Monday, June 18, 2007

The Next Food Network Star: Episode 3

Previously on TNFNS: The contestants compete for the cover of Bon Appétit’s July grilling cover. Colombe gets ditsy. Paul demonstrates deep breathing exercises. And Giada tells Adrien that his food isn’t very good. Ouch! Nikki is labeled a “phony” (by Bob Tuschman, not me) and sent packing. Tonight: Guy Fieri guest judges and he delivers the news that two will be going home. Tommy cries talking to someone on the phone and they’re cooking for fans at a New Jersey Nets game.

You know, for the intro they have all the Food Network stars asking “Who will be the Next Food Network Star?” and Rachel Ray is the last featured star. But is she even doing any shows for the Food Network now that she has her own syndicated talk show? Is she still cooking in 30 minutes? (BTW, anyone see her at the daytime Emmys with her low-cut dress? Talk about a potential wardrobe malfunction. Yikes, I just realized that I admitted to watching the daytime Emmys. I need a life.)

The editors skip the usual opening of New York City scenes and instead go straight to the carriage house where the camera shows a shirtless Adrien in bed talking about how he’s not sleeping well. Neither is big boy Tommy. Common denominator? They’re both dads and today’s Father’s Day and they’re away from their kids? OK, I know this was filmed earlier and they’re probably at home now watching the episode with their families, but I wanted to throw in the Father’s Day connection. Looks like Amy is missing her kids, too. How long have these people been together? It’s only the third episode.

Tommy is in the sleeping area talking with his wife on the phone and he’s crying. Sigh, the big lug. He says in his interview that he’s torn between being with his family and staying in the competition. What do you think he’s going to choose? You’ll find out at the end of this recap. Dun-dun-DUH.

Paul, the single one, tells everyone to snap out of it and to get into the van to go to the Food Network studios. That’s where they meet Guy Fieri, who was Season 2’s winner. (Guy’s actually doing better than the first season’s winners because I notice the Food Network gave him a second show called “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”) But Guy’s not alone. In comes NBA legend (according to Fieri and other basketball fanatics, I’m sure) Darryl Dawkins. OK, I watch baseball, love tennis matches, and I know the names of a few football players. But I have zero interest in basketball. Although I do know names like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Shaq and Kobe Bryant. (And thanks to Dancing With The Stars, Clyde Drexler.) But Darryl Dawkins? Sorry, don’t know the guy. Fieri asks Dawkins what his nickname was, and he says “Chocolate Thunder.” (What was odd, and I really don’t mean to sound mean—or snarky—but it really did sound like he was talking with a mouth full of chocolate bars. This is when we needed those subtitles they do for Chef Morimoto on Iron Chef America.)

So that’s the first challenge: cooking with chocolate. The contestants have 45 minutes to prep and cook their chocolate creations. Guy also lets them in on the fact that two of them will be going home at the end of the week. (I guess Food Network really wants to get rid of the dead weight.)

In the kitchen, Rory is burning a kitchen towel and announces it like some kind of ceremony. This is how she’ll always start a challenge, with the traditional burning of the kitchen towel. Amy says whenever she gets chocolate, she’s going to go sweet. No crazy experimenting with savory dishes for her. (Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins says “you go girl” off to the side. Was that really a reaction to Amy or just fancy editing? For all I know, he could have been saying “you go girl” to Rory’s kitchen towel burning ceremony.)

We cut to Colombe, who’s looking in the pantry for cinnamon. And while I know what she was trying to say, her quote just doesn’t make sense. Here it is: “Where might I find cinnamon? They’re all alphabetized.” Um, I guess you would find it after the basil but before the dill?

When time’s up, the finalists are told they have to do a 30-second presentation in front of the selection panel, and their presentations have to include some kind of chocolate tip. In comes Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson to join Guy and Darryl Dawkins. First up is Paul, who needs to redeem himself from the previous week’s disaster. He made what he calls a “Chocolate Thunder Pie” or what I call a “kiss up to the judge” pie. It’s molten chocolate in a phyllo cup with vanilla and honey. He goes over the 30 seconds by just a second but at least he didn’t waste his time just taking deep breaths. Much better than last week. And Susie is digging the molten chocolate.

