Hello, I am Zin, and we are now in Week 5! Justin says he is happy he made it to the halfway mark, but they started with 15, and now they have 11, so I am not sure how that is halfway. I think maybe some multiple eliminations are coming up if there are only 5 more episodes!
The mentors visit the contestants in their living quarters and mentor them:
Bobby: Michelle came out of the gate quickly but is fading. Nikki thinks she is polished but she actually sounds “hosty” (which is nothing like what the host of a show should sound like of course!). Malcolm needs a better point of view than “soulful, not soul food” – do not say what it is not. I think “soulful” is a perfectly good point of view, but I guess they have decided they do not want him and they are laying the groundwork to dump him.
Giada: Yvan is not getting a lot of depth in his stories, so he tells her about the crazy house he lives in. I am not sure why it is crazy: his parents and the dog live on the first floor, some brothers on the second, and he and a brother on the third. To him and Giada this is crazy. I do not understand! Linkie thinks she is the underdog because of her accent so Giada tells her all about coming here when she was eight years old and somehow that makes Linkie feel more confident because she knows where she came from. *shrug * I do not think Giada makes much sense most of the time. Ippy gets another scolding for low energy; he interviews he will not change who he is, and he thinks the judges appreciate him not changing who he is. No, Ippy, they do not! They say “be yourself” but they do not mean it, they want you to bounce around and yell! I do not think you should, I think you are just fine the way you are, but I worry that he really thinks they like him and they have told him over and over to turn up the energy! He is not hearing it! Martita has to dig deeper into personal stories. See, this is why I do not watch Food Network cooking shows any more! They are all talking about their families and cooking the same things over and over again!
Alton tells Martie he understands her mission, and he listens to her go on and on about something. He looks bored! She does not pick up on it but keeps talking! When she stops, he says he waited to see if she would stop talking and eventually she did so that is good! He tells her she is the best in the group on camera but has to stop talking faster! Emily, he says, needs to present like she is talking to him. He does not want Justin to change a lot, because he is a good storyteller, but warns him about coming off too brash. Aha, the forced character arc! Nothing Justin has done on this show has seemed brash. He does admit sometimes he acts cocky to have confidence. He says the key is to not be a jerk-face. He also thinks Alton is one of the best teachers he has ever had. I think Justin is being set up to win this! At the very least he will get a show on the Cooking Channel out of it! Judson is still a mystery, and starts talking about his weight loss, and Alton says that is how he discovered a world of flavor and that is important! But Judson does not want to go on about his weight loss because it brings back bad memories! Too bad, Judson, if you want the job, do it! Actually, it does not matter, for Judson it is a matter of time before they throw him off.
The mentors present the next challenge: to showcase versatility and the ability to thrive in any situation (which is pretty much what versatility is, maybe they thought it was too hard a word?).
Guy Fieri comes in. Guy Fieri is not really what I would call versatile. Put him in a room with Hubert Keller or Tom Colicchio (who declared him the Most Overrated Celebrity Chef during his Plead the Fifth moment on Watch What Happens with Andy Cohen) or pretty much anyone with a vocabulary beyond “awesome”. See how versatile he is then!
Guy comments that he and Michelle might be relatives. She says people say that, and she does not get it. Michele, that is because you have a brain. To the simple-minded, your hair is alike so you must be related, and this is the level of The Food Network! It is funny, every year this show starts out ok and goes downhill really fast!
The idea is they will host a live show with Guy as host – no tape, no redos, just keep it going – in front of a studio audience and each team will have a special occasion theme; they will do a demo and present a completed dish. Justin is worried because Guy has a big personality and he has to match it. I am positive this interview was shot after they completed the challenge. You will see why. They are pushing Justin hard.
They have an hour to prepare and then each team will have ten minutes to demo.
Team Alton: Halloween (Michele laughs, because she thinks Team Alton is all about Halloween: “Have you seen them?” That is mean, Michele! There are people who think you are a bit freaky, you know! Have you not seen the nasty comments about your flannel shirts? You lose points with me for that crack.
