Monday, July 20, 2009

NFNS: Season 5, Episode 7

Jamaking-me-Crazy in Miami

Previously: The grill’s fired up in Miami and Bobby Flay wants the food out. Jeffrey says Debbie said “whatevs” about helping, but she says she was just being selfless. Michael has a lot of personality but not for the Food Network, so he and his Lorax hair are gone.

Opening scene of Jeffrey on the balcony looking out contemplatively. Debbie thought she was going home, so now it’s her turn to prove herself. The final four walk out to the hotel pool, which looks amazing, and they’re greeted by a very serious Chef Michael Symon of Iron Chef America. He’s wearing a white jacket ala Miami Vice and Debbie calls him a “culinary monster,” which sounds a bit scary.

Symon tells them that they have to demo a recipe live on a local morning show. Then he sends them on their way. Again, why so serious? Where’s his trademark hyena laugh? I notice Food Network stars aren’t as personable when they appear on this show as guest judges. Weird.

The contestants arrive at the South Florida live studio and the host tells the TV audience that they’re going to play tricks on the contestants when they come out. This host totally looks like he’s on some Web TV show selling household goods. Is this all South Florida has to offer?

Debbie is up first and she’s making catfish with edamame succotash. Chef Symon is watching with his serious face in the back with the other judges Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson. Symon tells them that they’re going to swap out the catfish with chicken and hide cooking utensils to try to trick Debbie up. But really, she doesn’t get fazed at all, moving along smoothly by using her hands to beat the eggs (gross) and saying you can use the recipe for chicken as well as catfish (that was smooth). Overall she kept her composure and the judges love it.

Next is Melissa the Mom and the host pretends to forget her name and keeps calling her Debbie. Then he tries to help Melissa to cook by adding a whole bunch of hot sauce to the dish, pretty much ruining the tapenade that she was making. Melissa keeps looking at the guy and saying “is this a joke?” and she also talks really fast, which seems to annoy Tuschman, who calls her frantic. Debbie is watching in the back and basically laughing at her. When Melissa comes off stage, she knows something was up and that this was the twist to the challenge.

Jeffrey goes in to do his demo, and boy is he tall standing next to the host. He’s making a gorgonzola and pear grilled cheese sandwich, and the camera guy says there are problems with his mic so they bring in the big boom microphone and then later hands him a hand-held microphone. Jeffrey keeps on talking, although I thought it would have been smart to playfully ask the host to hold the microphone for him while he continued cooking. I mean, at one point he was literally holding a knife to the host as he juggled the microphone and knife in one hand.

Jamaican Jamika is the last one, doing an herb-roasted chicken breast. Bob Tuschman in the back is rooting for her to smile because she’s a bit serious-looking. Then the cameraman plays a trick on her by coming up super close, which I personally don’t like when people do that to me. I’m all into my personal space. Sometimes as I’m waiting for the bus, this same woman walks by every day and she literally is within six inches of my face as she walks by when the entire sidewalk is open. She’s one of those people that have to walk close to a wall of a building so she’s always walking up next to me as I stand by the wall waiting for the bus. Ugh, I hate it. Anywho, Jamika doesn’t like it too and at one point she hits the cameraman accidentally as she tries to bring out her chicken from the oven. In her mind she’s thinking “what kind of low-budget operation do they run here in South Florida?” When she joins the rest of the gang, they tell her she’s been Punk’d like the rest of them.

Afterwards, Symon lets them know that it was all a trick, like they couldn’t have guessed it by now. Then the judges give little tidbits about their performances before announcing Debbie as the winner of this challenge. She’s all excited because it’s her first challenge win, and then I notice for the first time that Debbie likes to wave “hi” and “bye” with two hands. I always get nervous when people do that because they’re like “wash-on, wash-off.” Why can’t you just wave with one hand like normal people?

Back at the hotel, Jamaican Jamika is sad about her performance and she’s standing outside the balcony looking contemplatively. They really like to get the contestants out there posing like they’re looking into their future. Must be some magical balcony.

