Previously: The contestants made their annual trek to the media mountain of Ms. Rachael Ray, and Michael gets overwhelmed by the cameras. Katie the Health Nut doesn’t look up, except when she did, she’s told she’s out. Hey, what? Why no previews for tonight? Well, we know at least they’re in Miami.
They open with this humongous shot of the sun. Quick, turn away or you’ll be blinded forever! Whew, that was close. We hear happy music and Jeffrey is talking about going on a vacation. They all pack up and leave for the airport.
Next we see them arriving at the Jet Blue terminal and there to greet them is Ted Allen in his trademark black-rimmed glasses. So they all know what’s next. That’s right, a challenge. It’s bad enough they have to go through all that homeland security screenings, but now they can’t board without doing a little cooking.
Allen tells them that there are several restaurants in the Jet Blue terminal and they each will have to cook a dish in 30 minutes for the particular theme of the assigned restaurant. Oh, standing next to Allen is Chef Michael Coury of the Jet Blue terminal restaurants. The winner gets his or her dish on the menu. The contestants all get excited but I don’t see the big whoop because it’s not like they get a penny for every time someone orders their dish.
They start cooking in apparently an airport kitchen. Some of these restaurants look really fancy. I may need to check them out when I’m in New York this September (yay, just about seven weeks until vacation!). One of the weird things we learn about an airport kitchen is that the knives are tied to the counter. At first I thought, oh, maybe they’re worried that the knife will fly around in the plane, but then I realize that this is a terminal restaurant so it’s not going anywhere. Then I realize that, oh, they’re probably worried someone will “accidentally” pack the knife into his carry on after eating at the restaurant. See, the mind of Homeland Security in the post-911 world. Sigh. This is why people think shoes and nose clippers can be dangerous weapons.
Everyone’s plate looks pretty good, I have to say. Jamaican Jamika is the first to present, and she finds Allen and that Jet Blue chef are joined by Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson (Bobby Flay is probably still at the opening of his Burger Palace in Connecticut) and a Jet Blue pilot and steward who shall remain nameless. Jamika talks about the seared rear tuna salad with orange miso vinaigrette that she made, and she starts getting diarrhea mouth. You know how you go on and on? And then she brings it all home by mentioning how she doesn’t like to eat a lot before a plane ride because she doesn’t want to use the airplane bathroom.
Sure enough, Susie comments about how she didn’t like the idea of a bathroom brought up right before she eats. Bob says the dish doesn’t seem very original. Maybe he wants to flush it down the toilet?
Debbie comes up and she was assigned 5 Steak, which is an American steakhouse. So what did she choose to make? A spinach salad. Susie, who’s really in a grouchy mood, quickly questions Debbie about the logic in making a salad for a steakhouse. Debbie explains that not everyone wants to eat steak at a steakhouse and the salad is a good alternative for women watching their waistline. Susie later on says she’s tired of people thinking that only women are concerned about their waistline. Lesson learned: Feed a red juicy piece of meat to a network executive and she’ll stop growling.
Jeffrey presents his dish for an Italian restaurant, so he makes a bruchetta with gremolata. But first off he throws in a few personal tidbits. Like did you know he’s Lebanese? And his wife is from Italy? Do we care? Bob almost peed in his pants because he’s so happy that Jeffrey opened up to him.
Melissa the Mom is next, and she has to make a dish for a Spanish restaurant. She comes out speaking Spanish and stuff and talking about her plank with chorizo and potatoes. She sounds very authentic, and then she throws out the tidbit that Spanish was her first language. How does this blond Arizona could be John McCain’s daughter grow up speaking Spanish you ask? Because she had a Mexican nanny. Oh. My. Gawd. How more elitist can we get? Of course, Susie and Bob just loves learning these little facts about Melissa’s personal life and the Jet Blue chef says the flavors are spot on.
Michael a Go-Go™ presents his French-inspired surf and surf (huh?) with clams and frisee. He originally wanted to use oysters but couldn’t find a knife to shuck them. So what the shuck, he decided to go with the clams. Bob thought his presentation was typical Michael a Go-Go™, so by now he’s getting bored of it all. Ted Allen didn’t like seeing the vein in the shrimp. Shuck!
The contestants come back to the table and Ted announces that Michael was in the bottom because his dish wasn’t executed well. Then he names Jeffrey as the winner, which was surprising to me because they all fell over their heels for Melissa’s flavors, and really Jeffrey just made a toast with an egg on top. Anywho, if you’re ever at Aeronuova in JFK, you can order Jeffrey’s gremolata bruschetta.
Commercials. Totino’s pizza roll. Isn’t that just an Italian hot pocket?
We jump to the contestants in a van driving through the streets of Miami. Melissa the Mom comments about how she knows she’s in Miami because she sees the palm trees. Um, didn’t you realize you were in Miami when you landed and it said “Miami International Airport”? Doh.
