks will challenge them except come on with things like cole slaw and fried chicken how much of a challenge should that be for any cook?

Because this is a fake Fourth of July there will be no focus group or public. Tusch comes in to be the one-man focus group! I guess Susie had something better to do. The judges will watch the TV show and some people will call in with “questions” for the contestants to distract them while they are cooking and some will have to deal with having to introduce other people so it is another really even challenge! After the show the judges get to eat the food while the contestants wait backstage.

Tusch sees some “really clear frontrunners” but also some people he is worried about.

First we have the Fireworks:

Stacey gets the “butcher station.” She is worried! She buys her meat already cut and her husband was a vegetarian for 15 years! I suppose if her husband were an omnivore she would have learned to butcher? Because being a restaurant owner is not motivation enough to learn the craft of cooking after all since you can hire someone else to do the hard stuff. She is picturing a side of beef! But it turns out “butcher station” means “grill.” The meat is already cut! All she has to do is cook it. She has two ladies with her. I do not know what they are doing there but they brought the meat and talk about spatchcocked chicken which is nowhere near as dirty as it sounds. It really is a very polished performance! At least the tape they showed is polished. Bobby thinks her pork is overcooked but he likes the pineapple. They love her sauces. At the lineup Tusch tells her she was pretty close to perfect and that is the problem! Perfect is boring! He wants someone who will surprise him and show some imperfections! This is a tough crowd! Perfection is not good enough! She needs more wabi! The flaw that perfects! Still she is the WINNER!

Then we have the sparklers (some sparkle more than others):

Chad is the bbq guy so Rodney gives him veggies! Chad does not care. He was born for the 4th of July! He will treat the veggies like meat! He makes a bbq veg sandwich! He uses a Texas dry rub. I did not know you could use dry rub on veggies. He does not introduce Farmer Lee at the farm stand who apparently is some kind of big deal and Bobby is miffed. Chad is too busy cooking! Forget cooking this is Food TV! Do the promotions! They love his sandwich though. Tusch tells him the best hosts make the guy next to him a star (except when they tell you the guy next to you is outshining you in which case they tell you to be the star yourself). But his sandwich is great and he is obviously a master of the bbq. Chad is SAFE!

Nikki has to make fried chicken which is no big deal but she is the meat on the side girl and it is hard to make fried chicken with meat on the side! So if I understand her correctly she makes smaller pieces of fried chicken? Ok! She has never made fried chicken. I love Food Network Star. Someone calls in asking for advice about making gluten-free fried chicken and she tells them there are lots of flours without gluten or you can use no flour at all as long as you fry it properly. Alton tries to get her to explain what “properly” is and maybe she does but instead we hear Tusch talk about how she lacks authority. That is how they will destroy Nikki by telling her she is childlike and playful. Bobby tells her the Woman of Food Network have Serious Edge and They Are Authorities. Yes! Sandra Lee can make a hundred things out of Cool Whip and canned frosting and as long as she does not have to touch food she is very authoritative about tablescapes! And if you want to throw a plantation wedding complete with black slaves all dressed up to serve the white folk I have just the Food Network Star for you! Can anyone look at Rachel Ray and even say “serious edge” without laughing? He loves her fried drumstick though! It is crunchy and the meat is moist! Nikki is SAFE!

Chris reminds himself to bring passion not anger! They are selling Chris as the Angry Guy! He does not seem like an angry person to me. He is loud and annoying but not angry. He adds corn and roasted peppers to his cole slaw. He says he does not salt the cabbage (is that not the technique Alton taught on Good Eats?) he oversalts the dressing instead and adds it to the cabbage base. Tusch thinks he is much better than he was a few weeks ago. I think that means his presentation skills are better. Alton does not like the cole slaw made opposite to his technique though. It is slimy and needs more flavor. Giada tells Chris they all saw someone they enjoyed but his food was not great. Chris is SAFE!

Rodney is the pie man but 45 minutes is not enough time to make a pie! So he just makes part of a pie! This time it is meringue. Pots de Crème stuffed baked meringue with blueberry raspberry reduction to be exact. Alton asks him how he manages meringue in the heat and Rodney say not to let it melt or dry out [and the air conditioning helps, yes?]. Then he says it again a different way. And again. Rodney is as annoying in his way as Daniela was in her way. Giada notices he is talking in circles. Alton tells him to answer viewer questions without using the word “sucker.” I had not noticed that was his word! Maybe that is because I can not really understand what he is saying. Someone asks for a no-bake dessert and he tells them to mix something into whipped cream. Alton thinks the meringue is very undercooked. Uh oh. That means raw egg white. That is a bad thing. Giada calls it creative but his presentation did not make sense. His concept was brilliant but not executed well. But they love him so Rodney is SAFE!

Damaris gets the cocktail station. “I am from Kentucky, I do like to drink.” “Rodney paired me with liquor on purpose because sober, I am just on the line of acceptable, but just get a couple of drinks in me, and I sail way beyond that line.” She sailed all right! When she sees this episode will she realize there are some lines that should not be crossed on TV? She makes Skull Hill Fish House punch from Philadelphia. Make that Fish House Punch from the very exclusive club Schuylkill Fishing Company formerly known as State in Schuylkill formerly known as Colony in Schuylkill in PA in 1732! Because she is from Kentucky she makes it with Bourbon instead of rum and cognac which probably has Philadelphians of the eighteenth century rolling over in their graves! A caller asks what is a great idea for a mocktail and she tells them anything will be fine! Great I will have a manhattan mocktail please! Tusch says she is trying to seduce Alton instead of the viewer. Bobby tells her it looks like she was not taking it seriously. Giada likes the peach liqueur though. I think they are beginning to realize Damaris is a time bomb! She shimmies! She seduces! She gets drunk on air! But they are selling her as not serious instead of drunk and Damaris is SAFE! That is good because now that Danushka is gone Damaris is becoming the most fun to watch!

And finally we have the duds:

Russell can do this because he started at McDonalds! He won a prize for most burgers flipped on July 4! Only McDonalds would praise an employee for churning out mass-produced burgers. He is proud how far he has come. He makes a high-concept potato salad with Dijon and goat cheese. He describes it as “nice flavors… simplistic… it’s not too…. nothing that….” How is he supposed to do a TV show when he can not say more than three syllables at a time? Tusch worries that he stays in a narrow range and needs to let the dogs out. I do not want the dogs out! Then Alton tells him to toss to commercial and he does it like a pro! It was seriously amazing! I do not know if it was on a teleprompter or what but it was like he was possessed by someone else! They are super-impressed! Normally I am skeptical with whatever the judges are impressed with but it was impressive if it was real. The potato salad does not go over very well though. Giada does not get it. Bobby thinks it has a weird texture. Tusch gets a lot of contrasting flavors and shapes but does not know what he is eating. It is ok, just not potato salad. Giada does not think he has enough energy. Alton tells him to tell the story. “If you innovate and it is not good, we only remember the not good.” That is good! “So you are saying my presentation sucked?” asks Russell. ” Yes,” confirms Alton. But the toss was great.

Viet makes chips and dips but he wants to add spice because Tusch is there. He wants to add spice for Tusch? He sets a plank on fire to smoke something. Tusch loves his “magnetic smile” and hopes he finds a personality to back it up which wins an award for most backhanded compliment of the day. Viet makes a dip with crème fraîche, jalapeno, crab, and apple. I am not sure about that but he is the award-winning chef. A caller asks for suggestions for a dip trio. Crickets chirp. He finally comes up with cream cheese, refried beans, and salsa. Giada sneers at him for not having guac, hummus and salsa immediately. Bobby thinks his dip is ok but the crème makes it watery instead of dippish. Alton tells him he is impossible to not like until he starts talking. I see Mean Alton is back, just in time to tell him he is a “competent cook” but not an authority. When they squash people they really squash them!

And the Loser Is:

Someone around here once speculated that Project Runway All-Stars had the cannon fodder pay to be on for a certain number of episodes for publicity or fame whoring or whatever purpose. I think they have implemented that on this show. Viet must have only paid for five episodes so he is OUT! He was not very good on camera but unlike Russell he was fine in his interviews. I am surprised he did so poorly on camera! I am glad he is out because I think they were giving him payback for beating Bobby Flay (you should see what they did to Top Chef S6 winner Michael Voltaggio on Iron Chef America right after this aired). Alton tells him he is a great cook but not everybody is cut out for this job. That is true great cooks for instance are not. Giada looks very sad. Viet is gracious. “You do not get to become better if you do not fail.”

Next week:

Product presentation! Oh I like this one too! I am going to guess: Chad = bbq sauce, Russell = bacon booze sugar butter jam, Rodney = pie filling, Nikki = dip, Chris = ketchup, Damaris = corn bread mix, Stacey = what difference does it make they will love her.

Star Salvation:

Danushka, Lovely and Viet show up. Two will be out, only one will continue. Robert Irvine tells them (does anyone else find Robert Irvine absolutely repulsive for some undefined reason?) their mission is to make in 20 minutes a dish out of failed food: dry overcooked pork chops, oversteamed mushy veggies, burned toast, and burned nuts.

