Food Network Star 2012: Episode 7, “Meet The Press-ure”

Hello I am Zin! And the competition turns crazy tonight! Not that it is easy to tell when that happens, but I think except for Eric they have pretty much sent the weakest people home until now, so it is time to start inventing reasons to send home the ones they know they do not want! That means everyone but Justin and, for reasons passing understanding, Martie!

Nine people are left, three on each team. So it is an open question which team will lose a member tonight, though probably not Giada since she just lost Linkie!

The mentors come in and tell them everyone will get judged individually and not in teams any more. That sounds good, except it turns out it just means there is no safe team; they still pick one person from each team, so if you are not the worst person on your team you are ok.

They have to do an EPK! That is not a medical test or a witness protection program or an exercise course, it is an Electronic Press Kit, meaning a 90 second video telling the press who they are why they should care. For some of these people that is a challenge! They will serve The Press a single bite that defines them, tape the video in front of them, and do a Q&A. The Press turns out to be people from food blogs and Entertainment Tonight. Because Christiane Amanpour and Richard Engel were busy.

The also will be doing this without their producers, on their own! At which point they promptly go off with their producers to get direction! Is this typical Food Network or what?

Alton tells the remains of his team to serve something that is personal, shows their point of view, and is delicious! Notice what comes last! Martie talks about being a party guru when she was 12 or 13, and he says that is a genesis story which is excellent! Actually he says “the bomb” but that is just too cool for me. Justin will talk about inheriting his rebellious streak from his dad, and Alton says, hopefully, “he is not with us any more?” because that too is The Bomb, we have been woefully short of dead relatives thus far this season! Alton tells Emily to talk more about why she is drawn to the past, but she does not want to share her family story, so she talks about church cookbooks instead. Alton says that is fine as long as she goes Where No Man Has Gone Before.

Giada tells her team to tell a story and then deliver with the dish. Again, the food comes last on Food Network! Martita needs to tell stories that draw people into her, eww! I do not want to be drawn into any of these people! Giada says if they lack stories they will get bumped.

Bobby goes on about the perfect bite and the perfect story. Nikki decides to focus on being approachable and neighborly to counteract the whole aggressive thing!

Then I guess the producers /mentors leave and that is what they meant, they will not be watching them cook or coaching them any more. Ok. If they say so.

Presentation:

Malcolm talks very fast! He goes through soul food, Easter, lamb, and his dislike of mint jelly, and going chefy in his 90 seconds! He says he “got chefy” with the mint and everyone likes that expression, he made lamb chops with mint merlot sauce. They like his enthusiasm! Susie thinks he is a little breathless but she is glad he showed up! And the lamb is great! One of the press says he is mature and camera ready! Too bad he is not the Chosen, they are already laying the groundwork by complaining about his consistency! So what if he really really cooks!

Martie is making a rolled chocolate cake. She says in France anything rolled is called a roulade but in the south it is called a roulage. Interesting, seems it is a flourless cake, which she did not mention, I wonder if she made it that way. Not that food information is important or anything! It is a thin layer of chocolate cake with bourbon cream filling, rolled up like a jellyroll and sliced. She has all kinds of problems with time and it is very Dramatic but she Prevails, of course! She has some kind of issue with too much cocoa powder dusting at the end and Justin uses the towel-fan trick he is so proud of! Her story is how Martie with the Party came to be! I think they may have edited this because it did not quite make sense! First she says she was 13, then she is a freshman and girls said she could join their sorority (do they have sororities in middle school in the South? Or is she confused about just when she had this life-changing moment?) but they did not show up so she decided to make parties so she would never be left out! Huh? She gave a party and no one came so she decided to specialize in parties? Am I the only one who thinks this is nonsense? But Bob eats it up, he loves looking at the faces and everyone is lit up, she is terrific! And her cake is delicious! One of the Press says she has “the most winning personality.” But the way they put the show together, she is the first or second presenter! Does anyone actually watch the show before they air it?

