Food Network Star 2012 Episode 4: Fashion Week Food Makeover

It may be strange, but at least it is not a pineapple slice!

It may be strange, but at least it is not a pineapple slice!

Hello, I am Zin! You know what is going to happen, right? You knew it the minute he made pasta and ricotta and a turnover from scratch and they were perfect and delicious! They can not have that kind of skill on the Food Network!

But we can start at the beginning with Ted Allen! Unfortunately it all goes downhill from there.

Ted announces it is Fashion Week, time for makeovers! The contestants look kind of nervous, with that “Oh no is Tyra Banks going to cut off all my hair?” expression. But no, they must make over an unappealing dish to please the eye and the palate. They will make their dishes for a Pamella Roland fashion show.

The culinary challenge is pretty much one every show does: take an ordinary dish and do something good to it. The winning team will be safe; the individual winner gets $10,000! That is a lot of money so early in the competition!

They all do oral presentations while a model walks down the runway holding plated food in her hand and puts it on a pedestal at the end of the runway. After everyone from the team does his/her presentation, the judges get the food to eat – and they have to hold the plate, or put it in their laps, there is no table – while the rest of the audience just sits there and watches. I do not think this makes sense!

Bobby tells his team it is all about presentation of both food and self, and they hit the runway!

Malcolm makes over meatloaf and mashed potatoes. This means duck loaf, which looks like pink meat loaf to me! When he comes out for his presentation, he does a fashion pose! That is cute! He talks about food meets fashion, old school meat loaf to simple and sophisticated duck loaf, new food fashionistas. He does a good job! Susie thinks he is very attractive in every way! Hah! They love the duck loaf! Good for Malcolm!

Nikki is assigned pork chops and sauerkraut, so she grills (of course!) pork chops and serves it with a “vibrant red and mahogany fig and cherry chutney.” That sounds good! Her presentation is very fashionista: food and fashion are very sexy, tailored french cut pork chop. They love her talk and that she used so many fashion terms and her pork chop is delicious. Giada tries to smack her down by asking, “But is it runway food?” and says it should be sleek and sexy but it is actually rustic; Bobby says it does not matter because she is on his team. Well, no, he does not say that is why it does not matter, but he does say it does not matter. Nobody else seems to care either.

Eric refreshes fishsticks and tartar sauce. He looks in the store for a particular brand of spring roll wrappers and can not find them, so he gets dried rice paper wrappers. I do not know enough about Asian cooking to know if that is a reasonable substitute! It seems like a big change to me, but we do not know if they have a different brand but he does not like the other brand, or if he thinks about wonton wrappers or other things that sometimes people use. He makes a salt cod and potato filling which does not sound very Asian or very fashionista. When he goes to deep fry his rice paper rolls, the wrappers come off and look like used condoms in the fryer! And the filling turns into little pieces of croquette! So he panics with only 50 minutes to go and uses flour and beer that other people have (Michele is happy to give him stuff to help, she is nice, I like her more and more which is probably a bad sign) and he breads the things (I do not know if he breads the already-made rice paper wrapped things, I think so, but I am not sure) and then fries them and you know of course they come out perfect! Because Eric is a Supercook! In the kitchen he can recover from disaster! At presentation, not so much. But he is not a disaster! He is just a little nervous! It did not seem all that bad to me! I do not think he was the worst presentation! The judges think his fish sticks are great, but they decide he is likeable if not always memorable.

Michele (and I check and check every time, she does spell it with one “l”) has to make over baked flounder and steamed broccoli which, wow, that was, ahem, tailored to her, yes? She turns it into pan roasted sea bass and talks about taking a trip to Newport, RI and then up to Portland, Maine for a beer and I am confused, but so are the judges because they think she said something about Providence (which maybe she did and they edited it out?) but her food was delicious even if she did lose them on the road trip! I think she just tried to think about it and come up with a cute story instead of just talking about the food she loves to cook! That is what Food Network does to people!

Now it is time for Team Giada! They should have an advantage here seeing as they are the Cheerleaders! She tells them to do couture cooking and use words from the runway.

Ippy has Salisbury steak with peas and carrots. Salisbury steak is supposed to be sort of a flattened meatball (eggs, bread crumbs, onions) served with brown gravy, but it is usually what people call a hamburger patty when they want to make it sound fancy! Ippy makes ground rib eye (does that not make you want to cry, to grind up rib eye?) with a pancetta crust. He pretty much made Salisbury steak with better quality beef! I do not think that was the idea! But what do I know! He comes out and realizes he is worst dressed! He talks about gorgeous sunrise in his homeland of Hawaii but the food has nothing to do with that! Susie thinks he is camp, and Bob is beginning to doubt he has Star Quality. Susie says he cooks with precision but is too laid back.

Note: when the Food Network talks about “stars” they do not mean “stars” in the sense that the film industry means: people with charisma that pops off the screen, as they say. They mean someone who will be the only person in a show! So the bar for stardom is set rather low here!