Danushka makes pureed broccoli soup with a pork chop pâté and crumbled burned hazlenuts. Robert thinks it is creative and is trying to think of a word to describe the flavor. “You are at a loss for words it is so good,” Danushka says. “There is no flavor,” says Robert. Oops. He tastes broccoli and only broccoli. Well, it is broccoli soup… he got no punch or wow. Danushka is OUT!

Viet is a bit overconfident which probably means he is doomed; he refers to Danushka and Lovely as home cooks even though they both have culinary degrees and work as chefs. He scrapes the burned part off the toast just like your mommy did when you were six. He makes a pureed carrot soup fortified with pork stock and a grilled piece of pork chop charred for extra flavor. Robert says it looks pretty and tastes good. Viet is OUT! Of course he is!

Lovely makes a pork croquette with Dijon mustard as a binder (as a binder?) and a ginger carrot puree with candied burnt almonds. Can you just coat burned almonds in syrup and call them “candied burnt almonds” and pretend it is fancy and sophisticated? You can if you pose when you describe it! I hate to admit it but it sounds pretty good but I have a high tolerance for bitter. At first he gets nothing but mustard but when he mixes it with the carrots it works. Lovely WINS!

Danushka: “I did not know I could just serve mustard….At least I am going home with the guy who beat Bobby Flay at Iron Chef, not a bad companion to have.” They really really hate Viet yes?

Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9), Episode 4: Big Screen Bites

Would it not be so cool if this were the movie they showed at the theater?

Would it not be so cool if this were the movie they showed at the theater?

Hello I am Zin! Today the contestants go to the movies! Except they do not see a movie they make a movie. No they make a movie trailer! I do not know what this has to do with cooking but everyone seems happy. It is the most honest episode yet because it is clear that food has nothing to do with who wins! It is not who makes the best food but who makes people want to try their food! This is sort of like with the burger thing except there they at least pretended that the food mattered. Now they have decided that is not necessary. Never forget this when you watch a Food Network cooking show! It is not about how the food tastes it is about how well the cook convinces you it tastes! This seems appropriate for a movie challenge because the movies convince you that people do indeed look like movie stars and everything has a happy ending with beautiful violins. Unreality TV!

The contestants get into teams of three and make a one-minute movie trailer in an assigned genre to promote their food. Each person makes one dish: one will do an appetizer, one makes the entre and one must make a dessert. Then the audience picks which food they want to eat based on that! The winning team is the one that convinces the most people to pick their food! See, no tasting necessary to win! Then the judges (still only Alton, Bobby, and Giada, it seems Susie and Tusch got lost somewhere) will figure out who goes home based on some divine inspiration.

They shoot the trailer before they make their food which does not really make sense to me but that is more of the separation of reality and appearance! It does serve a purpose though because it locks them in to a particular dish. The whole service segment is very suspenseful with one team getting all the orders at first then another team catching up and finally the third team getting slammed! You can ignore that part since it is deliberately designed for viewers who still believe in the Reality of Reality TV.

Western – Nikki, Russell, Stacey:

Russell tries to explain the spaghetti western to Nikki: “It’s…modern…a little obtuse, a little off-center…. like that Fellini nature.” Later someone fills him in and he explains it is a group of Westerns shot in Italy with Clint Eastwood which is much closer. Flavorwire has a more thematic definition. pssst… In S6 Serena did a Spaghetti Western recipe too! Nikki is insecure because she does not have a restaurant but she is also upset that Russell can not get his lines right during filming.

The trailer has Nikki and Russell in costume as gunfighters dueling it out: “What did you bring to this food fight cowboy?” Russell brings his two guns. Stacey is some kind of moderator trying to decide. She has a hobby horse. I guess that is her costume. She seems more sexy than western to me but maybe she is the saloon girl. After service when they realize they had a lot of orders Russell says “I am smelling spankage, full blown spankage.” I love to learn new words!

Nikki makes the appetizer of shootout chili with just enough meat to give it meaty notes. Bobby loves the trailer and likes Nikki the best! Even Russell says she is a slick performer! Alton is impressed because it finally shows him the full body and depth she can get out of veggies. Yes that happens when you put meat in them! Alton tells her “The you in that trailer is the you I want to see from now on: confident and controlled.”

Russell makes his Spaghetti Western with whiskey and bison and bacon so he is happy he gets in his culinary sins. I think Russell has been studying with William Shatner because he… can only talk… in… a few…. syllables… at a time. Alton thinks Russell looks great and sold it but the food was not that good! Giada is disappointed the pasta has no flavor. I am again confused by how anything with whiskey and bacon can have no flavor!

Stacey makes campfire smores with chocolate coffee ganache, popcorn, marshmallow and rolls them in graham for a “dressed up classic.” Stacey, if you get a show, you know you will be making turkey burgers and baked chicken and pasta every day right? Bobby says Stacey looks uncomfortable like she was trying to remember her lines. Giada loves the idea of using popcorn because of the theater.

Romance – Viet, Damaris, Chad:

Damaris is not happy to do romance because she has been ordered to stop being so sexy! Chad tries to get them to do something light and funny but they said no because no one else ever heard of the Romantic Comedy. They come up with something like The Dating Game. Damaris holds very still (“No shimmy”) like she is frozen in place but she is the shrimp and grits girl all cozy and cuddling by the fire: “When you bite into my shrimp I burst with spice.” Ok… Chad tries to woo her to pick his chicken wings by saying “sexy, spicy, sticky” and “hard on the outside and juicy on the inside.” I think they are confusing the Romance movie with porn! Viet is just there. Using the word “macerated” does not count as romance.

Chad makes Korean chicken wings and worries about keeping the sweet down because they do not like him always making sweet sauces so he is keeping it spicy not sweet. Bobby starts to talk “about your performance” but starts to laugh. He did not expect to see him in that vein! Yes we all know exactly which vein. Food and sleaze do not go together and Chad went triple-x. But he appreciates that he went for it. Giada is speechless. Alton calls it “Fifty Shades of Hot Sauce.” They like his chicken wings though and Alton notices it is not sweet.

Damaris thinks shrimp and grits remind her of being in love. That makes me sad. She gets her grits creamy and smooth and well-seasoned. Seasoned perfectly! Heavenly! She is very happy with her dish! Inexplicably, Alton tells her she was not sleazy with the biting into her shrimp but romantic in a fun way that was loveable. That is data. He gets the grits though and he agrees about them being about love. He wants his own triple-x moment so he says “I need some private time.” But they need seasoning. Badly. Either they are just dumping on her so she has a rising arc or she has a palate that is out-of-sync.

Viet makes berries macerated in rum and honey topped with sparkling yogurt cream spiked with champagne with CO2 to make it sparkling and fizzy. It is something you would not expect from whipped cream. But is that not how whipped cream is made? Alton does not see him growing on camera. Alton says the food is not unpleasant it is just not what he expected. Bobby does not taste the rum and does not think it is very creative. I have to agree with that! He had an hour and he poured some berries in a bowl and szussszzed up yogurt and champagne?

Musical – Rodney, Chris, Lovely:

Right off the bat Lovely is not happy because she does not like Chris! He is loud and talks a lot! He knows she does not like him but that is ok he will just kill her with kindness! Lovely also realizes they have not liked any of her food. Chris figures there is no way to put a musical on the plate so they will do a song and dance and sparkle! Later he bullshits it with “musicals have lots of different things and lots of notes so we have lots of flavors.” It basically means “We had no idea what to do but we have Rodney who is a professional musician so we should do really well!” But they do not! They make up a song and sing about their food. The big surprise is Rodney who shows the world he is not much of a musician! He can barely play guitar and can definitely not sing! I like some pretty offbeat voices (like LP who has a very odd voice with extreme vibrato but somehow is still completely captivating) but this is just awful.

Chris makes lobster macaroni and cheese. “The first thing I do is cook my pasta.” Good choice. He puts in chorizo and tomatoes and parmesan and goat cheese. That sounds like an awful lot competing with the lobster. Giada does not think it works. It is too much stuff.

Rodney makes a steak mushroom onion and Gruyère pie. Again with all the stuff! Call it steak and cheese pie and then give the ingredient list! Do you know nothing about this? It does not matter what he called it because no one could understand him anyway. Bobby does not like the pie at all, even the crust is not good! Rodney keeps saying “pies and music are my life” which makes me sad because Alton points out he has not yet made a good pie and now he has not made good music now either!

Lovely makes a donut out of packaged pizza dough with cardamom orange caramel and orange zest and edible flowers to glam it up! Bobby can not bite into it! Giada struggles for the right word, looks up to heaven, literally spends about six seconds to come up with “dense.” It is too bad Wolfgang Puck is not there or he would throw it across the room! What is really hilarious is that Giada has a recipe for Italian donuts made with pizza dough! They are a little different in shape though. For that matter Pillsbury has a pizza dough-nut in little balls so it is not like it is an idea from another planet! But why use that when people on Chopped make donuts all the time in 30 minutes while figuring out how to put horseradish and hotdogs in their dessert at the same time! Maybe she was trying to do an homage to Giada but it backfired. Chris tried to get her to make a beignet because it would be a New Orleans thing and at least have something to do with music (like his lobster mac did… oh wait…) but I think Lovely would rather lose than take a suggestion from him.