Commercials. That dog in the Brawny commercial looks like a big skunk from behind.

The contestants wake up and now it’s Melissa the Mom’s turn to stand by the balcony and look contemplatively. I think the only one who has not stood by the balcony is Debbie, but we have half an hour to go so you never know.

The four arrive at the pool and Chef Symon is there, and there are four massive grills and work stations set up outside. Symon introduces Michael LaDuke, who’s the senior executive chef of Red Lobster (which is a major advertiser given the commercials we see at every break). The chef says the winner of this challenge will get their dish on the menu, and again I don’t get how this is a great prize since they don’t get any residuals from people ordering their dish.

They have 45 minutes to make a dish featuring a fish with some kind of shellfish. Debbie gets to pick first since she won the challenge, and she goes for tilapia, which is a popular white fish in Asian dishes but also one of the cheapest.

Melissa grabs the artic char, which looks like salmon, and Jamika goes for mahi mahi (Hawaii’s own). I didn’t hear what Jeffrey chose because all that’s stuck in my mind is that he just said he’s going to use lots of chilies so he can “blow Bobby (Flay’s) mouth.”

Speaking of Bobby Flay, he arrives looking all Desi Arnaz with his hat, and then he tells Chef Symon to stop everyone. Then Symon goes around and asks each contestant what they’re making, and as they’re talking, Bobby tells Symon to take away the ingredients they planned to use to spice up their dishes.

So for Jeffrey, they take all his heat and replace them with an Asian pantry, which I think is actually an advantage because I think Asian sauces are easy to cook with. Jamika has her pineapple taken away from her and she almost throws a fit, while Melissa gets a whole dozen of habaneroes to cook with and Debbie gets some Mediterranean ingredients: olives, capers and anchovies.

Commercials. Citi says not to use your pet name as a password (but your porn name will do). I wouldn’t be caught dead in those college dorm rooms decorated by Wal-Mart.

All four look really confused about their new ingredients, especially Jeffrey and Jamaican Jamika. For awhile Bobby goes around checking up on the four with Symon, and then later on the judges start peppering each with questions about what they’re doing.

At one point, Melissa the Mom is going over her steps and she’s talking to the camera about what she’s doing. And then Susie asks her who she’s talking to and she says herself, and everyone laughs. I actually sometimes do that too when I’m cooking, but I use my inside voice.

Bob Tuschman asks Jamika way she looks so focused. She tells her that she’s pissed because she’s so stressed. I guess Jamika won’t be wearing the T-shirt with the words “Never let them see you sweat” on it.

Speaking of sweating, who’s bright idea was it to cook outside in the Miami heat? I would hate to do that.

Finally, Jamika grills her celeriac, which Bobby replaced the pineapple with, and she likes the flavor and then decides to cut them up and throw them into her “Jamika-me-crazy rice.”

Commercials. This is one thing I thought I’d never see … Crisco extra virgin olive oil. What the …?

Everyone’s still cooking, and Melissa sure is smiling a lot. You know, I think it’s great when people can put on a happy face. But sometimes I get suspicious of TV people smiling non-stop. Don’t their jaws hurt? Maybe that’s why Symon is so serious when he’s on this show because he’s probably too tired from smiling on his own.

They present their dishes to the judges. Debbie’s up first and she made a rub for her tilapia. Bobby asks where’s the capers? And she says it’s in the sauce, but then she remembers she didn’t put them in the sauce, so then she pretends that there weren’t any capers. Bobby goes, um, yeah, there were capers, olives and anchovies. Debbie says it’s her bad for forgetting to include them. (I didn’t realize they had to use all the ingredients Bobby gave them either. He wasn’t necessarily very clear with his instructions.)

Melissa the Mom made a habanero-marinated fish and scallop and Bobby liked the balanced flavor of the habanero, which can be super hot. Tuschman, of course, comments on how she was calm and positive and “a joy to watch.”

