Monday, June 23, 2008

The Next Food Network Star: Season 4, Episode 4

Like a Fish Out of Water

Previously: The contestants package themselves for Martha, and Adam is on his knees, Kelsey cries (did she force it?) and Jeffrey is out but still feeling awesome. Tonight: Ultimate Tyler is on, it’s a rainy day on a Coast Guard boat, and we finally get to see Dallas Diva take her infamous fall for Iron Chef Michael Symon no less.

Opening scenes of foot traffic in Manhattan. Those people know how to walk. Back at the Carriage House, we don’t get any scenes of contestants waking up. Instead, we jump to them entering Studio B of the Food Network. It’s all business today.

In comes Tyler Florence and now Marin County resident. He tells them they each have to make a 60-second technique video, which is a quick demo (has to be quick for 60 seconds) on a culinary skill. While I think it’s great that the Food Network is testing the contestants’ skills, I have to say I think it’s kind of unfair that they have no time to prep for it and they don’t know what skill they have to demonstrate until they unveil the tray in front of them.

So here’s how they did:

Adam is up first and he finds a whole artichoke and he has to break it down, like I said, in 60 seconds. (Even my demo took 6.5 minutes.) He cuts the artichoke in half and starts to spoon out the prickly needles in the center. He’s about to marinate the artichoke with lemon juice (a good idea to avoid it turning brown) when time’s up. Tyler tells him that he was sloppy when he should be slick. But he gives him the funny nod.

Aaron gets a pineapple, which isn’t too tough I think. But then again I grew up in Hawaii. He starts talking about something and then he cuts off the crown of the pineapple and does this neat thing about garnishing, cutting the crown in half and talking about brunch. Um, Aaron, are you going to cut the pineapple or what? Ooops, time’s up. And his pineapple is still in tact, except for the top and bottom. Tyler says Aaron needs to learn to cook and talk at the same time. No kidding.

Kelsey has to French a rack of lamb. If you recall, last week the judges said Kelsey was over the top and came off too forced. So this time she’s telling herself to tone her energy down a bit, as much as any cheerleader can. She starts off by cutting off a piece of the rack of lamb and then starts scraping the sides of the bone to French it. I give her credit for toning it down a bit, but it’s still a bit well-rehearsed. But maybe that’s a good thing because at least I was able to get some information from her presentation even though time ran out. Tyler thought her approach was good and he commented on her good energy, which made her happy. They do a weird elbow bump (instead of using their fists) when they pass each other, which I’ve never seen before. Must be a chef thing.

Shane finds he has a coconut, which I actually think is a bit unfair because how often are you going to cook with a coconut? This is just plain mean, Food Network producers! Anywho, Shane says he’s going to attempt to just show how to get the juice from the coconut, so he uses a nail to puncture a hole in the soft spot and he’s excited because the nail went in pretty easily. But when he turns the coconut over, nothing comes out and time runs out. Tyler says he has to act like he knows what he’s doing even if he doesn’t, but he likes his energy too.

Spice/Curry Queen Nipa gets to clean fresh squid. When she unveils the tray, she looks like she’s about to toss her breakfast. But she tells Tyler that she has no idea how to clean a squid. So she fakes it. She forces the squid apart using a knife, and just cuts it into bits. Tyler literally drops his mouth and looks shocked. She didn’t even pull out the black liquid part that will totally squirt on you if you bite into it. Anywho, the piece she cuts looks so pathetic but she acts like she did a good job “cleaning” the squid. Tyler asks how she thinks she did, and she says she acted like she knew what to do. He disagrees, of course, and says she really should know how to clean a squid. I guess she never made a seafood curry.