Emily: she is going to make little jars of applesauce. Justin interviews he cried when he got applesauce for Halloween. Who gives applesauce for Halloween? Raisins, oranges, but applesauce? I think he is making it up! And by the way, Justin, that classifies as cocky. But Emily is going to show that canning, a very retro thing, does not need to be intimidating! At one point when she is cooking she tucks spices into her bra, it is hilarious! She calls it Betty Crocker meets Bettie Page! Emily is much to smart for Food Network! Though I am not sure Bettie Page would put spice jars in her bra, they are the wrong shape!
Martie will make fiery chicken wings.
Justin will make whole sardines and fried sardine skeletons, because that is not something a kid would cry over at Halloween, not at all! Yes, I am sure every seven-year-old wants to see a sardine in his goody bag! Actually, I will admit it is a cool idea, the skeleton part, for a Halloween party, but if he is judging by what kids want in their bags, he should shut up. See what happens when you push someone on us, Food Network? They get backlash. Anyway, the fish, he thought it was strange when he worked in Japanese restaurants (as a waiter) that families would fight over fishbones. He calls it the potato chip of the sea (Alton says to use that line) and fried lace. It is interesting, I admit!
He broils the sardines with olive oil and salt, then removes the skeletons to fry. You know, universally, these people are much better when they are just talking in interviews than when they have shows. Maybe Food Network should use that as the format for a show! Film them cooking, then have them do voice-overs!
Judson makes vegetarian chili, with roasted corn and pineapple. Alton coaches him to talk about using flavors to replace fat. He stars with a beer and fig jam reduction plus a lot of spices.
For the show, Alton warns Martie to keep it short or she will take time from Emily! So why do they not put her last? Because they want Emily out, they have already chosen Justin and there is no room for two clever people!
Justin is wearing a very cool skeleton t-shirt, but when Guy comes out and says hi, no one says anything! They all stand there! Justin freezes! He does not know if he is supposed to go or wait for Guy! Then he starts finally, and when Guy asks him what the fish bones are called, he says “It is called eating fish bones” which strikes me as funny but apparently they are selling this as nervous. I suspect this is the character arc, they are watching him have a crisis of confidence so people will cheer for him! Because so what if he mispronounces a word, and I think that delay was exaggerated. But for whatever reason they wanted Justin to have trouble with this one, to reduce the “cockiness factor.”
Then Judson does his thing with the chili and the weight loss. Martie goes on and on about parties and dippable chicken and Guy kind of walks away, but she shows him the dip and says, “Just put a finger in that.” I do not understand why they love Martie! Emily has no time to talk about canning, but tries anyway. Justin is all full of advice now, about just saying “See the video” but it is not Justin who was robbed of time!
The judges eat and critique: Bob likes the fish skeletons but wishes Justin had taken more command. Sure, just after Alton told him to watch out for brashness. This “game” is a mess of contradictions! They like the new Judson pov but his chili is too sweet. Guy points out Martie hurt her teammate. About Emily, Guy says, “If you are going to make applesauce, it had better be bomb applesauce, and this is bomb applesauce!” Bob gives her extra credit for maintaining her calm and sense of humor. To me, Justin and Martie failed Handling Whatever Comes 101, while Emily aced it! Judson did pretty well, too! Though it does not matter since Judson is on borrowed time no matter what he does. Susie says overall the team did not rise to the occasion, personality wise. You know what, Susie? As much as your pushing Justin annoys me, fried fish skeletons has its own personality, and maybe its time you had a show where someone is able to get out of the way of the food!
Team Giada: Big Game Day. When I hear Big Game I think of Hemingway or Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant.” But this is about football.
Ippy is happy, he loves sports! He will make Teriyaki Sliders!
Martita makes a quesadilla with goat cheese. Giada is glad because someone is always a vegetarian at any party.
Yvan and Giada discuss chicken wings. He wants to batter and fry them, but Giada says he should take the intimidation out of boning a wing. Which is great, if he can bone a wing. Can he? Apparently not, because he decides it is taking too long so he just fries them and will make beer batter for his demo! Uh oh, I think Yvan just lost his spot! It may take a while, but you do not ignore what your mentor tells you and survive! Even though I doubt anyone on Team Giada could debone a chicken wing. Or Team Alton for that matter. I am sure Eric could have, but they already decided he was too skilled. Maybe I am wrong, maybe this is how they verify that Yvan is not too skilled so they can let him continue! No, Yvan is on his last legs, Giada is all about Martita and everyone else can pretty much go home.
