Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) Episode 11: Final


Hello I am Zin and this is finally over!

It is the boring hour they fill with clips designed to show everyone how nasty their friends were behind their backs! People skype in with very boring questions and get even more boring answers! And everyone looks a little bit different. Especially Nikki because she is six months pregnant! The series was filmed earlier than I thought unless she was pregnant at the time.

We find out nobody in the cast thinks Rodney makes any sense either. We find out Danushka (remember Danushka, the “I am a Model!” Bored Chef?) does not know what a dragonfruit is, but it turns out she is a lot funnier when I am not worried she will be around forever! Viet, dressed as a leprechaun, finds a way to work in another reference to beating Bobby Flay in ICA! Alton and Giada do their brother-sister-bickering act! Susie looks overinflated in a blouse borrowed from a Victorian-age kindergartener!

The part that was worth the whole thing though was to find out Chris used to annoy the hell out of Rodney by singing or whistling while standing behind him! A proven way to get rid of Rodney: whistle!

Damaris wins. Everybody hugs.

I tried to watch Cutthroat Kitchen but I remember Frank from when he (seriously) threatened Marcel “I will beat you so bad your own mother will not recognize you” because Marcel moved his shaving kit off the kitchen counter when they had to cook in their apartment kitchen. And I just can not take any more cruelty-for-the-sake-of-cruelty right now. If video games desensitize kids to violence, do not “mean” shows do the same thing for meanness? I love you Alton but I just can not!

Thank you! See you next year!

Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) Episode 10: Network Pitch

Hello I am Zin and it is time to pitch!

There are no cooking challenges today! First they meet with Bobby, Giada, and Alton to fine-tune their ideas for a show. Then they do their perfected pitches to Susie and Tush and one of them gets sent home. Then the three that survive meet with Surprise Guest Mentor Guy Fieri at a site specific to their show concept and film a pilot. We see the pilot (or at least the parts they want us to see) and then the Viewers Like You (no that is PBS… the viewers nothing like you, then) vote up to 10 times a day until 9am Wednesday August 9th. I am not going to vote because I do not really care who wins. I will watch one or maybe two of whatever the new show is just to see how closely it resembles what they said it would be and that will be all I need.

Russell is excited because he is starting to peek – no, peak, I think. Damaris is nervous because the last time she was in front of Susie and Tush back in Ep. 5 she was drunk. Stacey has to figure out how to connect emotionally. Rodney is going to get confetti, roses, and a Food Network Sash around his chest. He seems to have confused this with Miss America! I am almost relieved that Nikki was spared this. Oh, shout-out to MoHub whose comments last week inspired me to make rice pilaf in honor of Nikki! Saturday I sautéed my rice mixture (brown, wild, white, and red though I do not understand red rice) and the usual veggies and my favorite tajine-like spice mix (cinnamon, ginger, cumin, allspice) then put in pine nuts and dried cranberries and and it was delicious! I added Canadian Bacon for Russell and faced south for Damaris (sorry, MoHub, I can not do Skynyrd) and said “Pie Style!” for Rodney because that is all Pie Style seems to be and made it in my Vintage Kitchen (and I am pretty Vintage myself) so I got the Final 5 in! I have a lot left over so I will be eating Sinful Pie Style Vintage South-facing rice pilaf for dinner for a few days! I hope rice pilaf freezes well!

Four Pitches and Three Pilots:


Mentor Meeting:

She gives them two ways to do Vintage/Modern: first, she will go to restaurants doing the old stuff right, like burgers and French toast, and modernize it. Now, I wonder: why would you change something that is right? Her second idea is to go through old cookbooks for Grandma’s apple pie and update the recipes. Bobby does not think restaurants doing things right are going to be happy about someone coming in and modernizing. Hey that is what I said! Alton suggests combining the two ideas. I am not sure how you combine those two ideas but she is happy to find a way to get people to connect emotionally with food, which is certainly a Food Network phrase but a ridiculous idea since Americans already connect too emotionally with food, in NYC you can stop and frisk as long as you do not take away Giant Gulps! I think food may be the only thing we connect with these days!

Network Pitch

Stacey wants to show Susie and Tush she can connect emotionally so she starts with a teary recollection of how RI saved her restaurant! Susie and Tush feel sad! She wants help other people whose “dishes have fallen into disrepair” (which of course makes no sense, recipes do not fall into disrepair they go out of style, and if it is your dishes in disrepair, you need new plates) which is what they did in the last challenge, right? Susie and Tush are too depressed by her sad beginning to pay attention! It takes them a moment to grasp her idea. Susie finally thinks it is a natural idea for her to pursue. Giada guesses the tears were her attempt to give the human emotion they have been clamoring for. They all recognize it is a half-assed idea and even though it comes down to a supposedly narrow vote for the sake of drama with Alton casting the tie-breaker between her and Russell, Stacey is out. I am so surprised! I thought she was the Chosen One from the start but they wrote her off in the Mentor Meeting! That is why no one should ever listen to me! After all I thought it would be an X-chromosome final and it seems a couple of Y-chromosomes have worked their way in! Stacey goes back to the restaurant that clears $1 million a year. That is not a bad thing to go back to!


Mentor Meeting

His first idea is going to different restaurants and bringing them his culinary sins. The second is making a sinful dinner party menu. Alton points out he can not just show up and talk about sin, he has to do something! Russell will bring sin with him and give dishes a sinful twist like adding bacon and bourbon. This is what passes for a show on Food Network these days. I think they have written Russell off too.

Network Pitch

He is a Culinary Sin Artist! He revels in: Sugar, fat, salt, liquor, bacon, ice cream, offal! I was with you babe until you got to the offal. He will add bacon to vanilla ice cream to make it sinful. But wait he just said Ice Cream was already a sin… Never mind, Susie gets it and she likes him. She did not know why he was here before. Susie, he is there to get a show, what did you think, he was shopping for a lawnmower? Tush does not so much get it and sees a “tightness” to him (I do not want to contemplate that) but he likes the intriguing seven sins concept. Since he is marginally better than Stacey he makes a pilot.

“Guilty Pleasures”

He takes a metal briefcase loaded with his Seven Culinary Sins (I do not want to know how one puts offal in a briefcase, or ice cream for that matter) to an ice cream shop where they have cabernet sauvignon sorbet. The idea is he finds the guiltiest pleasure on the menu then makes his own guilty pleasure to top it. Does this make sense to anyone? Cabernet sauvignon sorbet sounds pretty good. I think he should say, “Well, you do not need me, bye!” But that is not going to happen, so he makes bourbon ice cream with bacon candy on top. He has a lot of trouble with scripted lines. He finally gets into it and has a good time being who he is, at least that is what he says. Sometimes he is very good on camera though like when he does little asides. Guy says he is very comfortable in the kitchen. That may be but it is a stupid concept and he can not talk.


Mentor Meeting

He tells the mentors he will go to a restaurant, and make their signature dish Pie Style. Alton says, “Thank you. Second idea?” Because no kidding, right? He gives his second idea (call a musician and find out his favorite dish and then make it Pie Style, which is really the first idea in different clothes) but it does not matter because they are already planning the first idea. I wonder if they gave each of them, or at least Damaris and Rodney, their “idea” and then told them to think up another one because both of them had a “good” idea (in FN terms) and a terrible idea. Alton says you turn it into a dare with the restaurant saying “I bet you can not make pad thai pie!” The very thought of pad thai pie makes me sad. Throwdown Pie Style! Maybe that is why they want Rodney so bad, they already have the format set up. Rodney can talk for quite some time without saying anything at all: “Pie style is locked on, I am ready to roll.” Maybe that is why it does not matter that no one can understand him, because he is not really saying anything!

Network Pitch

He gets very cozy with the Network: “Well, Bob, Susie, my show is called Pie Style. So my idea for the show is, I can bake a pie out of anything, and we go to restaurants and take their signature dish and they challenge me to turn it into a pie. They will be like, ‘There is no way Rodney can make a pie out of this.’ Pie style is sweeping the nation!” Tush: “Pie style is Rodney style?” Yes! Tush thinks it is down to earth and comforting. But they do not automatically pick him, they let the mentors decide, and of course they are for him. Alton: “Rodney is just too fun to not give a shot.” Giada: “I would follow him anywhere.” I would not follow him anywhere myself, but I suppose it is a matter of opinion. Tush would rather take a chance on someone with a personality because they can figure out a show down the line if they have a star.

“Pie Style”

Guy Fieri loves Rodney! The two of them on my screen together give me a headache! But Guy does try to teach so I have to give him credit. Rachel Ray taught him “never burn tape” so just keep going no matter what (I thought tape was cheap but I guess not) and all about how to talk with your mouth full: You take a monster bite and “pack it away” in your cheek to talk, or you take a princess bite and talk over it! Either way you are still talking with your mouth full on national television! Is that ok now? Or is it just ok on Food Network where money > manners? Maybe this is why I find these guys so repugnant. And that is Pie Style: Talk with a mouthful of grilled cheese, and say “pie” every four seconds whether it makes sense or not. I am beginning to hate pie! Rodney: “The Pie Man don’t take no princess bites. I take prince bites, ’cause I’m the Prince of pie.” Sort of like the Sandwich King… I suddenly get the sinking feeling they want Rodney to win.

Eric Greenspan shows him his special Grilled Taleggio Cheese and Short Rib Sandwich on Raisin Bread with Apricot Caper puree. So Rodney turns it into a pie with a raisin walnut crust and the other stuff in there. Rodney is the sloppiest cook I have ever seen on television! I wish I had been there to see if he really knew what Taleggio cheese is or had a clue how to make short ribs. I do not think it matters because someone will be there to teach him how to cook. “I have rocked 40,000 people before but never had as much fun as today.” I have a confession to make: I like the concept of the show! Is that scary or what? But not with Rodney! If Bobby Flay did that show I would watch it the way I watch Throwdown: when I am waiting for something else and it is the only thing on. But I would rather just cut my toenails or roll pennies than watch Rodney.


Mentor Meeting

The mentors look so bored when she talks about the History of the Modern South (I am so amused by history of modern anything I love it! But when you talk about the History of the American South you may want to be careful…) so she moves on to Idea #2: “When a guy cooks for me it melts me, so I want to take nerdy guys or beefy guys or, like, bros, help them cook a meal that will trap the girl” (which is getting scary close to date rape; if you accept a home-cooked meal from a gentleman will you now have it used against you in court as evidence that you wanted it?) and everyone screams “NO TRAPPING!” so it becomes “teach guys to cook to win her heart” (I am not sure that is the point). And by the way: SHE STOLE THAT! Andres was going to teach guys to cook! Back in Episode 2 you kicked him out because you said teaching guys to cook was insulting and he should do weight loss instead! Is teaching men to cook not insulting if they are using it in the service getting serviced? Did you want him to change his POV because you wanted a woman to do it? Because a man teaching a man to seduce with food is slimy but with a woman it is romantic? That is sneaky and mean and underhanded! /rant (I am supposed to use rant tags now to make rants easy to find though I do not know why). By the way, I now know what a “bro” is. Since my slang lags behind the times I was a little worried there for a while. I am still worried but not as much. Alton is thrilled to pieces because he started cooking in college to get dates. But he wants to know what her scenario has to do with Southern cooking and she talks about the recipes her grandmother had. Bobby stops her. “What is the best food in the world?” “Southern Cooking,” says Damaris on cue. “Southern food is the food of love…I can show you how to make a pecan pie that will make a girl cry.”

Network Pitch

“Eat Date Love” – Tush did not know Southern food is the food of love but when she says it he believes her! He asks if she has used this technique herself. “I have caught and released a lot of gentlemen,” she says, and they are so happy! I am still angry! They got rid of Andre because of his POV but they love it when the flirtatious Southern girl steals it! I think Andres should complain! In a few years Damaris will be ready to lick Robert Irvine’s belly and have her face on every ham in the supermarket! Tush is excited (and he really is; yes, that is Tush excited!) because he has no idea what she is going to do next and wants to be along on the ride. She is the only one they both specifically pick (they have the mentors pick the other two) so I think it is a foregone conclusion that Damaris is the winner. I think they are deliberately putting her up against two guys who can not talk so she is sure to win!

“Eat Date Love”

She films her intro about southern food as the food of love and Guy is so excited he runs over yelling “Money, Money, Money!” while high-fiving her hand hard enough to break it. “Medic!” she cries. Some actor named Josh comes in and pretends to need help seducing his foodie girlfriend. Damaris suggests peppererd pork loin and a sweet potato biscuit with apple butter mustard. What does that have to do with Josh or anything at all? Nothing, but who cares. She keeps forgetting to look at the camera and Guy keeps teaching her how to turn from Josh to camera to explain things because she can never forget that Josh is just a prop for her act! She does look gorgeous I have to say! And she is very comfortable on camera. She slips in a couple of sly puns like “use a cup” and some “adorable” Rachel-esque catch phrases like “you do not want humpy biscuits” and I think the hole in their Hypersexual Southern Queen department has been filled!

Final observations:

I thought this would be an X-chromosome final three but it seems it is more of a Y-chromosome season! The Seven Culinary Sins probably appeal more to men than women (women would have things like chocolate and bread) but I think they have made it clear he will not win no matter what the votes say. Damaris is doing soft-core porn which is normally more for women but with Damaris it is a different matter. I think women will like her, but with men she is going to be hotter than Giada (I wonder if that is why Giada loves Rodney so much)! Rodney appeals to “bros” now that I know what the term means. I think no matter what they are going to find a way to put him on TV. They may take a while to whip him into shape but I am pretty sure he is coming to a TV screen near you.

Next Week

We find out if the Food Network wants more Guy Fieri, more Paula Deen, or both!

Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) Episode 9: Menu Impossible

Illuminated manuscript

Hello I am Zin and the theme of the day is: Stacey vs Nikki, a Culinary Joust! Oh the stated theme is “A Food Network Star is a Culinary Problem Solver” but that is just the pretense for the Grand Battle that awaits! It starts from the first moment as they are in separate cars and size each other up and ends with of course tears and defeat.

Product Placement Challenge:

For the little challenge in the beginning they have to take product placement cereals and make a dish with them. They are assigned either breakfast, lunch or dinner. Then they give a one-minute presentation that explains a creative way the cereal was used, and includes a culinary tip.

Stacey is a working mom so this is what she does! She can make a gourmet dinner from any pantry item as long as your idea of “gourmet dinner” includes a cereal crust on chicken. Alton warns her before her presentation that she has intimacy issues which is a terrible thing to say to someone about to go on camera! She did so badly last week she wants to do a really good job this week. She is not trying to keep people at bay! I thought her presentation was pretty much the same as she always does but Alton says she was more at ease. These are not the droids you are looking for. He tastes her dish and says “If you are a mom cooking for kids this is a sweet spot” which I think means a grownup would not touch it, right? Except somehow Stacey Wins. Shrug. She get an advantage for the main challenge. Nikki looks sad.

Russell makes his dinner with grilled ribeye, Provençal salad, and potatoes crusted with popcorn chip sea salt. I was wondering what “popcorn chip sea salt” is and I find out it is an actual thing, or at least sea salt flavor popcorn chips are an actual thing. Does that mean he just put them on the plate? That does not sound like a solution to any kind of problem other than the problem of what am I supposed to do with cereal for dinner. Alton tells him for his presentation his only goal is to finish as strong as he starts. I do not know what that means. He starts with “At home you want something simple.” No, that is what the Food Network thinks people want. I think he runs out of time but I am not sure, he just stops talking when they say Time. I do not think he started as strong as he finished but all Alton says is he needs to make more “eye love” with the camera. Eye love? You want eye love? I will give you eye love, Steve Almond style (warning, that story is not only rated R++, it is also very, very weird, and pretty disgusting but you want eye love, that is what you get). The point Alton was making before I got carried away (I never miss an opportunity to include a good eye love story) is that he keeps looking to the side when he is talking and it appears he is looking to someone else for an answer. Alton likes his dish.

Nikki watches Chopped and she is not going to just sprinkle the cereal on the salad to make her lunch like they do on Chopped (though they usually get yelled at for it and often go home)! She is going to make cereal croutons! Alton tells her to be sure to show depth of authority by answering the question “Why?” in her presentation. But she has bigger problems than Why because she burns the croutons! She was deep-frying them and either the oil was too hot or she forgot to take them out so they are burned to cinders! Alton holds one up with tongs and mugs to the camera, “Do not do this at home!” Now she has only two minutes so she ends up going Chopped style after all and sprinkling cereal on salad! She is nervous about her presentation because she had a good speech about the croutons but this is a crappy dish and she is not sure what to say. She talks about using the little bit of cereal at the end of the bag which sounds like a terrific thing to say! She says the acidic dressing is good to balance out the sweetness and that sounds good too! Alton tells her she did not say where the sweetness was coming from. The cereal right? He is really reaching for a reason to criticize her! He liked her salad a lot. It was a salad.

Rodney does a Pie Style Breakfast! More popcorn chips! See I learned something from Food Network! They have expanded my knowledge of junk food! He wants to make it hearty not heavy so he makes a popcorn chip crust pie with ham, egg, canned crab (ewwwww… that shows a lack of culinary authority right there) and cheddar cheese sauce. That phrase “not heavy,” Rodney: I do not think it means what you think it means. Alton warns him to include useful information about why. Why what? Why he is still on this show when he should have been sent home in week 3! Alton says he needs to move from Entertainment to Authority. When he finishes Damaris in the back says “Well Done.” Afterwards Alton asks him what his tip was. “Catfish and fried chicken,” he says. How is that a tip? But it turns out it does not matter because he did not say it anyway. He does not even realize he did not say it until Alton assures him he did not.

Damaris is going to make cereal-crusted French toast for breakfast! Alton reminds her to teach when she gives her presentation. He worries that she does not have stale bread! Alton seems to think everyone soaks French Toast bread in egg overnight but that is crazy. I thought she did very well, but Alton says “When you give answers, it is nice to tell us what the problems were.” See, she was playing Food Network Star Jeopardy! When Alton goes to taste her dish she warns him not to taste it which sounds really scary but he thinks it is good.

Culinary Impossible challenge:

They meet Alton, Giada and Robert Irvine at a restaurant; Bobby Flay has the night off. Stacey tells her Restaurant Impossible story. I have not seen that show but it is strange that her restaurant was so bad off they needed Robert Irvine to fix it and now she is a potential Food Network Star. The restaurant has a menu that needs updating, so to further test their skills as culinary problem solvers, they each get to reformulate one dish. Since Stacey won the pantry challenge she gets to assign all the dishes. Three people from the restaurant are there to tell them what the problem is with each dish and to join the judges in tasting and will give their impressions of the presentations the contestants give.

Rodney sneers at Chicken Cacciatore with pasta! It is old school, it is not pie and it is not seasoned well but mostly it is not pie and he will change that. He will make Chicken Cacciatore Pie! He makes some chicken in tomato sauce and puts it in a pie crust then deep fries that but it does not seal well and the tomato sauce leaks out. He makes more but they are very pale! It looks barely cooked. When he comes out the lady from the restaurant looks him up and down, takes in the Pie Style belly he shoves in her face and the flour on his shirt and the tattoos… “Oh…” she says. Next to the guy who sassed Bobby Flay it is my favorite FNS moment ever! You can find it at about minute 26 on the video. I try not to make fun of physicality but I have to make an exception in this case because the look she gives him is priceless! He does his shtick for the judges and the restaurant people and tells them all about Pie Wave, Pie Style and Contagion! Robert asks what Pie Style is and I held my breath because I thought we would get an answer but no we get the usual words without meaning: “Pie Style is a Way of Life.” The restaurant guy thinks it is a good concept but will not work for his restaurant. Alton likes dough but not raw. I confess: I have been known to eat raw pie dough. Go ahead, laugh. They used to laugh at me for eating raw cookie dough until everyone started eating it that way. You sprinkle a little salt and cinnamon sugar on raw pie dough and it is pretty good! But you can not serve it in a restaurant as dinner especially with chicken cacciatore inside.

Damaris has to make tournedos of beef and mashed potatoes. She does not like steak so she is not thrilled. The restaurant people say the problem is the toothpicks holding the mushrooms on the top of the steak are tacky. Why do they not take them off? I do not understand! It is not like it is a requirement! And sometimes the bacon that wraps the tournedos is overcooked or undercooked. Hey! That is an easy fix! Cook it properly! Also they use half instant mashed potatoes and half fresh which is again puzzling. You need expert help to tell you not to use instant potatoes? What is wrong with you people that you can not figure that out? If that is the level of expertise expected from these people it is a pretty low bar. Damaris turns the tournedos into beef filets which seems like a completely different dish, not a reworked dish. Does the restaurant not have beef filet on the menu already? If not it is probably because it is too expensive. She replaces the button mushrooms (sneer… “I did not know they still grew button mushrooms”) with shiitakes. Again they are twice as expensive so she has now tripled the price of this dish! Tip of the day: Use more expensive ingredients! She steams some broccoli and makes garlic smashed potatoes. She has a hard time with the potatoes because the skins do not break down and it gets gritty and thick. She is shoving it through a sieve which may be why it is thick! I love gluey mashed potatoes (I have weird tastes) but that means I know that the more you handle, stir, whip, beat, and sieve potatoes the glueier they get. She finally gets a food mill which is what she should have used in the first place. No what she should have done is peeled the potatoes if she did not want peel in them! She gives her presentation and Robert asks where she is from. “New York,” she says with a perfectly straight face. Then she laughs and says she I kidding. That was pretty good! She faked me out! I though wow she moved to New York? Alton asks how they liked her and they say she is a sweetheart. Robert does not particularly like her food though. Alton agrees it is more simple than it should be.