Next is Tommy, who made a cocoa-encrusted pork tenderloin with butternut squash and banana ravioli. Wow, a whole lot of fruits and meats and savory and sweets mixing together on one plate. You’d think Tommy would have a lot to say. But he ended up short on his 30-second presentation as the judges sat for 5 seconds (five. really. long. seconds.) watching Tommy stand there in front of the camera not saying a word. It was like watching paint dry. And boring white paint to boot. Later, Bob Tuschman makes a weird face after biting into Tommy’s cocoa-encrusted pork.
The other contestants roll in. The highlights: JAG makes a chicken tempura on a skewer with chocolate mole. (He throws a two-hand kiss at the end to the camera. Really, I don’t need my Food Network stars throwing kisses at me.) Adrien makes chocolate barbeque pork and Susie says she doesn’t taste any chocolate in the sauce. Amy makes a French pastry, of course, but talks too much about her husband before getting to her chocolate tip. And Colombe gets excited about chocolate, but Darryl Dawkins doesn’t finish her chocolate brioche. Michael Salmon is too busy kissing up to Chocolate Thunder instead of talking to the camera.

Commercials. Mercury Mariner. Big. Mercury Mariner. Bad. It is not on my list.

Challenge No. 2 (we have to wait till the end to see who won the chocolate challenge). Guy tells the contestants they’re going to invent or put their own spin on traditional stadium food. And they’re going to serve their creations to New Jersey Nets fan. Everyone seems excited. Maybe they thought they’d actually get to watch a game.

They have $300 to spend and 45 minutes to shop. They all go to the Westside Market in Manhattan, which I never heard of but it looks like a small, small Whole Foods. Everyone’s running all around, dropping products every where. (I wonder if the Food Network has to pick up the bill for the spilled products.) As they’re at the checkout, Colombe notices a bag that’s not hers. The bagger woman says (and I know because it was subtitled, unlike when Darryl Dawkins spoke) “This is for the other muchacho.” Colombe gives the extra bag that’s not hers to someone at the store because apparently she doesn’t know who is “muchacho.”

When we’re back at Food Network kitchen, Paul is missing some of his ingredients. A whole bag of ingredients. Poor muchacho. When he’s looking for it, he says he hears Colombe talking about how she had seen an extra bag and left it at the store. Paul’s really pissed, and you can tell because he’s doing this really weird surfer girl imitation of Colombe.

Guy Fieri checks in with Colombe and finds out she’s adding a fresh touch to cheese nachos. Where’s the cheese? Fieri asks. She says it’s in a jar. She’s going to serve it with natural tortilla chips. Are you making your tortilla chips? Fieri wonders. No, it’s in a bag, Colombe says. She goes on to tell Fieri that she’s “cooking” the pico de gallo, which is like a pineapple salsa to go with the nacho and cheese.

Time’s up and they all pack up their things to head home before the cook off the next day at the Nets’ game. At the carriage house, Amy is getting into it with Colombe, saying how Amy would have picked up Paul’s bag for him when he left it behind at the store. I’m really surprised how everyone is so concerned about the “team” when this is an individual competition. If Paul can’t keep track of his shopping, then how is he going to be able to handle his own show? (I know, it’s a stretch, but really, maybe Paul needs to take another deep breath instead of running all over like the Tasmanian devil.)

Amy is really in “mom” mode telling Colombe how she should have handled the situation. Colombe calls Amy “little Miss Perfect.” And Amy gives her a timeout.

The next morning, they head over to the Nets stadium, which I’m assuming they had to cross the river to go to New Jersey. They have 45 minute
s to prep their food cart stations before the fans arrive. I’m wondering what basketball game occurs at what looks like 10 a.m.?

It’s apparently the pick-on-Colombe episode because we see Rory getting on Colombe’s case for opening up a heating cart (called the “holding area”) that apparently all contestants are using. Colombe’s going to get something of hers, but Rory is using the “heater” to cook her food. In Colombe’s defense, that cart apparently is a shared utility among all the contestants, so no one contestant should be using it for his or her own cooking. So Rory shouldn’t get mad if another contestant needs to get something from a common area. This is how I see the debate playing out before Judge Judy when Rory sues Colombe for ruining her chances to be the next Food Network star.