Justin wants to make stuffed dates because they are easy and he does not know how to actually cook. Oh, no, I mean because he made them with his dad. He stuffs them with peanut butter, fish, and duck. Actually the fish is nori unless there is another fish ingredient. He tells the story that his dad could not cook so made stuffed dates. Again, huh? His dad was born in 1927, which means he was pushing 60 when Justin was born. Presumably Mom was younger! Then Dad Died, which is pure FN Gold! I still did not get what Dad had to do with rebellion, but then Justin moved to Colorado and learned about sushi, that is of course where you would go for sushi, that is where they have the freshest fish! The press thinks this dish is crazy but Bob says it was a perfect bite. I think they are lying! Bob saw joy and sweetness they have not seen before, there is nothing like a Dead Relative to bring out joy and sweetness in a FN host!

Emily thinks nothing evokes the 1950s gathering around the table like Thanksgiving, so she will make all the flavors in a single bite, cornbread, cranberry, and mashed potatoes! But… she does not want to share family stories! Uh oh! I wonder what that is about! It must be juicy! Criminal activity, depravity, mental illness? Abuse, drugs, the Witness Protection program? She will not say! Good for her, it is nice she has some loyalty to her family, it is nice someone has the decency to not air dirty laundry just to land a TV show! I like Emily more than ever! But her presentation is pretty bad, she is nervous and stumbles over her words talking about Thanksgiving. They push her for more about her connection to the past and she will not budge! I am proud of you, Emily, but you realize it means you will go home? I wonder what skeletons she has in her closet that she does not want to expose! They probably are worried it is not something they want PR to have to deal with!

Michele is doing lobster arancini “for Phyllis” who turns out to be her mom, one of the two things she loves (New England is the other). She is very focused on staying within 90 seconds. Bob thinks she seemed a little contained, which in FN lingo is a bad thing. They love her food! They love that she has the tough look and the piercings but is warm and heartfelt! I like Michele! I think she is the most natural, the one who can actually talk without worrying about what to say and she gets tied up when they make her talk about stupid things.

Martita talks about being first generation from Mexico, of course. She makes… I am not sure, I wrote down “Fiaulas” but that is not a real thing, so I am not sure what she made, but it sounds like butternut squash, sweet corn and – chicos poblanos? She said black beans too, so maybe that is black beans? One of the problems with Martita and Yvan is that they speak quickly with their genuine accents and it is hard to tell what they are saying if you are not familiar with the words! But Martita has bigger problems than that! She runs out of things to say and has 30 seconds left! So instead of talking about, oh, the dish, her mother, her childhood, the weather, her hair styling regimen, anything at all, really, she stands and smiles! She has a lovely smile and she is wearing a very sexy red dress and I am sure the men are just fine with her standing there smiling, but it is pretty bad. One of the press scolds her: “This is not an entry-level job; if I had 30 seconds of dead air I would be fired.” Bob is disappointed she took it so casually. But they love her food.

Yvan makes arepas in an homage to his grandmother who visits once a year and comes armed with arepas! Bob points out his “upspeak” which is the question mark at the end of phrases. It is most common in teenage girls (it is very hard to get rid of) and oddly I did not really notice, he has a lot of inflection. Bob asks why food is important, and Yvan tells a very sad tale about dumpster diving. What is especially ironic is that this is after he moved here from Venezuela! Welcome to the US! Susie is in tears, boy she looks phony. But it is a sad story if it is true! Bob loves the intimacy because the only thing better than a dead relative is abject poverty!

Ippy makes crispy won tons with smoked salmon, Asian relish and wasbi aioli. He dithers more about wanting to stay true to his Hawaiian laid-backness! The Press thinks he needs more energy! Bob thinks he seems nervous! Susie is worried that he is still not loosening up (Susie, decide, is he too laid back or too up tight?) but his food is a masterpiece.

Nikki grills (of course) a scallop and tops it with nori flakes and flowers to show her delicate side! She is girly, sophisticated! She talks about driving to an ethnically diverse neighborhood to explore ingredients! When someone uses the phrase “ethnically diverse neighborhood” it just seems fake no matter how politically correct it is! Bob and Susie are very upset that she has undergone an identity crisis! They hate the delicate side! All of a sudden she is throwing flowers on plates! Bob does not like the dish, either, it is sour and bitter.