They drive up to the Eden Rock Hotel, which looks amazing! It’s been a few years since I’ve been to South Beach in Miami so looks like there are some amazing new fancy places. Just as amazing is their suite where they’ll be staying. No more bunk beds! Jamaican Jamika is sooo excited about the digs that she gives off this primal scream that they could hear all the way in Jamaica.
They find a note that says “Meet me in the lobby.” If Gloria Estefan is the author of that note and she’s waiting in the lobby, I’ll DIE! I love her! Come on baby can you do that conga? Ha! Oh, it’s just Ted Allen again. Were they on the same plane, or did he come down in the corporate jet? (As an aside, Estefan is on tonight’s “My Life on the D-List” on Bravo. Yes!)
Ted Allen starts talking about how Miami is famous for its night life and how they have to work as a team to cater a party. Each person has to make two hors d’oeuvres (BTW, I’m going to say appetizers from here on out because hors d’oeuvre is too hard to spell all the time. They should call it pupus like in Hawaii.) and one signature cocktail.
Because Jeffrey won the challenge, he gets to assign everyone’s tasks for the evening. They’re back in their suite on the balcony strategizing about what they’re making. Basically, Jeffrey and Michael will work front of the house and the girls are all in the kitchen with Debbie as the “expeditor.” (Remember that term from Top Chef when Tom Colicchio worked as an expeditor at his own restaurant? It just means the guy barking “where’s the food?!”)
What is that on Jamika’s neck? Is that a scarf or some Elizabethan choker? Anywho, they all start throwing out appetizer dishes they want to make when Melissa the Mom says someone needs to make a vegetarian option. When no one jumped on the idea, she says she’ll make it, which means she’ll be making a total of three appetizers instead of just two.
Next we see they’re at Whole Foods and they have one hour to shop. Debbie finds some daikon and decides to use that as a base for her spicy chicken. Michael a Go-Go™ wants to make some tuna dish but it doesn’t look that fresh so he goes for the salmon.
After some more shopping and Jeffrey stressing about the budget, the contestants arrive at a place called Nicky Beach that has cute little bungalows. They have an outdoor kitchen set up and they have two hours to cook and prep their dishes. Everyone’s making their dishes and we get little glimpse of what they’re making. Debbie is working the big grill and everyone else is in a mad rush to get things just right. Jamika can’t get the jalapenos to be hot enough and Jeffrey can’t get the simple syrup mixture to boil on the stove top. Apparently, things aren’t as hot in Miami as they could be.
While everyone’s scrambling, Debbie is all Zen-like focused on her two appetizers. Seven minutes are left and Jeffrey and Michael want to hand off their dishes to Debbie so they can go take care of the front of the house. But Debbie is all focused on her food, and Michael a Go-Go™ is telling her what to do and she’s all like, gotcha. (I don’t think she was really listening.) Jeffrey instead gets Melissa the Mom to take care of his food.
The judges arrive (Bobby Flay made it back from Connecticut) and all the contestants go out briefly and Jeffrey greets everyone. But it’s more like he’s yelling at the crowd and then he says something in Spanish or Cuban?
Once the party starts, Jeffrey starts passing out the appetizers to the people who are just lounging around the beach area. Jeffrey brings a plate to the judges and Susie’s impressed but Ted Allen notices that Jeffrey just put lump crab meat on top of a store-bought chip.
Things look really crazy in the kitchen, but Jamaican Jamika sneaks away to serve her platter of jerk chicken and mango-cilantro shrimp to the judges. But because she’s feeling the stress of cooking in the kitchen, Jamika pretty much just drops off the tray and says she has to get going. Susie, of course, is the first to notice this slight. Bobby says the jerk chicken needs to be spicier. Ted likes the shrimp but thought it was weird to have the slaw on top.
Melissa the Mom is feverishly cooking five dishes in the kitchen, and she starts to wonder what the hell is Debbie supposed to do as the “expeditor?” If it means she just works on her two dishes, then she’s doing a helluva job. From a far we hear the laughter that can only be Michael a Go-Go™, who’s just playing it up with the drunk crowd at the bar.
Melissa brings out her Miami salmon shooters and Ted loves the idea. She also has a chicken bite with grilled onion and a veggie asada, which is the vegetarian option. Bob says she’s pretty likeable and Ted is impressed that she did three appetizers. Bobby says there are technical issues to the dishes, but you can tell everyone loves Melissa’s personality.
The drinks arrive and Bobby is excited, until he drinks the spicy margarita and complains, again, that there’s no heat. Nothing is heating up in Miami. Meanwhile, Jeffrey goes around asking people if they’ve gotten a bite and of course everyone says no. Jeffrey, one tip: If you’re serving the dishes and you don’t recall serving any to those people, don’t ask them if they’ve gotten enough food. Second tip: Don’t ask people if they’ve had enough to eat if you don’t have any food to offer.
