Food Network Star Recap: Totally Crazycakes

“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!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. jrs says:

    Alicia…what a friggin mess. She deserved to go. Please, please, please send the big buffoon Chris home next. What a d-bag.

    • lesfull says:

      I agree about Alicia. She seemed like she was probably a very nice person, but I have never watched a show like this and actually got a nervous stomach ache because of a contestant’s total nervous breakdown every week. It actually caused me physical pain. I hope she moves into a less stressful avenue of cooking.

      And yes, please send Arrested Development Chris home next.

  2. Jen H says:

    Oh, the croquembouche. How I hate thee. As someone who worked in catering for 5 years, I never understood the appeal of those things, nor why they are revered as one of the hardest to make and best accomplishments in pastry. It’s cream puffs shaped as a mountain with sugar floss. Yes, the sugar floss is hard to do, and easy to burn yourself with. But it always looks like a mess. Once you start to take puffs off, it looks even worse.

    What bothered me throughout the whole Star Challenge is that Alicia kept saying that she didn’t think she remembered the recipe correctly. Then why are you doing that specific recipe??? Do a different one! Do one you can remember and execute. Nope. Well good, I wanted her gone anyway. And I don’t understand why Susie didn’t explain what happened with her pancake. Admit that you were planning on making a churro but you forgot the oil. Chris was a disaster in the kitchen. How did he keep messing up a basic recipe? He’s the next to go for me and that’s saying a lot when I can’t stand Penny. At least her food turns out good. I’m also glad that Vic finally had one win with his food. But he’s not going to last long in this competition.

    • Anne says:

      In Susie’s defense, it’s possible she did explain about the pancake but that they edited it out to create more “drama”.

  3. j2talk says:

    Well the right contestant got booted… as for the show every one of these reality shows needs a villain, But I’ve seen enough of Penny hopefully the Food Network realizes that her personality would turnoff more viewers then gain them….I for one would NEVER watch a show featuring her,hell I’ve can hardly resist changing the channel when she comes on screen……

    • Sandi B says:

      I agree…she is quite off-putting on camera, and while her food may be delicious, she is completely unlikeable. She looks kind of like some evil gypsy woman…long hair probably falling into food, and I just imagine her cackling like a witch whenever she appears on screen! I was horrified that while the judges were chatting among themselves, that they actually were PRAISING Penny about how she is competitive, but in a more positive way…really???? Was I just overtired and remembered this incorrectly, or were they actually saying good things about her? I assume they must look at all the behind-the-scenes drama, so they have to realize that putting up any money behind Penny or annoying Chris, would just be throwing money down the drain. No one will watch these two people hosting a show, because their personalities and behavior are major turnoffs.

    • Jimmy says:

      Penny reminds me of Liza Garza from a couple seasons ago. Great cook, good food ideas, but not one ounce of likability. Penny might just might make to, say, the final five from shear force of will and good food, but I can’t imagine her getting a series. Of course, I’ve been wrong before.

  4. LORRAINE says:

    “””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.””” Are you crazy, these judges have made mistake after mistake about what people want to see on their channel.
    or the past three years the weakest cook were cchosen to have shows. I did watch the channel 24/7 but only watch cetain shows now. I don’t know who is making the diesicions for the channel but they stink.

    • darclyte says:

      While I didn’t think Big Daddy should have won, and you can argue that Jeffrey should have won instead of Melissa, Aarti was the front runner from the get-go last year and consistently made the best food. Look at the number of challenges she either won or was in the top group. They do seem to be much more focused this year than in prior years as this group, as a whole, is probably the best they’ve had in terms of “cooks” in a long time. They also seem to have been making the right decisions on who to boot thus far. Their problem still though is that they are still looking for a “star” more than just a person who makes good food. Most of the contestants the past few years have been either good cooks or good on camera and not both. This year they seem to mostly have good cooks and the “good camera/bad cook” have been eliminated. So, at least whoever wins SHOULD be a good cook, and they seem to have more than usual who are also good on camera.

      • Gretchen says:

        Jeffrey seems to have done better than Melissa–instead of a cooking show in a studio, he gets to travel around and try great food. Sometimes it seems like the runner(s)-up get a better deal than the winners.

