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!
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!
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.”
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.
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?