The Reviews are In!

The Western team wins because they got the most orders! It also sounds like their food was best but I will bet there is some producer manipulation going on to make it look like they were best in both categories. So Nikki, Russell and Stacey are safe! And because they did not have the worst day Chad, Damaris and Chris are also safe!

Rodney, Lovely and Viet are up for the elimination!

The judges talk. Alton says Rodney has made only one good thing to eat in four episodes but he is the Pie Guy who can not make pie and the musician who can not play! Bobby wants him to balance food and entertainment better. Alton still sees the potential to get better. He is Safe! That is what a great package will do for you on Food Network.

Viet confounds Alton. Sometimes he likes his food but when he misses he misses big and he does not think he is improving. Giada thinks he is searching for himself. Viet tells the panel he is under a lot of pressure because of the Iron Chef thing and Alton tells him if he is not succeeding it is his style of cooking not that they have raised the bar too high! Now wait just a minute! Viet owns a restaurant and has been a James Beard semifinalist twice and is a Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef, he is exactly where Bobby Flay was in the early 90s! I think he has found himself, it is just that he got lost and wandered into Food Network by mistake! Where Rodney got a win for a fruit salad just the week before! I do not know if they are keeping him around to give him a Rising Arc or if they are keeping him around to humiliate for beating Bobby Flay but Viet is Safe!

That leaves Lovely, who is Out! I can not argue with that. Even the Pie Guy who Can Not Make Pies at least made a good fruit salad once.

Next week they will do live TV.

And now for the fun part: Steal That Aftershow!

Star Salvation:

This web series is the equivalent of Last Chance Kitchen from Top Chef which was the equivalent of something from Survivor I think (I do not watch Survivor). Food Network may be last to jump on a bandwagon but at least they get there. Robert Irvine gives eliminated contestants tasks to do and in the end one person will be allowed back in but we do not know when. Not today at least. I had forgotten all about this!

Today Lovely, Danushka, Andre and Daniela (remember her? I did not!) compete in a Basic Skills Test! They have fifteen minutes to:

  • Crack a dozen eggs
  • Break down one chicken
  • Clean six shrimp
  • Julienne two carrots
  • Make garlic paste from one head of garlic
  • That seems like a lot to me! I suppose it depends on how cleanly you do things. That is where the unreality part of Reality TV comes in! While they are working Robert comes by and annoys them and asks them about their Culinary Point Of View.

    Danushka thinks the tasks are a lot of stuff too but she does not seem to be working very fast. She tells Robert why she should be salvated: “There is no one like me on Food Network, is that not enough?” She finishes all her tasks! I guess she really did go to culinary school! Robert does not understand her point of view (“I am a model!”) and her carrots are not julienne, they are batonnet. I am no fan of Danushka and she knew the julienne was not fine enough but I think Robert is just showing off! She is safe anyway.

    Andre is trying hard to embrace weight loss as his POV! But he did not go to culinary school and he can not finish the tasks! He did not get to the garlic paste. But it is good enough and Robert likes his point of view so he is safe.

    Lovely talks about giving people skills they can master so they can celebrate every day through their food. That is the first time I have understood Party on a Plate! Robert understands her. She is Safe.

    Daniela does not like skills. I do not understand! She went to culinary school she must have been trained in something! She wants to be on television teaching people to cook does that not mean skills? She tells Robert her point of view is all about sexy. He hollers out sexy does not work if you can not put food on the plate. “Of course I know,” says Daniela. I did not even realize he was talking to her at first so I was surprised she answered! I think he was shaming her! That is not nice! But the truth is she does not make much sense! Robert did not understand her point of view (it seems to be “I am sexy”) and her julienne is not cut through. Sexy does not make sense as a culinary point of view and her knife skills need work so she is Out! She says: “This turned out to be a Salvation Elimination!”

    The remaining three now have 30 minutes to make a dish with those ingredients: chicken, shrimp, eggs, carrots, garlic. The eggs are the weird part.

    Lovely makes panko crusted chicken with couscous and carrots and garlic with grilled shrimp as a garnish. Where is the egg? I suppose it is part of the breading layers? That seems like cheating to me because you would not know there was an egg in it! He also says there is no garlic taste. But her dish is the best because this is Food Network and they do whatever they want!

    Danushka makes shrimp stuffed chicken with an Asian stir fry of vegetables and a scallion pancake! At least I know where the egg is. Robert likes the carrots with ginger and the chicken is moist but the shrimp is raw! “Juicy,” says Danushka trying to spin it but no dice. “Raw is not juicy,” says Robert. Well, it is, but raw is also raw. Still she is safe.

    Andre makes an omelet! At last someone really uses the egg! He makes a Body Building Meal to energize and prime for weight loss! But it is not good! Oh no! The shrimp and the omelet are rubbery and there is too much red bell pepper. ‘

    Andre is Out! He is disappointed he did not get to champion his point of view but he is very sweet on his way out. “I must not be ready for this yet,” he says, which may just be the most intelligent thing anyone has ever said on getting eliminated from any show ever.

    Danushka and Lovely will face the next eliminee next time! I think it is suspicious how suddenly Danushka has turned into an actual cook.

    Sunday with Zin: More Apostrophe Stuff!

    I have written aint, dont, havent, shant, shouldnt, and wont for twenty years with perfect impunity, using the apostrophe only when its omission would suggest another word: for example hell for he’ll. There is not the faintest reason for persisting in the ugly and silly trick of papering pages with these uncouth bacilli.

    Hello I am Zin and I love apostrophe controversy!

    In May Slate published an article with the title: “Are Apostrophes Necessary? Not really, no” and of course that got my attention!

    All over the world (at least in England) apostrophes are disappearing! Waterstone’s is now Waterstones! That is what happens when you sell the business out to a conglomerate they will change your name!

    Last year I had a lot of fun with the Nobel-prize-winning physicist Gerard ’t Hooft and his Asteroid 9491 when the International Astronomy Union named an asteroid in his honor but turned ’t Hooft into Thooft! I also got the only email I will probably ever get from a Nobel-prize-winning physicist!

    I avoid contractions and possessives so I do not need apostrophes unless they are in quotes or titles or names like ‘t Hooft because I am too boring to re-invent spelling but not everyone is so boring!

    I did not know the US had an official policy banning apostrophes in street names! But I did not know there even was a United States Board on Geographic Names in the first place! I think it is just wrong to call the mountain Pikes Peak because how do you know if the name is Pike or Pikes without the apostrophe? And I do not understand how Clark’s Mountain in Oregon got an exemption! Martha’s Vineyard was named in the seventeenth century before people had time to worry about such things (and when apostrophes were all new and shiny and just starting to be used for possessives in the first place) so I suppose that is why it is an exception and gets its apostrophe.

    There is a whole movement to Kill the Apostrophe! But Apostrophe Protection Society is opposed to that death penalty! The apostrophe even has a theme song! And a book!

    The sole purpose in the life cycle of the apostrophe used to be to torture students and give grammar school teachers something to do but now we have better things to teach in fourth grade and students seem to be torturing themselves just fine so maybe that is not a good reason for apostrophes to go on living! The more modern secondary job of the apostrophe is to scare computers but do we really need apostrophes to do that?

    I do not think we should be changing punctuation around to make our computers happier though! Or even to make fourth graders happier! I do not think though that it is ok to just not use them and let dont and wouldnt fend for themselves! And what about hell and shell and ill? I still do not think it makes sense to make people figure out if it is Pike or Pikes who discovered the peak (or whatever he did to get it named after him). It is not that hard to learn to use apostrophes or to avoid them if you do not like them!

    Maybe everyone should write Zin style and we can forget all about apostrophes!

    Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9), Ep.2: Burger Bash

    How Nathan Myhrvold makes a Modernist Burger

    How Nathan Myhrvold makes a Modernist Burger

    Hello I am Zin and it is time for burgers!

    The contestants have to make burgers for up to 100 people though actually no one has to make more than 15 and they have to do a 2-minute in-person demo to the crowd. The people will each have a token they can “spend” for a burger but only one! So the contestants have to sell the sizzle! The judges will taste everything and like Alton says, “We will be ever so judgmental.” The audience has the dials and the tokens though!

    The Best:

    Chad makes guess what barbecue! Memphis barbecue with cole slaw and hickory smoke sauce that looks like it came from a bottle but maybe that was ketchup since he said he made his own sauce. He uses 12 spices and makes fried green tomatoes and the women do not care what he is cooking they just turn their dials up and get in line! Whether he wins or not I bet FN is going to find a way to put him on TV or send him out to do demos and fairs. Giada loves his fried green tomatoes but wants him to do some kind of barbecue besides Memphis sweet style which seems a little picky to me. That is going to be the problem with Chad because how much barbecue can you do? I am bored with him already!

