Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9), Ep 3: A Star is Chopped

No not that kind of food authority!

No not that kind of food authority!

Hello I am Zin and it is Food Authority Week! This is where the contestants have to pretend they know what they are doing even when they have no idea because that is what Food Network is all about after all! I wonder if they realize how this sounds but I suppose no one is really paying attention to what anyone is actually saying anyway. Giada is doing something else this week so it is only Bobby and Alton.

Mentor Challenge:

They all get a mystery ingredient and have to not only cook with it but sound authoritative with it even if as Alton says they have never seen it before. They have 30 minutes to make a dish and then have to talk about it and make it sound good. The winner will get an advantage in the Star Challenge.

Chris gets bottarga which is salted pressed roe so it is a relative of caviar! It is common in the Mediterranean and he saw it when he was in Italy in fourth grade and he is worried that it is very strong so he does not use too much in his salad with apple fennel and celery. Alton likes the salad but did not taste any bottarga! I think Chris was a little too careful!

Nikki has to use cuttlefish so she will make a semi-vegetarian salad with cuttlefish on the side! That means marinated cuttlefish salad with carrots zucchini and peppers with a raspberry vinaigrette. She says she was a picky eater when she was growing up but she got over it! Alton likes the salad but not her presentation. He heard “I made a great salad and put the cuttlefish on it” and does not see that she grasped the ingredient.

Stacey gets the durian! That is the stinky fruit but she says it tastes sweet once you get past the rotten garbage smell. I am not sure I could get past something like that! She makes custard and talks about being in Malaysia with her father and discovering durian at a roadside stand and wondering what that smelly fruit was then being surprised by the sweet taste! Alton thinks her presentation is rambling but if Giada had been there she would have said it was a nice little story! He likes her custard though.

Rodney finds bitter melon in his bag! He makes a fruit salad with blueberries and apples and gin instead of a pie and puts the toasted seeds on top! It is not a pie but it is made of stuff in pie filling so he calls it “pie style.” Alton is happy because it is good and he sees how Rodney approaches food. Alton gets the Pie Style. I think the gin made him happy.

Lovely has rambutan and it just so happens rambutan was an ingredient on Chopped recently so I know what it is! It is scary looking but just a fruit once it is peeled so not that strange an ingredient. The floral sweet notes remind her of a peach so she makes a rambutan bread pudding with raspberry champagne sauce and every plate is a party! Alton is not so sure because he thinks the raspberry was a mistake and it got in the way.

Russell gets arrowroot and I am surprised because I never saw it whole before only as powder! I used to love Peek Frean arrowroot biscuits but it seems it is something like jicama so he makes bacon broth which sounds awful but it is one of his deadly sins and creates some kind of fried arrowhead root with broth and pecan-dried papaya pesto. That sounds weird! Bobby says the pesto overwhelmed everything.

Viet has umeboshi which he knows about so he makes crab avocado salad with umeboshi vinaigrette but Bobby wants more umeboshi. Viet should not have whined so much about Damaris and paid attention to his own ingredient which by the way is not exactly bland!

Chad has to deal with salsify and unfortunately not only has he never used it he has never heard of it so he mispronounces it as “sassify”! Chris is kind of pleased about that which seems mean for Chris who has been pretty pleasant so far! I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he only heard this after the fact and it was something the producers made him say rather than that he sees Chad as direct competition and is glad to see him goof. Chad makes grilled salsify corn and bacon hush puppy. Bobby corrects his pronunciation but the hush pups are dense. That is too bad because they look delicious!

Damaris gets mango pickle an Indian condiment. Viet is jealous that she got something already spiced and whines that it is not fair which is too bad. I liked Viet! I hope he does not turn into a whiner! Even Damaris thinks it is an easy ingredient though! It reminds her of bacon so she uses it as a bacon substitute in sautéed red cabbage and cauliflower. Bobby likes the flavor a lot. the mango pickle is strong and flavor keeps going on and on.

Danushka still thinks her biggest problem is getting her personality across! She is funny! She is quirky! I still think her problem is that her personality is very clear! She is very impressed with the pretty dragonfruit and uses slices sort of like little coasters for a grilled shrimp cup! I think it is interesting that they gave her dragonfruit because I have never tasted it but I have heard it is very pretty with very little flavor to it and that is pretty much Danushka! Bobby wants her to be more creative. Oh come on you knew she was not much of a cook when you brought her on! And it sounds more creative than the fruit salad Rodney made! I can not believe I am defending her but there is so much to criticize her for it does not make sense to pick on silly things. At least she gets it because she says “I think I am failing in the food authority category.”