Linkie makes cookies shaped like a football. I guess she has lived in the US long enough to know about football vs. soccer. She feels confident! If they throw an egg at her she will throw an egg back!
The show: They wear the stuff under their eyes like football players and toss a football around as lead-in, which is a good idea! Yvan presents the wings that are the favorite of his little brother. Guy asks him what the smaller sections of the wings are called, and he does not know, he makes up “wingette”. The first joint is now called a drummette, but I think he used the second section, and I do not know what that is called! Ippy hands Guy a beer and that is all Guy needs to make him happy! Ippy talks about being a big kid and playing football and something about sake in his sliders. Martita enjoys talking to Guy about vegetarian quesadillas. Linkie hugs him but gets confused when he says something about a different ball game, but she is confident.
Giada cheers when they are done! Yes, I agree, they did much better than Team Alton.
Susie is happy with Yvan and Bob loves the wings, even if they are not deboned. They are meh on the slider. They love Martita of course, I do not get it, she is ok but I still think she is fake. Bob loves the cookie: it “satisfies everything you could want in a dessert” which is strange wording. They liked the party atmosphere.
Team Bobby: Cooking for a Wake. Silence. Guy says, “Just kidding.” I think cooking for a wake would be a terrific test of versatility, but not for these people! Anyway, they really get Cooking for Kids, and Nikki makes a face that says she wishes they had stuck with the Wake! The good news is, the kids will show up, but they do not have to cook with them!
Nikki talks to Bobby about mindful cooking and says something about a smoothie made with agave and kale. Bobby warns her it has to taste good, so much healthy stuff tastes like grass. She assures him it is good! I am dubious! Malcolm interviews it is clear she does not have kids.
She is also making grilled breakfast pizza too, but she thought flour was a kitchen staple and it is not so Linkie comes to the rescue with flour! Bobby is worried because Nikki is frazzled, and then her blender leaks with five minutes to go so she has to remake her smoothie! I think it is like when Daniel Vosovik lost the bags he made for the PR2 finale and Tim thought it was divine intervention: in both cases, they came back with their original plans, and in both cases it was not a good idea!
Michele is a seafood expert but knows kids do not like clams or mussels, so she goes with spaghetti squash and meatballs! The squash instead of spaghetti is the healthy part!
Malcolm is up for this, since he has two kids and volunteers with the Let’s Move program; Bobby says to talk about that.
The show: they do breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Nikki starts with mindful meals, whole wheat breakfast pizza and the smoothie, but the blender takes so long and Nikki is not saying anything, she is just watching the blender blend, so Guy passes on to Michele. She asks him, “Are you my brother?” See, Michele learns fast! That makes me sad! She talks about kids scooping out the spaghetti squash and for meatballs using milk-soaked bread instead of dried bread crumbs. Somewhere along the line he ends up with a green smoothie in his hand. Malcolm shows his chicken tenders on skewers and talks about kids playing with food, painting the three dipping sauces on their plates. That sounds really good, but do you really want to give skewers to kids? He forgets to talk about being a father. Does he give his kids skewers? Do they all still have the same number of eyes they were born with?
Kids come in to taste the food and they make faces at the smoothie, big surprise, the color is enough to turn any kid off. But Bob likes it. Guy thinks it is too strong for kids. Susie likes the pizzas. Bob loves the phrase “Mindful meals” – he would publish that book right now. See, that is how they think, who cares about what is inside, it is the title that matters! Every season, Food Network loses some ground in my eyes with this nonsense. But I think they are going to push Nikki away from the grill, which means she is finished! That is fine with me! Susie says Michele is very accomplished but she made the recipe her mother taught her because it was kids, and that is indeed versatility! Malcolm is chic and had a fun idea about playing with food and made good food, but forgot to talk about his kids! “Malcolm reminds us it is difficult to do this.” Ouch! I thought he did really well, except for arming children with pointy sticks.