        I couldn’t stand Melissa her year–she bored me. And they aren’t looking for good chefs, just a face to promote the brand. Were I chef, I wouldn’t want anything to do with Food Network. The Cooking Channel, yes. The Food Network focuses on competitions and the “harried mom” home cook with dumbed-down, far from nutritional food.

        And Penny needs to go. Her fall will be delicious TV indeed!

        • darclyte says:

          The interesting thing is that The Cooking Channel is owned by the same people who own The Food Network and it is the “sister” network of FN. Are they doing an aftershow on Cooking Channel this season like they did last year?

    • goody marie says:

      I agree with everything you wrote. I would like to add that I find the show’s selection process very suspect. Howie admits that he doesn’t know that much about cooking. What?? How did he get to the finals? Oh that’s right, he is a disc jockey so the Food Network knew he would talk up his appearance on his radio show which would boost their ratings. Alicia must have been an emotional basket case while trying out for this show. Why did they let her get to the finals? Well if you see her sexy picture in a low cut dress holding a plate of food, you get your answer. I wish they would choose the most talented cooks and not people with quirks, gimmicks, and little cooking ablity. Maybe that’s why previous winners of this show seem to disappear rather quickly. How many previous winners of The Next Food Network Star show currently have shows running on the channel? Can you name any of them? Guy Fieri is their biggest success story and that seems about it. I actually don’t even know why they do this show anymore because their channel seems overrun with cooking hosts already. They are continually advertising new shows with people we don’t know anything about. Why do they feel the need to fit in more people?

      Chris definitely needs to go next. He’d be perfect cooking in any Hooters Restaurant across this country.

  5. Cassie May says:

    Agree–Alicia was a mess and needed to go. Chris should be next. I am finding that I am not liking any of the men this season. Possibly Vic, but that may be more due to his self-deprecating charm than anything else of a culinary nature. I do like Jyll, and Whitney. Orchid is ok, but all her smiling creeps me out a bit after a while. Never trust someone who smiles too much!

    Anyone notice the preview for next week? Does Courteney Cox have it written in her contracts that she must be filmed in soft focus? It was really noticeable, distracting, and duplicitous.

  6. Ken The Great says:

    Too bad they only could only chop one. So many more need to go.

    • Cynthia says:

      I began watching Food Network Star last year. I find the show very enjoyable and for the most part fair. I agreed witht the judges decision last night to let Alicia go. Alicia was a nice person, it’s unfortunate nice doesn’t make for a Food Network Star. She was too nervous and not fun to watch in the kitchen at all. Added to that, most of her dishes did not turn out well. Heaven only knows why she attempted to be a Food Network Star.

      Chris is an accident going somewhere to happen – His days are numbered. Penny is another piece of work. While I would love to taste her food, her on-camera presence is off-putting to say the least. A touch of competitiveness is a good thing, however, she’s downright hateful. It will be a pleasure to watch her departure.

    • puzzled says:

      Do you ever wonder how some of these people even get CAST on these shows? I mean did Juba just kill his addition or something? Did they not realize that Alicia needs subtitles? Or that Justin has NO personality (although his food sounds great – hire him for Food Network kitchens but do not put him on his own show!!) I mean with some of these folks why did they even spend the money to bring them to LA in the first place?
      Yes these are all rhetorical questions I suppose but it seems so much worse this season. I don’t remember anyone being SO bad on camera as Juba and Justin. Gees these past 3 weeks have been SO irritating and cringe inducing.

  7. Yo says:

    If you watch a food network, do you skip out for snack every half hour? This can’t be healthy.

  8. Rose says:

    Alicia had to go, she was very difficult to watch, thereby, everything a Food Network Star is not suppose to be. I do think this show should get rid of the people they know aren’t going to be watchable. And, while Penny seems to know how to cook, she is definitely NOT someone I would enjoy watching week to week. There is nothing warm and inviting about her. I realize this is a competition, but you better be smart enough not to do it with such an arrogant attitude that it turns the audience off.
    Other than that, I got a kick out of your recap :)

  9. L says:

    Penny is evil.

  10. renee says:

    that pix says it all. it was her time. jyll, whitney, and orchid continue to stand out but think there are some surprises still to come.

