Hello I am Zin! Today Alton will auction off some Food Network Stars!
We open on Bobby cooking! Actually cooking! Stacey is scared of him in his chef whites. He explains they will taste the dish he has made for them (slow-cooked salmon with ancho honey glaze, black bean sauce, blistered jalapeno crema, and tomatillo salsa) and then describe it in one minute. They should think of it as radio because you never know when the picture tube will blow or the studio lights will cut out! They are not allowed to use words like “delicious” or “incredible” or “sexy.” He has a nasty buzzer and when they use one of the Forbidden Words he will shock them! No but that is what Alton thought of and I agree!
Rodney knows he speaks differently from everyone because he is Pie Style. He gets a lot of buzzes and talks about creaminess a lot! He stares at the plate looking for answers! Bobby tells him it was a total disaster and that he should use those words only as accents. Rodney wanted to say “boss,” but that does not count either. He says this was his worst presentation! I think there is a lot of competition for that spot.
Nikki wants to project authority and confidence and redeem herself. She starts with visual and textural which is a good idea. She does one “delicious” but bobby tells her she did a pretty good job. She feels good!
Chad knows vocabulary is not his strong point. Well, gee, Chad, what did you think this gig was? It is not like you need a dictionary: sweet sour salty bitter, heat, texture, contrasts, combinations, done. He talks about tenderness and woodiness (that makes Bobby do a frowny-face) and acid and only has one buzzer but Bobby is not happy because he is searching for words and starts and stops a lot. “If you start reaching it is going to be a long minute, and it was a long minute.” He needs to start with an outline.
Damaris uses a lot of good words like buttery and earthy and caramelized and she does pretty good but Bobby tells her she was boring and clinical and just listed words, she needs to be more conversational! He expects more from her because he has seen it all. Or just seen it.
Russell mutters, “If you can not do this, what the hell have you been doing all this time?” You know what that means! But he is right! I think… he needs to… stop talking… like William Shatner… in little… phrase clumps. He gets buzzed for “flavor bomb” which is pretty inventive even though it is completely uninformative. Russell can not talk. He has never been able to talk, even though they are pretending to be just noticing that now.. I understand that because I can not talk in real time, that is why I write, but I would also not expect to get a TV show. Bobby says it is like he never cooked before and if he does that on the Today show his career will be over. Oh I do not think he has to worry about the Today show.
Stacey talks about an abuelita living on the border and Bobby just about pees himself he is so happy! She was the only person to tell what FN calls a story. He tries to make it sound like it was close but it was not, really, not at all, and Stacey wins. She gets an advantage in the next round.
The Gastronauts are coming! The Gastronauts are coming!
There is a real Gastronauts but I am not positive these people are actually from that group! They are Adventurous Eaters and I suppose eating at Food Network is adventurous. Alton says they have sophisticated palates and they know what sounds good and tastes good.
The contestants have one hour to make a dish that reflects their culinary message and then they get one minute to describe it so that the Gastronauts will want to bid on those dishes at auction. The money goes to Share Our Strength which is a perfectly good organization. The highest bidder gets to eat with the judges! In fact the highest bidder for each dish is the only one who gets to eat at all so I hope they are not terribly hungry. I suppose there are people who would pay $150 to sit with Bobby and Alton and Giada on TV.
They are suppose to make the dishes sound really yummy so the bids will go higher. The contestant whose dish gets the highest bid will be safe! Stacey because she won the last round gets $10 added to whatever is bid on her dish.
In general the women do well and the men are terrible! Not one of these men can talk! I have decided Rodney is only there to make everyone else look good! That is not a bad tactic by the way! Many years ago when you only saw the top three skaters at the Olympics it was easy to think everyone could skate like that and it is not until you see people at Regionals or even down in the seed at Nationals that you realize it is harder than it looks since the objective is to make it look easy! Rodney is there to remind us that it is not easy to talk. Russell is there to remind us that it is not easy… to say… a complete sentence… in one phrase. And to look dangerous. Because what this country needs is more dangerous-looking dark-skinned men on TV. Chad is there because someone in the audition process though the was eye candy but it seems they were wrong.
Stacey makes maple bacon cheesecake based on the lemon cheesecake her mother made and then she added bacon and maple because her restaurant is a diner. It is her signature dessert! It does sound good. She is worried because Russell is smoking his meat right next to her and she is worried it will get in her cheesecake. I do not think that would be a bad thing actually since it already has bacon. But nobody mentions it so I guess it is not a problem. She starts plating and the cheesecake filling sloshes and oozes right over the crust. Wait! I have never had liquid cheesecake! It is supposed to be a little bit jiggly in the middle when it comes out of the oven but not sloshing like that! She is going to be late so she asks for help and Nikki comes right over to help her plate which is very nice of Nikki. Only on competitive reality TV is ordinary human interaction considered “very nice.” She tells a story about her vintage kitchen and takes a while to get to the food part. The other contestants watch from a monitor in the lounge and afterwards she thinks she is getting the cold shoulder. She might be right! In spite of her lack of wabi she is the most Food Network Ready person there! A lot of people on TWoP think she is fake but Food Network is all about fake. The Gastronaut who wins the bid likes the crust. Everyone likes the crust and no one mentions the cheese-pudding filling. Giada calls it a solid presentation (which is more than it seems we can say about her cheesecake) but of course they want more spontaneity, because that is her official Weakness. She got the highest bid ($180) so Stacey wins! I am not surprised that cheesecake with bacon got the highest bid! I want some right now! But not the sloshy version please!