The Line Up:
In a switch, the two successful teams will be safe, and all the losing team members will do the Producer Challenge. Giada and Bobby are safe, so Team Alton competes. This is not a surprise. Bob says they did not take advantage of Halloween! He asks why Alton looks miffed, and Alton says he is glad they are nailing the point home. Because his failure of a team does not feel bad enough.
The Producer Challenge:
They will all throw darts at a map and make a dish based on where the dart falls. They have 30 minutes to cook and 60 seconds to present to tape.
Judson gets Arkansaw, and Alton suggests catfish. He decides to broil it with crust of pecan and parmesan. His tape starts with “the Road to Flavor” which is a reference to his weight loss, how he discovered flavors when he started cooking with more healthful ingredients. As every fat person knows, this is crap, but it is what they sell. Susie tells him he has a bit of the bs artist in him. Of course he does! That is why he is perfect for this! So he talked about weight loss like they told him to, which he did not want to do, and they dinged him anyway! They go on to tell him it is a great point of view, which is nonsense. No one is fat because they do not know how to cook healthy. People are fat because fried chicken tastes better than broiled no matter what spices and juices you put on it, and because most people would rather have chocolate cake than a salad! And the other problem is that Judson is just not an “after” picture! He bigger now than the “before” Alton! I am sorry, Judson, I am glad you lost so much weight and I understand how hard it is to keep it off, but until you lose 50 more, no one will think of you as thin or healthy!
Justin hits Nebraska. He decides it is not easy being a cornhusker and they need their calories so he makes steak, spaghetti, and sour cream. Alton tells him this is his Rebel with a Culinary Cause thing, that dish is carbs on carbs on carbs and could not be served in New York! First, it is carbs on fat on fat, and I am sure it is served every day in New York and everywhere else. But it is an immense portion, ridiculously so. Susie likes his outlook but he needs to be warmer and still have his attitude. Bob never knows what he will do next but he wants to go with him.
Emily ends up in Arizona, so makes Chicken Posole, a southwestern soup, to show she knows how to use that retro cooking tool, the pressure cooker. Alton coaches her to talk about how it reduces all that cooking time down to twenty minutes. She presents herself as “the home ec teacher you always wanted.” I think she looks drunk on her demo. Susie thinks it is the most clever interpretation of her state. Bob worries about her authenticity: is Retro Rad a character? Uh oh, is Emily on the way out?
Martie hits Pennsylvania, where no food has ever been. Home of nothing. She feels like she just got stabbed in the eye! Martie, people in Pennsylvania watch Food Network, too, and I am betting they are all sending emails right now complaining about how narrow-minded you are! That is it for Martie, they can not give her a show after that! Alton says nearly every mushroom sold in the US comes from Pennsylvania, which is patently untrue, I personally know of three mushroom growers in New England who supply local markets, and I hate mushrooms, people who like them probably know a lot more! Probably the canned ones come from PA, however. And maybe the pre-packaged ones. But if you want local mushrooms, they are easy to find! Anyway, Martie struggles to find a way to combine the Philly Cheesesteak, cream cheese, and mushrooms, and just puts them together as stuffed mushrooms. She does not like selling something she would not eat. Yeah, Martie is toast. Not today, today is about dumping Judson, but they have officially given up on Martie. She does her presentation, and Alton hugs her without comment. She talks about the portabello being the perfect platter for serving. Bob thinks she did very well, though Susie says she gave too much info. The fact that she made something she would not want to eat is not mentioned. No one tastes the food at all, in fact. Maybe that means something?
Sending anyone but Judson would be crazy. They sit around that table, the one with the glowing shape in the center, the one PotomacDog on TWoP calls the Illuminated Yoni in the room Minxeats calls the Holy Sepulchre of the Vagina of Doom or the Palace of the Glowing Vagina (I think it looks like a giant glowing chrysalis myself, but I never understood the whole thing about orchids and calla lilies either so maybe there is something wrong with me. But I do get the Georgia O’Keefe stuff). They excuse Justin and Emily as safe, and it is between Martie and Judson. I do not care, either of them can go.
They send Judson home. Because they still want to use Martie for entertainment purposes.
Next week, something about a food court appearance, and Geoffrey Zakarian, the new Iron Chef, shows up with a secret ingredient. No, it is not the back pay the staff of his failed restaurant is suing him for.