There’s this funny scene where Paul has so much prep to do that he’s talking to himself running over his list of things to do, but Tommy is right next to him not saying anything at all. Colombe is pretty much done with popping open her jars of cheese and breaking open the bags of tortilla chips, so she goes and offers to be the sous chef for Paul, who’s now totally all fine with her after that generous gesture.

Time’s up. You know, the contestants do this weird thing where they put up their hands when time is called. Looks kind of weird, like they’re being held up at a bank. I bet you some of them still do it at home. (Picture Amy, cooking in her kitchen for her family. Her husband walks in. “Amy, when’s dinner? I’m hungry. Is it time yet?” Amy, “What? Time’s up?” Raises her hands over her head. ... It could happen.)

So the Nets fans arrive for “the game.” I really don’t think there was a game. I think they were just told there would be free food. Anywho, all the contestants are trying to get fans to taste their food. The fans vote for their favorites, so the contestants really need to pimp their food. Someone who’s really selling it is JAG, who totally looks like he could be selling peanuts at the ballpark. He just has that loud, shouting voice.

Paul is selling his burgers, and in comes Guy Fieri who’s like the health inspector with a thermometer ready to stick it — in the hamburger, not Paul. It’s like Guy’s giving an impromptu quiz to Paul asking him if he knew what temperature he should have the inside of the hamburger in order to serve. (Paul says 160 degrees. The correct answer is 165 degrees.) Guy says Paul’s hamburgers are at 110 degrees, so he has to pull them and get it hot or else he can’t serve them. (BTW, Paul looked like he gave out maybe five or 10 hamburgers by the time Guy did his health inspector impersonation. So not sure whatever happened to those poor guinea pigs.)

Commercials. Oh my. They’re already looking for contestants for next season’s The Next Food Network Star. I am not applying again, just in case you were wondering. I don’t deal well with rejection.

Back to the arena, Paul is busy frying up his hamburgers. This woman is mad that there’s no burgers and she’s at the burger cart. Paul says he feels like a short order cook.

Everyone’s busy selling their stuff. Then the judges come to check out the food court, and of course they go first to Paul, who’s busy cooking. He serves up his “Hawaiian burgers,” which looks like a burger with a grilled pineapple, some greens and finished off with some barbeque sauce. The judges ask what makes the burger Hawaiian, and Paul says the pineapple, and then he goes into this weird hula dance while singing, “Aloha Oe.” I’m surprised that he even knows the word to the song “Aloha Oe,” but I give him deductions for that odd hula swaying.

When they get to Colombe’s nacho and cheese, there’s a fan off to the side commenting, “oh, it’s just nacho and cheese.” I guess they expected some duck confit with it.

They get to Tommy, who is so out of the game already. He made a meatball sandwich, but when they show him serving the fans, he’s not talking to any of them. He’s just plating up his sandwiches and passing them out. Unlike Rory, who is wearing a low-cut sweater and is attracting all the male fans and then encouraging them to vote for her. (I’m not even going to go there.)

Adrien is passing out his mushrooms wrapped with bacon. Such a simple dish, but apparently everyone loves it because they can just pop it in their mouths. Adrien says it was such an incredible experience to serve food to fans at a stadium. Maybe he should just get a job as a concessionaire.

They interview fans and, of course, they edit it so that each one had a favorite and it seems like each contestant got a vote (except it looks like Adrien’s mushrooms are especially popular).

Commercials, before they go to the elimination round. When did M&M’s start wearing wigs? Creepy.

Back from commercials, Mike Salmon is interviewed saying how he can’t believe two people will be going home and how they’ve all become so close that it’ll be hard to see anyone leave. How long have these people been together? It’s like they just spent their senior year abroad together or something. (FYI, during the application process, I read that the filming would be over a period of six weeks. Sounds like they’re half-way through the filming already.)

The contestants all file into the elimination room. Susie is especially peppy this week. Maybe she read my comments about her being disengaged last week. (Yeah, right.) Guy announces that the winner of the chocolate challenge is JAG with his chicken tempura skewers. They liked the food but also liked his 30-second presentation (including the kiss throw at the end?).

Then Guy announces that the winner of the NBA challenge is Adrien and his bacon-wrapped mushrooms—a fan favorite and Bob Tuschman’s as well. Both guys are safe and are excused from the room.