    Stacey wins the Cleanest Station award! No of course there is no such award but it is important since on TV you can not have a messy station. She makes a Baja Betty Burger (I do not know who Betty is) with beef and chorizo, jalapeno aioli, pico de gallo and lettuce on the bottom to keep the bun from getting soggy because “nobody wants a soggy bottom.” Alton is not sure how she will work vintage into this but Bobby is more worried that she needs to up the spice level if she is going to call it spicy! She does not quite get there Alton wants 15% more spice but it is a good burger over all and she does a very good presentation and gets 9 tokens so she is in the top three.

    Russell talks about beef and lamb and duck fat and bacon and Alton tells him his Seven Sins are his strength so he goes with that! When he says bacon and liquor people cheer! Of course they do everyone likes bacon and liquor! Fat and salt are why a third of us are obese! Yay Russell you and Paula Deen killing America one show at a time! When you have your heart attack you can peddle heart medicine like she sells diabetes drugs! God Bless America! He makes the best burger of the day (of course he does fat and salt taste good just ask Michael Moss) and he connects with the audience and he ties for the most tokens with 15! He is in the top three! He wins a prize for Most Improved since last week he was in the Bottom Three! Who cares about heart disease he won! And I bet it is delicious!

    The Mediocre:

    Viet does not like public speaking but he owns a restaurant so he knows he has to talk to customers. He makes a Vietnamese banh mi burger with pickled cucumber, duck fat aioli, and mushroom pate. I think duck fat aioli sounds disgusting but it is the sort of thing chef types love! Giada asks him how he will sell it and he starts to stammer until Alton says “All you need to do is say ‘I won Battle Ground Beef’ on Iron Chef America which is true! So that is what he does and they are impressed that his presentation improves! He gets 9 tokens and the judges like his burger Alton thinks he developed the flavor well. Viet is Safe!

    Rodney is the first to cut himself! He makes a burger pie by putting onions, mushrooms, gruyere and a bison patty on top of a pie crust and he says something about Motley Crue that I did not quite get. He talks very fast! He is rolling pie dough and ends with “You’re freakin’ pie style jack” and Bobby loves the energy but he needs to calm down! They do not like the burger Bobby says the crust is like a tortilla and he does not have to make a pie every time. He could have made a hamburger pie there are such things, Alton had a meat pie show on Good Eats, but I do not think Rodney is that good a cook to make something like that up on the fly. He only got 7 tokens but they love him so he is Safe!

    Lovely uses ground turkey for her burger because her mother used it to make it healthier but then she puts on bleu cheese and butter so what is she talking about? Bobby says to sell delicious not healthy! Alton says people at a burger bash do not care about healthy. This is why I love this show! They will turn around at some point and say “Healthy can be delicious” but right here they are saying clearly it is not! She puts caramelized onions and microgreens on top to make it glam! I guess microgreens are glam? I can buy them in my supermarket and I do not need instruction on how to throw them on a burger so how glam can they be? Giada still thinks she is fake but Bobby thinks she is likeable and Alton wants to try her burgers so that is good! She had the highest focus group score but her burger was all bleu cheese, still she is Safe. She is fake and that is exactly why she is perfect for FN!

    Damaris makes a lamb and duck fat burger (is it just me or does that sound disgusting) on a focaccia bun with pimiento cheese because the burgers are southern and the cheese is southern. I am not sure either is southern really but ok. Alton warns her not to be cutesy. She tells the crowd in the south first they learn to crawl then they learn to grill and she grilled at age 7 which makes her developmentally delayed if she was still crawling. Yes I am being picky. But then she waggles her boobs and the dials go way down! Alton says they were laughing at her. That makes me sad. I do not particularly like her but she is not mean and she knows she made a mistake and that is good enough for now. She cries really hard and they have to let her gather herself before they continue to tell her how bad she was. They tell her she was in the middle of the pack with 7 tokens and she could have been really great but the boobs were off-putting. Her burger was really good though she just did not sell it! Anyway she is safe but she is the last Safe.

    Chris makes pickled watermelon rind which sounds like another banh mi but he calls it Korean. He explains it as “hodgepodge” and Alton is worried but tells him to sell it like he sells at his establishment. Chris can do that! He is a salesman! He has a food truck! He runs out of time explaining his burger and the dials go down but he is a used car salesman and just keeps calling people over! I think he gave away a bottle of booze at one point but I think they would not have shown that because it probably breaks about thirty liquor laws. Bobby calls him a carnival barker and Alton says a carnival barker has more mission! He has a mission to sell! A point of view is what he does not have! I get tired listening to him! I would go over and see Viet or Stacey or Russell who are quieter. They do not like his demo but Giada is pleasantly surprised by his burger! He gets 13 tokens so Alton admits though his presentation was dead on arrival he saved it by working the crowd and he can cook and sell when he has a product to sell so now he has to see himself as a product and sell it. This is very depressing. People are not products! But he is Safe.

    The Worst:

    Nikki is worried because she has to make a burger with meat on the side! She is worried if she includes too much veg it will be loose and wet. That sounds like something to worry about all right! Alton tells her not to get cutesy. She is pretty confident because it is what she does online but she only gets six tokens! Of course she does not get much at a burger fest if she is making burgers out of veg! Alton does not like the Veggie Bang Burger and Giada says it has no flavor! Giada tells her to stop apologizing for the vegetables while at the same time telling her the vegetables taste terrible! That is why I love this show! Later Alton says she is not inspiring anyone to follow her and Giada wonders if she has mastered vegetables in general. That is pretty scary a semi-veg cook who can not cook veg! This was probably not a good test of her veg skills though!

    Danushka decides the problem is that her personality is not coming across! I think her personality is coming across just fine! I think Danushka is a little bit full of herself and has shown no reason to be that I can see. She thinks burgers are boring too so she tells Bobby she will take her shirt off and hope they like what they see and come to her station. Bobby tells her to forget the fashion model and get them to see her as an authority figure. She does the “watching you” finger thing with Bobby which makes no sense. She makes a bison slider with corn salad but her presentation is all in the red zone. “I love game meat!” she shouts and everyone laughs! She says she was herself 100% and that is who she is take it or leave it and I know which I will do! Alton says he can not look away but it hurts when he looks! There it is! That is pretty good. FNS a new train wreck every week! Come on that is why we are all watching yes? Her burger is ok but she only gets 2 tokens and did worst with the focus group.

    Andres talks about teaching men that cooking is as manly as growing a beard but Giada maybe does not like beards and tells him to tell a direct story! Giada and her stories! Alton asks about the whole wheat bun and again tells him how compelling the weight loss angle is but Andres does not want to jump on the weight loss bandwagon and he says something very interesting: “So many people are exploiting fat people.” Yes they are! There is money in obesity! My respect for Andres just went up a lot! He asks the audience if the guys make dinner and they seem to think he is scolding them. It does not go well! He makes a Cuban beef/pork burger with paprika and garlic but he is in the red then he talks about losing all that weight and the dials jump into the green! Maybe people at a burger bash do care about healthy! He only gets three tokens though so no they do not! Alton thinks it tastes like onion and mustard and has no seasoning. Giada says he insulted the men and alienated people by scolding them but I do not think so I think he issued a challenge and they were too lazy to take him up on it! But if guys do not want to cook he is not going to be able to get a show! Giada says he is running away from the thing that connects him to people which is the weight loss. I feel bad for him because he does not want to do that. Alton says he is the guy that does not want to do the thing he needs to do. Giada says he is trying to leave that other person behind which is pretty astute for Giada even if it is not accurate! Bobby defends him as having a message which makes me think Danushka is out since her message is somewhere around “I am beautiful and you are not so look at me.”

    And the Loser Is:

    Andres is out! That is what happens when they tell you to do something and you will not do it! I do not think they gave him enough of a chance to think about a new POV but I guess Danushka is good for getting people to talk about FNS! No publicity is bad publicity!

    Analysis:

    Yes I am going to do analysis! Brace yourselves! Do not worry it will be over soon.

    I have no idea who will win but I am positive that they knew before they started filming! A network does not spend money on a new “star” unless they know what they have and they will not leave it to chance! Especially with ratings dropping and the whole thing with Justin still confused and muddled! This is a big game of “We want to generate ratings with this competition and create a ready-made audience who is familiar with the new person at the same time.” Who they pick depends on the demographic they want to shore up!

    Stacey seemed most likely at first but I think she is peaking too early! They need to get her a POV too! If they want a Guy Fieri threat they might be looking at Rodney or Chris but I think Chris is too frat-boy and Rodney may not be able to cook anything but a traditional pie! Chad might be in the running to pick up grilling from Bobby! Nikki has the best POV but she does not seem to have the presence to pull it off at least not yet but if they are replacing Melissa maybe she is the one.