Stacey takes crab stuffed halibut with baked potato as the dish she will remake. The restaurant people say the problem is that it looks like an omelet instead of seafood. I think it takes a lot of talent to make fish look like an omelet. This is what Stacey does, she updates vintage food. She makes a crab cake halibut roulade with green beans and white truffle potato. She tells them she liked the “crab cake fixings” so she just went with that. She uses canned crab too. They use canned crab because nobody can taste the food anyway and what do you think this is, Top Chef? And canned crab can get a product placement fee but real crab can not. And these people may not know what to do with real crab. America’s Test Kitchen just did a very good taste test on crab and explained what the problem is. But this is not America’s Test Kitchen is it. The restaurant people think she is intelligent and speaks well but seems fake. Everyone says that but I do not get it! Alton agrees she is not connecting. They also think the dish is too dry. Stacey worries because this is her challenge and it would destroy her if she were went home on this one. It does not sound good though.

Nikki hates salmon and Stacey knows it so of course she assigns Nikki the salmon with onion pepper relish and rice pilaf. The assignment is such a big deal they actually put a commercial break in between “I’ll assign this to…” so everyone can wonder if she is really going to screw Nikki over. Everyone hates Stacey already (really, TWoP is brutal on her for reasons I do not understand) and this is not going to help. The restaurant people say the issue is dryness (again, they should not overcook it so badly!) and it is not really rice pilaf (so why do they call it that? I am so confused by these people I could scream!). She focuses on the broccoli cake and a “vibrant” rice pilaf that looks like the rice rings they used to make in the 60s. Her “meat on the side” thing which is beginning to sound like “make your usual meal but serve less of the meat.” The restaurant guy asks her “Is this what you call a rice pilaf?” She defines pilaf as “rice with stuff in it.” That is true as far as it goes but pilaf like risotto is a technique. In fact they are similar techniques except the risotto is stirred to create a creamy starch sauce where the pilaf is simply baked. I thought it had orzo in it but I guess that is just the Rice-a-Roni version! Hey do not laugh I love Rice-a-Roni! Nikki interviews “There are plenty of people out there who do not know what makes a pilaf” but the problem is, as a Food Network Star she is supposed to teach them! Apparently there are some diners who know exactly what a pilaf is either that or producers told them to say “This is a plate of rice.” I strongly suspect the latter. Apparently it is Dump Nikki day and they will do what they must to do it. Backstage she asks Damaris the teacher (I keep forgetting Damaris teaches at a culinary school) what a pilaf is and Damaris tells her the rice is sautéed before which is pretty much the jist but she should have asked before cooking not after. At judging they really let her have it. Alton thinks her body language looks like she is apologizing (he says while scolding her for not knowing the definition of pilaf… can Rodney define a pilaf?).

Russell has to fix the dry feta-stuffed chicken with rice pilaf (uh oh more pilaf!). He wants to prove he is not just bacon and bourbon (wait… that is your shtick!) so he focuses on a more health-conscious dish. What? He gives it a safe, comfortable amendment. Huh? He makes spinach-wrapped chicken poached in onion vermouth broth with lemon risotto. Now risotto is something a lot of Top Chef people go home for so I am surprised no one comments on it. Robert asks why he should be the new Star and he says “I am the old dog with new tricks” which is a good line and this is all about good lines. Alton is surprised by the dish! In a good way!


They have to pick the four people they will turn over to The Network (that is Susie and Tush) next week so they think in terms of who could actually be successful on a show.

Russell had the most successful dish so he is safe! Alton tells him he has shown real growth throughout the competition.

Damaris made a dish they could get anywhere. It lacked her Southern mark (wait… Russell deliberately made a dish that lacked his Sin mark and he won! I love the inconsistency as they trip all over themselves figuring out how to explain the decisions that were actually made a long time ago). Her presentation is memorable; she is comfortable; now she has to turn up the volume. You are perfect now change! This was filmed before Paula Deen self-destructed and anyway you can never have too many Paula Deens in your lineup (has anyone asked Damaris if she has ever used the n-word or planned a plantation wedding complete with well-dressed slaves? Maybe that should become part of the casting process for Southern chefs to avoid potential problems down the road because Damaris can not use age as an excuse) so Damaris is Safe!

Rodney is outgoing and nuts and it worked for Guy Fieri so why not get another one since Guy Fieri suddenly wants to direct (he will direct the test pilots next week). Robert says the concept for his dish was good but the execution was bad. Everyone around the table said “Star.” That is because Alton said, “Hey, everyone, say “Star!” and they did. During the private negotiations Alton points out that his shtick is Pie and pie is hard in an hour which is what all these challenges have been. Giada has seen glimmers of cooking chops but he has been inconsistent. Add in the hat and the shtick and it is good enough: Rodney is Safe!

Stacey is still guarded but her presentation was good. Robert tells her people want to know who she is. I am not in the slightest interested in who Christopher Kimball is or Jack Bishop or Ming Tsai or any of the PBS cooking people and I watch them all the time. No one ever knew Julia Child was a spy in China until long after she stopped making regular episodes. I do not even find Stacey particularly guarded. But that is how they are selling her. Privately Giada says as a package she has all the elements she is just missing the connection. Still Stacey is Safe.

Which leaves Nikki. Alton says she does not know what a pilaf is and she says I do now but it is too late she did not know yesterday when she made rice with stuff in it. Alton thinks her ability with food outstretches her ability to explain what she is doing and she does not know enough to teach. Robert thinks she is the one who stands out least. Alton worries about her authority but she has a good POV. This is the problem: she does not wear a silly hat or say “Pie Style” and act like a fool so Nikki is Out.

If they thought she knew what a pilaf was, it would have been something else. This was decided long ago I am sure of it. She says, “With a name like Nikki Dinki you are not easily forgotten.” Oliver North is getting rich selling gold; Mark Sanford came back from the Appalachian Trail; Eliot Spitzer is running for office. You would be surprised what people forget.

Backstage they say goodbye and everyone is weepy as Nikki leaves. Then Rodney says “You know, I am sad and all, but guess what, this is pretty awesome – Final Four!” and everyone cheers up and parties. You would be surprised how fast people forget.

Next week:

The four do a pitch meeting with Susie and Tush and then three of them make pilots with Guy Fieri who has suddenly decided what he really wants to do is direct.

Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) Episode 8: Food Stories from the Road

Madwit Shticks

Hello I am Zin! It is time for the Salvated Star to return!

Did you forget all about that? Because I did! I do not spend lot of time between weeks wondering about this show, but still, I am surprised I did not remember when I remembered it was on tonight. Lovely returns! That is not much of a surprise is it. Russell is worried because she is going to bring a whole new set of skills they may not know about. I think he forgot she was on the show a few weeks ago!

Little Challenge:

For the first challenge this week, Giada wants Italian food. Of course she does! And they had better pronounce everything right! Yes I know her pronunciation of “spaghetti” makes a lot of people crazy but I am not Italian and she is so I must defer! They will all cook a dish and then present it in a way that makes the judges want to eat it. Did they not do this last week? As it turns out, no they did not! After the cooking when everyone has their little stories in mind (except Stacey who is trying to seem less rehearsed) they present in pairs and switch dishes so everyone is tasting and presenting an unfamiliar dish! Everyone knows something is up when they send everyone but the first two people backstage!

In this case the judges do not taste the food so it does not matter whether it is good or not, what is being judged is their ability to describe. I suppose someone could say a dish tastes terrible but that would probably not make the judges want to eat it so they will at least talk about how it should taste!

Stacey has been rehearsing being spontaneous and now she gets to Be Spontaneous Live! She does not know if she can handle Spontaneous Spontaneity! Rodney tells her his dish is called “Late Night in Little Italy” and he gives a mini-presentation just telling her the name but tells her nothing about the ingredients. I do not think he is being cagey I just think he does not understand he is supposed to tell her what the dish actually is which is clams, shrimp and oysters in tomato sauce over pasta. That is a pretty cool dish for Rodney! If it tastes anything like it sounds it might be a pretty good meal! But Stacey seems to actually know something about food! She talks about garlic and basil and recognizes pecorino romano (which I think is pretty impressive) and starts to go into how it is like eating pasta with her kids but time is up! The time went fast!

Lovely presents the linguini with meat sauce that Damaris made. “When you think about tomatoes you think about acidity…” and she gets the Bolognese from “meat sauce.” It is a good start and she does well except she does a lot of “nice” and wonderful” and ends with “Join me now in this mouthwatering journey” which is exactly the kind of canned speech they love but also the kind of canned speech they sent her home for. This is a tough gig!

Rodney has had a lot of trouble adding to his vocabulary but he has been studying like crazy to go beyond “suckah” and “awesome” and it is going to be awesome, suckah! has to present the saltimbocca with brown butter pasta Stacey made and it seems he has no idea what saltimbocca is or brown butter for that matter. He says it is sweet, with a nice sweetness and nice sweet sugary ham. Either Stacey made a dessert saltimbocca, or Rodney does not know any other descriptive words. The food authority thing is not going well for Rodney. Maybe that is why they paired them because they figured Stacey would make something complicated. Now that is Pie Style!

Damaris had a great story about her dish but now she has to talk about mascarpone fettucine alfredo with lemon shrimp that Lovely made and she does not have a story about that! See that is what FN does they get them all tied up trying to think of stories instead of cooking or even talking! All she has to do is use the 'Heart Breaks in 2' by buttersweet on flickrsame story because nobody will know the difference but I guess she is not used to lying! If she gets a FN show she will learn! She stalls for time by asking the judges if she has anything in her teeth. She tells a very long story about the first time she got her heart broken and she laid on the couch and cried and after a week her brother came by with some pasta and it was warm and creamy and felt like a hug TIME! Wait: what is the food? I think the judges feel sorry for Damaris but I doubt they really want this food: Eat this pasta, it tastes really good after you have been crying for a week! She gives herself a 4 out of 10. I agree with that but I also think if she had said “shrimp” she would have won because that is how Food Network goes!

Russell has been discovering that even though he talks about food all the time it is different to talk about food on TV and to think about food from a Food Network perspective. Yes on FN it is more important to have stories than knowledge! He has decided to choose between Revolution and Sin and decides to keep Sinning. He gets to present the dish Nikki made. She tells him it is “Fire Island Burst Tomato Pasta” and that it is made with rosemary and pretty much everyone wants to taste it right then but she is not the one presenting! So Russell takes over and makes it sinful. He had to work hard at that because there was nothing sinful about it. Of course not she is Meat on the Side! That is why they paired them! He talks about being the Food Network Culinary Sin Bastard (no, no, it was Master, I think) and talks about basil and goat cheese and creaminess and bright lemon and garlic TIME! He did not do too badly, he got some good words in. Some bad words too. Except no he did not that was just what I heard.

Nikki present the veal sugo Russell made. She talks about ground veal and meaty but salty and sweet carrots with texture and how meat broth coats pasta TIME! She does pretty well but not great, she is reporting on what she tastes.

The judges think Nikki was the only one who made them hungry! I carburetoram a bit bewildered by that but I guess they wanted Nikki to win. Alton likes the sense of discovery she conveyed like they were eating it along with her and everyone else read a parts list which is only sexy if you are rebuilding a carburetor. Alton I do not know how to break it to you but there is nothing sexy about reading a parts list while rebuilding a carburetor. In fact that would be a good challenge for ANTM! See who can make it sexy! I do not think Nikki did more than read a parts list but I do not think she did any worse than anyone else either. The point is Nikki wins.

Main Challenge:

They break into two teams of three to write, direct, and produce a field story about a selected location. Rodney is happy because talking to people about food is what he does! Rodney you told us you play guitar and sing and make amazing pie jars too! I am not sure we can believe you any more! They will be evaluated by the judges and by some Hollywood reporters. Or people from the Hollywood Reporter, I am not sure. Because Nikki won she gets to pick her team and she goes with the girls she knows. Also all the people who are likely to win this competition. Rodney, Russell, and Lovely are a train wreck waiting to happen! “We have to win,” says Stacey, and Nikki realizes, oh, yes, if we lose one of us will go home! Now she regrets pulling all the strong players! “We… have…to… win,” repeats Stacey. She knows the game all right.

Donut Shop:

Strawberry DonutNikki, Damaris and Stacey go to a famous Donut Shop and talk to owner Jim about his signature Fresh Strawberry Donut. That is not just a fresh donut with strawberry flavoring you understand, or a strawberry jelly donut or even a donut with little pieces of strawberry mixed in but a donut stuffed with fresh strawberries! I wanted one just looking at it! Stacey does the kitchen segment with the owner and I am surprised that she is the big problem! When they rehearse and she explains what she wants him to do and she is so rushed he says “I will just keep my mouth shut” which is not how you want to make the guest for a food story feel! She wanted to let magic happen but he does not talk fast enough for her!

The intro with the three of them is very good! Damaris does the set up segment real well and they got some good food porn shots too. She is just a little over the top but she has learned to be fun without the boob shimmy. Stacey is downright embarrassing! She asks a question then talks over the guy before he is finished answering! She does the glazing which is a good idea for a segment like this and then she steals a strawberry which is great but the damage is done! She does not care about the guy or his information! No magic here. Then Nikki finishes by asking a little girl what her favorite donut is which is a great way to end. It was a very good segment except for Stacey and some of the decisions were good but she needs to not talk over the people she is interviewing. I remember Chris Hayes (who talks very very fast) saying he had a guest on who was talking very very slowly and he was worried that it was not good TV but it turned out to be wonderful because he forgot about time marks and just listened to what the guy was saying. Stacey needs to learn that! All of Food Network needs to learn that! It is not about how many words you can cram into the shortest possible time it is about giving a guest the time they need to tell the story!

The reporters liked Damaris and Nikki a lot – Damaris had charisma and Nikki was a terrific leader and had food authority – but Stacey was not listening, she treated the guy like a prop, and she did not follow up on the potato flour. You know something: if she had asked about the potato flour they would have said, “All you talked about was potato flour! What about the frying? What about the proofing? What about the glazing? Those are visual, potato flour is too conceptual!” Because they are doing to Stacey what they did to Aartie: it is her time to crumble and then she can have a rising arc! Or maybe she is more like Aria who they loved at first but got bored with.

Bobby says everyone is hungry for donuts so they are the winning team no matter how bad Stacey was and everyone is safe! Stacey cries because if they had not won she would have gone home and she works hard to be there. There was no way this team was going to lose.

Pizza Shop:

Russell, Lovely and Rodney to go a pizzeria where the guy makes the pizzas from scratch. And really, really scratch! Like the yeast is 500 years old! I have heard of 99 Year Old Sourdough Starter (though it seems that may be a myth) but this sounds a little fishy! Or yeasty! But still it is something you would ask about like where did he get it and what does it take to keep it going. Here is the basic problem: no matter how delicious the pizza crust is or how interesting the story about the yeast may be, there is just no way to make a vat of 500-year-old yeast as visually appealing as a fresh strawberry donut! Russell wants to be natural and bring in sin. Rodney is going to hang out with Vito and bust his balls and hope he busts his balls back! Oh yes that should be fun to watch.

Russell does the opening and he does pretty well except he tries to make the yeast sinful which is a little silly. Rodney makes pizza pie with Vito and zips through the yeast starter to an ex-wife joke because everyone loves an ex-wife joke! Especially the ex-wives who watch Food Network! They go into the yeast and it is a family secret the guy could tell him but then he would have to kill him. That is classic Food Network spiel! Then Lovely interviews two patrons. One is named Dr. Kute and she asks him what his real name is and he say it is really Dr. Kute. He should have asked her what her real name is (Connie, is it weird I remember that?). She asks the two guys if they like their pizza and they say yes and that is it. See that is the problem with Lovely she is all style and no substance! Ask open-ended questions! Act interested even if you are not! What would you like to know from the patrons of a pizza shop you are thinking about going to? But no, she just asks “Do you like the pizza” they say “Yes” and that is the end. But do you know what? I watched this again: the other team got a really cute and perky little girl and Lovely had to talk to two bored old guys in a run-down pizza shop so I think the fix was in from the start.

The reporters like the presence Russell has on camera. They could not understand Rodney which made the judges laugh since they have been saying that all along! They could not tell if his shtick was real or fake but he was believable. I could be wrong but I believe that if you can not tell if someone is being real or fake, he is by definition not believable…. yes? But this is Food Network. They did not find Lovely engaging because she was too crafted and polished. No, no no! It is not because she is too polished! It is because she was posing and she should have been reporting! Or at least pretending to be interested. But all she was interested in was looking good on camera and smiling and saying her lines. Nobody wants pizza.

The judges tell Russell he does not have to sin all the time. Bobby continues the inexplicable Rodney-love-fest: Rodney is most memorable but he is very disappointed he just skimmed by the yeast. The reporters used the word “shtick” and what they do not realize is that the shtick is him. I am not sure it is good to be a shtick. They want him to add culinary authority to shtick. I hope it does not sound like I am being mean but I do not think Rodney is “smart” enough to do what they want him to do! I do not mean IQ smart I mean verbally smart and food smart. I think he has been talking in patter because he genuinely does have anything to say and has no thought connected to his mouth. He is however Guy Fieri 2.0 and that may be enough! With Lovely we pick up exactly where we left off: too polished and mechanical but that is Lovely. “It takes years to get the kind of polish you have but on Food Network it does not work.” They want Pie Style! Giada wants her to put her arms around the guys and be a family. Dear Giada, when was the last time you put your arms around a stranger who calls himself Dr. Kute?

The Decision:

In the end Lovely is out.

She is still proud of herself for winning the Star Salvation. “I sent six people home! I Built That!” She needs to go work for Mitt Romney! If any of those six people had stood a chance of winning I would smack her! No, Viet never stood a chance, he is just there to be punished for beating Bobby Flay in ICA. Russell has been in the bottom five times but now he has found his voice! Sure you have Russell. But fact is the three women that remain are the only ones truly in the running though they seem determined to give Rodney and his shtick some kind of role in Food Network programming. Rodney: “Maybe I do not have Food Authority but I make connections with people and that is Pie Style.” Make it stop!

Next Week:

Nikki burns down the kitchen! Then they do a Restaurant Impossible mission with The Most Repulsive Man on Food Network, Robert Irvine. I am sorry I do not know why he bothers me so much but I feel dirty and slimy watching him!

Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) Episode 7: Star Charity Auction

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 Auction:

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.

The Cut:

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.

Next Week

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.

Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) Episode 6: Product Pitch

Contestants are told from the beginning that they have to sell a concept, and it has to be pretty specific: sandwiches, cheap dinners … or, you know, yelling in shorts. It’s nowhere near enough to be a good cook, or a great cook, or a great teacher. The specific objective, as it’s explained over and over again, is to create a sense of constructed familiarity that will get viewers to like you, to invite you in, to listen to you, and to care what you say. You have to cook good food, but it’s enormously more important to look good on camera and to be engaging.

~~ Linda Holmes, Monkey See on

Hello I am Zin!

[rant] A few weeks ago in response to certain high-profile events in the foodfame world, Linda Moore of the NPR Blog analyzed Food Network Star. She got it right! You can read her entire article here.

All of the ridiculousness of Food Network Star and of Food Network in general can be traced to this root! Alton Brown even hinted as much (it is very worth following his Twitter feed because he does these post-it communiques which are sometimes very scathing! I do not know how he gets away with it!) when he explained why he is judging and commentating on all these contest shows but not doing Good Eats any more! Just like I am sad that Tim Gunn is still associated with Project Runway, I am sad Alton Brown is still associated with Food Network. This is a guy who was a perfectly good videographer and he went to culinary school, people, not a correspondence course or a two-week workshop, he went to a real culinary school for two years so he could make the tv show he had in mind. No shortcuts. Food Network is now all about shortcuts (I do not think it was at first). This makes me sad. But it makes people rich and in America that is what counts! [/rant]

And now our regularly scheduled recap!

Today is Product Pitch day! This is another of my favorite FNS episode types! I am always amazed at what contestants come up with. Remember the woman who mixed sugar and cayenne pepper and tried to convince everyone her Popcorn Seasoning was worth buying? This year is extra special because Russell will show us exactly the difference between Top Chef and Food Network Star! This episode IS Food Network!