Jeffrey is nervous about his dish, but everyone seems to be really happy with the Asian spin. Bobby comments about how Jeffrey is always making Mexican flavors and that it was nice to see him break out of his comfort zone. Jeffrey looks like he’s about to cry.

Finally, Jamaican Jamika presents her citrus grilled mahi mahi with Jamika-me Crazy rice, whatever the hell that is. Symon says he was disappointed about the way she didn’t really embrace the challenge, and Tuschman says it was painful to watch her as she muddled through what she was going to make.

Back at the hotel, Jamika is sad and starts crying because she knows she sucked. Maybe she needs to stand on the magic balcony again and then she’ll feel better?

Commercials. Yoplait frozen yogurt? Can you imagine? One day a worker at Yoplait accidentally puts his yogurt cup in the freezer and then (light bulb) decides to call it frozen yogurt. Oh. My. Gawd.

It’s judgment time, with Chef Symon joining in the deliberations. Since we’re nearing the end, you can bet we’ll constantly be hearing comments about “you’re all stars, but are you a star for today or tomorrow?”

Here are how the critiques when down:

Jeffrey: They liked what he did this week, but Bobby asks about his cooking show and Jeffrey talks about “Cooking Without Borders,” which, come on, is a stupid name because people will think of Doctors Without Borders and automatically think the show is about cooking in Cambodia or something. The judges say he hasn’t really shown many borders, and just one—south of the border. And then Tuschman calls him vanilla.

Jamaican Jamika: Bobby says she wasn’t Jamaican enough and Symon says she shutdown in her two challenges. Jamika says if you want attitude, you’re going to get it, but Susie says not for our network. In fact, Susie says “coo-coo” for the second week in a row, saying how Jamika is coo-coo for not smiling more because that’s her winning asset.

Melissa the Mom: Everyone liked the use of habanero and when they ask her why she should stay, she says she’ll be an expert among all the stay-at-home moms. And her attitude scares Bobby for a bit.

Debbie: Symon liked how she handled herself, but Bobby brings up the whole Capergate again, and then Susie starts to question how Debbie’s always stretching the truth a bit to “cover” herself, recalling last week’s “selfless” moment. Then Debbie breaks down because she says Susie called her untruthful and how that’s so hurtful.

Commercials. That BMW driving machine commercial is so weird because it shows the car driving on a big canvas with paint on the wheel but then they don’t show the finished piece. What? Is it too ugly to show? Kind of defeats the purpose of the ad, don’tcha think?

When we come back, Jeffrey is named the winner of the Red Lobster challenge, and now you can dine on Jeffrey’s dish both at Red Lobster and the Jet Blue terminal in New York. Woo-hoo! Next: The cafeteria at your child’s school.

So that just leaves the three girls left, and Bob asks them to each say something to convince them why they should keep them. Debbie says she likes to teach people and she has a unique culinary point of view, Jamika says she’ll be a star forever and “love me or hate me you’re not going to forget me” and Melissa plays the home cook card again.

Then they’re excused while the judges deliberate. Symon feels Jamika performed the worst this week, while Susie is totally loving Melissa the Mom. Symon likes Debbie, but Bobby doesn’t think she’s giving 100 percent.

The three return for judgment and Bob sends Jamika packing. “Oh well,” she says, like it’s “no biggie.” Jamika says she has no regrets, and then Debbie is talking about how she’s in the final three and she can just taste victory. Or maybe that’s just the capers.

Next time: Melissa dose her Julia Childs imitation, looks like they’re cooking for some major chefs in a beautiful dining room, and Bobby Flay is frustrated.

After the show, there’s a Red Lobster commercial with Jeffrey and that Red Lobster executive chef, but what’s interesting is that they got rid of the fancy French name for Jeffrey’s dish (some kind of ala nage or whatever) and the fancy fish Jeffrey used has been replaced with tilapia. Told you they were cheap.

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.

Previous recaps:
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6

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