The Next Food Network Star Season Nine: Go Forth and Fourth
It’s an episode on a Holiday Week! Holiday Weeks are Big Deals for the Food Network. Holidays are when families and friends get together and have parties full of food and FN wants to be your go-to. The programming is all tied to the theme of the holiday, in hopes you’ll be tuning in looking for ideas, with a live show with the FN Stars taking questions> The hope is you’ll leave the channel on all day, because they’re fun, topical and–most importantly–non controversial. (Hear that Paula Deen?)
But before we get to the Live Holiday Challenge, first we have a Mentor Challenge: a one-take live camera presentation, hosted by Terrence Jenkins of E! News, (because Food Network doesn’t have Ryan Seacrest money.) Everyone will present a “sausage and pepper sandwich.” Giada and Terrance will throw a curveball at each contestant to see how they handle it.
- Viet has his ingredients taken away. He nearly loses it, wandering about going “where are the peppers?” live on camera, and stepping in front of the host. Disaster.
- Chad thinks Terrance is really having a heart attack off stage when he leaves coughing. He thinks they’re going to start over. ONE TAKE CHAD!
- Nikki gets the fire alarm, so of course she thinks they’re supposed to evacuate, and this is not part of the challenge and stops cooking. ONE TAKE NIKKI!
- They turned off the lights on Russell, who doesn’t stop or let it bother him. He gets this is One Take.
- Stacey is missing a whisk. That’s bullshit. They took away Viet’s ingredients.
- For Damaris they knock something off a shelf. This is also bullshit. Nikki had the fire alarm go off.
- Rodney is just rushed along. This might ruin someone else, but he rolls ok, and even manages to be intelligible.
- Chris just has an olive oil spill to deal with. The interesting thing is Terrance has to tell him to stop yelling–which is not a curveball, it’s a real complaint.
Rodney is given the win, which I’ll take as fair, since his time crunch was actually hard and he managed it well. His advantage is he gets to assign each contestant to the station they’ll work at for the Faux Fourth Of July Live Show. To wit:
- Rodney: Desserts
- Nikki: Fried Chicken
- Russell: Potato Salad
- Chris: Coleslaw
- Viet: Chips&Dips
- Damaris: Hosting Mixologist Marcos Tello
- Chad: Hosting Farmer Lee Jones
- Stacey: Hosting Butchers Lindy&Grundy
Bob Tuschman shows up, since this is the midterms. He announces that he, Giada and Bobby will be offstage grading. This makes sense, since Alton hosts the live call in shows in real life when the network does them. Everyone has fifteen minutes to prep, and then we go live to Alton!
- Chad doesn’t understand he’s there to play host, he thinks he’s there to show he can BBQ. Alton calls him out for not introducing Farmer Lee. Farmer Lee is displeased and lets Chad fall on his face. It’s an ugly start. Good thing all the judges love the end result sandwich.
- Viet is smoking crab for a dip with a burning plank of cedar. Viet gesturing as he holds this flaming piece of wood in a set of tongs is hilarious. Giada whines that he has no excitement. (Hello? He’s WAVING AROUND A FLAMING BOARD!) Viet also gets a caller who asks about dip trios. He freezes and overthinks his answer. The judges don’t like his dip. Bobby pronounces the results “watery.”
- Rodney is making meringue. He babbles at Alton and talks in circles. Worse, he uses the word “sucker.” “Sucker” is not a bad word , but it’s a little too close to something that is. There’s a phone call asking about a No Bake dessert for him to answer. Guess what word comes out as part of the advice? Sucker. Bobby and Giada throw up their hands. As for the dessert, the judges like the idea. The execution is bad.
- Nikki incorporates her “Meat on the Side” theme into her fried chicken station. She’s just too happy. Bob notes she’s lacking in authority. She gets a video chat question, asking about gluten free fried chicken tips. She doesn’t fail the question. The judges loves the chicken.
- Russell can’t talk. We’ve had this problem before. He is choppy and slow. His sentences feel like they don’t finish, and worst of all, his voice comes off gruff and unfriendly. Alton’s challenge to Russell is to throw to a commercial. Suddenly, with cue cards, facing straight into the camera, Russell comes alive. His energy shoots up, his vocal tone gets higher, and his confidence and friendly levels shoot to the moon. As for his potato salad Giada proclaims it is attacking her mouth. The judges hate it.
- Damaris has been drinking. Her “return from the commercial” feels sloppy. Her discussion with Alton feels like a car about to go off the road. Bobby says she’s not taking it seriously. Damaris’ question is about virgin drinks for those who teetotal. Her answer is not the point. The point is that she shimmies her shoulders at Alton as she thrusts a drink in his face. The judges decide they like her cocktail anyway.
- Chris is trying not to yell. He comes off like an authority on coleslaw. The rechanneling of the energy into focusing on the food is the right move. Bob is really impressed with how much Chris has improved. It’s a good think he aced the live show, because no one likes his slaw.
- Stacey is a natural host, and because she doesn’t know about butchering, she’s not trying to impress. She’s letting those who know do the heavy lifting talking, and she’s adding the host glue. Giada calls it flawless. Bob likes that she managed to stay the focus while highlighting the guests. Bobby admits that the pork is overcooked. Alton shrugs. He wants to go to her Fourth of July, and that’s what matters.
At judgement, Stacey is given the win. The only problem Bob has with her is that perfection can get boring, and he wants her be something we want to watch, instead of Food Network Weekend Wallpaper. Bobby sends Nikki to safety after calling her out for being giggly. Chad just misunderstood what he was supposed to do with the guest. Good thing that Bob loved his food and sees Chad as a BBQ expert. He is safe. Alton says that Chris is safe based on the performance improvements. Giada calls out Rodney for not actually making sense when he talks, but he is safe anyway. Bobby scolds Damaris for not coming off as serious. (No one mentions she came off as drunk?) Whatever, she’s safe.
Viet and Russell are our bottom two. The panel is frustrated with Viet for not being able to present himself as an expert. Alton says this is the problem many chefs have when they bring them in. They’re so focused on flavors, they don’t actually make edible food. Bob says he just doesn’t feel like Viet is having fun. Alton says Russell has the same issue. But the throw to commercial was so good, it bowled them over. Alton cries: “There! That guy! THAT. GUY.” Bob hones in on the problem: there’s too much going on in Russell’s mind and nothing is coming through to the camera.
So who is safe for at least one more week? Russell and his moment of THAT. GUY.
Viet may be out, but he’s not gone. He’s off to Star Salvation. Who will he be going against? Check out my recap of last week’s episode here to find out.
Next week: Pitching yourself to people who can sell your brand.