  11. Pennagirl says:

    This is the first show that I’ve watched all season. To be blunt, I don’t like any of them except Orchid and that name alone is enough for me not to watch a show put out be her. Vic Vegas — use your real name!! You’re not a Vin Diesel wannabe and your not Guy and you’re certainly not a good cook. The women are too childish and sorority house stupid. Any woman that is strong minded and has an opinion that she will stand behind is automatically labeled a **tch or evil. If she were a man, it would be ok, she’d be a leader and strong, assertive. Jyll (spell it normal) and the rest of the women give me that “cheerleader” squad mentality and cliquish. Not a one of them would I watch. Weak season indeed.

    • darclyte says:

      Everytime someone uses that arguement (if she were a man…) I laugh. If a guy acted like Penny, he’d be labeled many names, most of which I can’t print here. He wouldn’t be called a “strong leader.” People can be strong leaders without being jackholes. A jerk is a jerk no matter if they’re an innie or an outie.

      • Pennagirl says:

        NO a man wouldn’t. Sorry, too many of them are jerks that are male and they do not get call these names. What is everyone calling Chris? He’s a jerk, instead he’s called childish and fratboy, compared to Penny those names are less severe.

        • darclyte says:

          Chris also isn’t specifically trying to get people eliminated. He actually tried (and failed) to lead his group. Penny is out for herself no matter the cost. Chris is more of an annoyance, while Penny is cutthroat.

  12. De says:

    Finding someone who can actually cook is not a high priority with these people. You have to remember this is the channel of Semi-Home Made with Sandra Lee – she who makes lasagna with tomato soup, vinegar and cottage cheese (excuse me while I go vomit now).

  13. JGM says:

    If Penny created amazingly delicious recipes that took 5 minutes and only 10 cents to prepare, I would still not watch her show (should she ever have a show). She leaves a bitter aftertaste.

  14. Claude says:

    Penny seems better suited to “Jersey Shore” or “Real Housewives of the Hell’s Angels.”

    • Sheila says:

      JGM – Jersey Shore was exactly what I thought when I saw her. No one else said anything though so I thought maybe it was just me… Loved the Real Housewives comment–so funny and appropriate!!

  15. MK204 says:

    That was absolutely the right choice for elimination and even before the judges whittled it down to the bottom 3, it was a no brainer as to who would go. As you said, Michael, happily the judges didn’t allow her to continue just for the ratings and drama because for me, that would have turned me off. Other shows (I’m looking at YOU, Bachelorette) who allow the dead weights to stay make for a less exciting show. When will they learn? But I digress.

    I like Vic Vegas. There is something that comes through with him and I’m glad the judges are astute enough to see it. Now, maybe he’ll get over his nerves and started kicking some culinary buttskis.

    I have a feeling the winner, however will be Orchid, although she’s not my cuppa. I don’t care for Whitney OR Penny. Come on…Penny??? She makes Martha Stewart look like Mother Theresa.

    Chris has to be next to go. Hands down.

  16. 4F says:

    I still love Penny. Food Network might not be the right venue for her (no cracks about Hell being the right venue for her or anything like that, please), but I think she could do well with her own show. A show about Middle Eastern cuisine would be well worth watching, especially with the wicked(ly funny) Penny hosting it. I think they need to put her on Cooking Channel regardless of what happens on this competition.

    The way they edited it, you knew the boys+Penny were going to beat the girls. They did the old flip flop, where the boys started out chaotic but became focused, and the girls had the opposite trajectory. It was awesome to see Penny and the boys triumph and totally kill Jyll’s strategic team picking. Also, I wanted to slap Jyll at the end when she kept saying “We had a fun day! It’s about having fun!” etc. Ugh, shut up, sunshine! That’s such a cop out! It’s not about fun, it’s about cooking your butt off and beating the competition. This isn’t a jamboree, it’s Food Network Star.

    Oh, and Slezak, you forgot perhaps the best/worst Chris moment of the night, one that got replayed twice: when he’s shouting and grunting about how much he loves ice cream, and he starts to dry hump the mixer. I don’t what?! He needs to go. I think he’ll be the next one eliminated.

    I was glad to see Alicia go. Some of these people are just not cut out for this, and she’s one of those people. She couldn’t handle any pressure. Once again she turned on the waterworks last night. It was her time. Justin Earholes’ time will come soon too I think. He’ll only be able to hide behind his culinary skills for so long. He has no personality.

    p.s. I heart Susie Fogelson.