A lot happens in several parts so pay attention because I am only going through the roster once and covering all the different rounds. First the contestants have one hour to make samples of two different “uniquely you” products for the Alton, Bobby, and Giada to taste. They will give “brutal feedback” (“Brutal,” reiterates Alton; he is really having fun with this Mean Old Grump persona!) and advise them to use one or the other as their product. Then they meet with a graphic designer to come up with packaging! Except the packaging is more or less a jar with a computer-printed label: Chad misjudges and Rodney overshoots the limits of reality! They will produce their product and have one minute to present to three corporate executives from Cereal Box, Blue Box, and Big Box (the Other Big Box Store) who will decide if their ideas are worth pursuing for the customer base. And then the judges decide who goes home! And no, nobody will see their product produced.

On Food Network Star, they make you talk about your family a lot. The attitude is that if you can’t tell a personal story about a recipe, there’s essentially no reason to make it on television, which is a pretty high bar as far as coming up with reasons why you totally care deeply about those turkey burgers.

~~ Linda Holmes, Monkey See on

The Best Three:

Stacey makes diary-free, gluten-free orange cardamom cookies since that is what she has to make for her son but they do not come out very good so she does what every good cook does when something is not working: She adds sugar! She also makes butterscotch but because she waited too long to add the cream it is too soupy so she melts more sugar to fix it. Maybe she can get the concession on diabetes medicine now! Bobby loves the story about her family (Stacey has this “family story” thing down, yes?) but Alton makes a face and Giada wants some water! The cookies are not good! Her Cayenne Butterscotch is better and Alton foresees a whole line of sauces! It is not a product unless it can be a mass market Empire! That is the FN way! Stacey meets with a graphic designer (“packaging represents brand promise” – you can not tell me she has not been coached) to come up with a 50s style Vintage Kitchen label for her Hot Mamma Butterscotch. She memorizes her script and gets lost when she misses a word! She gets giggly! But they wanted her to be less perfect so there it is! The corporations like the unexpected but delicious kick! They ask her why she would be the one, and she talks about the lineage of women in the kitchen since she learned to cook from her grandma and mom making her vintage but being a working mom she is modern. The corporations find her pitch polished but a little boring! See that is how Food Network Star is selling her to us! Even when she does a mediocre presentation she is polished but boring! Bobby criticizes the rehearsed quality (which is very accurate) and tells her to be more spontaneous. The judges like the product, they like the packaging, and she demonstrated her Vintage point of view but they want “more you.” But of course she is in the Top Three anyway! Except for her uncooked Pot Pie she has been in the top every week!

Russell does sweets! He says he has a product line but it is so small it is more like a hobby. Last week I predicted he would do bacon booze sugar butter jam but he does bacon candy with bourbon so that is like solid jam! He also makes ginger chili ice cream which sounds really good! “Come on give it to me” says Giada and I do not think she means ice cream. She loves his candy and Aton likes the ice cream but the bacon candy is unique so he goes with that. He designs a flying pig label. Hey we have When Pigs Fly bread in Maine and I like it better! He does a very good presentation! He talks about the food revolution to embrace sin which is the first time his revolution has made sense! They are laughing when he talks about the five sins in his Bacon Candy! “Come with me and Sin!” Everyone is happy! One of the Box people says it flies in the face of everything that is happening in Wellness (that is what a revolution is!) but so what, she owns lots of Big Pharm stock. They find him authentic and endearing (I am getting Puck from Glee these days) and his product is good but it does not come off as candy! Because when you say Candy to a Mass Market Box person it had better be chocolate or bright red or green sugar! On Top Chef they cook with salmon candy but the type of people who buy FN products would not understand bacon candy. That failure by the way is on the judges because they tasted the stuff and did not complain that it was not candy! Giada says it is the first time she has wanted to join him on his Food Revolution because he made it fun! I somehow do not see Giada chomping down on Bacon Candy very much!

Damaris talks to her peaches. They are pretty! She makes a grilled peach and chili pepper jam and a bourbon honey vinaigrette except Russell uses all the bourbon so she makes a whiskey honey vinaigrette. Alton wonders if her salad dressing has to be sold at a liquor store. It is very one-note. The jam is spicy but Bobby thinks that is who she is so she goes with the jam. She uses a raffia tie which makes sense. In her presentation she concentrates on channeling Stacey! She talks about the South being the best-kept culinary secret in the country. Since when is the South a culinary secret? She runs out of time! The Box People like the ginger in the jam and the labeling is exceptional! I do not know about that, I like idea but the colors do not have enough value contrast but now that I have seen all the products I realize they only had pink and grey ink to work with! Nobody explains what “BPG” means. They say she has a “reserved charm” and Alton thinks that is hilarious! Bobby is disappointed because they want her true personality. I love Food Network Star. She has given them her true personality week after week and they have told her to tone it down but now she tones it down and they want it back! Do they think we are idiots? Do they think we forget from week to week? Alton tells her she would have won if she had been less restrained because her product and packaging were great! Maybe she should have drunk the whiskey instead of putting it in the vinaigrette!

But if you’ve watched more than five minutes of Food Network Star, you know that they only care what’s in your heart to the extent it happens to be congruent with what people think is in your heart. You can be the nicest person on the planet, and if it’s not coming across, you’re out. It’s not about who you are, but about who you seem to be, because cooking is personal and touches people’s families in all the most constant and important ways, so, you know. You’d better be able to make the sale.

~~ Linda Holmes, Monkey See on

The not-best Four

Chad decides on baked beans because all you can get in a supermarket is canned beans! So he makes… canned beans! No, he will put them in a jar and that makes all the difference! Wait! B&M makes jarred beans! They are a Maine company (or they were before all the little fish got gobbled up by the big fish) and they used to have a plant so close we could smell it (it is a terrible name for a bean company though, yes?) so I can get jarred beans any time! He also makes dry rub. I was wrong last week! I guessed he would make barbecue sauce! Dry rub is almost barbecue sauce but not quite. His dry rub has 16 spices and some are secret. Alton likes his beans “a little” but Bobby tells him there are so many rubs already it is hard to differentiate (and Bobby has a few recipes himself) so Chad sticks with the “little bit good” jarred not canned baked beans. He tells the designer he wants a see-through jar so they can see the green peppers and onions and three types of beans! He calls them Big Boy’s Barbecue Beans. His presentation is good except they do not understand what makes them “Big Boy” and he explains it is more grown up than regular canned beans so it is the Big Boy version. The execs (all women) do not look convinced about the name (I think it is downright obscene) but they want to do Chad anyway. No, they are just “ready to taste.” The beans. They say it sounds appealing but if it is in a clear glass jar it had better look good and this looks more like sloppy joe mix. Bobby thinks it is too sweet. Bobby does not like the competition for Hot Grill Guy!

Rodney talks in catchphrases and sound bites that do not really make sense. No wonder they seem to love him! Food Network where Articulate is optional! He fell in love with pie when he was a little kid stuck in a room of pies. I would think that was weird if I did not think it was utter bullship. He makes two pie kits: spinach and goat cheese quiche, and mixed berry. Alton likes the quiche. Bobby warns him to tune down the Big Ideas because simple is better. Alton tells him to keep it simple when he pitches. Rodney says, “Screw that, I have ideas in my back pocket.” Just because you have ideas, that does not make them good ideas! The pie kit is in fact a good idea (I do not know if Rodney understands the Ikea Effect but a pie kit is a textbook application) but he turns it into a mess! He tells the graphic designer he wants a coat-hanger wire handle taped to the jar, and the dough wrapped around it like a rolled towel. Of course they can not produce such a thing so they literally have a coat hanger duct taped to a jar. It is truly horrible! Frightening! He does the same nonsense phraseology in his presentation then OH NO he brings out his guitar! Maybe he can actually play and sing in certain settings like when everyone is drunk and happy but this is the second time he has tried to perform on this show and he seems very amateurish to me! The Box people all get that he believes in pie but they do not know what the product is! His personality overshadows it! Alton tells him he had no focus and left them confused so even though the quiche was good it did not work! He tells them, “But I had a blast!” and Alton says “But no one will buy your pie kit” and, well, usually I prefer art to commerce but there was no art here so commerce would have been far preferable!

Nikki makes Nikki Dinki sauce. Now it is not her fault her name is Nikki Dinki but I am not sure saying it over and over is a good thing when lack of authority is her main note. She makes two pureed veggie sauces, one spinach eggplant and the other roasted pepper tomatillo. the spinach eggplant is predicatably ugly (it was brown so she tried to make it green which meant it was that lovely green/brown mothers of infants know so well) so she goes with the other. Even she does not like her product! The Box people ask her where it would be merchandized which seems like an odd question! In my supermarket there is an entire aisle for condiments and sauces. She guesses with tomato sauce. They think it is too chunky for a sauce. Giada liked her energy but they did not know what they were getting because saying “roasted pepper and tomatillo sauce” is not good enough and no one told her to make it a salsa (or a dip which is what I guessed she would make last week)! She still Lacks Authority because she does not have a supermarket layout in her head and, well, that is how they are selling her to us. I still think her POV is the best in the competition and whatever they do with her on this show I bet FN will have a Meat on the Side program within the next year!

Chris is worried because it is not easy to bottle passion for sharing food with other people! That is why he can not be the Next Food Network Star right there! Passion only counts if you have a Product easily summed up in a catchphrase! He makes sweet corn bisque and a smoked apple red pepper jam which is his childhood in a jar. The judges think the corn soup is too spicy; Giada frowns! She and Bobby like the jam but Alton says there is nothing jamlike about it because you can not put it on cake (excuse me: savory jams like onion, tomato, bacon, and pepper have been around a long time now) so they suggest he call it something more savory and he comes up with: Ketchup! I do not belive this! I guessed last week he would make ketchup! I really did! I was kidding but he actually made Ketchup! He is confident going into his presentation because he is a sales person! But because they have been yelling at him for being loud he shuts down completely! It is bizarre! He sounds like he is a bad actor reading for a cheap infomercial. The worst mistake though is that he says a percent of profits goes to charity which no no NO that is not what anyone wants to hear! They do not feel a connection with the pitch and what do you know, it turns out he left out the part about childhood in a jar and his uncle having an orchard and the biggest applewood smoker in Ohio. Bad move! He left out the good stuff! This is what they do to people! They tell them to be who they are, then tell them that is not good enough, then tell them they are not genuine! He has many problems but what they probably see most is a lack of a culinary point of view that can be conveyed in a title so they will twist him inside out until he fails while trying to please them.

It’s not being a bad person that gets you fired from Food Network, any more than it’s being a bad person that gets you kicked off their competition show. It’s being ineffective at making people want to hang out with you and watch you make food and tell stories.

~~ Linda Holmes, Monkey See on

Decision Time:

I was sure Rodney would be out but no, Chris is out! That is what having a clear culinary point of view does for you!

In the aftermath Nikki feels like a child again! They make you lose what makes you You in the real world! Yes they do! I am not sure I know or like the You Nikki is in the real world but that is the technique they use! Rodney resolves to work more on presentation and less on tunes. I think that is a great idea! Chad is traumatized by his first trip to the Bottom!

Food Network is a sandcastle of manufactured intimacy, and your ability to convincingly maintain that intimacy is your most important job skill.

~~ Linda Holmes, Monkey See on

Next Week:

Do you know how to describe food? I mean how to really describe food? Can you make people taste the food through the screen? See, when I hear “grilled peach and chili pepper jam” I can taste it! I do not need someone to start in with words like “smoky” and “sweet” and “hot” because it is all there in the title! But it seems Food Network does not trust viewers to translate Sweet Corn Bisque into sensory imagination so they train people to talk in sensory adjectives! This is where Rodney will fall to pieces. He will say things like “pie in the sky” and “zen pie” and “live pie or die” and nobody will have any idea what kind of pie it is. Will he still inexplicably be safe? Will they arrange it so he has some kind of immunity?

Cooking TV is a personality-hawking business. They tell you that when you’re angling for the job.

~~ Linda Holmes, Monkey See on

Star Salvation

Lovely and Chris have to make a dish “featuring potato chips as the star.”

Lovely wants to be creative and edgy and over the top so she makes salty sweet dessert with caramelized apples in rum sauce, a potato chip crumble, and mascarpone cream. She tells Robert Irvine it is sweet and sinful and it is a party in your mouth! He agrees it is a party in his mouth but he is not sure if the potato chip is the star.

Potato Chip Art by Eric Bass

Potato Chip Art by Eric Bass

Chris makes a potato chip bisque – wait, he is stuck on Bisque today! What makes a soup a bisque? “Bisque is currently used as a general term for a thick puréed or otherwise creamy soup that’s usually made with cream or crème fraîche. Traditionally, “bisque” refers to a complex shellfish soup that is classically made with lobster, crab or crawfish.” So I suppose if you puree potato chips in milk that qualifies * shrug *. It sounds terrible! Believe it or not there are recipes for potato chip soup but I think it is a little different from what Chris does. He adds smoked salmon and says it is a play on fish & chips which is cute but it still sounds awful! Robert finds it unusual, and very salty! That is because they used cheap potato chips! The better your potato chip the less salt it has because the chip itself is more flavorful!

So Lovely made delicious dessert that barely used the chips and Chris made a horrible mess but embraced the chips with both arms! Chris is out!

I can not argue with that! I think anyone who even considers pouring milk over potato chips and serving it should not be on a cooking show! But the thing is it could have worked and no one would have ever known it! I bet if someone like Grant Achatz played with the idea he could make something wonderful but it would take months to develop and hours to cook not 20 minutes! I would have made a soft-cheese-and-potato-chip stuffed tomato broiled with potato chip topping because I know those things can work in 20 minutes. The crumbling thing was obvious but if you have 20 minutes and no do-overs maybe obvious is best!

Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9), Episode 5: 4th of July Live

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!

Skills Challenge:

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!

Star Challenge:

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.”

Next week:

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.

Star Salvation:

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?

Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9), Episode 4: Big Screen Bites

Would it not be so cool if this were the movie they showed at the theater?

Would it not be so cool if this were the movie they showed at the theater?

Hello I am Zin! Today the contestants go to the movies! Except they do not see a movie they make a movie. No they make a movie trailer! I do not know what this has to do with cooking but everyone seems happy. It is the most honest episode yet because it is clear that food has nothing to do with who wins! It is not who makes the best food but who makes people want to try their food! This is sort of like with the burger thing except there they at least pretended that the food mattered. Now they have decided that is not necessary. Never forget this when you watch a Food Network cooking show! It is not about how the food tastes it is about how well the cook convinces you it tastes! This seems appropriate for a movie challenge because the movies convince you that people do indeed look like movie stars and everything has a happy ending with beautiful violins. Unreality TV!

The contestants get into teams of three and make a one-minute movie trailer in an assigned genre to promote their food. Each person makes one dish: one will do an appetizer, one makes the entre and one must make a dessert. Then the audience picks which food they want to eat based on that! The winning team is the one that convinces the most people to pick their food! See, no tasting necessary to win! Then the judges (still only Alton, Bobby, and Giada, it seems Susie and Tusch got lost somewhere) will figure out who goes home based on some divine inspiration.

They shoot the trailer before they make their food which does not really make sense to me but that is more of the separation of reality and appearance! It does serve a purpose though because it locks them in to a particular dish. The whole service segment is very suspenseful with one team getting all the orders at first then another team catching up and finally the third team getting slammed! You can ignore that part since it is deliberately designed for viewers who still believe in the Reality of Reality TV.

Western – Nikki, Russell, Stacey:

Russell tries to explain the spaghetti western to Nikki: “It’s…modern…a little obtuse, a little off-center…. like that Fellini nature.” Later someone fills him in and he explains it is a group of Westerns shot in Italy with Clint Eastwood which is much closer. Flavorwire has a more thematic definition. pssst… In S6 Serena did a Spaghetti Western recipe too! Nikki is insecure because she does not have a restaurant but she is also upset that Russell can not get his lines right during filming.

The trailer has Nikki and Russell in costume as gunfighters dueling it out: “What did you bring to this food fight cowboy?” Russell brings his two guns. Stacey is some kind of moderator trying to decide. She has a hobby horse. I guess that is her costume. She seems more sexy than western to me but maybe she is the saloon girl. After service when they realize they had a lot of orders Russell says “I am smelling spankage, full blown spankage.” I love to learn new words!

Nikki makes the appetizer of shootout chili with just enough meat to give it meaty notes. Bobby loves the trailer and likes Nikki the best! Even Russell says she is a slick performer! Alton is impressed because it finally shows him the full body and depth she can get out of veggies. Yes that happens when you put meat in them! Alton tells her “The you in that trailer is the you I want to see from now on: confident and controlled.”

Russell makes his Spaghetti Western with whiskey and bison and bacon so he is happy he gets in his culinary sins. I think Russell has been studying with William Shatner because he… can only talk… in… a few…. syllables… at a time. Alton thinks Russell looks great and sold it but the food was not that good! Giada is disappointed the pasta has no flavor. I am again confused by how anything with whiskey and bacon can have no flavor!

Stacey makes campfire smores with chocolate coffee ganache, popcorn, marshmallow and rolls them in graham for a “dressed up classic.” Stacey, if you get a show, you know you will be making turkey burgers and baked chicken and pasta every day right? Bobby says Stacey looks uncomfortable like she was trying to remember her lines. Giada loves the idea of using popcorn because of the theater.

Romance – Viet, Damaris, Chad:

Damaris is not happy to do romance because she has been ordered to stop being so sexy! Chad tries to get them to do something light and funny but they said no because no one else ever heard of the Romantic Comedy. They come up with something like The Dating Game. Damaris holds very still (“No shimmy”) like she is frozen in place but she is the shrimp and grits girl all cozy and cuddling by the fire: “When you bite into my shrimp I burst with spice.” Ok… Chad tries to woo her to pick his chicken wings by saying “sexy, spicy, sticky” and “hard on the outside and juicy on the inside.” I think they are confusing the Romance movie with porn! Viet is just there. Using the word “macerated” does not count as romance.

Chad makes Korean chicken wings and worries about keeping the sweet down because they do not like him always making sweet sauces so he is keeping it spicy not sweet. Bobby starts to talk “about your performance” but starts to laugh. He did not expect to see him in that vein! Yes we all know exactly which vein. Food and sleaze do not go together and Chad went triple-x. But he appreciates that he went for it. Giada is speechless. Alton calls it “Fifty Shades of Hot Sauce.” They like his chicken wings though and Alton notices it is not sweet.

Damaris thinks shrimp and grits remind her of being in love. That makes me sad. She gets her grits creamy and smooth and well-seasoned. Seasoned perfectly! Heavenly! She is very happy with her dish! Inexplicably, Alton tells her she was not sleazy with the biting into her shrimp but romantic in a fun way that was loveable. That is data. He gets the grits though and he agrees about them being about love. He wants his own triple-x moment so he says “I need some private time.” But they need seasoning. Badly. Either they are just dumping on her so she has a rising arc or she has a palate that is out-of-sync.

Viet makes berries macerated in rum and honey topped with sparkling yogurt cream spiked with champagne with CO2 to make it sparkling and fizzy. It is something you would not expect from whipped cream. But is that not how whipped cream is made? Alton does not see him growing on camera. Alton says the food is not unpleasant it is just not what he expected. Bobby does not taste the rum and does not think it is very creative. I have to agree with that! He had an hour and he poured some berries in a bowl and szussszzed up yogurt and champagne?

Musical – Rodney, Chris, Lovely:

Right off the bat Lovely is not happy because she does not like Chris! He is loud and talks a lot! He knows she does not like him but that is ok he will just kill her with kindness! Lovely also realizes they have not liked any of her food. Chris figures there is no way to put a musical on the plate so they will do a song and dance and sparkle! Later he bullshits it with “musicals have lots of different things and lots of notes so we have lots of flavors.” It basically means “We had no idea what to do but we have Rodney who is a professional musician so we should do really well!” But they do not! They make up a song and sing about their food. The big surprise is Rodney who shows the world he is not much of a musician! He can barely play guitar and can definitely not sing! I like some pretty offbeat voices (like LP who has a very odd voice with extreme vibrato but somehow is still completely captivating) but this is just awful.

Chris makes lobster macaroni and cheese. “The first thing I do is cook my pasta.” Good choice. He puts in chorizo and tomatoes and parmesan and goat cheese. That sounds like an awful lot competing with the lobster. Giada does not think it works. It is too much stuff.

Rodney makes a steak mushroom onion and Gruyère pie. Again with all the stuff! Call it steak and cheese pie and then give the ingredient list! Do you know nothing about this? It does not matter what he called it because no one could understand him anyway. Bobby does not like the pie at all, even the crust is not good! Rodney keeps saying “pies and music are my life” which makes me sad because Alton points out he has not yet made a good pie and now he has not made good music now either!