Bobby notices that people are tackling others for a shrimp. So he heads back to see what’s the deal in the kitchen. He asks Jamika how things are going and he says he’s hungry and starts grabbing at some food to eat. Then he leaves and says they need to get the food out. But all the girls are so crazy busy that they just keep on treading water.
Out in the front, Michael is laughing it up with everyone, but he starts to see that no one is getting food. So he heads back to the kitchen and starts to do some cooking. He asks Debbie if she’s been cooking his food and she just pretends to go along. Michael a Go-Go™ takes a plate of his food to the crowds and starts yelling “who loves you?”
The judges are getting a kick out of it, and Michael brings his appetizers to their table. He starts to head off but Ted Allen has him come back to explain his dishes, which were a salmon ceviche and a shrimp in sweet chili sauce. Bobby asks him how he’s doing, and Michael says he loves the crowds. Then he says he loves the live crowds more than he loves the camera. Dun dun duh.
Debbie finally takes a break and brings out her two dishes to the judges, who seem so excited to see her. Tuschman says Debbie’s two dishes were the best he ate all night.
The party’s over, and they’re all dead tired. Everyone knows it wasn’t a success so they’re all dreading the critiques to come.
Commercials. They’re really playing up that “Julie & Julia” movie about the food blogger who cooks every Julia Childs recipe on her blog. They already made a movie about my Single Guy blog, it’s called “The Hangover.” Just kidding.
Looks like it’s the next day, and the worried contestants head into the judges’ room where we see the three judges plus Ted Allen.
Bobby says the biggest problem was getting the food out. He was starving, he says. Jeffrey says the menu was too complicated. Jeffrey says he decided to be the host and assigned Debbie to organize the girls in the kitchen. Debbie says she did the best she could, and her eyes water like she was overwhelmed and no one wanted to help her.
Here’s how the rest of the critique went down:
Jeffrey: He came out strong but over-promised because his food didn’t deliver.
Michael: He’s the host with the most, but not everyone buys that and he can be too much. (No, really?) Plus, his salmon just tasted like a piece of raw fish.
Jamika: People liked her personality, what little they could see of it when she wasn’t rushing away.
Melissa: The vegetable option was a smart move but three appetizers might have been too ambitious.
Debbie: Everyone loved her two dishes and said they tasted the best.
Bobby starts to question Debbie more about her role in the kitchen, trying to figure out why the food wasn’t coming out. She starts explaining how she was drowning in all the work and that she was being “selfless.” But she says there was no way one person could make 11 appetizers.
Then Melissa the Mom jumps in and starts telling the judges how she did her dishes plus Jeffrey’s, and Jamika did hers and Michael’s. So which dish did you do Debbie? The judges sound surprise at this because you could tell they initially thought Debbie was being the martyr so Bob starts trying to figure out who did what and it starts getting confusing.
When they come back from commercials (I know, boring commercials this week), Bob excuses the five so the judges can deliberate. Once outside and back in their suite, Jeffrey starts getting into it with Debbie. Jamika is narrating the fight, and there’s a lot of finger pointing and blame, but mostly between Jeffrey and Debbie.
Back in the judges’ room, Bob seems happier with Jeffrey this week but not with his food. They like Jamika and think she has potential as a food star. Then they all fall over Melissa, who Bob and Susie just LOVES. She is definitely the one to beat. Then they talk about Michael and how he still doesn’t like the camera, and Susie says they saw an unattractive side to Debbie, who didn’t really help her team.
They all say it’s a tough decision, but you know they all just want to give Melissa the win already.
The contestants return and Susie tells Jamika that she’s safe. Then Bobby gives Melissa the safe sign. Then Ted tells Jeffrey that “you get another chance.” Woah, what happened to “you’re safe”? Is Ted being different or sending an indirect message to Jeffrey?
That just leaves Debbie and Michael and Bob says Michael is a gifted entertainer but wonders if that gift will translate in front of a camera. Then he tells Debbie that her food was great, but she didn’t own up to her responsibilities in the kitchen. Something’s wrong with Bob’s voice right now. He sounds like he’s about to cough up a frog or something. Please don’t cry on TV Bob! He tells Debbie she’s moving on, which means Michael a Go-Go™ is really a gone-gone™.
Michael hugs everyone back in the suite and tells them that he’s crying because he’ll miss them. He wishes them well and he tells himself that he’s big and loud and the Food Network will never forget him. Especially since he stole a few plates and a box of cereal while walking out the hotel room.
Next week: They do a live demo with Iron Chef Michael Symon, someone takes away Debbie’s Asian ingredients, and Susie says coo-coo.
The Next Food Network Star airs 9 p.m. Sundays (and repeats at the same time Thursdays) on the Food Network. Check your local listing. Photos courtesy of the Food Network Web site.
Monday, July 13, 2009