The Line-up

The Mentors or producers or whatever the hell they are come back and join their teams. Next week they will go to Miami for the South Beach Wine and Food festival, and one person does not get to go! One person from each team will be up for elimination!

Two people stood out: Justin, of course – you can not go wrong with a dead father story, and he is the Golden Child, and I think I would like him a lot more if they would stop pretending everything he does is wonderful – and Martie. Wait, Martie? They really love Martie, and I do not get it! I do not see this incredible warmth and camera presence they keep insisting she has! I think she is a drama queen! But I think it is obvious she is destined for the finale, no matter what she does! Oh wait – I just figured it out – they want to pit her against Justin to make sure he wins!

And the people on the bottom are… Emily as the last surviving member of Team Alton, because when they said no more competing in teams, that is not what they really meant! She did do pretty bad, I will admit, but I still like her, and I love that she does not air her dirty laundry for the sake of fame! Martita of the dead air is also on the line, they say “We have been saying you have to show up for weeks now and it is week 7.” From Team Bobby, they pick flower girl Nikki because when they want you to change something they will tell you! She says she is going to stop worrying about being sweet and just be who she is! Well, duh! But it will not do you much good. Your role as the-not-loser has limits.

The Producer Challenge is to present the perfect burger to represent who you are.

Martita makes a torta dedicated to her baby sister Amanda because a baby sister might make up for 30 seconds of dead air. No, it would take a deathbed scene to do that, but baby sister is what she goes with. It is, inexplicably, the first time she has done this part. Giada tells her to paint a picture of why she should stay! She makes a burger with veal and chorizo, “let’s take a bite shall we, enjoy the flavors of my life.” She has good lines, I will give her that! Bob loves the idea (what idea? A burger? That was the assignment) but the veal was overpowered by the chorizo. Still, she went deeper today with her presentation, and after all, presentation is everything on Food Network! Bob saw a side he never saw before and Susie finally found her interesting!

Nikki is pissed that she has to do this again! Bobby tells her to fight through her lousy mood! She talks about the cute little red grill her dad helped her start and how she loved squeezing the lighter fluid (no!) and the flames! She made a classic juicy burger for her dad. Bob says it has a good “hand feel” which makes me giggle. Next time I get a burger I am going to evaluate the hand feel! Susie thinks she did well, not too aggressive, very impressive!

Emily gets a pep talk from Alton who tries to get her to talk about her family to explain her fascination with the past, with a simpler time! We cut to commercial and it seems she is going to do it, we are going to find out if Mom was a lush or if Uncle Benny played dirty games with her or little Frank is doing time or how she put herself through college as a stripper or whatever, but no, she just talks about loving the past, and once her mom took her to a diner where she ate a classic hamburger so she revisited that. I think they set it up so it would disappoint the viewers, but I am not disappointed, I am proud of her! Ok, I am a little curious, but still! Bob thinks the burger is wonderful, tastes outdoor grilled, but she did not do it justice with her talk. She has more work to do! She says she is a hard worker and she will get it but you know they will punish her, Tyra-style, for refusing to debase herself!

And they do! Dead air, sour scallops, or not wanting to talk about family, which do you think gets sent home? Emily and her intact dignity of course! Do not worry, Emily, you have class! You have an education! You have a donut shop! You will be fine doing what you do where they do not make you sell out your family on the air! Justin seems oddly distraught that she is cut! Or maybe he thinks it looks good to seem distraught! Or maybe he is sad to be alone with Martie now!

And then there is that commercial again where some woman who looks like Amy the Gourmet Next Door for all of six weeks claims Ted Allen is a famous chef. He is not a chef at all! I do not think he has cooked on air since Queer Eye!

Next week in South Beach Paula Deen complains about spice, Susie is afraid to take another bite, and one of the Dean boys worries about breaking a tooth on all the crab shells that got left behind. Uh oh. Crab sounds like Michele or Malcolm but I can not believe they would leave shells!

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