Lovely makes a donut out of packaged pizza dough with cardamom orange caramel and orange zest and edible flowers to glam it up! Bobby can not bite into it! Giada struggles for the right word, looks up to heaven, literally spends about six seconds to come up with “dense.” It is too bad Wolfgang Puck is not there or he would throw it across the room! What is really hilarious is that Giada has a recipe for Italian donuts made with pizza dough! They are a little different in shape though. For that matter Pillsbury has a pizza dough-nut in little balls so it is not like it is an idea from another planet! But why use that when people on Chopped make donuts all the time in 30 minutes while figuring out how to put horseradish and hotdogs in their dessert at the same time! Maybe she was trying to do an homage to Giada but it backfired. Chris tried to get her to make a beignet because it would be a New Orleans thing and at least have something to do with music (like his lobster mac did… oh wait…) but I think Lovely would rather lose than take a suggestion from him.

The Reviews are In!

The Western team wins because they got the most orders! It also sounds like their food was best but I will bet there is some producer manipulation going on to make it look like they were best in both categories. So Nikki, Russell and Stacey are safe! And because they did not have the worst day Chad, Damaris and Chris are also safe!

Rodney, Lovely and Viet are up for the elimination!

The judges talk. Alton says Rodney has made only one good thing to eat in four episodes but he is the Pie Guy who can not make pie and the musician who can not play! Bobby wants him to balance food and entertainment better. Alton still sees the potential to get better. He is Safe! That is what a great package will do for you on Food Network.

Viet confounds Alton. Sometimes he likes his food but when he misses he misses big and he does not think he is improving. Giada thinks he is searching for himself. Viet tells the panel he is under a lot of pressure because of the Iron Chef thing and Alton tells him if he is not succeeding it is his style of cooking not that they have raised the bar too high! Now wait just a minute! Viet owns a restaurant and has been a James Beard semifinalist twice and is a Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef, he is exactly where Bobby Flay was in the early 90s! I think he has found himself, it is just that he got lost and wandered into Food Network by mistake! Where Rodney got a win for a fruit salad just the week before! I do not know if they are keeping him around to give him a Rising Arc or if they are keeping him around to humiliate for beating Bobby Flay but Viet is Safe!

That leaves Lovely, who is Out! I can not argue with that. Even the Pie Guy who Can Not Make Pies at least made a good fruit salad once.

Next week they will do live TV.

And now for the fun part: Steal That Aftershow!

Star Salvation:

This web series is the equivalent of Last Chance Kitchen from Top Chef which was the equivalent of something from Survivor I think (I do not watch Survivor). Food Network may be last to jump on a bandwagon but at least they get there. Robert Irvine gives eliminated contestants tasks to do and in the end one person will be allowed back in but we do not know when. Not today at least. I had forgotten all about this!

Today Lovely, Danushka, Andre and Daniela (remember her? I did not!) compete in a Basic Skills Test! They have fifteen minutes to:

  • Crack a dozen eggs
  • Break down one chicken
  • Clean six shrimp
  • Julienne two carrots
  • Make garlic paste from one head of garlic
  • That seems like a lot to me! I suppose it depends on how cleanly you do things. That is where the unreality part of Reality TV comes in! While they are working Robert comes by and annoys them and asks them about their Culinary Point Of View.

    Danushka thinks the tasks are a lot of stuff too but she does not seem to be working very fast. She tells Robert why she should be salvated: “There is no one like me on Food Network, is that not enough?” She finishes all her tasks! I guess she really did go to culinary school! Robert does not understand her point of view (“I am a model!”) and her carrots are not julienne, they are batonnet. I am no fan of Danushka and she knew the julienne was not fine enough but I think Robert is just showing off! She is safe anyway.

    Andre is trying hard to embrace weight loss as his POV! But he did not go to culinary school and he can not finish the tasks! He did not get to the garlic paste. But it is good enough and Robert likes his point of view so he is safe.

    Lovely talks about giving people skills they can master so they can celebrate every day through their food. That is the first time I have understood Party on a Plate! Robert understands her. She is Safe.

    Daniela does not like skills. I do not understand! She went to culinary school she must have been trained in something! She wants to be on television teaching people to cook does that not mean skills? She tells Robert her point of view is all about sexy. He hollers out sexy does not work if you can not put food on the plate. “Of course I know,” says Daniela. I did not even realize he was talking to her at first so I was surprised she answered! I think he was shaming her! That is not nice! But the truth is she does not make much sense! Robert did not understand her point of view (it seems to be “I am sexy”) and her julienne is not cut through. Sexy does not make sense as a culinary point of view and her knife skills need work so she is Out! She says: “This turned out to be a Salvation Elimination!”

    The remaining three now have 30 minutes to make a dish with those ingredients: chicken, shrimp, eggs, carrots, garlic. The eggs are the weird part.

    Lovely makes panko crusted chicken with couscous and carrots and garlic with grilled shrimp as a garnish. Where is the egg? I suppose it is part of the breading layers? That seems like cheating to me because you would not know there was an egg in it! He also says there is no garlic taste. But her dish is the best because this is Food Network and they do whatever they want!

    Danushka makes shrimp stuffed chicken with an Asian stir fry of vegetables and a scallion pancake! At least I know where the egg is. Robert likes the carrots with ginger and the chicken is moist but the shrimp is raw! “Juicy,” says Danushka trying to spin it but no dice. “Raw is not juicy,” says Robert. Well, it is, but raw is also raw. Still she is safe.

    Andre makes an omelet! At last someone really uses the egg! He makes a Body Building Meal to energize and prime for weight loss! But it is not good! Oh no! The shrimp and the omelet are rubbery and there is too much red bell pepper. ‘

    Andre is Out! He is disappointed he did not get to champion his point of view but he is very sweet on his way out. “I must not be ready for this yet,” he says, which may just be the most intelligent thing anyone has ever said on getting eliminated from any show ever.

    Danushka and Lovely will face the next eliminee next time! I think it is suspicious how suddenly Danushka has turned into an actual cook.

    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!


    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!

    Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9), Ep.2: Burger Bash

    How Nathan Myhrvold makes a Modernist Burger

    How Nathan Myhrvold makes a Modernist Burger

    Hello I am Zin and it is time for burgers!

    The contestants have to make burgers for up to 100 people though actually no one has to make more than 15 and they have to do a 2-minute in-person demo to the crowd. The people will each have a token they can “spend” for a burger but only one! So the contestants have to sell the sizzle! The judges will taste everything and like Alton says, “We will be ever so judgmental.” The audience has the dials and the tokens though!

    The Best:

    Chad makes guess what barbecue! Memphis barbecue with cole slaw and hickory smoke sauce that looks like it came from a bottle but maybe that was ketchup since he said he made his own sauce. He uses 12 spices and makes fried green tomatoes and the women do not care what he is cooking they just turn their dials up and get in line! Whether he wins or not I bet FN is going to find a way to put him on TV or send him out to do demos and fairs. Giada loves his fried green tomatoes but wants him to do some kind of barbecue besides Memphis sweet style which seems a little picky to me. That is going to be the problem with Chad because how much barbecue can you do? I am bored with him already!

    Stacey wins the Cleanest Station award! No of course there is no such award but it is important since on TV you can not have a messy station. She makes a Baja Betty Burger (I do not know who Betty is) with beef and chorizo, jalapeno aioli, pico de gallo and lettuce on the bottom to keep the bun from getting soggy because “nobody wants a soggy bottom.” Alton is not sure how she will work vintage into this but Bobby is more worried that she needs to up the spice level if she is going to call it spicy! She does not quite get there Alton wants 15% more spice but it is a good burger over all and she does a very good presentation and gets 9 tokens so she is in the top three.

    Russell talks about beef and lamb and duck fat and bacon and Alton tells him his Seven Sins are his strength so he goes with that! When he says bacon and liquor people cheer! Of course they do everyone likes bacon and liquor! Fat and salt are why a third of us are obese! Yay Russell you and Paula Deen killing America one show at a time! When you have your heart attack you can peddle heart medicine like she sells diabetes drugs! God Bless America! He makes the best burger of the day (of course he does fat and salt taste good just ask Michael Moss) and he connects with the audience and he ties for the most tokens with 15! He is in the top three! He wins a prize for Most Improved since last week he was in the Bottom Three! Who cares about heart disease he won! And I bet it is delicious!

    The Mediocre:

    Viet does not like public speaking but he owns a restaurant so he knows he has to talk to customers. He makes a Vietnamese banh mi burger with pickled cucumber, duck fat aioli, and mushroom pate. I think duck fat aioli sounds disgusting but it is the sort of thing chef types love! Giada asks him how he will sell it and he starts to stammer until Alton says “All you need to do is say ‘I won Battle Ground Beef’ on Iron Chef America which is true! So that is what he does and they are impressed that his presentation improves! He gets 9 tokens and the judges like his burger Alton thinks he developed the flavor well. Viet is Safe!

    Rodney is the first to cut himself! He makes a burger pie by putting onions, mushrooms, gruyere and a bison patty on top of a pie crust and he says something about Motley Crue that I did not quite get. He talks very fast! He is rolling pie dough and ends with “You’re freakin’ pie style jack” and Bobby loves the energy but he needs to calm down! They do not like the burger Bobby says the crust is like a tortilla and he does not have to make a pie every time. He could have made a hamburger pie there are such things, Alton had a meat pie show on Good Eats, but I do not think Rodney is that good a cook to make something like that up on the fly. He only got 7 tokens but they love him so he is Safe!

    Lovely uses ground turkey for her burger because her mother used it to make it healthier but then she puts on bleu cheese and butter so what is she talking about? Bobby says to sell delicious not healthy! Alton says people at a burger bash do not care about healthy. This is why I love this show! They will turn around at some point and say “Healthy can be delicious” but right here they are saying clearly it is not! She puts caramelized onions and microgreens on top to make it glam! I guess microgreens are glam? I can buy them in my supermarket and I do not need instruction on how to throw them on a burger so how glam can they be? Giada still thinks she is fake but Bobby thinks she is likeable and Alton wants to try her burgers so that is good! She had the highest focus group score but her burger was all bleu cheese, still she is Safe. She is fake and that is exactly why she is perfect for FN!

    Damaris makes a lamb and duck fat burger (is it just me or does that sound disgusting) on a focaccia bun with pimiento cheese because the burgers are southern and the cheese is southern. I am not sure either is southern really but ok. Alton warns her not to be cutesy. She tells the crowd in the south first they learn to crawl then they learn to grill and she grilled at age 7 which makes her developmentally delayed if she was still crawling. Yes I am being picky. But then she waggles her boobs and the dials go way down! Alton says they were laughing at her. That makes me sad. I do not particularly like her but she is not mean and she knows she made a mistake and that is good enough for now. She cries really hard and they have to let her gather herself before they continue to tell her how bad she was. They tell her she was in the middle of the pack with 7 tokens and she could have been really great but the boobs were off-putting. Her burger was really good though she just did not sell it! Anyway she is safe but she is the last Safe.

    Chris makes pickled watermelon rind which sounds like another banh mi but he calls it Korean. He explains it as “hodgepodge” and Alton is worried but tells him to sell it like he sells at his establishment. Chris can do that! He is a salesman! He has a food truck! He runs out of time explaining his burger and the dials go down but he is a used car salesman and just keeps calling people over! I think he gave away a bottle of booze at one point but I think they would not have shown that because it probably breaks about thirty liquor laws. Bobby calls him a carnival barker and Alton says a carnival barker has more mission! He has a mission to sell! A point of view is what he does not have! I get tired listening to him! I would go over and see Viet or Stacey or Russell who are quieter. They do not like his demo but Giada is pleasantly surprised by his burger! He gets 13 tokens so Alton admits though his presentation was dead on arrival he saved it by working the crowd and he can cook and sell when he has a product to sell so now he has to see himself as a product and sell it. This is very depressing. People are not products! But he is Safe.

    The Worst:

    Nikki is worried because she has to make a burger with meat on the side! She is worried if she includes too much veg it will be loose and wet. That sounds like something to worry about all right! Alton tells her not to get cutesy. She is pretty confident because it is what she does online but she only gets six tokens! Of course she does not get much at a burger fest if she is making burgers out of veg! Alton does not like the Veggie Bang Burger and Giada says it has no flavor! Giada tells her to stop apologizing for the vegetables while at the same time telling her the vegetables taste terrible! That is why I love this show! Later Alton says she is not inspiring anyone to follow her and Giada wonders if she has mastered vegetables in general. That is pretty scary a semi-veg cook who can not cook veg! This was probably not a good test of her veg skills though!

    Danushka decides the problem is that her personality is not coming across! I think her personality is coming across just fine! I think Danushka is a little bit full of herself and has shown no reason to be that I can see. She thinks burgers are boring too so she tells Bobby she will take her shirt off and hope they like what they see and come to her station. Bobby tells her to forget the fashion model and get them to see her as an authority figure. She does the “watching you” finger thing with Bobby which makes no sense. She makes a bison slider with corn salad but her presentation is all in the red zone. “I love game meat!” she shouts and everyone laughs! She says she was herself 100% and that is who she is take it or leave it and I know which I will do! Alton says he can not look away but it hurts when he looks! There it is! That is pretty good. FNS a new train wreck every week! Come on that is why we are all watching yes? Her burger is ok but she only gets 2 tokens and did worst with the focus group.

    Andres talks about teaching men that cooking is as manly as growing a beard but Giada maybe does not like beards and tells him to tell a direct story! Giada and her stories! Alton asks about the whole wheat bun and again tells him how compelling the weight loss angle is but Andres does not want to jump on the weight loss bandwagon and he says something very interesting: “So many people are exploiting fat people.” Yes they are! There is money in obesity! My respect for Andres just went up a lot! He asks the audience if the guys make dinner and they seem to think he is scolding them. It does not go well! He makes a Cuban beef/pork burger with paprika and garlic but he is in the red then he talks about losing all that weight and the dials jump into the green! Maybe people at a burger bash do care about healthy! He only gets three tokens though so no they do not! Alton thinks it tastes like onion and mustard and has no seasoning. Giada says he insulted the men and alienated people by scolding them but I do not think so I think he issued a challenge and they were too lazy to take him up on it! But if guys do not want to cook he is not going to be able to get a show! Giada says he is running away from the thing that connects him to people which is the weight loss. I feel bad for him because he does not want to do that. Alton says he is the guy that does not want to do the thing he needs to do. Giada says he is trying to leave that other person behind which is pretty astute for Giada even if it is not accurate! Bobby defends him as having a message which makes me think Danushka is out since her message is somewhere around “I am beautiful and you are not so look at me.”

    And the Loser Is:

    Andres is out! That is what happens when they tell you to do something and you will not do it! I do not think they gave him enough of a chance to think about a new POV but I guess Danushka is good for getting people to talk about FNS! No publicity is bad publicity!


    Yes I am going to do analysis! Brace yourselves! Do not worry it will be over soon.

    I have no idea who will win but I am positive that they knew before they started filming! A network does not spend money on a new “star” unless they know what they have and they will not leave it to chance! Especially with ratings dropping and the whole thing with Justin still confused and muddled! This is a big game of “We want to generate ratings with this competition and create a ready-made audience who is familiar with the new person at the same time.” Who they pick depends on the demographic they want to shore up!

    Stacey seemed most likely at first but I think she is peaking too early! They need to get her a POV too! If they want a Guy Fieri threat they might be looking at Rodney or Chris but I think Chris is too frat-boy and Rodney may not be able to cook anything but a traditional pie! Chad might be in the running to pick up grilling from Bobby! Nikki has the best POV but she does not seem to have the presence to pull it off at least not yet but if they are replacing Melissa maybe she is the one.

    The person who most surprises me is Viet and my surprise comes from outside the show! From TWoP I learned that he was on Extreme Chef and he had no problem being forceful and outspoken and some people think he is putting on this humble and quiet act! I did not see the show so I can not speak to that (and I can not find anything on Youtube) but still that is interesting! It would mean he is poised for a Rising Arc – start out shy and awkward and develop confidence! We know he can cook so maybe they want to add a touch of class with someone who has actually won awards instead of all these people who are making it up? Possession of culinary chops in the past has been a negative but maybe they are figuring out that they need someone besides Bobby Flay who can actually cook on the Food Network!

    We will see how things develop!

    Next week:

    The Chopped Challenge with Alex Guarnaschelli!

    And I want a cheese burger right now! This is why I should not watch FNS!

    Food Network Star 2013 – Episode 1: Are You Ready for Prime Time?

    Van Gogh: "The Potato Eaters" 1885

    Van Gogh: “The Potato Eaters” 1885

    Hello I am Zin and no I am not ready for prime time but that is why I am not a contestant!

    I already did bios and my first impressions in the preview post so we will jump right in!

    There is the usual gushing and the contestants say hello and then the Three Wise Mentors (no teams this time!) give them platitudes! Right off the bat they have to make a 30 second pitch tape with their culinary point of view! This seems like it should be something they would have prepared in advance but so many have no idea what to say I do not understand that! It is like going to a job interview without a resume! They also have to make a potato dish for the five judges! Then they find out about the focus group and the Dial of Doom!


    Stacey takes vintage food and makes it modern! That is what Emily did last season yes? A lot of people did not like that Emily was out as early as she was so maybe they think they can swap in someone else with the same POV and no one will notice! She stumbles on her first pitch tape take and Alton comes over and tells her, “When the camera comes on there is nothing in the room but you and that” and that seems to help her a lot! I wonder if this is a little beginner-nerves staging though because I think she is a front-runner! For her dish she makes fried potato balls with chives and shredded potato skin on the outside all flash fried and she calls them Wild Man Potato Skin because the potato skins remind her of her son and his hair which sounds silly but that is a perfect FNS Family Story About The Relationship With Food! Bobby and Alton like the dish a lot! Tusch thinks she is very natural but a little low key so she needs to ratchet it up. That makes me sad. But that is a classic FNS critique! But she is one of the Top Three!

    Chad is the Barbecue Jew from Philadelphia! That is his tag line! It is hilarious but I do not think he can get away with saying that on a show! Everyone likes him! Nikki likes him Russell likes him and the focus group breaks into applause for him and only for him! The collective tongue of America is hanging out! He makes a potato latke with an egg and barbecue sauce and a little bit of shredded pork. Tusch just hears the focus group go wild and who cares about the food! Alton is a little confused about the egg but Giada likes the barbecue sauce.

    Nikki does her own online cooking segments so she has no problem with the camera! Giada and Bobby love her Semi-vegetarian concept! She cuts herself twice making her potato cauliflower and parsnip soup but that is what plastic gloves are for! Susie loves her food but worries that she is a little bit cutesy and it hurts her credibility. Her name is Nikki Dinki how can she be anything but cutesy? Bobby loves the soup it is inventive and has great flavor. She is in the Top Three!


    Damaris gets lost in her pitch tape first take about modern Southern food so Bobby says, “Tell me about yourself” and she starts talking about dancing. Bobby is confused! Then he decides she is wacky so she should do wacky and she uses “I can cook my ass off” as a tag line with all these shoulder poses to one side then the other! Her dish is roasted potato salad with bourbon mustard vinaigrette and it is a Southern party in your mouth! Tusch decides it is the oddest 30 seconds he has seen! He likes her in person but on tape she is off-putting so she needs to do something about that. Alton and Giada love her potato salad! She is Safe!

    Chris gets confused about his culinary POV and starts talking about helping kids grow and reaching hearts and passion and Kim Passion but nobody knows what he is talking about! That usually means someone does not have a culinary POV and is making something up! It turns out he went on medical missions with his parents when he was a kid and was trying to work that in but nobody knows what that means in terms of his food including him so he needs to come up with a Brand – aha the first appearance of the B word – that they can develop! This is not a chef competition it is a Brand competition and his needs work! His pierogi needs work too because Bobby thinks it is bland. Then again Bobby thinks anything north of chipotles are bland! But Chris is safe and I predict he will get some intense work on developing his Brand! But – thanks to wunderbar12 on the TWoP forums I have discovered something else interesting about Chris: Remember Charles Ramsey who saved the kidnapped girls in Cleveland? Chris is his boss! He has made a Charles Ramsey t-shirt with proceeds going to the families of the victims so they can get any support they need! He started out with a Ramsey Burger on the menu but Charles did not like that much so he stopped it! I think Charles Ramsey is a pretty cool guy! Chris goofed with the burger but he made up for it too! And now boy does he have a culinary point of view! Except I suppose the show was filmed before all the excitement.

    Viet is uncomfortable in front of the camera and that makes me sad because I hoped he would pull it off and overcome the disadvantage of being a F&W Best New Chef, a James Beard finalist, and the one who beat Bobby Flay in ICA! But no Tusch calls him a gentle soul which is a wonderful thing in Real Life but a terrible thing on TV! I want to cry! Stay Gold Ponyboy! He makes a potato croquette with soup inside. Say that again: he makes a potato croquette with soup inside! If anyone made that I would laugh at them but it looks beautiful and Susie says it is “ridiculously good.” He is doomed! But for now he is Safe!