    The person who most surprises me is Viet and my surprise comes from outside the show! From TWoP I learned that he was on Extreme Chef and he had no problem being forceful and outspoken and some people think he is putting on this humble and quiet act! I did not see the show so I can not speak to that (and I can not find anything on Youtube) but still that is interesting! It would mean he is poised for a Rising Arc – start out shy and awkward and develop confidence! We know he can cook so maybe they want to add a touch of class with someone who has actually won awards instead of all these people who are making it up? Possession of culinary chops in the past has been a negative but maybe they are figuring out that they need someone besides Bobby Flay who can actually cook on the Food Network!

    We will see how things develop!

    Next week:

    The Chopped Challenge with Alex Guarnaschelli!

    And I want a cheese burger right now! This is why I should not watch FNS!

    Food Network Star 2013 – Episode 1: Are You Ready for Prime Time?

    Van Gogh: "The Potato Eaters" 1885

    Van Gogh: “The Potato Eaters” 1885

    Hello I am Zin and no I am not ready for prime time but that is why I am not a contestant!

    I already did bios and my first impressions in the preview post so we will jump right in!

    There is the usual gushing and the contestants say hello and then the Three Wise Mentors (no teams this time!) give them platitudes! Right off the bat they have to make a 30 second pitch tape with their culinary point of view! This seems like it should be something they would have prepared in advance but so many have no idea what to say I do not understand that! It is like going to a job interview without a resume! They also have to make a potato dish for the five judges! Then they find out about the focus group and the Dial of Doom!

    TopThree:

    Stacey takes vintage food and makes it modern! That is what Emily did last season yes? A lot of people did not like that Emily was out as early as she was so maybe they think they can swap in someone else with the same POV and no one will notice! She stumbles on her first pitch tape take and Alton comes over and tells her, “When the camera comes on there is nothing in the room but you and that” and that seems to help her a lot! I wonder if this is a little beginner-nerves staging though because I think she is a front-runner! For her dish she makes fried potato balls with chives and shredded potato skin on the outside all flash fried and she calls them Wild Man Potato Skin because the potato skins remind her of her son and his hair which sounds silly but that is a perfect FNS Family Story About The Relationship With Food! Bobby and Alton like the dish a lot! Tusch thinks she is very natural but a little low key so she needs to ratchet it up. That makes me sad. But that is a classic FNS critique! But she is one of the Top Three!

    Chad is the Barbecue Jew from Philadelphia! That is his tag line! It is hilarious but I do not think he can get away with saying that on a show! Everyone likes him! Nikki likes him Russell likes him and the focus group breaks into applause for him and only for him! The collective tongue of America is hanging out! He makes a potato latke with an egg and barbecue sauce and a little bit of shredded pork. Tusch just hears the focus group go wild and who cares about the food! Alton is a little confused about the egg but Giada likes the barbecue sauce.

    images (1)Nikki does her own online cooking segments so she has no problem with the camera! Giada and Bobby love her Semi-vegetarian concept! She cuts herself twice making her potato cauliflower and parsnip soup but that is what plastic gloves are for! Susie loves her food but worries that she is a little bit cutesy and it hurts her credibility. Her name is Nikki Dinki how can she be anything but cutesy? Bobby loves the soup it is inventive and has great flavor. She is in the Top Three!

    Safe:

    Damaris gets lost in her pitch tape first take about modern Southern food so Bobby says, “Tell me about yourself” and she starts talking about dancing. Bobby is confused! Then he decides she is wacky so she should do wacky and she uses “I can cook my ass off” as a tag line with all these shoulder poses to one side then the other! Her dish is roasted potato salad with bourbon mustard vinaigrette and it is a Southern party in your mouth! Tusch decides it is the oddest 30 seconds he has seen! He likes her in person but on tape she is off-putting so she needs to do something about that. Alton and Giada love her potato salad! She is Safe!

    Chris gets confused about his culinary POV and starts talking about helping kids grow and reaching hearts and passion and Kim Passion but nobody knows what he is talking about! That usually means someone does not have a culinary POV and is making something up! It turns out he went on medical missions with his parents when he was a kid and was trying to work that in but nobody knows what that means in terms of his food including him so he needs to come up with a Brand – aha the first appearance of the B word – that they can develop! This is not a chef competition it is a Brand competition and his needs work! His pierogi needs work too because Bobby thinks it is bland. Then again Bobby thinks anything north of chipotles are bland! But Chris is safe and I predict he will get some intense work on developing his Brand! But – thanks to wunderbar12 on the TWoP forums I have discovered something else interesting about Chris: Remember Charles Ramsey who saved the kidnapped girls in Cleveland? Chris is his boss! He has made a Charles Ramsey t-shirt with proceeds going to the families of the victims so they can get any support they need! He started out with a Ramsey Burger on the menu but Charles did not like that much so he stopped it! I think Charles Ramsey is a pretty cool guy! Chris goofed with the burger but he made up for it too! And now boy does he have a culinary point of view! Except I suppose the show was filmed before all the excitement.

    Viet is uncomfortable in front of the camera and that makes me sad because I hoped he would pull it off and overcome the disadvantage of being a F&W Best New Chef, a James Beard finalist, and the one who beat Bobby Flay in ICA! But no Tusch calls him a gentle soul which is a wonderful thing in Real Life but a terrible thing on TV! I want to cry! Stay Gold Ponyboy! He makes a potato croquette with soup inside. Say that again: he makes a potato croquette with soup inside! If anyone made that I would laugh at them but it looks beautiful and Susie says it is “ridiculously good.” He is doomed! But for now he is Safe!

    Andres gets a little confused trying to move his POV from his 150 pound weight loss to teaching guys how to cook! I do not think they will let him get away with that! Bobby wants him to be inspirational but he does not quite get there. Tusch thinks he is a little closed down and is not a star yet. Bobby thinks his Spanish omelette with chorizo needs seasoning because it is bland. How can anything with chorizo be bland?

    Lovely talks about glam but Bobby tells her to be more specific so she talks about eating diamonds and flowers. She makes sweet and purple potato hash with the glam right on top: candied bacon and arugula salad and edible flowers! Is she going to put flowers on everything? I think she is very comfortable on camera but this flower thing is troubling! Tusch does not get the glam message and she needs to be authentic without poses and empty words. Bobby likes her dish so she can cook but I am not sure potato hash can be called glam just because you throw flowers on it!

    Rodney the Pie Guy impresses Bobby with his Very Own Style! Giada wants to taste his pies! That is a double entendre with plausible deniability built in! He makes a potato pie with crab and gruyere filling and it does not come out exactly the way he wanted but Alton loves it! Tusch loves his presentation! He believes he is the Pie Guy and he does not even know what that means but he is intrigued! See you do not have to make sense on FN you just have to have a unique culinary POV! Jeff Mauro made everything into a sandwich and now Rodney will make everything into a pie!

    The really really bad ones:

    Danushka does not do so well in her promo! I thought she would be comic relief but I did not know she would be so bad at the whole camera thing! Giada says she seems angry and Danushka is surprised because people always say that! Well Danushka maybe that means something! She complains about everyone! She thinks Lovely is a stupid name! She does not like being in the kitchen next to someone (Russell? I am not sure) who is a Mad Scientist! She does not like Damaris talking too much! She does a second take and asks Giada if she smiled? She can not tell! Giada says, “You tried.” Yes she is the one everyone will love to hate and they will keep her around until the ridicule gets uncomfortable! If she was not such a mean person I would feel sorry for her! For her dish she is making “a dish I call a potato puff” because it is a potato puff and she makes a horseradish sauce because that is Eastern European and that is what she is but she is worried the potato puff is raw! Bobbie does not say it is raw but he does think it is dense! Susie says her pitch tape is bizarre and she comes off aloof and she needs to find her version of warmth! Good luck with that! She is one of the Bottom Three!

    Daniela does a terrible first take and Giada tries to calm her down but it does not go very well! She does not seem to know what to say! Something about beach to kitchen because she is Peruvian but lives in Hawaii! I am surprised because her bio video was fine! She makes a traditional Peruvian potato dish papas a la huancaina with purple Peruvian potatoes. Tusch is disappointed with her tape but Alton and Bobby like her dish. Still she is in the Bottom Three.

    Russell plays Che Guevarra with a Mohawk! He is the Dissident Chef the Culinary Anarchist the Underground Guy the Food Revolution! Alton is scared! Giada is lost! He does a second take and names the seven culinary sins: Fat, salt, offal, liquor… I forget the rest but that makes sense! “My food will kill you!” That is pretty revolutionary! I watched his bio and said in my Preview that he tries to look scary but he is not and sure enough Tusch says he does not seem like a revolutionary he seems like a librarian! Now it just so happens that being a librarian can be pretty revolutionary these days when you have to decide if you are going to give the government the records of the books people check out [Addendum: see what I mean? In Burma a librarian can get sent to jail! Ye Htet Oo is a true Revolutionary Librarian! Tusch needs to get out more or at least subscribe to The Millions feed!](and Tusch should read The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai which is all about a librarian who tries to be a revolutionary and fails) but I understand what he means! Why is Russell trying to sell himself as scary? They did an underground supper club challenge in Season 6 E7 so what is the big deal? Is he trying to be like Justin the Culinary Rebel? Susie tells him not to be a downer which is very helpful. He makes a potato trio with a pickled potato among other things and Giada likes the idea of a tasting but not the execution. He is in the Bottom Three!