  17. wygk says:

    It looked like Robert Irvine completely turned around his team… telling them they needed to clean up, get organized, and pick a different leader. Had he not intervened, it’s quite possible his team would have lost, and Chris would be sent home. Doesn’t seem fair at all for a judge to assist.

    • Pennagirl says:

      Then Guy Fieri should have went into his kitchen either and asked questions/made suggestions. Guy must have felt the ladies had it handled, you think he would have NOT made changes if he felt that they were necessary? I believe he would.

  18. Hi All,
    Wow thanks for all the love…JK. If any of you want to know what really went down in Episode 3 visit my blog And for all the Alicia fans out there (all two of you) then you can LIKE my FB page(which you can get to from To all the haters: You don’t have to watch me cook or listen to me anymore…For now anyway;)

    • lesfull says:

      Great behind the scenes blog post. What I find most interesting is what you said about using the recipe that the show gave you and yet you were edited to look like you were using one of your own recipes despite the fact that you couldn’t remember it. Gotta love the “reality” in reality tv.

      I also think it’s interesting that both teams had food thrown away but we only got the shot of Penny going on-and-on-and-on about how much people must have hated your food. She seems pleasant.

    • Gretchen says:

      I wondered about the food being thrown away, if it wasn’t because of the volume of food to be sampled. (Which leads to an aside, how do the judges on shows like this and Top Chef stay trim, trying so much food? Do they not eat regular meals during filming?)

      Between what you said about the reality of the tossed food, and using recipes FN provided, it cheapens FN and makes them look dishonest. All shows edit, yes, but providing recipes and making you look bad for not making your own recipe well (and not mentioning your frosting) just gives them a petty image. If they provided recipes, does that mean you couldn’t do your own, that you had to make what was provided?

      Perhaps Penny is the perfect face and attitude for FN, after all.

    • Huh? says:

      There is nothing about this episode on your site – I only saw one post about it and it was old. I really don’t believe they “gave” you a recipe but I’ll reserve judgement when the post is actually out there.

      • Mort's Gnat says:

        Interestingly, I read Alicia’s blog posting about her elimination episode a day or two after the episode aired. After reading Huh?’s comment, I went to read it again, and it is no longer on her site. I wonder if she gave too much away and offended the Food Network Gods in some manner…

  19. topsyturvy says:

    My favorite scary Penny moment was in the first episode when she did that turning away from the camera only to turn and look back over her shoulder. What she thought was come-hither (when she was still trying to bring sexy back) was really, “Run the other frickin’ way cause this woman is scary as hell!” (And how presumptious of her was it to assume that no one on the Food Network was “sexy?” That it was going to take her skanky ass to bring sexy back into the kitchen)

    Oh, please send Chris home next week!

    This is a pretty dull/annoying group and I’ve watched every season. Maybe, maybed I’d watch Orchid and Justin Bowtie on a semi-regular basis … the others? I’d rather watch paint dry.

  20. Beth T says:

    Well – I was about to agree with the judges’ decision wholeheartedly – until I read Alicia’s blog… Still – I do think she struggled in front of the camera, and that is such a major componenet, it probably would have been the tipping point.

    I have no doubt if Team Robert had lost Chris was a goner, though – as he probably should be. Unless he has a “behind the scenes” story ike Alicia’s. :D

    I agree with most folks that Penny may be a great cook, but I would never watch a show of hers.

    I have to say that at the moment I’m leaning towqrds Justin D, Jyll, Mary Beth and Vic.

  21. Amanda says:

    Galoot, Justin Bowtie, Justin Earrings….HA!! love it! I don’t get around to watching this until Mondays, so I’m late to the comment party. Alicia definitely needed to go. Chris is probably going to be next. I don’t mind the idea of teams on the show, but I don’t think being a member of a winning team should save you if you really suck! They should have picked a weak link from both teams IMO.

    I really don’t have a favorite yet. Usually I have a couple of favorites by now. I wish they’d put some earmuffs on Justin Earrings because I hate gauges. Ick! I’m really looking forward to seeing the cast of Cougar Town next week!!

  22. Alicia deserved to go home for sure. Chris annoys me the most of those left. It seems the judges have already handed the win to Orchid. How ever I still hold out hope for my boys Justine B and Vic.