Now they focus on the critique of the remaining contestants and it went something like this: Mike Salmon didn’t really work the camera and when he does work the crowd, he comes off like a used car salesman; Colombe thinks her food tastes good but Susie doesn’t, so she’s suspect about whether Colombe really knows what tastes good, plus she called Colombe loud; Amy should have sold her quesadilla in San Diego where she’s from and not New Jersey (again, very little critique this week for Amy); Rory is “approachable” with her kitchen klutz routine, but that can come off as not authoritative; Tommy is just not there (he says he never leaves his family, which is nice, but again, did he read the application form?), and Bob thinks Tommy came off angry on camera and he was disappointed that he didn’t get the Tommy he knows; and Paul’s dishes were tasty in both the chocolate and NBA challenge, but his personality is too frenetic. Susie says that’s not the kind of energy they need at the Food Network (although it would work for Iron Chef America, IMHO).

Commercials. Is anyone going to watch that movie with Catherine Zeta-Jones as a competitive executive chef? Doesn’t look too interesting.
So the judges tell which contestants are safe. Mike Salmon, Rory (who is again near tears) and Amy (who breathes the same sigh of relief as last week). Bob sends them away, leaving only Colombe, Tommy and Paul. Then Bob says Colombe will be going home. I kind of expected it even though I thought the show is a lot more fun with her on. Of course, Bob doesn’t really say much about why Colombe is leaving. She thanks them and when she gets upstairs, she tells everyone “bye,” and Amy asks, “So what did they say?” (wanting to know why the judges let her go) and Colombe replies simply, “They told me to leave.” You can’t fault Colombe for not following instructions.

That leaves Paul and Tommy and you know who’s leaving. Susie says Paul is staying and Tommy is going home, and he looks soooo happy for the first time in this hour. Tommy really was already home in his mind.

As Tommy heads upstairs, Paul is left with the judges and Guy gives him some advice, saying that Paul has charisma and personality but that he shouldn’t “spin it out” with his frenetic energy that he’s displayed so far. Of course, Paul’s mind is probably going at warped speed because he repeats the advice Guy just gave him, “OK, don’t spit it out.” No, Guy corrects him, “spin.” Sigh, Paul, Paul, Paul. Of course, then Paul spins around to leave the room in this mad dash that’s cute and funny all at the same time.

Everyone hugs Tommy bye, but Adrien is especially sad and they have a long man-crush hug. No one is hugging Colombe, and she’s talking about how one door closes and the other one opens. She questions whether she should be pursuing a food career, because that’s not really going to make her a star now. (Neither did Mighty Ducks, apparently.) Adrien says he feels extremely alone now that Tommy is gone, and he vows to win in Tommy’s memory. (Does this season seem more sappy than the last two seasons?)

Next on TNFNS: Looks like they’re cooking for some military personnel, and Paula Dean is coming in to talk about home cooking. Paul wants someone out of the house, and Miss Giada is back as a guest judge.

Tomorrow: See what I would have done in the stadium challenge.

Photos courtesy of the Food Network Web site.


Wesley said...

She made pico? I'm a completely derivative, talentless cook and even I know how to make pico de gallo for nachos. Dissapointing for me, since I always really liked Colombe.

Now, JAG, I think he's got it bagged. I'm gonna go ahead and call it now. Tempura with mole sauce? It sounds exotic and we love that, while in our hearts we know it's just deep fried meat in chocolate sauce, which is good because that sounds delicious.

Keep up the great reporting, dude. You're saving my life here.

Mrs. L said...

Loving the recaps (with commercial commentary even!). Can't wait to see what you do with the challenges (especially the stadium food).

Anonymous said...

Yay, another episode of Food Network Star, and we're getting somewhat close to the finale. I wonder who will win? Everyone says JAG will be in the finals, but with all that controversy surrounding his military past or whatever, it might be a far fetch for him. I don't know who I want to win, I think it's anybody's game. Did you watch the episode with Bon Appetit? Hmm, should I even be asking? Of course you watched it! So then it's safe to assume that you know that you could enter to win a trip to NYC to tour the studios OR $1000 in All-Clad cookware? Yes, of course you do. So if you haven't already, enter here: the way I also work with Bon Appetit :D good luck!