    The Shrine of the Glowing Vagina (™ Minxeats) is back for the round of judging! It does not look like the same table from last year but they could not have bought a new glowing vagina table could they? How many glowing vagina tables can there be in the world?

    They do not pick a winner just name Chad Stacey and Nikki as the top three! Wait what happened to Rodney? They loved his presentation and his food why did he not get into the top?

    Danushka, Russell, and Daniela face the judges as the Losers. Now let me see:

    Danushka has no warmth and and made a dense potato puff;
    Russell had a manner inconsistent with his stated POV and his dish was not good;
    Daniela had a terrible tape but a good dish that was authentic to her interesting POV.

    Guess who goes home? Right! The one who can cook! This is the Food Network after all! Bye Daniela! I am surprised because I thought she was very energetic in her bio tape but it did not transfer.

    Sunday with Zin: Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) – Preview

    Hello I am Zin and it is summer and that means it is time for Food Network Star Season 9!

    I am still trying to figure out Season 8 from last year! The goofy MST-style thing with Justin Warner never happened! He did that prime-time special but I did not think it was good at all. People liked him so much but maybe he was making more money from his restaurant and did not have time? Maybe FN did not want to do his kind of show after all? Maybe they had a big fight? He does promos sometimes so it could not have been much of a fight. Maybe they are grooming him like they do with Kelsey on The Cooking Channel and they are waiting for him to be less pimply kid because the “hip” demographic they hoped for never happened (they never put up a show so of course it did not happen!) and more Ready for Prime Time for people who do not cook but want to sit on the couch eating Cheetos and watch others cook? I do not know!

    That was last year so it is time to move on!

    It is now Season 9! I think there are more culinary school people this time. They usually do not last long because Food Network is not a culinary school kind of place any more. They like family stories. And energy. I confess I have not watched Food Network at all over the past year except for these competitions. I do not even watch Chopped very often any more. I still love America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country on PBS though!

    It is time for the 2013 crew which is Season 9! Let us see what kind of train wreck this will be!

    The Contestants:

    Andres Guillama – 26, North Carolina, healthy Latin food. He is not a flirt he just acts like one! He can not help being charming really! (He also can not count! He says he has seven siblings and he beat the Brady Bunch by two but the Brady Bunch had six kids) He lost 150 pounds so he became a childhood obesity prevention coach. Is that a real job? His whole life revolves around food! That does not sound like eating pathology at all! He is from a Cuban family. Hey he is Herb 2! He is cute in a young way and he has a lot of energy.

    Chad Rosenthal – 37, Philly, barbecue. He has a barbecue restaurant. He also has a sad family story but we do not know quite what it is it yet! I think that is a major teaser. I bet it has something to do with his kid(s)! He has a nice manner and has an appealing woodchopper aura! He would look very at home out by the woodpile. I think a lot of people are going to complain about his hair but I like it!

    Stacey Poon-Kinney, 34, SD, former dancer, restaurant owner. She really is happy all the time! And she does not know what a hipster is (I do not either!) but sometimes she is called one. Maybe we will find out what a hipster is! She was on Restaurant: Impossible which, wait, does that not mean she was not a very good restaurant owner? She owned it with her father so maybe he was the bad owner and she was just the… bad chef? I do not know! Robert Irvine creeps me out so I do not watch him unless I have to and how often do you really have to watch a tv chef? She was a dancer before she and her father started a restaurant. Cooking is in her blood from her great-grandfather-chef. She does Sunday Pancake Dance Party! She has FN written all over her! It does not matter if she can cook they will teach her!

    Chris Hodgson, 27, Cleveland, culinary school grad, runner-up on Great Food Truck Race S2, new restaurant owner. He was a lacrosse player who has had three shoulder surgeries! I am not sure what that has to do with cooking but he seems very proud and it shows he… I do not know but it shows something important. He is the Frat Boy. Remember Chris from 2011? (what is it with the name Chris?) Or Mikey from TC2? ADDENDUM: WAIT! Thanks to wunderbar12 on the TWoP forums I have discovered something else interesting about Chris: Remember Charles Ramsey who saved the kidnapped girls in Cleveland? Chris is his boss! He has made a Charles Ramsey t-shirt with proceeds going to the families of the victims so they can get any support they need! He started out with a Ramsey Burger on the menu but Charles did not like that much so he stopped it! I think Charles Ramsey is a pretty cool guy! Chris goofed with the burger but he made up for it too! And boy does he have a culinary point of view now! Except I suppose the show was filmed before all the excitement.

    Danushka Lysek, 37, NYC, culinary school grad, personal chef, eliminated on the second round of Chopped when her lamb and rutabaga lacked taste and creativity. You must see her introduction video! Click the link on her name, it is too good to miss! She swears a lot! She seems to think she is very dynamic and a leader but she seems like a whiney bored teenager to me. A lot of the TWoP Chopped followers are not happy that she is on this show! See she is a model and a personal chef and she works for single rich men who work in banking. If a wife is involved she does not get hired because they feel threatened. This is really what she said go watch the tape! She slams lettuce to remove the core! She advises cleaning your kitchen! She talks about blood and juices dripping down! When she lost Chopped she decided it meant she is not just a pretty face (I am not sure she is that pretty but I am a terrible judge of such things) but that she is also a rock star chef. I am not sure losing a cooking competition for tasteless and uncreative food with relatively ordinary ingredients (no leftovers, no corn fungus) means that but I will not argue. I think she is comic relief! She is the one everyone will love to hate! I do not hate her I think she is funny!

    Damaris Phillips, 32, KY, Southern food, culinary school grad and teaches there. She likes to make pickles and super-phallic sausages! From her picture I really thought she was Chantal from ANTM-9 the China season! She is loud and inappropriate! No I am not saying that she says that! She does not seem all that loud or inappropriate in her video unless you count phallic sausages as inappropriate (and I do not). She does not seem all that southern either.

    Russell Jackson, 49, SF, culinary school, underground supper club. He is a modern day warrior and he has the hair and the arms to prove it! He is a hybrid of aggression and love! I am not sure what “subculture” dining is but he seems very proud of it. He has a tragic childhood story too! He lost ICA Battle Rhubarb to Jose Garces. It was the best night of a very bad year. When losing is the best night yes that is a bad year! He has a very comfortable camera manner but I think Susie is definitely going to tell him he is too scary! He aims for scary on purpose! But if an underground supper club and a Mohawk are the scariest things he has I do not think he is scary at all.

    Daniela Perez-Reyes, 29, Hawaii, born in Peru, culinary school grad, Peruvian/Polynesian twists, caterer. She wants to be hot! Her main selling point seems to be that she is not a grandma with a rolling pin! She has a “sassy personality” and talks with her hands and the Art Institute did not like that! And she has a lot of speeding tickets! She has a wonderful voice! And she is single! She will take over the role of Fiery Latina from Martina for this season!

    Lovely Jackson, 27, LA, from Chicago, glam food, culinary school grad, private chef. Glam food? Party food! Her name is Connie but her family teased her, “You think you are so lovely,” so she is Lovely. She has diamonds on her knives and serves edible diamonds and diamonds on the soles of her shoes – oh no that is Paul Simon – she puts rose petals on the plate! I would complain if I had flowers on my plate so I guess I am not glam. I do not know if she can cook but she has Brand written all over her! She even has an acronym: CLT, the Chef Lovely Tip! She has a strong presence. I think Susie is going to tell her she is too strong.

    Nikki Dinki, 29, NYC, semi-vegetarian. She has been studying Sandra Lee! Her shtick is Meat on the Side which sounds like… oh never mind you know what it sounds like! The point is she has two names for what she does and she needs to pick one! With a name like Nikki Dinki she is on thin ice already! But her pitch is good to cut down on meat without going full vegetarian and FN loves slogans!

    Rodney Henry, 47, Baltimore, pie shops, former rock musician, out first on Chopped, lost the Quiche Throwdown. He is a little old for a rock star. He used to sell pies on his rock and roll tours and now has pie shops. On Chopped he was on the Halloween episode and made chicken feet (!) that tasted like pie so he was chopped first! I think if you make chicken feet that taste like pie you should get a prize! He knows who Charles Bukowski is so that means something but he is too determined to prove he is still cool.

    Viet Pham, 34, SLC, born Malaysia, culinary school grad. He owns Forage and it sounds like one of those restaurants that took off after Noma started using weeds! He has a serious sob story starting in a Malaysian refugee camp you can not top that! He was Food & Wine Best New Chef! A James Beard semi-finalist! He beat Bobby Flay in ICA Battle Ground Beef with Beef Fat Ice Cream so dayum he can cook! He is a clone of Eric Lee from last season! But he says “soignee” a lot and I think it is pretty annoying! He is there I think to give the impression they really are looking for good cooks but of course they are not but it is good he gets some publicity!