Martita is assigned chicken and rice with gravy, which of course is a signal to make arroz con pollo. She talks about peppers and chorizo and love and flavor. Bob loves her generosity: she wants to cook for you and give you gifts – no, she wants a TV show! Bob really likes her, he calls her food “a jewel box of a dish” and I do not know if he means the presentation or the taste! Susie is happy too!

Yvan redesigns shepherds Pie which ties right into his Venezuelan roots… oh, wait… no, only some people get food that fits with their expertise, the others get to work harder. He wants to make it elegant and sexy, light and airy, focusing on velvety potatoes to make it a sexy experience. That is scary! I still do not get the whole sexy food thing! But you know what? The dish he presents is gorgeous, cool and elegant! It is something white in a white bowl with lots of chives (or scallions or something long and green) and it looks very Asian, I have no idea what it is, maybe it is mashed potatoes and ground lamb with carrots and onions, but whatever it is, it looks beautiful, and that of course is the point of the Food Network Star! They say he took the heaviest dish and gave it the appearance of lightness. They do not say it tastes light or even what it is exactly. His little talk is way too loud, he is yelling “you are in my house” which of course they are not, something about elevated to new heights, and Susie thinks it is painful to watch! Yes, Bob says he is trying too hard to fill a big space, and yes, that is right, like a kid trying too hard!

Linkie draws chicken pot pie. She memorizes her speech and starts stumbling over words and gets lost! Bob tells her that is the problem with memorizing a script, you fall apart if you get off script. I do not know what she makes (the show is only an hour this week so they skimmed over a lot of the people in the middle) but it looks like creamed chicken over puff pastry and Bob says he likes the curry so it must be chicken curry! It seems to go over well, tradition and comfort elevated to the next level of sophistication, even if the proportion is a little off and there is too much puff pastry. I personally do not think you can every have too much puff pastry!

And now Team Alton takes the runway! He goes into the kitchen to mentor them, and is making suggestions and Justin says “Yes Chef” and Alton says, “I have been in enough kitchens to know what ‘Yes Chef’ really means.” I am thinking it means “STFU you *@&%#*@ and let me work!”

Justin has to make over Beef Stroganoff, and he decides to make beef presentable, because, you know, it is not and never has been? He is going to make it in a checkerboard pattern! He keeps talking about damier, and ask your girlfriend, because they will not let him say Louis Vuitton since they did not pay anything (do you want to bet they asked?) but it is the Vuitton checkerboard pattern (“damier” means “checkerboard” in French) which has been used since 1889. So when Justin says he knows fashion week, I believe him! I also understand why I get so many “justin warner gay” searches! I am impressed he knows all this! I am betting most of the designers on Project Runway would not know what damier canvas is! Especially the Lifetime version! Anyway, back to food… he barely sears beef tenderloin and serves it in a checkerboard pattern with beet slices and beet-infused sour cream. I am not sure it looks that appetizing, and it is a bit big and clunky, but it is a clever idea. He avoids mushy mushrooms by making solid mushroom broth gel. Everyone is crazy about him, how inventive and fashionable the plate is, and Bob loves the way his mind works with radical reimagining. I did like his runway spiel, he wore a graphic sweater and a bright green jacket (yes, I get the searches now) and talks about “The first dish in the Alton Brown collection” and it is great the team has this little patter all worked out! But wait… no one says the food is good, just that they liked the use of beets to indicate the Russian origin of the dish (except there are no beets in stroganoff)! He barely cooked! He just seared the beef and I guess boiled the beets! But this is the Food Network, where they can teach their Stars to cook but not to invent beef checkerboards! Do you see where this episode is going?

Emily gets ham steak with pineapple and maraschino cherry, and green beans. That does not sound unappealing to me! She turns it into ham salad with grilled pineapple and a spicy green bean salad with pickled spiced maraschino cherries! She keeps saying it is retro rad and I am getting very tired of that shtick! She gets on the runway and says things like fierce, retro redo, from the retro rad collection and I am thinking of playing a drinking game with that phrase but I do not drink! I suppose I could drink diet soda! But that is not the same thing! It sounds good, but here is the weird part: she made a food fascinator! For those who do not know this term, a fascinator is the weird hatlike head ornament everyone wore to the Royal Wedding last year, Philip Treacy is famous for them! This means… Emily has put pineapple and a cherry in her hair! She has food in her hair! SHE HAS FOOD IN HER HAIR! Is this girl Food Network material or what? Emily, I like you, but I do not like what this competition is doing to you! She ends her little talk with “Hats off to Ham!” which is cute except SHE STILL HAS FOOD IN HER HAIR! Stop it this minute! Yes, Philip Treacy made a Feather Salad hat, and you can buy food-themed fascinators on Etsy (anyone for a slice of knit key lime pie on your head?), but they are not actual food! They love it of course, Susie sees her as playful in a way she has not been (I see, so putting food in your hair is playful?) and her dish is Emily on a plate, which still scares me when people say that, I think of cannibals. Bob thinks it is a hat Aretha Franklin would wear. I think if you handed Aretha Franklin a pineapple and told her to put it in her hair, she would sing “Respect” in your face! Do not tell me Aretha would put food in her hair!