    Andres gets a little confused trying to move his POV from his 150 pound weight loss to teaching guys how to cook! I do not think they will let him get away with that! Bobby wants him to be inspirational but he does not quite get there. Tusch thinks he is a little closed down and is not a star yet. Bobby thinks his Spanish omelette with chorizo needs seasoning because it is bland. How can anything with chorizo be bland?

    Lovely talks about glam but Bobby tells her to be more specific so she talks about eating diamonds and flowers. She makes sweet and purple potato hash with the glam right on top: candied bacon and arugula salad and edible flowers! Is she going to put flowers on everything? I think she is very comfortable on camera but this flower thing is troubling! Tusch does not get the glam message and she needs to be authentic without poses and empty words. Bobby likes her dish so she can cook but I am not sure potato hash can be called glam just because you throw flowers on it!

    Rodney the Pie Guy impresses Bobby with his Very Own Style! Giada wants to taste his pies! That is a double entendre with plausible deniability built in! He makes a potato pie with crab and gruyere filling and it does not come out exactly the way he wanted but Alton loves it! Tusch loves his presentation! He believes he is the Pie Guy and he does not even know what that means but he is intrigued! See you do not have to make sense on FN you just have to have a unique culinary POV! Jeff Mauro made everything into a sandwich and now Rodney will make everything into a pie!

    The really really bad ones:

    Danushka does not do so well in her promo! I thought she would be comic relief but I did not know she would be so bad at the whole camera thing! Giada says she seems angry and Danushka is surprised because people always say that! Well Danushka maybe that means something! She complains about everyone! She thinks Lovely is a stupid name! She does not like being in the kitchen next to someone (Russell? I am not sure) who is a Mad Scientist! She does not like Damaris talking too much! She does a second take and asks Giada if she smiled? She can not tell! Giada says, “You tried.” Yes she is the one everyone will love to hate and they will keep her around until the ridicule gets uncomfortable! If she was not such a mean person I would feel sorry for her! For her dish she is making “a dish I call a potato puff” because it is a potato puff and she makes a horseradish sauce because that is Eastern European and that is what she is but she is worried the potato puff is raw! Bobbie does not say it is raw but he does think it is dense! Susie says her pitch tape is bizarre and she comes off aloof and she needs to find her version of warmth! Good luck with that! She is one of the Bottom Three!

    Daniela does a terrible first take and Giada tries to calm her down but it does not go very well! She does not seem to know what to say! Something about beach to kitchen because she is Peruvian but lives in Hawaii! I am surprised because her bio video was fine! She makes a traditional Peruvian potato dish papas a la huancaina with purple Peruvian potatoes. Tusch is disappointed with her tape but Alton and Bobby like her dish. Still she is in the Bottom Three.

    Russell plays Che Guevarra with a Mohawk! He is the Dissident Chef the Culinary Anarchist the Underground Guy the Food Revolution! Alton is scared! Giada is lost! He does a second take and names the seven culinary sins: Fat, salt, offal, liquor… I forget the rest but that makes sense! “My food will kill you!” That is pretty revolutionary! I watched his bio and said in my Preview that he tries to look scary but he is not and sure enough Tusch says he does not seem like a revolutionary he seems like a librarian! Now it just so happens that being a librarian can be pretty revolutionary these days when you have to decide if you are going to give the government the records of the books people check out [Addendum: see what I mean? In Burma a librarian can get sent to jail! Ye Htet Oo is a true Revolutionary Librarian! Tusch needs to get out more or at least subscribe to The Millions feed!](and Tusch should read The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai which is all about a librarian who tries to be a revolutionary and fails) but I understand what he means! Why is Russell trying to sell himself as scary? They did an underground supper club challenge in Season 6 E7 so what is the big deal? Is he trying to be like Justin the Culinary Rebel? Susie tells him not to be a downer which is very helpful. He makes a potato trio with a pickled potato among other things and Giada likes the idea of a tasting but not the execution. He is in the Bottom Three!

    The Shrine of the Glowing Vagina (™ Minxeats) is back for the round of judging! It does not look like the same table from last year but they could not have bought a new glowing vagina table could they? How many glowing vagina tables can there be in the world?

    They do not pick a winner just name Chad Stacey and Nikki as the top three! Wait what happened to Rodney? They loved his presentation and his food why did he not get into the top?

    Danushka, Russell, and Daniela face the judges as the Losers. Now let me see:

    Danushka has no warmth and and made a dense potato puff;
    Russell had a manner inconsistent with his stated POV and his dish was not good;
    Daniela had a terrible tape but a good dish that was authentic to her interesting POV.

    Guess who goes home? Right! The one who can cook! This is the Food Network after all! Bye Daniela! I am surprised because I thought she was very energetic in her bio tape but it did not transfer.

    Sunday with Zin: Food Network Star 2013 (Season 9) – Preview

    Hello I am Zin and it is summer and that means it is time for Food Network Star Season 9!

    I am still trying to figure out Season 8 from last year! The goofy MST-style thing with Justin Warner never happened! He did that prime-time special but I did not think it was good at all. People liked him so much but maybe he was making more money from his restaurant and did not have time? Maybe FN did not want to do his kind of show after all? Maybe they had a big fight? He does promos sometimes so it could not have been much of a fight. Maybe they are grooming him like they do with Kelsey on The Cooking Channel and they are waiting for him to be less pimply kid because the “hip” demographic they hoped for never happened (they never put up a show so of course it did not happen!) and more Ready for Prime Time for people who do not cook but want to sit on the couch eating Cheetos and watch others cook? I do not know!

    That was last year so it is time to move on!

    It is now Season 9! I think there are more culinary school people this time. They usually do not last long because Food Network is not a culinary school kind of place any more. They like family stories. And energy. I confess I have not watched Food Network at all over the past year except for these competitions. I do not even watch Chopped very often any more. I still love America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country on PBS though!

    It is time for the 2013 crew which is Season 9! Let us see what kind of train wreck this will be!

    The Contestants:

    Andres Guillama – 26, North Carolina, healthy Latin food. He is not a flirt he just acts like one! He can not help being charming really! (He also can not count! He says he has seven siblings and he beat the Brady Bunch by two but the Brady Bunch had six kids) He lost 150 pounds so he became a childhood obesity prevention coach. Is that a real job? His whole life revolves around food! That does not sound like eating pathology at all! He is from a Cuban family. Hey he is Herb 2! He is cute in a young way and he has a lot of energy.

    Chad Rosenthal – 37, Philly, barbecue. He has a barbecue restaurant. He also has a sad family story but we do not know quite what it is it yet! I think that is a major teaser. I bet it has something to do with his kid(s)! He has a nice manner and has an appealing woodchopper aura! He would look very at home out by the woodpile. I think a lot of people are going to complain about his hair but I like it!

    Stacey Poon-Kinney, 34, SD, former dancer, restaurant owner. She really is happy all the time! And she does not know what a hipster is (I do not either!) but sometimes she is called one. Maybe we will find out what a hipster is! She was on Restaurant: Impossible which, wait, does that not mean she was not a very good restaurant owner? She owned it with her father so maybe he was the bad owner and she was just the… bad chef? I do not know! Robert Irvine creeps me out so I do not watch him unless I have to and how often do you really have to watch a tv chef? She was a dancer before she and her father started a restaurant. Cooking is in her blood from her great-grandfather-chef. She does Sunday Pancake Dance Party! She has FN written all over her! It does not matter if she can cook they will teach her!

    Chris Hodgson, 27, Cleveland, culinary school grad, runner-up on Great Food Truck Race S2, new restaurant owner. He was a lacrosse player who has had three shoulder surgeries! I am not sure what that has to do with cooking but he seems very proud and it shows he… I do not know but it shows something important. He is the Frat Boy. Remember Chris from 2011? (what is it with the name Chris?) Or Mikey from TC2? ADDENDUM: WAIT! Thanks to wunderbar12 on the TWoP forums I have discovered something else interesting about Chris: Remember Charles Ramsey who saved the kidnapped girls in Cleveland? Chris is his boss! He has made a Charles Ramsey t-shirt with proceeds going to the families of the victims so they can get any support they need! He started out with a Ramsey Burger on the menu but Charles did not like that much so he stopped it! I think Charles Ramsey is a pretty cool guy! Chris goofed with the burger but he made up for it too! And boy does he have a culinary point of view now! Except I suppose the show was filmed before all the excitement.

    Danushka Lysek, 37, NYC, culinary school grad, personal chef, eliminated on the second round of Chopped when her lamb and rutabaga lacked taste and creativity. You must see her introduction video! Click the link on her name, it is too good to miss! She swears a lot! She seems to think she is very dynamic and a leader but she seems like a whiney bored teenager to me. A lot of the TWoP Chopped followers are not happy that she is on this show! See she is a model and a personal chef and she works for single rich men who work in banking. If a wife is involved she does not get hired because they feel threatened. This is really what she said go watch the tape! She slams lettuce to remove the core! She advises cleaning your kitchen! She talks about blood and juices dripping down! When she lost Chopped she decided it meant she is not just a pretty face (I am not sure she is that pretty but I am a terrible judge of such things) but that she is also a rock star chef. I am not sure losing a cooking competition for tasteless and uncreative food with relatively ordinary ingredients (no leftovers, no corn fungus) means that but I will not argue. I think she is comic relief! She is the one everyone will love to hate! I do not hate her I think she is funny!

    Damaris Phillips, 32, KY, Southern food, culinary school grad and teaches there. She likes to make pickles and super-phallic sausages! From her picture I really thought she was Chantal from ANTM-9 the China season! She is loud and inappropriate! No I am not saying that she says that! She does not seem all that loud or inappropriate in her video unless you count phallic sausages as inappropriate (and I do not). She does not seem all that southern either.

    Russell Jackson, 49, SF, culinary school, underground supper club. He is a modern day warrior and he has the hair and the arms to prove it! He is a hybrid of aggression and love! I am not sure what “subculture” dining is but he seems very proud of it. He has a tragic childhood story too! He lost ICA Battle Rhubarb to Jose Garces. It was the best night of a very bad year. When losing is the best night yes that is a bad year! He has a very comfortable camera manner but I think Susie is definitely going to tell him he is too scary! He aims for scary on purpose! But if an underground supper club and a Mohawk are the scariest things he has I do not think he is scary at all.

    Daniela Perez-Reyes, 29, Hawaii, born in Peru, culinary school grad, Peruvian/Polynesian twists, caterer. She wants to be hot! Her main selling point seems to be that she is not a grandma with a rolling pin! She has a “sassy personality” and talks with her hands and the Art Institute did not like that! And she has a lot of speeding tickets! She has a wonderful voice! And she is single! She will take over the role of Fiery Latina from Martina for this season!

    Lovely Jackson, 27, LA, from Chicago, glam food, culinary school grad, private chef. Glam food? Party food! Her name is Connie but her family teased her, “You think you are so lovely,” so she is Lovely. She has diamonds on her knives and serves edible diamonds and diamonds on the soles of her shoes – oh no that is Paul Simon – she puts rose petals on the plate! I would complain if I had flowers on my plate so I guess I am not glam. I do not know if she can cook but she has Brand written all over her! She even has an acronym: CLT, the Chef Lovely Tip! She has a strong presence. I think Susie is going to tell her she is too strong.

    Nikki Dinki, 29, NYC, semi-vegetarian. She has been studying Sandra Lee! Her shtick is Meat on the Side which sounds like… oh never mind you know what it sounds like! The point is she has two names for what she does and she needs to pick one! With a name like Nikki Dinki she is on thin ice already! But her pitch is good to cut down on meat without going full vegetarian and FN loves slogans!

    Rodney Henry, 47, Baltimore, pie shops, former rock musician, out first on Chopped, lost the Quiche Throwdown. He is a little old for a rock star. He used to sell pies on his rock and roll tours and now has pie shops. On Chopped he was on the Halloween episode and made chicken feet (!) that tasted like pie so he was chopped first! I think if you make chicken feet that taste like pie you should get a prize! He knows who Charles Bukowski is so that means something but he is too determined to prove he is still cool.

    Viet Pham, 34, SLC, born Malaysia, culinary school grad. He owns Forage and it sounds like one of those restaurants that took off after Noma started using weeds! He has a serious sob story starting in a Malaysian refugee camp you can not top that! He was Food & Wine Best New Chef! A James Beard semi-finalist! He beat Bobby Flay in ICA Battle Ground Beef with Beef Fat Ice Cream so dayum he can cook! He is a clone of Eric Lee from last season! But he says “soignee” a lot and I think it is pretty annoying! He is there I think to give the impression they really are looking for good cooks but of course they are not but it is good he gets some publicity!

    I am not sure if the setup is the same but Giada, Bobby, and Alton are mentors again, with Susie and Tusch as final judges. And a focus group! Wow, cool, with those high-tech dials from the 80s! And they liked the Last Chance Kitchen from TC so much (who liked it from Survivor so much) they now bring someone back in after they are cut. Here is what is not in the promo material: the guarantee of the show! I will be honest: if the TWoP people did not point this out I would not have noticed. Maybe that is what they are counting on! But maybe the title of Food Network Star is all the winner gets! They have not done terribly well generating shows this way after all. When Guy Fieri is your big success story you need to reconsider what you are doing!

    I am Tanned (no, I am not)! I am Rested (I am not that either)! I am Ready (that I am) for the train wreck! I will be back on Tuesday or Wednesday with a recap of Episode 1!

    Food Network Star 2012: Episode 11 – Finale

    Hello I am Zin! And it is official: Justin Warner is The Next Food Network Star! His new show, produced by Alton Brown, will start in the fall! [Addendum: For those of you who are searching for the start date – as of September 10, I do not know when his show will be starting or what it will be called or anything else about it, and I can find no info about it, but do not despair: fall lasts until December 21, technically!][Update to addendum: from what he says in this 10/13/12 interview, it sounds like he is being a bit of a diva with FN, being fussy about time slots! I wonder if maybe he is happy with the publicity his restaurant has received and does not in much of a hurry to put together his show!]

    Pause for update:

    Hello I am Zin and this will be my last update about the new Justin Warner show because I no longer care!

    It seems Justin is shooting his show now in January 2013 and it is some kind of travel show looking at his Twitter stream starting in the Southeast but Alton is not the producer! If you can believe Twitter! If Justin M. Warner @EatFellowHumans is the right Justin Warner and if that really is Alton Brown and these are not decoys to keep people interested! I would not put that past them at this point if things have gone seriously wrong! You can check his twitter account if you want more details because I am done with this!

    Back to original post about the finale:

    The rest of the show was the usual nonsense. But there were some interesting comments.

    Like for instance, a segment on the Oddest Couple, Justin and Martie, including tape of him saying, “We are like peas and carrots – she is a legume, I am a tuber.” I do like that sense of humor! Botanically speaking, a carrot is a root and not a tuber, but that is about the same as saying eggplant is a berry; yes, it is, but it is silly to be that picky about it!

    There is also great tape of Alton saying “I think there should be a Giada DiLaurentiis See & Say where you pull the string and it says, “RRRrrrrrrrrricottta!” Then he picks her up and Bobby says, “Now we know you can lift 70 pounds!”

    There is also something strange: they show a talking head clip (one I do not think they showed before) of Justin all weepy saying “It is not fair that Martie did not get to do a pilot” – but… but… they announced Justin would do a pilot, and then while he was still giving Martie her condolence hug, they said Martie would do a pilot too! What is this they are trying to pull? There was a cutaway to another camera, but it sure looked like a continuous shot and Justin would not have had time to go off and say that! So did they tape reactions to all possible outcomes before or after the fact? That is very sleazy! And stupid, for that matter, to show it! Or am I misinterpreting something? Did he actually say “It is fair?” I do not know!

    It seems the contestants as a group really did not like Emily! They really were mean! “She woke us up early in the morning with a sing-song high voice! She could not cook!” That is the first time anyone has said that, her problem was never cooking, have Susie and Bob been lying to us? Then the Nerds (Team Alton is proud of that label) accused Team Bobby of being “bully-ish”! And stuck-up, they would not talk to them!

    The Network sent questionnaires to the contestants, and they named Nikki the most competitive, and Malcolm most cocky! By a landslide! That is surprising, and Malcolm thinks it is surprising too! And speaking of Malcolm, Susie again tried to convince him that he needs a POV, and he pretty much told her to shove it! Yay Malcolm!

    During the usual silly stuff about the whole series, they were talking about the evils of the Pitch Room (no one mentioned the Vagina Table though they showed it a few times just to remember it) and Bob Tuschman said, “The pitch room saved more of you than cut you.” I think it is wonderful the network employs someone who is so logic-impaired!

    I also came across something posted on TWoP that turned out to be very interesting: a link to a blog entry by a woman who was one of the bus passengers on Episode 2! She was very surprised that Team Giada was declared the winner (she did not know the results until the show aired) since she thought the food from Team Bobby was far better! Of course there is room for disagreement, but I think the team wins and losses were pre-planned and the comments from the judges were adjusted accordingly! She hated the meatloaf Emily made too, by the way!

    Of course I think they knew who they wanted to win in the beginning and made sure that is what happened, but I also think his is the only show I might actually watch! I will try to remember in the Fall and post about it a little bit!

    That is all!

    Food Network Star 2012: Episode 10 – “Pilot Greenlights”

    Now SHE was a STAR!

    Now SHE was a STAR!

    First of all: For all those who are desperately searching to find out if Justin, Yvan, and/or Michele are gay – I do not know! By the way, why is no one interested in who Martie prefers to sleep with? Poor Martie! Three hundred and ninety six searches for the other three (in one day) and zero for Martie! I feel bad for her, so I will fill in the gap! Is Martie gay? But I still do not know! Would it not be more interesting to wonder what their favorite books are, or music, dogs or cats, city or country, mountains or seashore? Get a grip, people!

    And now I will get a grip, and proceed with business! Hello, I am Zin!

    They have to do a 30-second promo in a pink-and-green booth which looks like a prop for Food Truck Barbie! They get 3 takes! Three will go home! They will be judged by Susie and Bob, plus a panel of six Food Network luminaries: Anne Burrell, Aaron Sanchez, Robert Irvine, Sunny Anderson, Melissa D’Arabian, and Jeff Mauro. Luminariousness is not what it used to be! The promos are screened for the panel, and the contestants sit twenty feet behind so they can not hear what they are saying! Which is silly, since they are hearing it now, but this is Lowest Common Denominator TV!

    Michele: She loves having her own little clam shack! For her takes, Bobby tells her “you are not having a good time, you look at the camera like it owes you money!” And she gets tangled up in words! But she does one take where she hits 30 seconds exactly which has been a problem for her. It is the same “My New England” thing. They show it to the panel, and she seems a bit aggressive, she is yelling, pointing, standing very firmly! Sunny is scared! I think if I did not know her from the show and from other shows I would be scared too! Melissa finds her inviting and welcoming, which makes you wonder what show she was watching – I like Michele, among these four she is the one I would most want in my kitchen, but that promo was not inviting and welcoming! Robert thinks her show is “bigger than New England” and I do not know what that means! He thinks she has what it takes and she could be the next Food Network Star!

    Nikki: She flips her tongs around and does a not very good take, she stumbles in words; Bobby tells her she has a great smile and she should use it! I am guessing everything it very edited so we really have no idea what happened on the first, second, or third takes, but apparently she gets one done! The whole Grill Next Door shtick – “give me a slab of beef or some delicate fruits and I’m good to go.” Anne likes her but thinks she is trying too hard to get them to believe her! Jeff says if Bobby says she can grill, she can! He liked the promo! Susie thinks it intrigues viewers! I am not so sure about that! I wonder if they just made a bunch of random statements and edited them together in random order later! Nikki has a very competitive view: it is her or Michele! Now there is aggression! Though Michele probably feels the same way, she has the grace to not say it, or the editors have the sense to not show it! This is the reality of “reality” tv! When they get a winner, they can fix the edit to show them in any way they want!

    Justin: He and Alton really seem to have a bond! It is kind of sweet! Alton says do something where you forget everything and just talk! He talks about the Rebel with a Culinary Cause and hitting “the tightrope between crazy good and crazy great… eats, that is!” That is sweet, Alton has bequeathed him his empire! Aaron says it is obvious he has been mentored by Alton, and he can tell he has interests outside the kitchen, he reads! Wow, someone who reads! Now that is something I would like to know! There is a POV for you – the Literary Gourmet, cooking from scenes in books, or dishes authors like! Too bad I am not a good cook, and I am too shy to be on camera! But someone should do it! Not on Lowest Common Denominator TV, though! Sunny wants to have a beer and hang out, his likeability is off the charts! I do not get that at all! I think the synergy with Alton is appealing, and I think he will make the most interesting show – he is my favorite to win at this point – but I do not find him all that likeable as a person. I still think there is a smug too-cool-for-you brat hiding under there! He has done an admirable job of containing it, however, though some of that probably goes to the editors!