    I am not sure if the setup is the same but Giada, Bobby, and Alton are mentors again, with Susie and Tusch as final judges. And a focus group! Wow, cool, with those high-tech dials from the 80s! And they liked the Last Chance Kitchen from TC so much (who liked it from Survivor so much) they now bring someone back in after they are cut. Here is what is not in the promo material: the guarantee of the show! I will be honest: if the TWoP people did not point this out I would not have noticed. Maybe that is what they are counting on! But maybe the title of Food Network Star is all the winner gets! They have not done terribly well generating shows this way after all. When Guy Fieri is your big success story you need to reconsider what you are doing!

    I am Tanned (no, I am not)! I am Rested (I am not that either)! I am Ready (that I am) for the train wreck! I will be back on Tuesday or Wednesday with a recap of Episode 1!

    Sunday with Zin: Literaria – Contranyms

    Hello I am Zin and it is time for Contranyms!

    For the week of March 18 the Wordsmith “A Word A Day” theme was Contranyms! These are words that have opposite meanings and you just have to know which meaning is meant in a sentence! Sometimes they are called “autoantonyms” and sometimes they are called “antagonyms” and sometimes “contranym” is spelled “contronym” but do not let the charming inconsistency of language that reflects the human mind distract you from the fact that some words mean exactly the opposite of what they mean!

    You do not believe me, do you? I will show you:

    The word “secrete” is a perfectly fine word and if you come across it in a medical or biology setting it probably means “discharge.” Like the lachrymal glands secrete tears or the stomach secretes digestive acids (I am sorry if this seems disgusting but it is ok it is over now). The word did not start as a verb it started as a noun “secretion” in the middle of the 17th century which is about the time biology and medicine started waking up in the Renaissance! Latin was what all educated people knew back then so it was from the Latin word secretus which means “having been separated” and that makes sense if you think of tears being separated from lachrymal glands. “Secretion” was such a cool word it became a verb!

    But what about the other “secrete”? Where has it hidden away?

    I think if I am reading my OED correctly that the word “secrete” meaning “to hide away” is a variation of the verb “secret” which was around in the 16th century but quickly went obsolete. I think maybe it did not so much go obsolete as add an “e” and become “secrete” in the same sense!

    This is interesting since here is the same word with two meanings and they came from different places except they really have at their heart the Latin root of secretus! This is pretty scary but it is again how language reflects people and people are often contradictory and confused! I think it does kind of make a sort of sense though because if the lachrymal glands secrete tears those tears are kind of hidden from the lachrymal glands yes? You have to really want it though!

    So here I was thinking I would have to do a Literaria post on Contranyms when what do you know within a month suddenly Salon reprinted an article from The Week all about Contronyms! I think maybe Judith Herman gets the Wordsmith mailing too!

    She includes fourteen words like:

    Oversight: to watch over something or to overlook it! This may be why Senate Oversight Committees sometimes overlook when they should be supervising!

    Cleave: To cut apart or to cling together! Hint: if you are told to cleave to someone the “to” gives it away and you should not chop them up because you do not “chop to”!

    My very favorite contranym: Sanction!

    Sanction confused me for decades! Sanctions on countries we get angry at but some sports like skating sanction certain events meaning they are acceptable! The Eiger sanction was a punishment but the President will not sanction use of military force! What is going on here? It is so confusing and I think I was in my 30s before I realized it means both things and you just have to figure out which is meant. Typically the noun version means a punishment, and the verb form means an approval, which could be a way of getting around contranym status since it changes parts of speech but I found out there are verb forms for both.

    This is why I love words because they do not sit still and behave but squirm around and you get to figure out ways to live with them anyway!

    Sunday with Zin: The Books Artists Make

    Sissy Buck: "Inextricably Woven"

    Sissy Buck: “Inextricably Woven”

    Hello I am Zin and what could be better than books and art? Bookart!

    These were not illustrations for books or books about art or books containing art but books as artists conceive them so they are not traditional books they are art pieces! This was an exhibition of the students from the Kate Cheney Chappell ’83 Center for Book Arts at USM!

    This was part of the Portland First Friday celebration for April and happened the same day as the Edible Book Art Festival! I could not find many pictures online so I had to rely mostly on my own pictures which are not great but they may give you an idea of what happens when artists create books and reading them becomes part of an artistic statement!

    Some of my favorites were by Sissy Buck who did the piece in the header photo. She also made a piece from her series “Fitting Words:”

    In this series, “Fitting Words”, I have used the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzles that I have done over the years (in varying degrees of completion) for my imagery. By enlarging the crosswords and printing them in layers of different colors using Xerox lithography, the abstracted images take on a different meaning and quality…another riddle or puzzle.

    I love the NYT Sunday puzzles and no other puzzles will do! I photocopy them every week at the library so this was a convergence of all sorts of great things for me!

    Artist Rush Brown also did a piece called “Susie Dancing” which I liked a lot it was like a cutout mural hung across the wall! He said he was the only man in the workshop at the time! I wonder why women are more interested in making books as art objects than men?

    Many of the books took unusual form! Cynthia Ahlstrin made “Without Consent” which was an actual book turned into a shoe and because of the title hints at a very interesting story! In an “introduce yourself” video she talks about “getting away from rendering what you actually see and it becomes more of a conversation between the layers” and yes this piece did that! She also made a piece about a shoe and books that won an art show titled “Every Shoe Tells A Story” which is very clever!

    Bonnie Faulkner is a glass artist but she played with book art and made “The Journey’s Angst” which was more of an accordion shape out of paper.

    Libby Barrett (who has a fantastic website of wonderful book art where each piece is amazing) made “Summer Day” which is also like an accordion shape with haiku. Libby also made a wall hanging “30 Days” a wall book of postcards for a month!

    I wish there was an album of professional pictures for all the pieces because many of them were wonderful! Elizabeth Berkana made a book out of playing cards and Tessa Jeffers made “Little Gold Dress Book” which was a dress made out of the folded pages of a book! Catie Hannigan made a weaving on one page with “I don’t think about you” on the other page! That was brilliant! Susan Colburn-Motta made a wonderful piece titled “Leaf Floating on Water” and she makes a lot of book art but I do not have a picture so you will have to take my word for it or keep an eye on the Center for Book Arts for their next exhibit or workshop!

    Sunday with Zin: Edible Book Festival

    Hello I am Zin and I am back from my vacation! I hope everyone missed me!

    While I was on vacation (and I did not really go on an actual vacation I just took a few weeks off from Sunday with Zin) I went to the Edible Book Festival at the Library!

    I had a lot of fun with this last year and I did try for a while to come up with an entry but last year the guy who did the Banana Kareninut Bread with the little smashed banana Anna on the train tracks intimidated me especially since the year before he did Beer and Loathing in Las Haggis the year before and set a very high bar! But he was not there this year which was sad. There were other wonderful things though!

    Pi(e) was very popular this year! The winners for both the Children and Adult divisions were about pi(e). But they were very different kinds of pi(e)!

    A nine-year-old girl won for “Lord of the Pies” complete with broken eyeglasses and a pie-dough pig head bloodied with strawberry-rhubarb juice! I voted for it because I could not help but vote for it, but I was surprised other people voted for it! And I was most surprised that nine-year-olds are reading Lord of the Flies! She must be very special and I think her parents are probably very special too!

    The adult winner was for Life of Pi which of course featured the life cycle of a pie arranged in a circle from the apples and flour to the completed pie! She had to put warnings on one pie to say it was not baked and should not be eaten (we were allowed to eat everything after the judging so taste was not a factor at all). But I had a soft spot for the book and she was clever so I voted for her too! I am so surprised I voted for the winners in both divisions!

    Stinky Cheese Man came in third maybe not because it was such a cool rendition but because it is such a cool book! It is a Post Modern Book of Fairy Tales and right there I wonder if I have become so very old, that children are reading post-modern literature! But it is very funny and I enjoy watching the video because I like all that meta stuff! I wish we had meta fiction when I was little!

    One of the prettiest entries was Gingerbread Man and it won a prize too. It was a very well-done gingerbread house book!

    I voted for an entry that was not very pretty and did not involve any baking or really any food work at all but I appreciated the sign that accompanied it: it was an ordinary fruit salad in a plastic tub from the grocery store with a little note:

    Literary Fruit Salad
    One Pound of Cantaloupe, Ezra Large
    one Sun Dried Raisin
    A Half Cup California Grapes, Imported from Oklahoma
    Five Small Peppers
    One Diced Mango from South America (I think maybe it should be Mexico but I could be wrong)
    Peach Jam from Giant Peaches

    Now I have to come up with ideas again for next year! I still have this idea to actually make a book out of fruit leather and licorice laces and maybe big bars of chocolate. Except I probably will not but it does not hurt to think about it. It is always fun to see what people come up with.

    Zin is on Vacation!

    Hello I am Zin and I am taking a vacation from blogging! Everyone should take a vacation once a year right?