Nikki is going to show Authority if it kills her! She knows the Gastronauts have sophisticated palates so she makes wild mushroom pasta with marsala wine sauce and grilled shrimp on the side. I am not sure how sophisticated that is but it sounds good! And that is before she has even talked about it! See it is in what you combine not in how you say “creamy” or “acid.” It is not up there with “bacon cheesecake” but it is a perfectly respectable dish. She tells them she is giving them the best bite of their lives and going wild for wild. She tells them “On the Food Network I am the veggie expert” so they know she is an Authority! Damaris and Stacey are jealous watching backstage because she is so good! Everyone likes her dish and Bobby is happy that the mushrooms have an impact. At judging Alton tells her she nailed it: she is no longer apologizing for her food, she is presenting proactively, and the dish was exceptional. She only got $130 in the bid but it was the best presentation and they liked the dish so she wins! Wait I thought Stacey won? Oh Stacey won the Bid so she is safe but Nikki won the challenge on merit so she is safe too. Oh. I love this show!
Damaris wants to show people what Southern food is really like so she makes green bean casserole. Really? Her father is from the South (wait, I thought she was from the South… I am so confused) so she likes to keep traditions and carry on his legacy with green bean casserole. “If you have had a good green bean casserole it will make you punch somebody in the face.” But I am a gentle Zin! There will be no punching! She refers to her mornay sauce as cheese gravy which is not inaccurate but sounds awful. Then again it sounds just like Food Network. She adds caramelized onions, kale chips, and oven roasted tomatoes. That sounds fine but come on, there is cheesecake and pasta and pie on the auction block… green beans? She says it is the best green bean casserole anyone has ever had and I do not have any trouble believing that, but it is not a very high bar to clear. By the way the green bean casserole was invented in 1955 at the Campbell Soup Company by a team led by Dorcas Reilly. Ms. Reilly grew up in Camden, NJ and got a Home Ec degree in Philadelphia. “But Reilly, 79, doesn’t remember having a hand in it, saying the dish was among hundreds created (after all, she helped create a tomato soup meatloaf, a tuna noodle casserole and Sloppy Joe-like “souperburgers”)” says USA Today. I am not sure it would be high on the list of foods I would think of when you say, “Southern food.” Anyway she does not want to be boring in her presentation! She wants to sell her damn casserole! “Have any of you ever wondered why casserole is so popular in the south?” Crickets chirp…. “Well, I will tell you! It is because it makes you happy!” There is a little bit of Zin in Damaris. That is not necessarily a good thing for FN though. She talks about happy warm bubbly snap beans hanging out in a mornay hot tub which is 100% Food Network stuff! She does not see pity in the other eyes of the other contestants so she figures she did ok. And she did! Even I thought she did very well! She hit that middle ground between drunk and boring. She tied with Nikki for the lowest bid of $130… uh oh… but Bobby says she sold it well with the hot tub line and green bean casserole is not a natural sell. No it is not! Everyone thinks Thanksgiving and mushroom soup! But they liked her dish and her presentation was very good so she is Safe.
Rodney makes pie! Really? Yes! so he makes a strawberry rhubarb pie with bacon fat crumb topping. Now I will admit that sounds good! If he would just say that I would try it but once he starts talking it is all downhill: Rodney Goes Rogue! “My presentation is going to be like no presentation they have ever seen.” Yes that is what we are afraid of! If he sings I will cry! But he does not sing! Thank you God! He does a comedy routine instead! Hey, God, I take back my thank-you… It is a standup thing about the astronauts with a pretend phone call from Bobby. There is puzzlement in the audience. There is puzzlement from the judges. Then he talks pie. It will make the electrodes in your mouth shoot back to your ear holes. But I do not want any electrodes in my mouth! Stay out of my ear holes!! Is this pie going to electrocute me? I am afraid! The other contestants in the lounge make fun of him while he is presenting but Stacey interviews “he is so loveable you just like it” because they told her to say that. Do not listen to her! He is not loveable! Vic was not loveable either! Nor was the Cuban fitness guy! I am sure they are very nice people but they do not come across as loveable! Someone who shoots electrodes out your ear holes is many things but not loveable! They always pick someone to call “loveable” just to see if they can convince people! Resist! The thing is I like people who refuse to play along and who go their own way but foolish is not talented and his own way is not fun or informative! His pie gets $140, though, a higher bid than green beans or pasta. Everyone loves the pie! The pie was their favorite dish! Ted Allen said it on Top Chef long ago: “if you want to make people happy, give them bacon.” Electrodes are not necessary. Because the pie is so good – “by the pie and pie alone” (™ Alton) – Rodney is Safe.