    Martie: Alton works with her, tells her to talk to him, she says he is making her nervous and he says, “But this is me!” like he is a big cuddly bear! She says Alton has a way of saying things that puts her at ease! Now wait, earlier he was the Tough Love guy, now he is Mr. Cuddly? Her promo talks about Martie with the Party and it will be like having a caterer, bartender, and decorator working for you! Anne thinks she is fun, and she told the premise of the show very well! Robert wonders, can she back it up? That is a good question! Bob thinks it was memorable, and Susie says she nailed it! I think they were impressed she did not run out of time!

    Ippy: Giada tells him to connect with the camera. Duh! He is still trying to amp his energy, and she says he is too intense, he needs to be more relaxed and laid back! That is exactly the opposite of what they have been saying! I feel bad for Ippy! He got the short straw with Giada! His promo is the usual Hawaiian thing! Jeff says he got the message across and he is intrigued by the pov! Sunny says the delivery is a little sing-songy, which is true. Melissa says he needs some tweaks in his presentation (which is a bad sign, since that is what they have supposedly been doing for the past 10 weeks!) but she likes his pov and would love to learn his food! Bob says he has genuine conviction and passion!

    Yvan: He keeps mixing up “Family Style” and “Family Table” – I actually think “Family Table” is a better show title! It still is a miscellaneous pov, with no real meaning at all! Giada is clearly the weakest of the mentors with no helpful comments at all! Yvan has pictures of his family on the counter, facing the camera, and he turns a couple around to look at him and calm him down, which seems to work, feeling surrounded by family! The promo is not perfect but it is ok! Anne finds him charming and passionate about family but has no idea what he is going to teach her! You tell them, Anne, that is exactly it! Robert Irvine likes him! Bob gets a sense of sweetness and a love of cooking for people! Susie feels incredible warmth straight from his heart! Or maybe it is just the Florida weather!

    It is time to pick who will make pilots and who is done! Alton says he feels like Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice which, Alton, that is not an appropriate analogy, just ask the Governor of Maine who made a casual Nazi reference! I am kind of stunned that the editors included the clip, it is in very bad taste!

    Michele is in, Nikki is out!
    Yvan is in, Ippy is out!
    Justin is in, Martie is… in! Aha! Fake-out! There will be FOUR finalists making pilots!

    They claim viewer votes alone will determine the winners! I do not believe them! As with AI, I suspect there are many ways of slanting the vote to get the results you want!

    It is time to go back to New York to make the pilots!

    Yvan is doing a family show! Literally! They bring his family in to be on the show! His brother is a worse actor than he is! It is pretty awful, the kind of mess I associate with typical FN shlock, and I hate it! Yvan is a nice kid but he is going for heartstrings instead of the interesting things he knows – wasn’t there something about him working with Cyril Renaud, Jacques Torres, and Jahangir Mehta, with combining molecular gastronomy and mixology? Interesting stuff? And instead he is going to play family style and make corn (canned cream corn, to be exact) mac and cheese – with CORNSTARCH? Now, I am fine with people making stuff like this! I make stuff like this! I make blue-box mac & cheese! I use all kinds of canned and boxed goods! But that is not what I watch TV for, to watch people make the same boring food that I make! Especially when they have the capacity to do other things! This is sad! He pours the mac & cheese into a pan to bake it and says, “see how stretchy and good that is?” It is disgusting! I do not care how many loving family members you have around, this is garbage! I think Yvan has been sold out!

    Martie is, guess what, having a Partie! She goes into a thing about the other contestants have 20 years to figure it out, but right now they can get in line behind her because it is now or never for her, she finally says this is the culmination of 50 years! Wow! She finally gave her age! Thing is – Michele is 42, so she is no spring chicken either! She does the whole fearless entertaining with the caterer etc on speed dial! She tells a warm personal story about a guy who picked her up on a shrimp boat! That means he came by to pick her up for a date and drove a shrimp boat instead of a car, not that they both were on the shrimp boat and he picked her up, which would be a little tawdry for the Food Network (but would be very interesting nonetheless, yes?), and makes a shrimp dish that I do not understand – she broils the shrimp in the oven with spices, then tosses it in a bowl with sliced onion and lemon! How do you eat that with your hands at a party? You pick out the shrimp? That’s a lot of onion, you have to go digging in there for the shrimp? Does it not make the whole room smell like onion? Where is Alton, telling her how ridiculous this is?

    Michele goes to a New England style seafood house and has clam chowder, and talks to the chef about it! Bobby says he is glad she is dressed like a lobster, in a red shirt! Her strategy is to be herself! That is a good strategy! Then after she has the chowder she decides she needs to go home and make more clams! That is not really how people work, but I guess it is ok. She makes steamed littlenecks with chorizo and corn! She rips the bread up (like Italians do, she says) and uses it to sop up some of the broth, which is exactly what anyone who loves steamed clams would do (I hate clams, I hate bivalves in general).

    Justin goes last: They shoot at his restaurant, Do or Dine in Brooklyn! Alton really works with him on a collaboration thing – breaking the rules set by, who better than another Food Network program! Like Good Eats! So use an old episode – say, Caesar Salad – and show how it Justin can do it his way! This is a great idea! I wonder if Alton really thought of it! Justin is honored! The clip (it is supposed to be a pilot but only about 3 or 4 minutes are shown) is pretty good: Justin watches the old show in a theatre with a big cup of soda, and it kind of reminds me of MST3000! Except there is no robot! Now that would be extra cool, if they could work a robot into it, maybe even Alton! Then Justin says, “That was from a different century” (was it really? Is Good Eats that old?) so he will bring it into his century by making… aspic! Aspic! Aspic? That is the most 50s, most old-school thing there is, no one makes aspic any more! And it is pretty disgusting – beef-flavored jello! There is even a tumblr called “aspic and other delights” – “dedicated to gastronomic atrocities of the past” (heavily featuring Kraft processed cheese)! You can find a pretty good explanation of it at and I think it was in the movie Julie and Julia – it was the part where she boiled down the calve’s foot and smelled up the kitchen and it still did not set! Because back when aspic was invented, back in the middle ages, the gelatin is supposed to come from bones and hooves, except now it is much easier to use the processed kind! And this I guess is how Justin wants to bring us into his century! Some cognitive dissonance there!
    But he makes chicken aspic with all the flavors of Caesar salad (he pronounces “Worcestershire” as it is spelled, I am not sure if that is a mistake or a joke), and grills some romaine, then puts the aspic on the hot lettuce so it melts and creates a dressing! Now that is very different! It is not something I would want to eat, or make, but it is cool to watch! Justin feels like he has a bond with Alton, like he wants him to succeed; that is clearly the case! And putting his promo last pretty much assures that the Network wants Justin to win! I am not sure how aspic is going to play with the Least Common Denominator, though! But it is the only show I actually want to watch!

    You can vote at the Food Network website (a Facebook account is required for some mysterious reason that probably makes someone money) or by phone (Martie 1 855 54 STAR 1; Yvan 1 855 54 STAR 2; Michele 1 855 54 STAR 3; Justin 1 855 54 STAR 4) until 5pm Eastern time on Tuesday, July 17!

    And then next Sunday they will kill time for 59 minutes with warm family stories before announcing the winner!

    Food Network Star 2012: Episode 9, Deliciously Unpredictable Demos

    Are wanton rappers related to gangster eggs?

    Are wanton rappers related to gangster eggs?

    Hello, I am Zin! Tonight someone from Team Giada will go home, right? We know that, yes? They have not even pretended to shake things up! I think it will be Ippy, I think they gave him the $20,000 last week and now they will dump him for the low-energy thing because they love Martita for reasons I do not understand (maybe she brings in the Latino demographic?) . I suppose it could be Yvan but I do not think so.

    The episode starts off with Nikki reading an invite to the SoBe Wine and Food Festival, and everyone acting like they just got there – except, is that not where they were last week? I am so confused! Giada is wearing a longer dress, so she does not look like a malformed child – it is very confusing!

    The challenge is to do a three minute live demo of their signature dishes! The mentors talk to them to warn them about their weaknesses so they can fix them. What they are not told is that each presentation will be rigged so they will find themselves dealing with an extra problem that addresses their specific weakness! Except the Food Network sometimes has a different idea of what problem should be addressed than I do!


    The funniest part is during prep when Alton is doing a walk-through and talking to his team trying to get them to anticipate problems that might come up and Justin walks away at one point! Alton just raises his voice so he will hear him but it is pretty evident Justin thinks he does not need advice!

    Alton thinks the problem with Justin is that he can come off as cool and standoffish, so they throw in unplanned audience interaction: hecklers! This is one of the more appropriate problems, I think; I suspect he gets snippy and dismissive more than we have been allowed to see! Though he did seem truly upset to see Emily go home, so who knows, I just get a “cooler than you” vibe from him. I wonder if they will make him fix his teeth when he gets a show. Everyone seems so focuses on his lips they do not mention his teeth, which are ok for everyday but they are pretty bad for a TV person! It is strange what we come to think of as “normal”!

    He makes won ton nachos with minced pork and pico de gallo. His objective is to come across as good natured and warm, not like a smart-aleck. His presentation starts with something about moving to Brooklyn and his parents worrying about wanton rappers, so he is cooking wonton wrappers! I love a good pun, but this pushes it! A guy from the audience asks how much hair gel he uses, and he says, “Enough,” which is a pretty good answer. And it makes me think, for the first time, he is something like Marcel from Top Chef with the hair and the attitude. He also reminds me a little of Mark Zuckerberg! I do not think that is a good thing!

    Then the heckler asks, “How long have you been cooking?” and he answers, “About one and a half minutes” which is pretty good! He says the wontons look like a purse minus the strap, and of course they are so small there is no way the audience can see them, I could not see them either! The guy asks “What if my kids do not like Mexican food?” (which would be a great opportunity to suggest substitutions, but he does not take it) and “How do you know so much?” He says “I went to college” and at this point he seems bored with the game and in “ignore the jerk” mode but I do not really blame him! I am sure they all have to deal with this in live appearances but I am also sure they give them some training in how to handle it!

    He is a little worried because he got a little snippy. He did, but it could have been much worse! Susie thinks he got a little smart alecky, but he makes smart food that is thoughtful and delicious! I think that as long as he did not swear or throw something at the guy, he was going to be ok! And a couple of his responses, like the time, were kind of funny! His food does not seem all that rebellious, he seems to be making pretty standard stuff now. Using wonton wrappers as chips is not really that innovative!


    She has never done a live demo before (what is wrong with these people, why do they not practice with the PTA or church groups or at a neighborhood party because they know it is going to happen!), but she thinks it is important that she not over-rehearse so she can seem natural! She makes grilled lamb chops with veggie escabeche (pickled veggies) and red pepper jelly.

    Bobby says she is too practiced and rehearsed so they are rigging the blender to throw her. It does throw her! I remember a clip of Bobby from his first segments on the ancient TV Food Network, when his blender or food processor did not work! He kept fiddling with it trying to get it to work IIRC! She kind of stops dead and starts rambling and never gets to plate her food but runs out of time!

    Bob is disappointed; he thought it was the least challenging problem, but the big issue was that she did not seem to be having fun at all! Bobby says she seemed intimidated! But they like her dish a lot! We know she can relax, though, because Team Bobby is not going to lose anyone today, it will be someone from Team Giada to even out the teams.


    He makes an oyster dish with pomegranate seeds and sea urchin which seems a little hoity toity for Food Network but I guess for the SoBe food festival you can get away with that! He knows he has trouble with his speech pattern and has to be engaging.

    Giada says because of his speech issues his audio will go out (which has nothing to do with the “upspeak,” technically known as “high rising terminal”) and he will have to project! He makes “love bites” of fried oyster like he does for his girlfriend (which will disappoint all those people who have been searching for things like “Yvan Food Network Gay”) and tells people not to be intimidated by oysters, and the sound equipment shrieks and dies! A guy brings him a hand mike but he realizes he can not cook and hold a mike so he yells, “Can I talk to you guys like this?” He does very well! Giada starts screaming “Yes yes yes” like Meg Ryan in that lunch scene! I have a feeling she is taped later doing these cheerleader things because otherwise it would be ridiculous!

    Bob is impressed, he was flawless and had big fun energy, the problem made him better, he was a rock star! Susie is very pleased, it is an elegant and sophisticated dish, the most they have seen from him so far!


    He makes pink miso sauce – he says it is a combination of penne alla vodka from his mother and miso soup from his father – with seared scallop. He tells Giada the scallops are frozen so he is drying them on a towel, and everyone who watched Spike from Top Chef screw up frozen scallops and get blasted by Rick Tramonto for using them is screaming, “No, Ippy! Do not use frozen scallops!” Of course we do not taste them, they might have been as mushy as when Spike did them!

    Giada says he has issues with low energy so they are going to see how he reacts to the audience talking and walking out! That is mean! He yells, “Hey, guys, we did not even get to the main course!” with his arms wide open, it is pretty funny actually, then he thanks the rest of the audience for staying. He tells the audience their scallops will usually be frozen (all Top Chef people are groaning) and goes “Bam!” which is awful! But I thought he did pretty well considering, that has to be a horrible experience to have half your audience walk out on you!

    Bob thinks he got thrown and he was angry;I did not see angry! I will check when I see the episode again, but I thought he was puzzled! But someone from Team Giada has to go home tonight and since Yvan did really well they have to figure out how to position it for Ippy vs Martita! At this point I was sure Ippy was done, even though I did not think he did so badly at all!


    Martita also says she has never done a live demo before! She makes sweet pork chili rellenos and rehearses stories about making them for her girlfriends!

    Giada says her problem is storytelling and she relies on certain ingredients, so they are going to switch ingredients on her! I have not noticed this ingredient thing, it has always been the story telling! This story telling thing is nonsense, if they want storytellers they should hire storytellers, not cooks! They switch the poblanos (large green chilis) out and put in little red chilis, and she gets a little discombobulated, though she gets it all in about charring and steaming in a plastic bag (I was taught paper, but I guess it would work either way) to get the skin off.

    Giada is giving her frantic cues but she is just dribbling on, not saying much. She never tells her story, she just sort of stumbles through it! Bob asks where was the spark? She did not seem fun or charismatic! Giada says she is a master of her ingredients, and I am not so sure that is the case either. Susie says it is not a form she thrives in, which sound pretty bad for Martita! Is this a fake-out, or is she really going to be in jeopardy of going home?


    She makes what she calls “Fish in a bag” which is pretty nice, later she says it is grouper. She is surprised that fish has bones! “This fish has bones in it!” she cries in dismay! But Justin helps her remove the bones! Alton says she has control issues so they will misplace some items. That is crazy, she has timing issues! Since when does she have control issues? That has never been mentioned before!

    She starts her demo – she says “it is fish en papillote but I call it Fish in a Bag” which is smart, it shows she knows what she is talking about but is still friendly and not pretentious – and discovers “I seem to have misplaced some items.” Pretty much everything is missing from her station! She has one fish fillet and that is it! She comes around to the front to show the paper folding technique (which is not like Alton Brown does it, but he does not point out the half-circle method). She is happy! Bob is happy! She is unflappable! Bob and Alton agree, She Could Not Be Flapped which was the promo last week! They also like the fish but they still do not say what kind it is! Hey, fish is fish to the Food Network!


    She is making Clams Mimi, named after her dad (her dad?) which seems to be something like Clams Casino. Bobby says she has timing problems (she has a problem being natural when she is worried about time, which is not really the same as timing problems) so they give her false time cues – after the 2 min mark she gets 5:30 then 4:30 and she has no idea what time she has left, so she wraps up with one minute plus and just talks! And she is wonderful, just talking about digging for clams and quahogs and spurting water and when they say five seconds she just stops! But I think she did great even with the extra 5 seconds! And she was so great when she forgot about being right and just talked! But she is worried because she did not say half of what she was supposed to say – still she talked about Mimi and about clam digging and I thought she did great! Then again I like Michele! I am not sure I would be interested in watching a program by her, but I think she is the most easy-going and watchable person.

    Bobby thought she did great, too! Oh, good! Susie thought once she started to have fun she was adorable! Bob loves the food!

    The Lineup: Martie and Yvan were stand-outs! I do not get the Martie-love but I never have! Ippy and Martita are up for elimination which is the easy way to make sure the teams come out even! Martita was not happy they took the chilis away from a Mexican! I am glad she said that and not someone else! Bob felt the audience disappear from her, which is odd phrasing as usual. Bob needs to study language I think! Ippy got thrown by the audience talking and leaving – well, of course he did! I thought he was funny, but Bob says it did not come off that way. I think it did! Ippy is toast!

    Producer Challenge:

    With no rehearsal, they will uncover an ingredient and talk about it for sixty seconds. I am thinking it is going to be something awful like tripe or chicken intestines, something from Chopped! Maybe Violet Mustard! Ippy is sad there is no cooking!

    Ippy uncovers a bowl of oranges and he is tossing oranges around and talking about the tangerine tree his neighbor had, how he would steal tangerines and hide and he would make “bug juice” from it – I forget, he said what was in it but I do not remember. I think he did well, even though he talked about tangerines instead of oranges and I am not exactly dying to make bug juice. But he did tell a personal story and it was kind of cute! I would rather he showed me how to make poi or build a fire pit but this is the Food Network after all! Bob says he did not get thrown and was thinking on his feet, he made an instant connection and told a personal story! Susie points out the juice has tangerines, not oranges, and finds out it is a dip which he never said! Susie is laying the groundwork for cutting him!

    Martita: she gets oranges too! She talks about squeezing them and adding tequila. She does not tell any story. Susie says she had no personal connection to the ingredient, and she starts talking about her father picking oranges – shades of Suzie from last time with her father picking cherries to send her to culinary school so she could be pigeonholed into making tacos! Bob says her seams were showing and he could see the cracks! Eww!

    They are gathered around a new table – the vagina table is back in New York, here it is a table with a square glass insert. What is it with the inserts in tables, do they sell them at Target or something?

    I do not think it is even close, in both cases Ippy was much better, but I know how much they like Martita. Susie has not seen enough star in Martita to believe, though she has a lot of natural warmth and a bubbly personality, and Bob likes her food; they love his POV but he is inconsistent and Bob is still worried about his energy level!

    Martita goes home! Wow! I am so surprised! I really thought I was going to be mad but they actually paid attention to what was in front of them!

    Next week: The Penultimate! They will shoot a promo for their show, and three of them will be eliminated! Presumably one from each team! Then the viewers will have a week to vote for a Winner!

    My guesses:

    Right now it is between Justin and Martie and everyone else is just there. If they pick one from each team, that means only one of them will continue and it is very odd, since they are so different, but I think they will go with Justin! He is just more dependable and he is from New York! It does not matter who else is in the final three, but I guess it will be Yvan and Michele. If they do not force the team issue, it will be Justin, Martie, and Yvan!

    But I am never right about these things!

    Oh, and I do not believe for one minute that the viewers really have a say in picking the winner! I never believe it, not for AI or any other program (except maybe The Sing-off), any time a show – money – is at stake, they make sure the winner is the one they want, no matter how they have to do it.

    Food Network Star 2012: Episode 8, “Deen Family Beach Party”

    What do you mean, you do not need a point of view?

    What do you mean, you do not need a point of view?

    Hello, I am Zin! I learned a new word this week!

    I learned it not from Food Network Star but from Maria Hinojosa of NPR on the Sunday edition of Up with Chris Hayes! It is a Spanish word, “simulacion” which of course means “simulation,” not a new word at all. But apparently, it has a second shaded meaning in Spanish that it does not have in English: “to be told something is going on when it is not what is going on.” I did find her using the word in that general way in one article, but I am not sure if this is a specialized meaning or if it is common usage! But it applies to Food Network Star! In fact, it applies to most competitive Reality tv! They tell us Anya and her badly sewn home ec clothing with no sleeves or zippers is high fashion! They tell us Dani on The Glee Project is a wonderful singer! And they tell us the stuffed dates Justin made are clever and cutting-edge! Maybe it goes beyond that: did you see Smash? While that AI girl did well in the beginning, there was no way she should have had that role over the blonde who could sing circles around her (and looked more like Marilyn to boot) but they kept telling us she had this magical quality!

    To use the words of Judge Judy (whom I otherwise do not care for): They pee on our legs and tell us it is raining! Maybe this is the whole theory of reality tv! Not to mention politics, but I will not mention that!

    So what happened in this episode? Reality shift! But it hit everyone! Michele, who has shown all signs of being a fine chef, decided it was ok to not worry about shells in crab! And Malcolm decided he did not need a POV! Madness!

    They are in South Beach for the wine and food festival! They must cook a beach party for Paula Deen and her husband (who seems like such a nice normal guy, they keep dragging him into these things and he tries to cooperate) and one of her ubiquitous sons. They must make an adult dish and a dish for children under 10, and do a 30 second beach party tip to camera! The winner gets a $20,000 gift card!