    I have too many ideas and no time to actually do any of them so I will not be posting for the next few weeks or maybe a month but then I will be back with more Literaria and next weekend is the Edible Book Festival and I will tell you about that too when I get back and other things as well.

    Sunday with Zin: Naked Shakespeare

    Hello I am Zin and on February 1 Shakespeare went Naked! And I watched!

    Naked Shakespeare is a performing arts group in southern Maine that performs Shakespearean sonnets and brief scenes from his plays in everyday places like taverns and summer fairs without costumes or lights or scenery or even a stage! They just show up and speak! It is pretty remarkable! On February 1 as part of the First Friday festivities here in Portland they took over the Atrium of the library for a performance. It was quite strange because the Atrium is very small, it is maybe 30 feet wide, and people were sitting on the floor and wee littles were crying and people were coming and going and the actors never got distracted! It was amazing to watch them keep focused on what they were doing!

    They had a special challenge because they were in the middle of the floor with nothing but a bench and people were lined up against both walls and the ends, so it was like they were in the middle of a rectangle of audience! They had to keep moving around so everyone had a chance to hear and see them up close and all of this was improvised which I think is pretty impressive when they are also performing Shakespeare!

    Because of the time of year the theme was “Will You Be Mine” and the works were about love of all kinds from the love sonnets and the comedies to of all things King Lear and Cordelia! That was my favorite because the actors were really good! When Lear entered I think the whole audience was worried the actor was having some kind of medical problem he was so convincing!

    I took a video recording of the Sonnet 29 (“When, in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state…. Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
    Like to the lark at break of day arising…”), a short scene from Measure for Measure, and a longer passage from Troilus and Cressida which I have never read or seen before. Because the actors were sometimes two feet away and sometimes fifty feet away the sound is a bit odd but it gives an idea of the very un-Shakespearean setting! At least un-Shakespearean as we are used to seeing Shakespeare performed now.

    Good words and good performers work anywhere!

    Sunday with Zin: The Sing-Off Is Back!

    Hello I am Zin and it is my Blogging Birthday! I started Sunday with Zin one year ago and I am very proud that this is my 52nd post and I did not miss a single week!

    I got a wonderful Blogging Birthday present this week: The Sing-Off is coming back!

    I was so sad that it was cancelled last year I did my own six-week a capella tribute at Christmas and it was a lot of fun but I would rather have had the show! It is really strange we were just talking about this and that same day I discovered it had been renewed for this Christmas! Maybe I should start talking about how disappointed I am that Google Reader is being cancelled and they will bring that back too.

    History lesson: The Sing-Off started as a surprise! I did not even know about it until the night it started four years ago during the week before Christmas! Since most of the groups were from colleges (that is where the a capella is) it was filmed over the summer but most of the competition was aired in December with a finale just before Christmas and it was so wonderful, so special, like a little Christmas present during a time of year when no one is watching television!

    The next year they expanded it a little and we started blogging it (I did 2011, I was not blogging in 2010) because we loved it so much! The third year they made a mistake and turned it into a full twelve-week competition but even though they had some wonderful groups (including my beloved Pentatonix) it did not do well I think because the specialness was lost. It was just another singing competition!

    So it seems they have gone back to the original short format for the Christmas hiatus and that is a good thing! Mark Burnett will be the producer which makes me a little nervous because he does things like Survivor and The Apprentice that depend on viewer manipulation and suspense and that is not at all what The Sing Off should be. A lot of people think he has done a good job with The Voice which I have never seen (I think the chairs are gimmicky) but I hope it means he knows how to present music without getting in the way. They had better bring back Ben Folds and Shawn Stockman!

    I watched some of the Chinese version last year and discovered some cool new groups! Maybe someone noticed that a lot of people were paying attention to Chinese songs. The article says they never actually cancelled the show they just did not pick it up for last year and I am glad they decided it was time to start again.

    They are casting right now so if you are in an a capella group or know someone who is you should hurry!

    Sunday with Zin: Portmanteau!

    Hello I am Zin and it is time to portmanteau!

    It may seem strange that a suitcase has become a literary device but if we break it down step by step it is not so strange!

    The word started in France in the sixteenth century as the title for a “court official who carried a prince’s mantle” and was formed from the verb “porter” which is “to carry” and from “manteau” which meant “cloak” so this makes perfect sense so far right?

    Very soon it came to mean a case or travelling bag like would be carried on horseback (and sometimes it was very specific about how it opened or where the hinge was but we will just call it a suitcase) so now we have gone from a person to a thing: an idea can not be far behind!

    We can blame it on Lewis Carroll! He decided that since the idea of a portmanteau was to pack things together it would also be a good name for a word that packed two words together! In Through the Looking Glasshe made up his own words in Jabberwocky then had Humpty Dumpty explain them to Alice a couple of times:

    Well, “slithy” means “lithe and slimy”. “Lithe” is the same as “active”. You see it’s like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word….
    . ..Well then, “mimsy” is “flimsy and miserable” (there’s another portmanteau for you).

    Word people have been playing with portmanteaus – portmanteaux? Wait we have another problem! What is the plural of portmanteau?

    It depends! Some people think that because it is now an English word it should follow the English custom of adding the “s” to make it plural and some think it should be spelled with an “x” to show that they are sophisticated enough to know that in French an –eau ending takes an “x” as the plural! I will confess that I like the “x” but I am not trying to convince anyone that I am sophisticated (because that would be just wrong not to mention futile) or that I know French (though I did take two years in high school but all I remember is how to ask how to get to the library and if it is not straight ahead I will not be able to understand the answer)! I just like exes (x-es? Xs? See how much trouble you can get into thinking about words).

    Pop culture and fanfic has taken portmanteaus very seriously in creating names for couples like Billary (remember the Clintons? Come on it was not that long ago!) and the ever-popular Bennifer and it seems Glee fans make a team sport out of this! My favorite is the Puckleberry Finn for the love triangle of Puck, Rachel Berry, and Finn. I finally gave up on Glee but I still like the portmanteau name!

    benelux-logoOn a more academic note there has always been Benelux for Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemborg which even has a flag though it is not a country! The design even won a Phrase Shift Key Award which seems to have something to do with amateur radio enthusiasts or maybe it is a joke but it is done with such a straight face I can not tell!

    What made me pick Portmanteau as the Literary Device of the Day? After all it is pretty common and I wanted to do uncommon words! Well I saw an article by Simon Akam in Slate just the other day railing against Bridezillas and the popularity of “neolexic portmanteaus” which is just a fancy way of saying new words that are portmanteaus and his complaint is that they are not accurate puns since the new first halves of the words do not rhyme with the old first halves! I think he is confusing me! Portmanteaus are not puns! They can be but they do not have to be! So why complain that they are not? But complain he does!

    One erudite friend of mine suggests that the current crisis in American wordplay can be traced back to the Watergate scandal of the 1970s and the subsequent tendency to append any scandal-related noun with the suffix -gate. Before Nixon fell, my friend suggests, “All American puns rhymed perfectly and snappily, as if the whole country were a Cole Porter musical.” While this may not be precisely accurate, it is true that in the United States puns have come in and out of favor over time.

    I think he taking up the Andy Rooney mantle of curmudgeonry to complain about this! Oh, wait, that would make him a portmanteau! But only in the sixteenth century!

    Sunday with Zin: Everyone Should Know About Vi Hart

    "You Are Safe Here" - Vi Hart

    “You Are Safe Here” – Vi Hart

    Hello I am Zin and I am very happy to see that Vi Hart is branching out even more and bringing her clever video approach to address more personal issues!

    I first discovered Vi in connection with Khan Academy! And now she is featured on Brain Pickings in an article about her latest video about dealing with trolls! No not the fairy-tale characters but the contemporary trolls who leave mean messages and tell you how bad your video (or blog post) is! She also has a wonderful video about making videos (“They Became What They Beheld: Medium, Message, and Youtubery”)! And then a video about making a video about making videos! Can you see why I love Vi Hart?

    You can check out her YouTube channel and I will help by listing my own favorites!

    First she did Math and then became the Mathemusician for Khan Academy. But not just Math: Math like the Binary Hand Dance! And it makes sense whether you know about binary or not!

    And my favorite of all time, her story about Wind and Mr. Ug which turns into… well I will not tell you, it will be a surprise!

    I think her crowning achievement in math videos was in her series of videos about Thanksgiving Dinner: Green Bean Vectors (I never realized green beans are like vectors) and Borromean Onion Rings (which is better than a Blooming Onion believe me!) and finishing off with Turducken except it is more like turduckduckhenhenhenhenailailailailailailailail. And she actually makes these dishes! She can bone poultry! This is a multi-talented woman!

    She started doing music with paper instruments then made some part-science-part-music videos! (Folding Time and Space is my favorite! Her website includes instructions for making paper instruments like a recorder and a didgeridoo! I told you she is multi-talented!

    And now she is going into more general topics and doing them just as wonderfully!

    I wish I knew how to drop a bug in the ear of the MacArthur genius grant people so they would notice Vi Hart because she has some wonderful things to say and some very creative and entertaining ways to say them!