“The proof is in the pudding, man. And the pudding is in the garbage.” Indeed, Jeff’s not-metaphorical description of frenzied, mealy mouthed Alicia’s doughy, under-baked lemon cupcake “lollipop” pretty much sums up the action from Sunday night’s installment of Food Network Star.
It couldn’t have been easy for the show’s producers to say goodbye this early in the season to a woman who was guaranteed to cook up a full plate of crazy on a weekly basis, but I’ve got to give props to the judges for once again carrying out their objective of finding an authoritative, charismatic host of a Food Network series, and not giving free passes to folks who make for “good TV.” I mean, in Alicia’s own words, her performance during this week’s dessert challenge was “horrifying” and “embarrassing.” The fact that she’d been to pastry school yet struck out not only on the aforementioned “team dessert” — which was tossed into the dumpster by party guests along with so many cocktail napkins — but on something as simple as a vanilla bean cupcake with a cookie dough center and a fondant star (her individual contribution) was a devastating blow to her credibility. (The full TKO for Alicia may have come when guest judge Duff Goldman couldn’t find said cookie dough in his dessert. Whoops!)
In her defense, it seems that Alicia never really managed to get comfortable on camera/in a competitive setting/on our home planet. Take her performance in this week’s Camera Challenge, where her rambling monologue about craving chocolate as a child led into a panicked and not remotely believable anecdote about how she and her siblings would put the sweet stuff on everything — even sandwiches. Alicia’s defining moment in the show, perhaps, was when she failed to push a cart loaded with supplies over a doorway bump, looked around with panic and bewilderment, and cried “I need a lot of help right now!” Much like her signature cupcake, Alicia looked the part on the outside, but was missing a key ingredient at the center.
Getting back to this week’s Star Challenge, the contestants were split into two teams — Jyll chose to work with all the remaining women except Penny; while the men and our resident Disney villainess combined forces — and asked to each make an individual dessert, plus work together on two team desserts. I know she’s a wretched she-beast, but I did have to chuckle at Penny’s glee over her rivals’ cupcake debacle. “Look! Look! Look! Look!” she cried out giddily while making a gagging gesture into the trash. “Not one cupcake eaten!”
So while the ladies’ team did have its successes — Orchid’s pecan pie with bacon crust, Jyll’s caramelized banana sandwich and chocolate soup, Whitney’s raspberry creampuff piled into something I couldn’t spell or comprehend without the help of Google (aka a croquembouche) — it was the dudes who ruled the day via Justin Bowtie’s corn and basil pudding, Penny’s saffron rice pudding, and Vic’s lime cream puff with chocolate tequila glaze.
The guys’ win was probably the only thing that saved ridiculous galoot Chris this week. You just knew the guy was headed for disaster from the opening moments of the episode, when he rolled out of bed in his navy blue skivvies and declared his intention to take on a “leadership role” in the competition. (Why not start by putting on shorts and a t-shirt before bedtime when you’re sharing a room with your fellow contestants?)
Chris’ failures began with the Camera Challenge, where Giada De Laurentiis called him out for writing notes on his hand — not the cutest on-camera look — and snowballed into the Star Challenge, where he made the following tactical errors:
* Producing not one, but two awful batches of chocolate ganache cake (he at least had the common decency to put them in the trash himself)
* Turning out an apple tart that guest judge Robert Irvine described as looking like raw chicken (personally, I thought the individual slices resembled wedges of lard with beets)
* Dropping two of those pies on the floor (in a bit of physical comedy worthy of NBC’s Thursday-night lineup)
* Hooting and hollering in the kitchen like a drunken frat boy (sample repartee: “Pump it! Pump it up!”)
* Boasting “I’m amazing in public” just prior to delivering his presentation directly to Bobby Flay and ignoring the other four members of the selection committee (“There are five of us here!” said Susie Fogelson, looking devastatingly lovely in a black and white print dress)
* Cluelessly declaring “this is the first time I’m excited about evaluation!” right before another brutal evisceration by the judges
My favorite Chris moment this week, though, came when Bobby Flay compared him to “a one-year-old horse who needs to be broken.” Chris looked up rather mournfully and responded, “I’m getting broken day by day.”
Other notable developments from the week:
* Justin Bowtie continuing his ascent with his corn-basil pudding (even if Robert Irvine got huffy when Justin didn’t take his advice and add whole kernels to the mix). Susie is right, though, his on-camera personality can’t be limited to a couple of funky accessories. “When you say you have a big personality, I actually find it kind of shocking, because I’ve seen a more or less meek personality,” she said.
* Vic’s recovery from “Vegas-style,” chocolate-dipped asparagus (“tasted as horrible as it sounded,” said Bob Tuschman) to his triumphant Star Challenge dish (declared best in show by Mr. Flay). I do love Vic’s self-depricating humor, though, and got a big laugh when he said if he failed one more challenge he’d have to appear on Irvine’s other show, Worst Cooks in America.
* I also chuckled at Bob’s snippy critique of Justin Earrings’ kettle corn with white truffle honey butter: “What about the other 5 hours and 59 minutes?” Maybe dude should’ve made white truffle honey candy corn.
* Burning question: Why was Penny holding up a giant hankie to her nose at judges’ table? (Was she trying to hold in some surplus evil leaking out of her nose?)
What did you think of this week’s Food Network Star? Did the right person go home? Are you glad the judges seem focused on getting rid of the worst performing contestant every week, or would you rather see the crazies get more screentime? And which contestants are you rooting for after three weeks of competition? Sound off below, and for all my reality TV recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!