    Justin plans cold corn soup and Alton tells him to bring some heat; he says he always uses chipotle for smokiness. I give him credit for pronouncing “chipotle” correctly. For the kids he will use less chipotle. He interviews he is “tired of this ego-driven thing that says ‘you can not eat my food!'” in a bad French accent. I am not sure what he is talking about! I think he means ego-driven chefs! Then he says it is vegan, wheat free, nut free – there is nothing at all in it maybe – so everyone can enjoy it! He is peeing on my leg! He just happens to have this recipe and he is retrofitting the spiel! It is not a unique dish or rebellious! And the whole vegan-nut-free thing is just nonsense! It is the ultimate ego-driven food! Paula comes by during prep and calls him Elvis. He interviews, “It’s Paula Deen. I’m all over it” in an ironic flat deadpan, since “all over it” can mean “bored with it” or “on top of it.”

    Justin presents; he wants to prove he is not stone cold, he has a lot of love to give. He is peeing on my leg again! But he explains the ego thing: he is annoyed by menus that say “no substitutions” so he makes something that everyone can eat… and Paula chokes! The Susie chokes! And Bobby Flay chokes. They are all choking on his ego-less hypoallergenic soup! It is hilarious!

    It seems the chili oil was a little strong! Now I will bet anything at some point he said, “Hey, you are cooks and chefs and sophisticated people who go to all kinds of food events, you do not know to take it easy around chili oil? What kind of fools are you?” It is like the TC:JD judge who tried to eat, what was it, a banana peel? Any idiot knows chili oil when they see it! They are peeing on my leg! And all he says was he feels annoyed at himself for not telling them it has spice! I will bet anything that was his edited, scripted, coached reaction for public consumption, since he is getting the winner edit! If he was getting the loser edit, they would have shown his “WTF” reaction!

    His tip is using asparagus as a skewer and something about not having to clean up. I did not know skewers were such laborious clean-up items! I think someone is peeing on my leg again! Asparagus is fine but you try making shish kebabs with asparagus spears!

    Paula loves him. They talk about him being outside the box, and Alton says he does not even know the box is there! That is a good line! Bob never knows what he will come up with and he is on the edge of his seat! Come on, if you have never had chilled corn soup with chili oil at any of the events you have attended, you have not been paying attention! Now Bob is peeing on my leg! They want him to come across as nerdy, but to me he seems “cooler than you.” Still, I think he would probably come up with the most entertaining show. At least it would be different! Since I do not watch these things for the food anyway, I like entertainment value!


    Martie tells Alton her tip is an entertaining survival kit and he warns her not to make the kit too big because she only has 30 seconds for her tip! She makes endive with salmon and goat cheese and cream cheese! When Paula comes by for the walk-through, Martie gets verklempt! She say “I am Martie and I know parties” which is not very good, then explains her dish as the perfect party appetizer with goat cheese and Paula says she is not a fan of goat cheese! Uh oh! But Martie recovers and emphasizes the cream cheese! Paula thinks Martie might win for gift of gab! Paula Deen is peeing on my leg! Just because she never shuts up does not mean she is right!

    She tapes her tip, and guess what! She runs out of time! Alton says, “I knew time would screw you.” That is mean, Alton! Except it is true! He warned her, too!

    Martie serves; her dish for kids has more cream cheese and less goat cheese! Her tip is about an outdoor party survival kit for guests, maybe with bug repellent, or suntan lotion, or the one she shows, sliced cucumbers on ice with little towels in them, so you take a towel and squeeze it out and rub it on your face to cool off! That is not a bad idea except I am not sure I want cucumber juice all over my face when I am outdoors with bees and flies and mosquitos, but I would try it! The thing is, this is the kind of idea Food Network could make hay with, selling all kinds of overpriced Martie Partie Survival Kits for Outdoor, Kids, Cocktail, Christmas, whatever parties! Martie could have a whole line of Survival Kits at $19.99 a pop! No wonder Susie loves her! It is a marketing dream!

    She does, however, run out of time, and as Paula says, a southern girl can not do anything in 30 seconds! It is like me writing a post in 100 words! So I can actually sympathize with her! Paula “gets” her. I do not think they say much about the food, but it is salmon salad in an endive boat, what is there to say?


    Nikki makes a lamb skewer with panzanella salad, and makes it burger style for kids. She does not want to cook for kids! They hated her smoothie before! One kid says he does not like ranch dressing, so she says “You like ranch? Let me see if I can find some ranch” and he says “I do not like ranch” which is what he said in the first place but she misheard! It is kind of funny in a sick way, poor Nikki! “Give me a break” she says and again I sympathize. I am not very good with kids either.

    Her tip is to find a vase, fill it halfway with sand, and put a candle in it! That is a tip? That is a pretty weak tip! But she makes sure she pronounces “grill next door” more clearly than she did last week when they could not tell if she was saying “grill” or “girl” with a Chicago accent! So that is improvement!

    Bob says she is the most natural she has been. Deen Son loves her and says her tip was clever! Oh, do not pee on my leg, Deen Son! Paula worries that a show about grilling will get boring, grilling grilling all the time, it is hard to get excited about grilling, while Bobby Flay who did Boy Meets Grill for how many years? sits at the table. They do not show his face! I would pay to see that or hear his unedited comments!


    Malcolm talks over jerk chicken with Bobby. His tip will be the marinade; Bobby thinks he needs something specific to outdoor entertaining and his POV. In a taped interview, Malcolm says, “My culinary genius has no limitations, why limit myself by picking one point of view? I don’t need a point of view.” Malcolm, have you lost your mind? I think this interview was taped after the elimination and he was defending his off-the-cuff decision to proclaim he does not need a POV. It is maybe the stupidest thing anyone has ever said on Food Network Star and that is quite a distinction! It is much, much worse than “I do not need to know how to cook!” They will teach you how to cook, but you must MUST bring your own culinary point of view or you do not get a Food Network show!

    He serves the Caribbean jerk chicken; the meal for kids has less habanero and is plated as a smiley face. His tip is to add pineapple to the sauce to make it sweet and temper the heat, “from Malcolm with soul.” So see, he still has his “Soulful” point of view! What is he talking about? Susie asks how this fits his pov, and he tries to incorporate Caribbean soul. Which is fine, I think! But he goes overboard and says he does not want to be pigeonholed! Uh oh! Susie has a conniption fit! She does not want to say “pigeonhole” because it is negative, they simply want to know where he fits! Aha, so now Susie is peeing on my leg! All this pee running down my leg is really icky! Fact is, Susie, you can acknowledge it sounds negative, because it IS negative, and to call it something else does not make it less negative, it just makes it sound less negative! Do you see the difference, Susie? I know you are all about marketing which is about how things look and sound, not how they are, but sometimes someone will call you on the bullshit, and Malcolm has just done that. He will be eliminated, of course. If we thought so the first time he said “I do not need a point of view” we know it now. You do not tell Susie the structure of her entire network is nonsense and live. Then Susie says “When you are doing it right you will be saying the same thing over and over again.” That is Doing It Right! I can not believe she said that!

    In any event, Paula is not crazy about his dish, but I think she would have panned it even if it was the best thing she ever tasted because she sees which way the wind is blowing.

    Hey, there is Michelle Bernstein! I have been ignoring the guests, I guess I should be paying attention!

    Michele (no, not Bernstein, the contestant):

    Bobby suggests she do stone crabs and take the meat out of the shells; I am a little torn here. It seems to me like he has forced her into something she can not do in time! This seems like sabotage, but that seems a little paranoid even to me! In her taped interviews she is clear that it is a lot of work, and she is stressed, and she does not have time to work through the crab meat and knows there are shells but at that point what do you do because it is all she has!

    Her tip is to lighten up barbecue with a fruit salad and squeeze citrus over it to keep it from browning! Is there anyone who cooks at all who does not know that citrus lessens browning? It seems like an afterthought of a tip! But she goes all “squeeze it in there and get crazy with your food!” Then she finishes early and has five seconds of dead air! Bobby says, “You can not leave five seconds on TV!” Why not, Martita left six times that and she is still there!

    Michele serves and gives her spiel – the kids have sliders – but after one bite Deen Boy stops and says “the only way you can really screw this up is to break a tooth on all the shells you left in here” which seems unnecessarily snide! Then again, serving dangerous food is maybe even worse than refusing to have a POV (we will see). Alton says, “You are done.” I kind of agree. This is not bad food, not even inedible food, but dangerous food! They run around telling people not to eat it! Wow, that is tough! I like Michele, she is one of my favorite people, but she is not doing very well in the Food Network world! Which I think says more about Food Network than it does about her!

    Giada says “Now we get to my team” and Alton says “It is a good thing we have already eaten” which seems completely uncalled for! No one has complained about the food Ippy or Martita have made! Bad Alton!


    Giada preps Ippy by telling him to have energy, because if he can not get energy going here in Florida in the sun on the beach like he is in Hawaii, he can not get it anywhere! For his adult dish, Ippy makes misoyake sea bass and for the kids he makes a breaded fish lump. Fish ball? Fish cake? Something. The plating is nice, it has a smile on it in some kind of sauce!

    His tip is about roasting veggies in foil, making “a purse for the gods” which is the kind of phraseology (I just saw The Music Man yesterday) the Food Network loves! Paula thinks it is delicious – it is like having a peach on a summer day – and loved the tip. Bob says he finally made friends with the camera! Giada says he came back to life! Ippy says “If I do not shine here I can not shine anywhere” which gives him an A for parroting what Giada said! And so much for being true to himself and keeping his laid-back Hawaiian demeanor! he is definitely Food Network material! This makes me sad, because I like Ippy, but I understand, he is doing what he has to do. That makes me sad, too, because he still is not going to get a show.

    They have a clip of Michelle Bernstein saying “this was the best dish” and they put it here and maybe it really is about Ippy, I hope so!


    Yvan grills a lot so he is making his famous coconut chicken lollypops. He says Family Style every three sentences. He builds a sand castle. His tip is to use food, like orange or watermelon rinds, as serving platters. Paula thinks he is adorable. Susie says he has made simpler food in the past – since when? But she is happy.


    She gives lavish praise to Paula Deen. And she loves the store they go to. Martita understands the Food Network! She makes a Mexican surf and turf, skirt steak and shrimp and black bean salad. For the kids she cuts the shrimp smaller because she grew up eating what the adults ate so the hell with a separate dinner! I actually agree with that, but I suspect it is more about time and effort than philosophy.

    She brings her cleavage and presents the Flavors of Mexico! Her tip is to do things in advance. Again that is a pretty lame tip. But the Food Network plays to the least common denominator. Susie felt like she was reciting ingredients in the tip – no, Susie, she was explaining what could be made in advance! Is Martita on the way out? Giada tells the table it is a younger and healthier Mexican food, and Alton says it would be nice to hear that from Martita! That is a good point, but why is Alton busting Giada so much?

    Post-game locker room:

    Bobby: more about POV with Malcolm; Michele is not growing, and though she started out strong, others have caught up or passed her; Nikki continues to improve and her tip was perfect! I see, Bobby is casting his lot with Nikki.
    Alton: Both Martie and Justin did well, but Martie still has to work on timing, and Justin should have warned them about the soup, told them to stir it, because a table of food people are so stupid they will take a big spoonful of chili oil by itself. If you tell people you are serving soup with chipotle and chili oil, that should be warning enough!
    Giada: Ippy came back to life and did his best camera work; Martita has to figure out what makes her stand apart from other Mexican food. Wait – are there so many Food Network Mexican cooking shows? The pigeonhole is turning into a flytrap!

    The Line-Up:
    Justin, Ippy, and Nikki were the top three. How interesting they just happened to be one from each team even though they are competing individually! Both Nikki and Justin had trouble with their food (though I think the complaint about Justin was idiotic) so Ippy wins! I am glad for him! He seems very sweet!

    Malcolm and Michele are in the bottom. Malcolm needs more consistency in his Point of View. Michele served dangerous food, but she has been one of the most consistent people, they are just looking for more from her! Not more crab shells, more personality on camera!

    Producer Challenge:

    Make a Beach Party Cocktail in ten minutes and do a 60-second live presentation on why only you could have invented it!

    Michele does something about Manatuck Mystery, something about Nantucket Island, made out of orange juice (because nothing says Nantucket like orange juice) and cranberry and booze and beaches and fishing and sailing, and Bob says this is finally not a stereotype of New England (except for the orange juice it is!) and they have not heard this yet. Heard what? I think Bob is peeing on my leg!

    Malcolm makes an apple cobbler cocktail, browned apples with brown sugar and vodka and orange juice, it sounds pretty awful and I have a sweet tooth! “I put the soul into soul food.” So now we are back to soul food and his mamma used to make apple cobbler blah blah. Bob thinks it is elevated, Susie likes that he cooked something, but they never say it tastes good. Then Malcolm says, “Unfortunately it took this time for you guys to understand where this soul comes from.” Malcolm is peeing on their legs! I think I got that right, I will double-check it, but it sounds like he is blaming them. That is not a good thing! You do not blame your prospective boss for not understanding you!

    Bob and Susie debate: does New England have enough air in it for a point of view? We have a lot of air up here, and it is much better air than in New York! Conceptually, New England covers a lot of territory foodwise: apples, blueberries, dairy, potatoes, pears, tiny farms, plus all the seafood. And three hundred years of history! Plymouth Plantation would keep someone busy for a couple of seasons! They are confused by Malcolm. Susie does not think he is about soul food. Bob admits he is one of the best chefs.

    Malcolm is out. He sounds positive about it, says all the right things.

    I am undecided; I think Michele was kind of pushed into her mistake, and I think Malcolm interviewed differently from how it went. They are both excellent cooks, and I think they are both very capable of doing interesting shows, but the Food Network wants people to sell merchandise, and cooking shows are only a means to an end! Somehow they are going to get their grubby paws on the Party Survival Kit, and I only hope Martie gets credit and a cut from it!

    Next week, someone can not be flapped! They are still in South Beach doing live food demos and the game is rigged: they will have to deal with unexpected obstacles! I love these things! It is mean but it is fun! And I will bet some one will pee on my leg!

    While I like the mentor format, I miss the camera skills challenges they had in the first season, where they had people practice reading from teleprompters and swapping out and talking while cooking, they are not doing that now, they are just looking for camera presence and personal charisma.

    Considering Bobby started with cooks, Giada with personality, and Alton with teachers, it would be interesting to see how each mentor adds the other skills. But we only see the lamest advice!

    It is interesting that Alton and Giada have shows that are filmed, not live to tape like the shows the newbies have to do! I think Bobby had to work live in the early days – and IIRC he was not very good at it! That is probably why he says, if they can cook, I can teach them to cook on TV. But I do not see him teaching them that! Maybe he does off camera, but on camera he just keeps telling them the same things! I would like to see more specifics, like Alton giving Martie ways to get her timing better!

    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.


    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!

    Food Network Star 2012 Episode 6: Iron Chef Food Court

    Hello I am Zin! And today we go to Food Court! And someone is found Guilty!

    Now, we can see that Team Giada has four people, and the other teams only have three, so I predict someone from Team Giada will go home. I would be ok with all of Team Giada going home! Giada herself in her white dress looks like she is about to go to First Communion! Maybe she can only fit into clothing for children!

    Digression: I watched Cook’s Country and America’s Test Kitchens over the weekend (on PBS) like I sometimes do, and you know what? I did not hear a single “story” about grandma! Nobody was “energetic” or “unique” though the taste test guy is a little nerdy. I heard about how to roast a chicken and why, and I heard about how they tried different ways, and about how they are getting over brined chicken (I have never tried it!) and how it changes the texture of breast meat, and about different kinds of rice complete with a taste test (my brand came in second, a “strong alternative”), and all about cutting boards, and I did not miss phony Grandma stories at all! That is why I watch PBS instead of Food Network for cooking shows! I miss Good Eats and I miss Brian Boitano for humor, but I watch PBS for food info!

    Back to Food Stars! Each team has a different theme for their food court kiosk (did you know the word “kiosk” comes originally from the Persian for “palace” via Turkish and French?) in the South Street Seaport:

    Team Bobby: The American Deli. Michele is not happy! She does not think that is anything special or exciting, it is hamburgers and hot dogs! Michele, did you not know that since the introduction of the $5000 Truffle Burger, hamburgers have gone upscale? It is not your mother’s hamburger stand! But she is all about seafood so I understand her disappointment! Because they are at the Seaport she is determined to do seafood, so she decides to do clam chowder, nothing wrong with that! Malcolm takes crab cakes, Maryland style, and Nikki does a grilled fish taco, which, well, I guess a taco is just as American as it is Mexican, especially when made with fish. Nikki brings up the name “American Sandbar.” Bobby tells them to sell it, then tells Malcolm, “that you are still here is a miracle” which seems very harsh! Wow, Bobby, that is not nice! Then he says it is probably because of his food! Bobby, you are supposed to be the food guy, the one who cares about food more than personality! He tells Malcolm to make an impact, because on Food Network, food has no impact.

    In the store Michelle wants to buy chopped clams because she does not think she has time to steam and open and chop fresh clams, but they do not have any so she gets bags and bags of clams! She is worried about time! Hey, she is a very experienced chef, I think she can handle clams!

    Team Giada: I would throw something if she got Italian! But no, she gets Mexican, which is almost as bad since she has Miss Mexico on her team! Yvan wants to make… I am not sure what he says, actually, or what Martita says either, I must have been daydreaming; Ippy is all about chipotle chili, and Linkie is stuck for a Mexican dessert. Giada is not very helpful. She just sits there looking impatient. I think Giada is done with Linkie. Someone suggests churros, and Linkie does not know how to make them but will figure it out. She figures it out by asking Martita for a lot of very detailed instructions in the car on the way to the store, and Martita seem impatient with her! That is not nice, Martita! Martita says she can not help her with pastry and I think she means she will not, I suspect Martita could make churros in her sleep! But she gives her all the details for Mexican hot chocolate, since Linkie was going to make it with cocoa powder. I guess Linkie never read Like Water For Chocolate.

    Team Alton: Italian! Justin says it is all about preserving the natural beauty of food made with love and enthusiasm. I do not know what that means, but it is the sort of line Food Network loves! When Justin thinks Italian, he thinks Tempura of course! Just like when Guy thinks Mexican, he thinks of sushi! Justin will make fritto misto, which is Italian for “deep fried stuff” so calling the batter tempura makes sense even if it is making Italians cringe! It is like doughnuts, everyone has them, and they are all called different things (like churros), but they are basically the same! Emily will make a dessert panini and for once she does not say “I will make it retro-rad!” Thank you Emily! Panini is not really retro, since it has only been popular in the US for about ten years, but I it is good that she does modern food too! Martie wants to make Partie food of course, so she picks arancini (rice balls). Alton asks what they want to call their booth, and Martie looks like she is about to speak but Justin pipes up, “Littler Italy” which is reasonably cute! The editing for this is quite suspect! I would like to see the raw footage of that session! Alton tells them to all come up with a very short, intense sales pitch to deliver to every single customer! I hope Martie heard the “short” part!

    Alton is watching Martie cook and he has his hands clasped in front of his face like he is praying! She assures him she can do this! He mouths to the camera, “I’m doomed!” though I do not see anything that chaotic (she has six burners and six pots, and things are not browning as fast as she wants, but hey, that is pretty typical) in what she is doing! I think they were just instructed to pick on someone today, and for him it was Martie, since she is obviously the next to go home on his team! But I do not think it will be today because someone from Team Giada must go home today!

    TWIST TIME! Zakarian comes in and announces there is a Secret Ingredient one person on each team must incorporate into a dish: Chicken Livers! Ewww! This is a pretty stupid twist, you know, it is only to give Zakarian a reason to be there. Maybe he will use the money he earned here to pay the restaurant staff that he stiffed when he declared bankruptcy.

    Now they have to decide who adds chicken livers! Emily laughs and says she can not put them in dessert which is true! She and Linkie have lucked out! Yvan volunteers to make chicken liver tacos; Bobby suggests that Michele make chicken liver toast as a crouton for her clam chowder, and she takes it on without complaint, but I think she is cursing him because she is still worried about shucking and chopping all those clams! I think Bobby gave it to her because he thinks she can handle it and he expects her to be in the finals so he is giving her work for extra credit, that is a good sign! Justin is excited to see chicken livers so he takes them on Team Alton. Since he is frying random stuff I guess it is fine to add chicken livers to the mix!

    The next day, they go to the Seaport, spend an hour to set up, and serve!

    Team Bobby:American Sandbar

    Nikki is worried about her seven-step plating process. She makes a dig at Michele saying she wishes she just had to ladle stuff out. Well, you should have thought of that when choosing your dish, silly! I am sure you could have steamed, opened and chopped all those clams and then made a chicken liver crouton at the last minute, too! But no, you want to be the female Bobby Flay! Can you tell I like Michele? I like Nikki too, actually. But I like Michele more. Speaking of Michele, she does not want people to run away from the chicken liver! Yes, I would run away from it! That is not her fault though.