Lisa has to truss a chicken, which is a good demo to do and she could probably do it in 60 seconds (although, again, my demo was a little less than 2 minutes). She grabs some twine and grabs the legs of the chicken and ties the two together, which isn’t that fancy but I guess it’ll do. Tyler says she wasn’t engaging the camera. Lisa says she’s having a hard time looking into the camera, but realizes she has to be an entertainer. I think she’s pretty entertaining already with her wacky outfits and hyper personality. Wow, in her interview her eyes look like she’s been crying or she hasn’t gotten enough sleep. What’s up with that?

Jennifer has to shuck an oyster. Hmm, I love oysters but have never shucked them myself. I think it can be pretty tricky. You know who doesn’t love oysters? Jennifer. But she jumps into it anyway and says she hasn’t done this in a long time. Then she explains that she’s sensitive to oyster so that’s why she hasn’t opened one in awhile. She never really opens it. Tyler looks sad for her. She thinks this could be the reason she might be going home. Tyler says not to apologize on camera because viewers will change the channel if they think they’re watching someone who doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

Then Jennifer breaks down and walks out of the studio, crying in the hallway with her back to the camera. (The cameraman is either feeling really awkward that he has to film this or he’s just eating it up as more reality show drama.) Jennifer even konks herself on the head with her hand, you know, like those V-8 commercials except she’s calling herself an idiot. She pulls herself together and walks back in where hunky Tyler consoles her and tells her that he likes her presence and she just has to bring it.

Tyler names Kelsey the winner of the challenge, and even though it was pretty good, it really seemed like she won by default because the others were just so bad. Her video will be on the Food Network home page (although it’s not on today when I just checked, so maybe they still have to tweak it). Nipa looks mad, but she says she just feels overwhelmed being surrounded by all the experts in the bunch. Oi.

Commercials. Sorry to say, again there has been no new commercials to comment about on this season of The Next Food Network Star. So I won’t be recapping the commercials unless I see something new.

The contestants arrive in the Food Network kitchen and someone moved the fish counter from the local grocery store into the kitchen because there are tons of whole fishes. Iron Chef Michael Symon walks in. BTW, anyone else wondering where’s Bobby Flay? He’s kind of hot and cold with this whole hosting thing. Aaron is all excited to see Chef Symon, but I’m wondering if it’s more the brotherhood of bald men working here.

Chef Symon says he’ll be a guest judge this week, and he introduces the senior executive chef of Red Lobster, Michael LaDuke. Who knew they had a senior chef? Symon says the winner of this challenge will get a dish on the fish special menu at Red Lobsters across the country. Everyone looks excited but I wonder if they realize connecting to Red Lobster can bring on the “sell-out” criticism as Tyler has found with his Applebee’s commercials and Guy Fieri with TGIFriday’s?

The contestants have to make two fish dishes using the fishes in front of them and a secret ingredient ala Iron Chef. Though the ingredients aren’t so secret since they’re sitting in containers in front of the contestants. They’re kind of out there, though, and include: whipped marshmallow, coffee beans, cereal, cola, caramels, grape jelly and white chocolate.

They all get to pick their fish and secret ingredient, and Kelsey goes first as the winner of the earlier challenge. Adam picks up a halibut and kisses it for no particular reason, which even makes Chef Symon cringe. Nipa is last and she freaks out just looking at the fish. She won’t even pick it up and Symon has to coach her on to grab it. I don’t get how she can be a cook and never worked with fish?

They have 60 minutes to prep their food and they all start scrambling in the kitchen. Chef Symon pretends he’s Tom Colicchio of Top Chef and walks around checking up on everyone. Nipa is totally not into her fish, which she has to fillet. The Food Network has provided everyone with some fillets already, but the contestants also have to cut a few of their own from the whole fish they chose. Nipa is massacring her rainbow trout and she’s only able to cut just this tiny piece of the fillet, if you can even call it that. It looks like maybe two inches. Then she goes and dumps the rest of the fish in the trash. Ugh, what a waste.

Jennifer is making a cereal-encrusted mahi mahi. She looks happy about it, or excited. I’m just glad she’s not crying any more. Aaron is making cola-marinated cod with a kick of hot sauce. He’s grilling it and there’s no sizzle so his fish is sticking and they look sick, like falling apart sick.