The Winners are: Rodney and Damaris! They are not only Safe for the week but they get to sit on the Chopped judging panel for the Star Challenge so they do not even have to cook! I wonder if they kept them from doing Chopped so they would not get Chopped! It is pretty bad when you watch a show and feel so manipulated you suspect everything that happens!

Star Challenge:

Alex Guarnaschelli shows up for the Chopped round! Damaris is worried about Alex until she finds out she is on the judging panel and not cooking. She is actually worried about being on the panel because she might make enemies! The contestants are divided into two groups and compete four at a time.

Group One: Sporting Events foods: Beer, hot dogs, peanuts, cotton candy. Damaris is on the panel.

Russell: He figures he has four of his seven deadly sins with lots of fat and salt and sugar and booze so he is ready to go! Alex is nervous at first because he throws three of the ingredients in the food processor but then he adds tofu as the glue to hold it together. I am not sure calling food glue is a good idea! He makes a kind of dumpling so Alex is reassured! He talks about sin and New York and San Francisco during his presentation but does not finish talking in the one minute. They have no idea what the food was. Damaris thinks it is all soft with no crisp. Bobby says it is not his best dish and he does not need all the bells and whistles he needs to BE the bells and whistles. Russell: “I have screwed the pooch royally.”

Chad could stand there and smile and Alex and Damaris would drool. He has two boys (sorry ladies it seems he is taken!) and they love waffles so he makes chicken and waffles except with hot dogs and peanuts instead of chicken. He puts the beer in the waffle batter and makes sauce with the cotton candy. Hot dogs are close enough to bacon to get away with that I think. They are worried he did not test the waffle iron but it seems it worked out ok. Bobby likes his enthusiasm and confidence. Alton likes the waffle even though he did not think he would but it is nice and crisp.

Danushka loves fried food so she makes a beer battered hot dog with peanuts. Bobby asks her what she is doing with the batter and she says she fried it out of boredom. They get very upset! Alex needs a minute! The last person to give lip to Bobby Flay (Paul in 2010) went home that day so I am surprised a trap door does not open up under Danushka right then! She was trying to be ironic but she only got as far as sarcastic/smartass. She calls it a hot dog rocket and adds candy sriricha dipping sauce which is a reasonable thing to do with cotton candy. She is playing the purist card to serve a hot dog that looks and tastes like a hot dog. Her whole dish conceptually works in fact! Bobby likes the color of the sauce. Damaris lets her have it: she still seems like she isn’t excited to be here! Danushka says she is very calm and she does not need smoke and mirrors “but thank you” she tells Damaris which is kind of a nice way of saying “f*** you.” I have to give her points for that one! In this instance she is just not playing the game. I suppose they told her she could have three episodes and in this one she pulled out all the stops. Alex loves how she reacted to Damaris but does not like her presentation. Alton tells her everything is presentation not just when the presentation starts. Nobody mentions how her food tastes!

Viet pulverizes the hot dogs and simmer them in beer to extract the flavor then cooks ramen in that. Then he adds grilled hot dogs and peanuts to the ramen and serves it with the beer broth. That does not sound very good but it looks amazing! He talks about hot dogs in his childhood. I am beginning to wonder about him. First he was born in a Malaysian refugee camp and then his mother made umeboshi and now she is working 18 hours a day and he is making ramen with hot dogs and that is his earliest food memory. Giada would be pleased he has a childhood story for everything! Truth is not that important. Damaris says it is complex and refined for 30 minutes. Bobby likes the presentation but thinks he needs more passion. Do not listen to him Viet! I am still unable to get over what FN did to Emeril even though now when I see him on Top Chef he is pretty normal but they turned him into a buffoon! Do not let them do that to you!

Back in the green room while the second group is working Chad says Damaris did really well as a judge (and he is right) and Viet thinks it is because she is a culinary school teacher. I think it is because she sat behind a desk and did not feel pressure to perform. She should remember that!