    They present to the judges. Michele takes lead and says they made seafood because they were at the water! She explains her sweet and sour chicken liver toast. Susie loves the clam chowder, and everyone is impressed that she used fresh clams and incorporated the secret ingredient and was cheerleader and in the spotlight!

    Malcolm calls his crab cake simple and soulful. A guest comments that Malcolm did not say much, uh oh! Zak says the crab cake is amazing, and Bob likes that it celebrates crab, but at Food Network only the crew will eat the food so it comes last: they worry that there are two Malcolms, one who is confident and charismatic, and one who is quiet, and this week he was quiet. Bobby sees glimmers of star but it is not enough! That means Malcolm is toast. But not this week, because Team Giada is due for a cut.

    Nikki lists her ingredients: grilled tilapia marinated in margarita mix with a mango-jalapeno puree. Bobby pushes her to say more, and she talks about taking Rt 66 to Baja and he loves that, asks her why she did not lead with that, why did she recite the Special of the Day? She says she wanted to make sure they knew what the food was! Silly girl! At Food Network, the food comes last, even when you are on Team Bobby! A guest says she was working and not talking much, uh oh! Doom!

    Team Giada: Mexican theme.

    I do not know what they named their stand! Linkie is upset because her dough was sticky so she added flour and the churros came out too crunchy, so she decides to call them Biscotti which is not really Mexican but who cares.

    Ippy leads off with “Hola and Aloha.” He has tattoos of pineapples and pigs! Way cool! Remember Kevin Gillespie with the pig tats? But I do not know what he made! He said he would make chipotle chili, and I guess he did, they like whatever he made but he is ignored except for his tattoos! And I do not think chili has pork or pineapple in it! They like his food, whatever it was, and Bob thinks he is getting more comfortable in his (tattooed) skin. I think Ippy will end up doing some Hawaiian specials!

    Yvan talks about the grill in his back yard and the family stuff they do. He incorporated chicken livers into tacos. I am not sure what else he made, they like his stuff but he also got short shrift this week! But Susie says this is Yvan at his best! Really? Yvan is kind of a yawn, yes?

    Linkie fakes it by saying her churros are crispy on purpose so they can be dipped in the hot chocolate like biscotti! Not a bad idea! But she stumbles over her words and can not tell the difference between coffee and chocolate! She says the cayenne adds hotness and moisture to the churro. Uh oh.

    Martita made poblano tortilla soup, some kind of guac chips, something about feta I think, I am not sure… they are not paying much attention to the food on Team Giada which can not be a good sign! When she presents she goes blank and can not think of a single story! Bob is disappointed that she blew her opportunity to shine when the theme was her point of view to begin with! They are ok with the guac but Zak loves the soup.

    Team Alton at Littler Italy:

    Martie chats it up to distract people from not having any food while they wait for their oil to come to temp! I suspect this is over-dramatized too! Either that or they have decided they do not want Martie to go home yet so they give them a pass for not being ready on time!

    Justin talks about fritto misto, how it is not greasy, and he sprays it with lemon juice as he serves, which sounds cool, except I hear Alton Brown saying “Moisture is the enemy of crunch” or something like that! I am sure he said that on Good Eats at some point because I have always remembered it! But it is one of those clever techniques Justin is so praised for, so maybe it works. He says they do not need marinara which is just there to cover up unpleasant flavors anyway! That is an awful thing to say! Especially since Martie is up next with marinara! But they like his food, Bob is satisfied with his culinary chops, and Zak says he is a star!

    Martie says she likes marinara! I do too! Wow, Justin has me defending Martie, that is quite a trick! She talks about her rice balls. Susie loves the crispness and flavors, and Bob likes how she fused the Italian theme with her party point of view! Yes, because no one ever served Italian food at a party before! But I have to admit, arancino is not that typical!

    Emily brings on dessert, a sweet apple and fontina panini on brioche with lemon honey! That sounds sooooo good! And while panini is not retro, there is something classic about those flavors! Bob loves it, Zak thinks it is very smart, and Bob goes off on her smartness. Uh oh, Emily is smart, that can not be good! Me, I value smart!

    I think Team Alton is going to win, since they are the only ones who did all good food and their presentations were good or better. So what if they were not ready on time!

    Yes, Team Alton wins!

    One person from the other teams is picked to do the next part: Linkie, because she was more timid (I do not think she has ever been very good at presentation, she is always nervous to me, and her food has been inconsistent) and Nikki because she showed no warmth, no star quality, and her food was not very good.

    The Producer’s Challenge is: Make an extraordinary chicken dish in 30 minutes! Then present to camera for one minute! And I am surprised by something: Linkie can handle a knife! Not like Morimoto or anything, but she is pretty smooth at chopping garlic! Nikki wants tomatoes but Linkie has them all, and will not give any up, she needs them all! I think she is being a little bit mean there, she does not really think about it but just says no, but Nikki adapts. Nikki wants to show her softer side; Bobby tells her to be warm. Linkie has to be less flustered. But you know Linkie will be going home since Team Giada has one too many people! And that is fine with me, I have been tired of Linkie since the beginning!

    Nikki does “The Grill Next Door” and makes grilled (of course) chicken with tzatziki and talks about grilling a lemon to squeeze over it. Suzie loves the food (they taste the food this week which is a good sign). She feels good about the video and the softer approach. Bobby says she is a risk taker and that is why she comes across as abrasive. Really? I do not see her as abrasive! I thought Girl on Grill was cute! She did not really change her POV, just what she called it.

    Linkie talks about her family immigrating from South Africa and the creative ways she used to bring them back, she used alcohol which never hurts (wait – no cooking with alcohol for children). She made chicken in spiced rum. Bob thinks it is so moist, like dark meat, but it is breast meat and she says that is the rum. But he thinks she needs a lot more polish. She insists she is a fast learner, though she has shown no signs of it so far! I do not see warmth, I see nervousness!

    They talk about the two: Nikki has great food but the camera picks up this toughness (except my tv does not show it) and Linkie is soft and warm but does not make sense. Giada tells her, “If you stumble over a word that is what makes you so charming, it is why we love you!” No, it is not!

    Linkie goes home, much to the surprise of… well, nobody!

    Next week: they meet the press! Someone has 30 seconds of dead air!

    Food Network Star 2012, Episode 5: Guy Live

    Happy Halloween!

    Happy Halloween!

    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.

    Food Network Star 2012 Episode 4: Fashion Week Food Makeover

    It may be strange, but at least it is not a pineapple slice!

    It may be strange, but at least it is not a pineapple slice!

    Hello, I am Zin! You know what is going to happen, right? You knew it the minute he made pasta and ricotta and a turnover from scratch and they were perfect and delicious! They can not have that kind of skill on the Food Network!

    But we can start at the beginning with Ted Allen! Unfortunately it all goes downhill from there.

    Ted announces it is Fashion Week, time for makeovers! The contestants look kind of nervous, with that “Oh no is Tyra Banks going to cut off all my hair?” expression. But no, they must make over an unappealing dish to please the eye and the palate. They will make their dishes for a Pamella Roland fashion show.

    The culinary challenge is pretty much one every show does: take an ordinary dish and do something good to it. The winning team will be safe; the individual winner gets $10,000! That is a lot of money so early in the competition!

    They all do oral presentations while a model walks down the runway holding plated food in her hand and puts it on a pedestal at the end of the runway. After everyone from the team does his/her presentation, the judges get the food to eat – and they have to hold the plate, or put it in their laps, there is no table – while the rest of the audience just sits there and watches. I do not think this makes sense!

    Bobby tells his team it is all about presentation of both food and self, and they hit the runway!

    Malcolm makes over meatloaf and mashed potatoes. This means duck loaf, which looks like pink meat loaf to me! When he comes out for his presentation, he does a fashion pose! That is cute! He talks about food meets fashion, old school meat loaf to simple and sophisticated duck loaf, new food fashionistas. He does a good job! Susie thinks he is very attractive in every way! Hah! They love the duck loaf! Good for Malcolm!

    Nikki is assigned pork chops and sauerkraut, so she grills (of course!) pork chops and serves it with a “vibrant red and mahogany fig and cherry chutney.” That sounds good! Her presentation is very fashionista: food and fashion are very sexy, tailored french cut pork chop. They love her talk and that she used so many fashion terms and her pork chop is delicious. Giada tries to smack her down by asking, “But is it runway food?” and says it should be sleek and sexy but it is actually rustic; Bobby says it does not matter because she is on his team. Well, no, he does not say that is why it does not matter, but he does say it does not matter. Nobody else seems to care either.

    Eric refreshes fishsticks and tartar sauce. He looks in the store for a particular brand of spring roll wrappers and can not find them, so he gets dried rice paper wrappers. I do not know enough about Asian cooking to know if that is a reasonable substitute! It seems like a big change to me, but we do not know if they have a different brand but he does not like the other brand, or if he thinks about wonton wrappers or other things that sometimes people use. He makes a salt cod and potato filling which does not sound very Asian or very fashionista. When he goes to deep fry his rice paper rolls, the wrappers come off and look like used condoms in the fryer! And the filling turns into little pieces of croquette! So he panics with only 50 minutes to go and uses flour and beer that other people have (Michele is happy to give him stuff to help, she is nice, I like her more and more which is probably a bad sign) and he breads the things (I do not know if he breads the already-made rice paper wrapped things, I think so, but I am not sure) and then fries them and you know of course they come out perfect! Because Eric is a Supercook! In the kitchen he can recover from disaster! At presentation, not so much. But he is not a disaster! He is just a little nervous! It did not seem all that bad to me! I do not think he was the worst presentation! The judges think his fish sticks are great, but they decide he is likeable if not always memorable.

    Michele (and I check and check every time, she does spell it with one “l”) has to make over baked flounder and steamed broccoli which, wow, that was, ahem, tailored to her, yes? She turns it into pan roasted sea bass and talks about taking a trip to Newport, RI and then up to Portland, Maine for a beer and I am confused, but so are the judges because they think she said something about Providence (which maybe she did and they edited it out?) but her food was delicious even if she did lose them on the road trip! I think she just tried to think about it and come up with a cute story instead of just talking about the food she loves to cook! That is what Food Network does to people!

    Now it is time for Team Giada! They should have an advantage here seeing as they are the Cheerleaders! She tells them to do couture cooking and use words from the runway.

    Ippy has Salisbury steak with peas and carrots. Salisbury steak is supposed to be sort of a flattened meatball (eggs, bread crumbs, onions) served with brown gravy, but it is usually what people call a hamburger patty when they want to make it sound fancy! Ippy makes ground rib eye (does that not make you want to cry, to grind up rib eye?) with a pancetta crust. He pretty much made Salisbury steak with better quality beef! I do not think that was the idea! But what do I know! He comes out and realizes he is worst dressed! He talks about gorgeous sunrise in his homeland of Hawaii but the food has nothing to do with that! Susie thinks he is camp, and Bob is beginning to doubt he has Star Quality. Susie says he cooks with precision but is too laid back.

    Note: when the Food Network talks about “stars” they do not mean “stars” in the sense that the film industry means: people with charisma that pops off the screen, as they say. They mean someone who will be the only person in a show! So the bar for stardom is set rather low here!

    Martita is assigned chicken and rice with gravy, which of course is a signal to make arroz con pollo. She talks about peppers and chorizo and love and flavor. Bob loves her generosity: she wants to cook for you and give you gifts – no, she wants a TV show! Bob really likes her, he calls her food “a jewel box of a dish” and I do not know if he means the presentation or the taste! Susie is happy too!

    Yvan redesigns shepherds Pie which ties right into his Venezuelan roots… oh, wait… no, only some people get food that fits with their expertise, the others get to work harder. He wants to make it elegant and sexy, light and airy, focusing on velvety potatoes to make it a sexy experience. That is scary! I still do not get the whole sexy food thing! But you know what? The dish he presents is gorgeous, cool and elegant! It is something white in a white bowl with lots of chives (or scallions or something long and green) and it looks very Asian, I have no idea what it is, maybe it is mashed potatoes and ground lamb with carrots and onions, but whatever it is, it looks beautiful, and that of course is the point of the Food Network Star! They say he took the heaviest dish and gave it the appearance of lightness. They do not say it tastes light or even what it is exactly. His little talk is way too loud, he is yelling “you are in my house” which of course they are not, something about elevated to new heights, and Susie thinks it is painful to watch! Yes, Bob says he is trying too hard to fill a big space, and yes, that is right, like a kid trying too hard!

    Linkie draws chicken pot pie. She memorizes her speech and starts stumbling over words and gets lost! Bob tells her that is the problem with memorizing a script, you fall apart if you get off script. I do not know what she makes (the show is only an hour this week so they skimmed over a lot of the people in the middle) but it looks like creamed chicken over puff pastry and Bob says he likes the curry so it must be chicken curry! It seems to go over well, tradition and comfort elevated to the next level of sophistication, even if the proportion is a little off and there is too much puff pastry. I personally do not think you can every have too much puff pastry!

    And now Team Alton takes the runway! He goes into the kitchen to mentor them, and is making suggestions and Justin says “Yes Chef” and Alton says, “I have been in enough kitchens to know what ‘Yes Chef’ really means.” I am thinking it means “STFU you *@&%#*@ and let me work!”

    Justin has to make over Beef Stroganoff, and he decides to make beef presentable, because, you know, it is not and never has been? He is going to make it in a checkerboard pattern! He keeps talking about damier, and ask your girlfriend, because they will not let him say Louis Vuitton since they did not pay anything (do you want to bet they asked?) but it is the Vuitton checkerboard pattern (“damier” means “checkerboard” in French) which has been used since 1889. So when Justin says he knows fashion week, I believe him! I also understand why I get so many “justin warner gay” searches! I am impressed he knows all this! I am betting most of the designers on Project Runway would not know what damier canvas is! Especially the Lifetime version! Anyway, back to food… he barely sears beef tenderloin and serves it in a checkerboard pattern with beet slices and beet-infused sour cream. I am not sure it looks that appetizing, and it is a bit big and clunky, but it is a clever idea. He avoids mushy mushrooms by making solid mushroom broth gel. Everyone is crazy about him, how inventive and fashionable the plate is, and Bob loves the way his mind works with radical reimagining. I did like his runway spiel, he wore a graphic sweater and a bright green jacket (yes, I get the searches now) and talks about “The first dish in the Alton Brown collection” and it is great the team has this little patter all worked out! But wait… no one says the food is good, just that they liked the use of beets to indicate the Russian origin of the dish (except there are no beets in stroganoff)! He barely cooked! He just seared the beef and I guess boiled the beets! But this is the Food Network, where they can teach their Stars to cook but not to invent beef checkerboards! Do you see where this episode is going?

    Emily gets ham steak with pineapple and maraschino cherry, and green beans. That does not sound unappealing to me! She turns it into ham salad with grilled pineapple and a spicy green bean salad with pickled spiced maraschino cherries! She keeps saying it is retro rad and I am getting very tired of that shtick! She gets on the runway and says things like fierce, retro redo, from the retro rad collection and I am thinking of playing a drinking game with that phrase but I do not drink! I suppose I could drink diet soda! But that is not the same thing! It sounds good, but here is the weird part: she made a food fascinator! For those who do not know this term, a fascinator is the weird hatlike head ornament everyone wore to the Royal Wedding last year, Philip Treacy is famous for them! This means… Emily has put pineapple and a cherry in her hair! She has food in her hair! SHE HAS FOOD IN HER HAIR! Is this girl Food Network material or what? Emily, I like you, but I do not like what this competition is doing to you! She ends her little talk with “Hats off to Ham!” which is cute except SHE STILL HAS FOOD IN HER HAIR! Stop it this minute! Yes, Philip Treacy made a Feather Salad hat, and you can buy food-themed fascinators on Etsy (anyone for a slice of knit key lime pie on your head?), but they are not actual food! They love it of course, Susie sees her as playful in a way she has not been (I see, so putting food in your hair is playful?) and her dish is Emily on a plate, which still scares me when people say that, I think of cannibals. Bob thinks it is a hat Aretha Franklin would wear. I think if you handed Aretha Franklin a pineapple and told her to put it in her hair, she would sing “Respect” in your face! Do not tell me Aretha would put food in her hair!

    Judson gets to redo seafood alfredo. He uses all kinds of cool shellfish like king crab, shrimp, and lobster, which is a good start. Unfortunately he makes some kind of fried rice noodle ball with the lobster inside, and it looks like a weird tangle and no one knows what to do with it. Before he comes out Alton pretty much disowns him by saying he is the wild card and the enigma. Judson does not disappoint in that regard: he says one of his mantras is “Food plus fashion equals love.” WTF? Yes, it has all the buzzwords, but it does not make sense! Bob is pretty incredulous: “That is his mantra? It is not!” No, it is not. He goes on talking about immensely crispy exterior and almost citrus smell wafting to your nose. He later says his mind is racing and he does not know what he is saying. Giada thinks his dish has too many crunchy things. Ted finds the sauce cloying and overwhelming. They are all looking at the rice noodle ball like it is a toy instead of something to eat. Big disaster! He thinks he is going home. I think he is right!

    Martie takes on tuna casserole, and pretty much makes tuna casserole except with tuna belly and puts it in a ring mold with the pasta on the bottom. But of course if you bake something in a ring mold you can not take it out! So she just serves it, and that could work because it looks like a can of tuna fish, but she decides not to play on that and just does not talk about it! Her speech is about everything old is new again and tuna casserole 2.0 and no filler noodles (except there are, just at the bottom) and delicious tuna belly instead of canned tuna (I am not sure where the tuna belly came from). Bob thinks she is charming. Alton does not know how to eat the stuff in the ring mold, and Bob thinks it is more homey, flannel pajamas and cocoa rather than fashion show, but she has the most comfy personality and that is what Food Network Star is all about!

    They gather for target practice. The judges and audience together picked Justin as the winner! Now wait a minute, that is overdoing it! Ok, I can see a fashion audience being impressed by the reference to damier, but his food was kind of stupid, and very simple! I think they are beginning to push him at us and I do not like that! It is too bad because it is having the opposite effect of what they want, it makes me resent him! And I think he is most likely to end up with a show closer to Good Eats or the Brian Boitano show that was so much fun, or maybe Bitchin’ Kitchen. So he is probably my best bet, still, I do not like how they are focing him down our throats and pretending everything he does is perfect!

    Team Alton wins the team challenge, so Judson gets a reprieve and he knows it! He even thanks the team for keeping him from going home! Ted says they had the most fun playing with words.

    Eric is the Team Bobby fall guy, because he is too good a cook! Seriously, that is what Susie, says, too much emphasis on perfection of the food and nothing interesting! I understand what she means, but only the Food Network sends people home for cooking too well and tells them perfect cooking is not interesting! This is why I do not watch any cooking shows except for competitions which make me angry! Maybe I should stop this, yes?

    Ippy takes the bullet for Team Giada, and I wonder where Linkie is in all this. Neither of them have done good presentations and her food has only been good once!

    The Producer Challenge is not about cooking at all, which is interesting, since both people have produced good dishes all along but not good presentations – aha, I wonder if they planned this or if they decided based on who they were to do this kind of challenge! They have to taste french toast and describe it on camera.

    Bobby tells Eric to relate the french toast to something in his life, and he talks about his mother bringing him french toast on valentines day which is a little creepy, maybe, but I guess sweet, and he talks about the cinnamon and the mascarpone (which he pronounces correctly) and how it complements the spice. They scold him for listing ingredients but not describing flavors and textures. Bobby advocates for him, saying he can talk about food in an intelligent and simple way, and they shouldn’t lose the best cook in the competition. Uh oh, Eric is toast, can you tell?

    Giada tells Ippy to have FUN FUN FUN FUN and bring me into your world. Ippy says “You have to perform and hand your life over to Bob and Susie and hope for the best.” No wonder they are scared, I would not want to hand my life over to those two! He has trouble talking with his mouth full, and looks very introverted on camera, so of course they scold him for that and he says he can bring it up but he wants to represent his people who are laid back. Maybe he needs more of his Italian people! Bob tells him he can be laid back and excited by the food. No, Bob, laid back is the opposite of excited, that is what laid back means!

    In the end Ippy is seen as more original, which is true, and Eric is sent home. All the contestants are shocked because they knew how great he was in the kitchen. Bob says yes, he is one of the most talented chefs they have ever had on the show and that is why they are sending him home. No, he does not say that, but that is pretty much it. Even I have to admit he does not really have a culinary point of view, but I still think there is a place for him, and I have a feeling he will show up somewhere else, maybe on Iron Chef or Top Chef.

    The only thing I know about next week is Giada stands up and cheers! I am hoping that is because Ippy brought up his energy level!