Chad says the words “Texas Poutine” and immediately starts a war between Quebec and Texas. I live in Maine which has a pretty strong Francophone community right down to the La Kermesse Festival but we are not allowed to mess with poutine unless we can trace our ancestors back to Quebec! Only there can they mess with poutine! So you make your fries with bbq and cheese but do not DARE call it poutine! . Wait… it seems Texas Poutine is a thing! A Revolutionary thing! But that is what Russell does! Oh I am so confused! The Pie Guy does comedy and feeds us electrodes, the BBQ Jew from Philly does Revolutionary Texas style Canadian food, Damaris turns a soup can recipe (invented by a lady who does not remember doing it) into authentic Southern cuisine inspired by her Southern father… is this the Comedy Channel version of Food Network? But the main problem with Chad is that he can not talk! He goes “um… um… ooey-gooey deliciousness…. um… flavors explode in your mouth…. um… um….”I dare you to see why I am the BBQ King!” He looks threatening! He knows he did not do well and he is worried. But Russell says the Poutine Movement is on! The Gastronaut likes the smokey cheese but the potatoes are soggy (Chad knew his oil was not hot enough) and not exciting. Giada thinks it lacks flavor. He made a dish with smoked tenderloin and kielbasa and cheese and fries and it lacked flavor? Still he gets $150 in bids which is more than Nikki or Damaris. Giada asks him, “Why a poutine?” and he goes into a truly relaxed and comfortable explanation about “loaded fries and brisket” that he serves at his restaurant and how he could not make that in an hour so he made poutine. “You did not give us any of that chat!” says Giada. And Chat is what this is all about. His manner was so much better too. The official verdict is that his dish is not good and his presentation is awful. I can testify to the second half. Despite the bid he is up for elimination.
Russell is revolutionizing eggs and bacon with a sandwich that is really smoked trout egg and pork belly braised in bourbon on a puddle of starch that used to be bread. With horseradish ice cream. Except for the “bread sauce” it sounds interesting! And very cheffy. I am not sure pork belly can be braised in one hour but how would I know. His presentation is the usual Revolution… Sin…. Bacon… Booze…Horseradish. Ok that last one is new but you get the idea. The Gastronaut likes the pork belly and horseradish ice cream together. Bobby does not like the texture of the pureed bread. I do not even like typing “pureed bread.” Giada thinks it is too deconstructed but for Giada I think “dressing on the side” is as deconstructed as she gets. Alton thinks it is conceptualized to the point where it is hard to eat. The Gastronaut again says the ice cream is wonderful. Alton tells him he needs to pick a POV: sin or revolution, and some thinks worked like the ice cream but the bread sauce killed the dish. He tied with Chad at $150 and at doing a bad dish and a bad presentation so he is up for elimination.
Chad started well but has not grown. He may not be able to connect to the material. Russell needs to stabilize. Alton is not sure Russell is the cook he thinks he is. Giada and Bobby think he is a better cook than Chad. He grabs attention a little better. Chad it out! I do not think it matters. Nikki has the POV and Stacey has the FN Aura.
Food Based Field Story: go to a donut shop or a pizzeria and tell a story. The Star Salvation winner comes back and everyone pretends it is a big surprise.
Star Salvation: Final Chance (the short answer is: they do not tell us who won)
Chad vs Lovely
They have twenty five minutes to show their culinary POV by putting their hearts on a plate: celery hearts hearts of palm (why are hearts of palm not called palm hearts?), artichoke hearts, romaine hearts, goat cheese shaped into hearts, and chocolate hearts. I think someone got the calendar confused and thought this would be aired on Valentines Day.
Lovely makes a salad because what else can you do with celery and romaine? But she will elevate it and make it a Party on a Plate! I see the Party has moved out of her mouth to her plate. She adds bacon because everything is better with bacon (see, she was listening to Ted Allen) and gives us a Chef Lovely Tip (which only 61,300 Googled websites know about): use the bacon fat in the honey Dijon vinaigrette. Then she makes goat cheese fritters but they fall apart. She tells Robert about her unique hip POV which seems to be party food and how her passion comes across effortlessly. Robert notices something went wrong with the fritter and Lovely tries to sell it on flavor but he is not buying it: “You said you were going to create a mind-blowing experience. This is not it.”
Chad makes bbq sauce of course! What did you think he would make, Canadian food? He puts the sauce on a grilled peppered egg which is an egg cooked in a grilled bell pepper with a side of celery heart, artichoke heart, and heart of palm cole slaw. Robert thinks the concept is interesting but the pepper is unevenly cooked and while the sauce has good flavor there is not enough. Chad basically has the constant problem that it is not possible to produce barbecue in the kind of time limits this show imposes and probably not in the amount of time FN is willing to entrust to a novice Star.
We will find out next week who won and who goes back into the fray! I do not think it matters but at least Lovely can talk and she can talk at a Food Network viewer level.