The contestants are now in their white, unmarked van and it’s storming in Manhattan. But they’re heading off to an undisclosed location where they’re going to serve their fish. They arrive at a pier and Adam says he sees a really big boat, but it obviously has the word Coast Guard on the side. Lisa is sweating because she made tartar and this doesn’t look like a tartar kind of crowd.

Chef Symon and some Coast Guard guy welcomes them in the rain at the top of the ship, and then they’re told they’ll be cooking for 30 Coast Guard men and women.

Kelsey is up first and she starts cooking in the galley. She says they also have to do a 2-minute presentation to the “Coasties.” She does seem a little more calm than normal. In fact, she’s almost normal and not the perky cheerleader we’ve come to know. She made a fish cake with tilapia and a chipotle mayonnaise and a macadamia nut-encrusted fish with white chocolate cream sauce. It looks interesting. Judge Susie Folgelson comments that Kelsey seemed more authentic. The “Coasties” seem to like the fish.

Adam’s cooking and he’s moving fast. He’s also kind of messy. He sees this step in the doorway leading up to the dining area and he thinks it’ll be funny if he walked out and tripped. Physical comedy, I get it. Unfortunately, none of the Coast Guard people or the judges got it. They all end up staring at Adam like he’s from Mars or something. He’s just dying out there trying to salvage his presentation by talking about his olive oil poached halibut with crepes. The judges later wondered what just happened and Susie says Adam came off like a bozo. Also, Bob Tuschman says Adam’s fish smells fishy. And Chef Symon says that comes from overcooking the fish and the oil comes out. Ah, I get it. I’ve been to several restaurants and had that smell of fish come at me with my plate and I always comment on it and my friends never smell it. Now I know the kitchen cooked my fish too long! Thanks Chef Symon for vindicating my nose! BTW, Symon called Adam’s presentation a train wreck, which is a mess given that the train episode was two weeks ago.

Jennifer presents her beer-battered mahi mahi with mango salsa and fruit-cereal encrusted fish with coconut. She kind of jokes whether they’re scared of eating her cereal fish, and pretty much tells them, good luck with that. When she’s done, she realizes that she apologized again about her dish when she’s been told by the judges not to apologize. Sorry judges! Jennifer says there’s a whole different Jennifer back home who’s confident. Maybe she should make a switch with that girl before it’s too late.

Nipa made a tandoori trout and one marinated with her secret ingredient of grape jelly. It really just look like fish with a pile of mush on top. And her presentation was just as mushy. She introduces her fish dish and then does a quick demo of a Bollywood dance. And it looks a little like “Walking Like an Egyptian” but not. It’s kind of weird to watch at home and we’ve got the music going in the background. Just imagine what it was like for the poor Coast Guard people who watched it without any music except the music in Nipa’s head. One Coast Guard guy said it was so awkward he had to look away (but I’m sure he didn’t because it’s like a car crash that you just have to rubber neck).

Lisa, who so far is the only contestant I have a nickname for (sigh), is doing her Dallas Diva thing around the kitchen and then it happens. She slips while holding a container of sauce and like true Lucy form, the container goes flying up into the air and the contents pours down like rain and then the container drops on Lisa totally empty. It is a mess. I totally feel for her (and so does Adam who rushes in and looks scared for her but can’t really help her since it’s her gig). She gets up and says she’s fine, but the next minute she’s outside in front of the room of guys and judges looking like she showered in her clothes.

She does a good job of self-deprecating to make the best of the situation, and then she has this real moment where she says her brother is in Iraq and how it’s an honor to cook for the Coast Guard, then she gets choked up just a bit before she leaves. Bob Tuschman gets choked up as well and really liked her real presentation instead of the phony fashion Dallas Diva we’ve come to know. But the Red Lobster guy isn’t digging her tartar for the chain’s menu.