Judson gets to redo seafood alfredo. He uses all kinds of cool shellfish like king crab, shrimp, and lobster, which is a good start. Unfortunately he makes some kind of fried rice noodle ball with the lobster inside, and it looks like a weird tangle and no one knows what to do with it. Before he comes out Alton pretty much disowns him by saying he is the wild card and the enigma. Judson does not disappoint in that regard: he says one of his mantras is “Food plus fashion equals love.” WTF? Yes, it has all the buzzwords, but it does not make sense! Bob is pretty incredulous: “That is his mantra? It is not!” No, it is not. He goes on talking about immensely crispy exterior and almost citrus smell wafting to your nose. He later says his mind is racing and he does not know what he is saying. Giada thinks his dish has too many crunchy things. Ted finds the sauce cloying and overwhelming. They are all looking at the rice noodle ball like it is a toy instead of something to eat. Big disaster! He thinks he is going home. I think he is right!

Martie takes on tuna casserole, and pretty much makes tuna casserole except with tuna belly and puts it in a ring mold with the pasta on the bottom. But of course if you bake something in a ring mold you can not take it out! So she just serves it, and that could work because it looks like a can of tuna fish, but she decides not to play on that and just does not talk about it! Her speech is about everything old is new again and tuna casserole 2.0 and no filler noodles (except there are, just at the bottom) and delicious tuna belly instead of canned tuna (I am not sure where the tuna belly came from). Bob thinks she is charming. Alton does not know how to eat the stuff in the ring mold, and Bob thinks it is more homey, flannel pajamas and cocoa rather than fashion show, but she has the most comfy personality and that is what Food Network Star is all about!

They gather for target practice. The judges and audience together picked Justin as the winner! Now wait a minute, that is overdoing it! Ok, I can see a fashion audience being impressed by the reference to damier, but his food was kind of stupid, and very simple! I think they are beginning to push him at us and I do not like that! It is too bad because it is having the opposite effect of what they want, it makes me resent him! And I think he is most likely to end up with a show closer to Good Eats or the Brian Boitano show that was so much fun, or maybe Bitchin’ Kitchen. So he is probably my best bet, still, I do not like how they are focing him down our throats and pretending everything he does is perfect!

Team Alton wins the team challenge, so Judson gets a reprieve and he knows it! He even thanks the team for keeping him from going home! Ted says they had the most fun playing with words.

Eric is the Team Bobby fall guy, because he is too good a cook! Seriously, that is what Susie, says, too much emphasis on perfection of the food and nothing interesting! I understand what she means, but only the Food Network sends people home for cooking too well and tells them perfect cooking is not interesting! This is why I do not watch any cooking shows except for competitions which make me angry! Maybe I should stop this, yes?

Ippy takes the bullet for Team Giada, and I wonder where Linkie is in all this. Neither of them have done good presentations and her food has only been good once!

The Producer Challenge is not about cooking at all, which is interesting, since both people have produced good dishes all along but not good presentations – aha, I wonder if they planned this or if they decided based on who they were to do this kind of challenge! They have to taste french toast and describe it on camera.

Bobby tells Eric to relate the french toast to something in his life, and he talks about his mother bringing him french toast on valentines day which is a little creepy, maybe, but I guess sweet, and he talks about the cinnamon and the mascarpone (which he pronounces correctly) and how it complements the spice. They scold him for listing ingredients but not describing flavors and textures. Bobby advocates for him, saying he can talk about food in an intelligent and simple way, and they shouldn’t lose the best cook in the competition. Uh oh, Eric is toast, can you tell?

Giada tells Ippy to have FUN FUN FUN FUN and bring me into your world. Ippy says “You have to perform and hand your life over to Bob and Susie and hope for the best.” No wonder they are scared, I would not want to hand my life over to those two! He has trouble talking with his mouth full, and looks very introverted on camera, so of course they scold him for that and he says he can bring it up but he wants to represent his people who are laid back. Maybe he needs more of his Italian people! Bob tells him he can be laid back and excited by the food. No, Bob, laid back is the opposite of excited, that is what laid back means!

In the end Ippy is seen as more original, which is true, and Eric is sent home. All the contestants are shocked because they knew how great he was in the kitchen. Bob says yes, he is one of the most talented chefs they have ever had on the show and that is why they are sending him home. No, he does not say that, but that is pretty much it. Even I have to admit he does not really have a culinary point of view, but I still think there is a place for him, and I have a feeling he will show up somewhere else, maybe on Iron Chef or Top Chef.

The only thing I know about next week is Giada stands up and cheers! I am hoping that is because Ippy brought up his energy level!

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