Group Two: Food for Kids – chicken nuggets, fruit leather, cheddar goldfish crackers, apple juice. Rodney is on the panel.

Nikki has watched every episode of Chopped but never wanted to actually be on it! She makes Semi-Vegetarian Broccoli and Chicken Nugget Spring Roll with sriracha and fruit leather sauce. Rodney says the presentation is awesome and I do not mean if he means the dish or her speech which I do not even remember. He likes the dish too. Alex says she repurposed the ingredients and integrated them well.

Stacey thinks the ingredients are the back seat of her SUV (not her mini-van she insists but she also insists she is a soccer mom which confuses me). This is what she does every day as a mom! She is supposed to be a chef and she is feeding this crap to her children every day???!!! She makes a chicken pot pie out of it just for Rodney! Time is ticking down and she is still trying to peel apart the puff pastry! Bobby asks if the oven is ready and she says it is super-hot but everyone knows there is not enough time for it to cook. Chris asks if he can help her and takes her stuff out of the oven at 25 seconds. That is nice of him! See that is what I would expect of the compassion guy not to laugh because someone can not pronounce an ingredient! Her pot pie does not cook not even the inside.

Lovely is a Party Girl! I think she is still glam but she makes a Party on a Plate of stuffed bell pepper. What kind of party has stuffed bell peppers? Oh I see she cuts them into pieces and roasts them so it is more like little pepper-plates instead of stuffed peppers. I finally understand Lovely! She has said it all along but this is the first time I have seen it! She makes comfort food, like stuffed peppers but makes it Glam! I get it now. She makes a sauce with apple juice and the leather. Rodney likes the apple pie filling on top. It is not apple pie filling but pie is what he does so that is what he calls it. Alex thinks it is too sweet and needs some garlic or soy. Bobby praises her for being confident and smooth but Alton complains she is too slick and too smooth like she is reading a script right in front of her eyes. This is a tough room you can not make them happy!

Chris is on it! He rips the cap off a bottle with his teeth while running across the floor! He scoops the chicken out of the nugget and makes… chicken nuggets. Huh? He uses buttermilk and rice flour batter which is better than that awful breading I suppose but we still have the mechanically separated meat that goes into those things. He makes a gastrique from the fruit which is a fancy way of saying he adds vinegar to it. He helps Stacey take her pot pie out of the oven and Alex notices he is spending his last minute helping Stacey. Maybe they are showing the two faces of Chris this episode: Chad gets schadenfreude and Stacey gets help. He tells them he turns Something Old into Something New. But then we get to the Star of our Show: The Big Reveal of Deep Dark Personal Secrets! In the Preview I said he was a lacrosse player who had three shoulder surgeries and a culinary school grad and called him a Frat Boy and then we found out when he was a kid his parents were missionaries and he went with them on medical missions and he has been talking about compassion and helping all along and everyone has been wondering how he expects to make a show out of that but now he comes out with it: he is a recovering addict and alcoholic! Coming to FN next year: “The Chef with Something for Everyone!” Are you a sports fan? Got it! Religious? Here you go! In AA? Have I got a chef for you! And after filming he became the guy who was smart enough to hire Charles Ramsey as a dishwasher! Do you want to bet they throw him overboard for Nikki or Damaris? At any rate they are very happy to hear he had a broken life and cooking was his saving grace. Rodney likes the dish too!

Verdict:

Nikki made the best dish and Chad had a good presentation and a good dish so they are both safe along with Rodney and Damaris.

They torment Stacey and Lovely for a while but they are just spanking them and they are safe.

It is down to Russell and Danushka, but Danushka was toast from the moment she told Bobby she was bored. Danushka is out!

She says she is not Miss Positivity 24/7! That is true. She did get through this whole episode without sneering at another contestant and she did call the dragonfruit “gorgeous” so I think this was her Redemption before the Axe episode. Her goal was to show them she is not like anyone on Food Network but she didn’t make that happen. Oh I think she made that happen very well! But there is a reason there is no one like her on FN and they are not going to change that!

In 2010 the witty folks at TWoP designed a show for the contestant Brianna they called “Cooking with Disdain” because she was not happy that other contestants did not know what sriracha and Worcestershire sauce was (I can understand not knowing one, but both? People who want a food show?) and hated to cook for children. I think she and Danushka have a bright future doing that show for the Comedy Channel!

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