Shane does his sole with orange cream sauce and a parsnip roasted garlic puree with the marshmallow. His presentation was pretty average and generic. He’s like Kevin reincarnated. Chef Symon says the fish was the better tasting so far. It’s moist and the technique is good. The Red Lobster guy says either one of his fish could go on the menu.

Last up is Aaron and his crumbling, flakey cod. He talks about his fish dish and I really didn’t understand what he made. The cod is overcooked and a big mess in the eyes of the chefs. Bob still wants Aaron to tell a story.

They’re all back at the Carriage House, and again they are the most stressed out looking group of people heading into elimination. They face the judges with Bobby Flay still MIA. So it’s just Susie, Bob and Chef Symon.

They get their individual critiques and here’s how it went:

Lisa needs to connect with the camera and she missed the Red Lobster boat with her tartar dish, but she was the least perfect Lisa which is the Lisa Bob wants to see.

Shane gets called the child prodigy by Symon and is told that he needs to be more convincing with a coconut.

Adam was organically humorous on his technique demo, but not so with his falling down at the Coast Guard boat. Plus, Symon spit out his crepe after taking a bite. The judges tell Adam he needs to grow up.

Nipa giggled her way through her demo, which Tuschman read as disrespectful, and Chef Symon was offended by her butchering and tossing of the whole fish.

Kelsey gets all the good marks this week, for a good French lamb demo with solid energy and two good dishes to choose from for Red Lobster.

Aaron’s food was disappointing this week, and the judges still don’t know who he is because he doesn’t share anything about himself.

Jennifer’s cereal fish was too sweet and despite her warmth, she’s killing herself with her apologies. Then she starts to cry and Shane and Kelsey next to her tries to pat her on her shoulder. I don’t think there’s been an elimination round this season without tears.

Chef Symon starts by naming the Red Lobster winner, and it’s Kelsey, which is actually fitting because I think she’s really Red Lobster’s target audience. You know, wholesome and blond. They chose her white chocolate macadamia nut-encrusted fish for their menu. She’s also safe, and they give a pass to Lisa and Shane as well. So the three are excused.

Then they do this weird thing where they ask the remaining people why they think they’re on the bottom this week. That gets Jennifer crying some more as she talks about growing up fat and insecure. Aaron then realizes he hasn’t spilled enough of his personal life onto TV and he spits out that his son ran away from home right before Aaron came to do this show. Wow, now that’s sharing too much information. How does that relate to his cooking? That would be more a Lifetime movie about the cook who becomes successful but wants to find his son so every week he cooks his son’s favorite dish so that he’ll come home to eat it. Now that’s a movie. BTW, Aaron never says how old his son is. If he’s 21, then I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s “running away from home.” But if he’s like 15, then I would be like, “um, Aaron, why aren’t you at home looking for your son instead of spending time in New York?” This whole TMI moment is a bit strange.

Anywho, Jennifer and Aaron are safe and they are excused, leaving Curry Queen and Funny guy Adam. And I so hope it’s Nipa who goes home. The judges agree with me and send Nipa home, and she leaves saying she doesn’t know if she ever really wanted this at all. Nice, thanks for taking up space with your dead weight.

Next week: Some one breaks a jar, there’s a lot of smoke in the kitchen, Jennifer is frustrated at the grocery store, and someone is on very thin ice with the resurfaced Bobby Flay.

After the episode, there was this infomercial with that Red Lobster chef and Kelsey to introduce her dish on the Red Lobster menu. She looks poised and smooth as always but I couldn’t hear the whole thing because my tape ran out. Oh well, go to Red Lobster if you want to find out more. And if you want to see previews of next week’s show because my above teaser wasn’t enough for you, just check out the video below.

The Next Food Network Star airs at 10 p.m. Sundays and repeats at 9 p.m. Thursdays. Photos courtesy of the Food Network Web site.

No comments: