Food Network Star Recap: Kitchen Fireworks

Sunday night’s installment of Food Network Star taught us two valuable lessons: It’s not easy getting in touch with your inner Guy Fieri. And it’s not advisable to channel your inner Kevin Federline.

The episode kicked off with an extended reminder to watch Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives by sending the 10 remaining contestants to Mel’s Diner in Hollywood, where Fieri gave them pointers in the art of intros, outros, and interview packages that are the hallmark of his signature Food Network series. Penny used her natural charm to berate innocent customers. Orchid turned a simple interview segment into a hyperactive monologue. And Vic nicely summed up his and Susie’s performances on the intro segment: “Susie’s making up words, and I’m walking like Frankenstein.”

Meanwhile, Fieri gave dubious advice to Jyll and Justin D, demanding the former mime playing with her pet dog before the cameras rolled, and insisting the latter “let the tiger come out.” When Justin D finished his segment with four seconds to spare, Guy encouraged him to fill the dead air by throwing peace signs and spitting random words like the world’s whackest white rapper. Suddenly, the mild mannered guy with the nifty spectacles was delivering groaners like, “Justin D! Representing at Mel’s Diner!” I’m surprised he didn’t call in some voluptuous, bikini-clad mamas and start chanting “Popozão! Popozão!”

Oddly enough, no one was declared the winner of the Mel’s Diner challenge, and the judges made no mention of their performances at panel, either. Instead, we dove headlong into the Star Challenge, an All-American Food Festival sponsored by MGD 64 (I can’t believe I just typed that.) “Take this as far off the hook as you want to!” Guy hollered, and before you knew it, Penny had gussied herself up in Betsy Ross drag, Chris was sporting boxing gloves and an Uncle Sam hat, and Jeff was swathed in an American flag cape and his signature red headband. The contestants were each asked to reinvent a particular American classic, perform a three-minute cooking demo for an audience of 150, and then serve their dish to the hungry hordes.

Justin D used the opportunity to dress like a pilgrim and be all “booyahkasha! what-what?,” a move that left the judges panel in a state of total bewilderment. “Does this guy have a new accent?” asked Bobby Flay, as Justin D completed his cooking demo, high-stepped off the stage, gave a ridiculous high kick, then staggered and grasped his thigh in agony from a resultant muscle pull. Honestly, you couldn’t have scripted a more tragi-comic moment. When the selection committee stopped at Justin’s booth to sample his unseasoned burger and pickled watermelon relish, the struggling chef incurred Guy’s ire by acting like a normal human being and abandoning his “mack daddy” stylings. Which raised two important questions: Was Guy purposely trying to sabotage Justin’s chances? And does anyone use the term “mack daddy” anymore? Ultimately, Justin’s lackluster food and ability to deliver the “exact opposite of authenticity” led to his exit. Not that there weren’t several excellent alternatives for elimination this week.

Specifically, Penny and Jyll seemed more interested this week in throwing around reality-show clichés than in landing themselves a hosting gig on Food Netowrk. Penny started the episode yapping about her fellow contestants throwing her under the bus — as if she was on Big Brother or Survivor, instead of a show in which a panel of professionals straightforwardly judge her food and on-air skills. Jyll, meanwhile, huffed and puffed like an seventeenth-place finisher on The Bachelor, insisting some of her competitors weren’t “there for the right reasons.”

Wretched as Penny’s personality is, though, I’ve got to admit I chuckled watching her imitate Jyll as a malfunctioning doll whose battery pack gets pulled, and later, rag on her rival’s rigid P.O.V.: “Do you have anything besides Packers and cheese to go on?” Indeed, Jyll’s abject terror at drawing the “carne asada” card, and her inability to tweak the recipe into an tasteful treat that reflected her own skill set, didn’t display the kind of authority you’d want in a Food Network host. Bobby’s critique of her grim food said it all — “It looks like somebody’s five-year-old made this taco.” — as did Susie Fogelson’s summation of Jyll’s personality: “She has a rigidity and eternal perkiness I can’t relate to.” Ouch.

Back at the house, though, Penny became her own punch line, whining that nobody liked her while boasting that her personality was “dramatic” and “overly confident.” I mean, the woman is one step away from collecting her competitors’ hair and adding it to her giant cauldron; she doesn’t really expect to be toasting marshmallows and singing “Kumbaya” with them after-hours, does she?

Other highlights from the week:

* I love how Chris is trying to erase the selection committee’s impression that he’s just an overgrown frat boy by squawking things like “two hun’j on shrimpies!” (that’s imbecile for “I’d like $200 worth of shrimp”), violently shaking his work station during cooking hours, and making Beavis-style jokes about “nuts” when interacting with the general public. If he lasts another two episodes, I’ll be stunned.

* Orchid’s credibility once again took a hit when she told Bobby she’d normally cook her brisket for 15 hours, but only had two hours to complete the challenge. “So it’s 13 hours undercooked?” asked the superstar chef. Brutal.

* Susie made a major move forward this week, working out her manic energy and giving a heartfelt and funny demo. Plus, her decision to replace mayonnaise with avocado in her cole slaw was the kind of nifty twist on a classic recipe that Food Network audiences adore.

* At the moment, though, I’d say the Season 7 front-runners are Jeff and Vic, but both guys need to fine-tune their senses of humor if they’re going to go the distance. I appreciate Jeff’s wit and his love of sandwiches, but Bob Tuschman was right that he can’t forget to infuse his performances with his natural warmth and relatability. Or, in other words, slamming a knife into a butcher’s block and leaping into the audience probably isn’t the best way to end a demo. And am I the only one who would’ve enjoyed Vic’s demo a lot more if he’d left the pink “Bam Bam” wig on the shelf and simply stuck with his homsepun tales of cooking with grandma and his intriguing-looking recipe for lobster rolls?

What did you think of this week’s Food Network Star? Did the right person go home? If you were in charge, who’d get the boot next: Jyll, Penny, or Chris? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality 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. Jo says:

    No doubt the right person went home last night. Although Jyll was off the entire episode, she probably had the best description of Justin D but saying he was not simply trying to show his personality but was actually changing into an entirely different person….a not one that was even remotely entertaining to watch.

    Which brings me to Penny. Here is my issue with Penny: she may be the best middle eastern chef ever but watching her wretchedness on this show holds no appeal to me to ever watch any show she would host. I watch Next Food Network Star for a variety of reasons and I almost always watch the selected stars show, at least at the beginning. I won’t even consider doing that for Penny because of how she acts on this show.

    Jeff is right…Vic is the dark horse in this competition. After last night Vic has become the one to watch.

    • iceturkee says:

      i wouldn’t watch penny either. she would have to undergo a major transformation for me to even remotely consider. she doesn’t have the warmth and personality that either melissa dearabian or aarti have. and i watch both of their shows.

    • Stacie says:

      Totally agree on Penny. Does she not understand that people have to want to watch her after this is all said and done? Bobby, Bob, et al are not stupid. They want to pick someone people will actually like. Penny’s food might be amazing, but I take heart in the fact that she has zero chance to win this. I wish they’d just get her off my screen ASAP. So unpleasant to watch. If I wanted manufactured drama I would tune in to Big Brother or The Bachelor! I want to see good cooking + enjoyable personalities.

      • Jo says:

        “I want to see good cooking + enjoyable personalities.”

        Exactly. The person inside the TV must be able to connect with the person watching. For instance, I really liked Justin B, but boy, his uncomfortableness in front of the camera last week and in front of the audience was so hard to watch. And I realized, that no matter how cute he was or how creative he could have been with his seafood, I don’t think I would ever be able to connect with him on that viewer level. So his going home last week didn’t really bother me. Every time I see Penny, I always flash back to one of her unpleasant moments (pick one as they are numerous) and it just makes me turn away and tune out.

    • Anne says:

      Agreed with everyone about Penny being so unlikeable and unwatchable. Ironically enough, Penny mentions that she doesn’t want any drama and is tired of it, yet she’s the cause of most, if not all, drama that happens in the house. I’m eager for her to be gone from the show… I’m tired of the drama as well!

      • Gretchen says:

        Indeed. I laughed when Judge Susie commented “you have to remember she (Penny) is a human being!” Um, Susie, it is Penny who is treating everyone else as if they are not humans deserving of respect.

        I think the judges are starting to see Penny’s attitude for what it is after her blow-up last night. Anyone see the previews where Giada castigates someone for not seeing that they are a “Food Network family?” Seems that Penny’s time is running out. She just comes across harsh and bitter. Perhaps her show could focus on vinegar and sour grapes.

        I loved seeing Vic turning around this week and Wendy, though she is a Rachel Ray clone in looks. Jyll and Chris are basically just there to hold on for another couple weeks. And Orchid has a point–just because she was so great in the beginning, she is held to a higher standard.

        But at this point, I think it is Vic’s to lose. A man hasn’t won in a few years and his show would be the most unique.

      • Amber says:

        I watched this episode with my four-year-old playing in the room. When they were lining up for elimination, he informed me, “I want the red dress lady to go home. She’s mean.” When she stayed, he yelled, “Not fair, she’s a bad guy!” I agree with my son, but if it’s so obvious that he gets it, it does make me wonder if we have some editing at work.

  2. dave says:

    um, not funny. you should probably just leave the next food network star recaps to FOOD NETWORK HUMOR. or get the girl who writes them to do them here, because this was a huge fail.

    • Jo says:

      For you maybe. So don’t read them. Use your power of the mouse to go elsewhere.

    • Jimmy says:

      Maybe we’re reading different articles because nothing about this recap was meant to satirical, so your rude comments makes no sense. If you want to advertise another site, then fine, but don’t act like a child in doing so.

    • Mica says:

      Actually, it’s food network humor that’s the fail. I used to read that blog but stopped quite some time ago. It started out well, but devolved to sounding like it’s written by an entitled, pretentious 15-year-old with an equally developed sense of humor.

      • dave says:

        Right that’s why Alton Brown is a continual financial backer of the website? LOL nice try. Enjoy your boring recaps here with 20 comments, I’ll be with the cool people at FNH. Later tools

  3. Barney says:

    Agree on Penny. She may be an awesome cook but her heart is like a black shriveled pea. Would never watch her if they made the mistake of giving her a show. She’d make a better contestant on Survivor than Food Network.

  4. gt says:

    Penny is annoying true but her food is good. I wouldn’t watch her show either. I don’t like all her drama plus I want to see more cooking. Chris’ days r numbered he or Orchid are next. Maybe Jyll since Susie doesnt like her much. I thot Justin wld go this wk he almost went home last wk he was struggling but Guy didn’t really help him find himself either.

  5. Don’t know what it is about this show that fascinates me but I enjoy it over most of the other summer fare. I am not a fan of reality shows because the Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants aren’t talented. These “Food Network” contestants are – they can cook! Howie got booted off first because he wasn’t a good cook. Penny, Chris, Jyll may not be the best personalities of the group but they are good cooks and that is what makes this show worth watching.

  6. darclyte says:

    I thought that Justin “hurting his leg” was part of the “Schtick” of his stage performance. He didn’t really seem injured, and there was nothing about it afterwards.

    I think it’s pretty clear that Jyll, Penny, and Chris are not long for this competition. No way do they want an even LESS mature “Guy Fieri” with Chris, and his food has just been so-so. Jyll & Penny have made themselves “unlikable,” so there’s no chance either will win.

    Orchid is someone they LIKE to win, but she just isn’t stepping up. Vic and Jeff may be front runners but really don’t add to the FN lineup. If Penny wasn’t such an unlikable hag, they’d like to have her win because FN is lacking a Middle Eastern food host (just as they’re lacking an Asian food host,) and she does seem to be a decent cook for the most part.

    • Jo says:

      You called it with regard to Orchid. I think Bob T and Susie would love for Orchid to be the winner BUT she simply hasn’t come through in a way that shows star power. In the first week she was doing great…since then, not so much. As for Vic and Jeff…I think it really depends on what you mean on adding to the line up. If they have true star power and people tune in, then “adding” to the line in terms of type of food means very little to the bottom line.

      • darclyte says:

        What I mean in that Jeff and Vic not “adding” to the FN roster is that they had a “joker” like Jeff in Adam Gertler who hosted a recap of FNS last season on The Cooking Channel (are they doing it this year too?) and he had a show called “Kid in a Candy Store,” but I don’t think that’s in production anymore. Also Tom from last year is another “joker,” and I don’t know how well his show “Outrageous Food” performed as it was kind of a “rip off” or “Man vs Food.” Vic is interesting, but I don’t know how appealing a series with him would be. He might be good as a host for crazy food challenges, like food eating, but…I don’t know. I can see a show with Orchid, but she REALLY has to step up to reclaim her early mojo.

  7. L says:

    I think Vic is the frontrunner, with Susie second. Penny HAS to go next because the show is becoming unwatchable because of all of her drama. Chris would be next, then Jyl.

    Penny is evil.

  8. Broseph says:

    If Penny weren’t so awful as a person, her show would win me over hands-down; Middle Eastern food is really good and can be fairly healthy, which would be a pleasant change on Food Network. Vic is the one I like the most, but I don’t get what he’s about–are home cooks really going to use caviar to “Vegas” up their food?

  9. Jimmy says:

    I’ll admit it, I watch this show every summer. I never watch the winner’s cooking show, but I like watching the process as they whittle the group down to a final two or three. The thing is, every season I’ve watched FNS (since season 3) I’ve always drawn to 1 or 2 people right off. The only season that hasn’t occurred is season 4 because to this day I can’t stand Aaron McCargo, Jr. or Adam Gertler. They would have been better off giving the job to ice queen Lisa Garza. She was at the very least interesting and a great chef. I was an Aarti fan right off the bat. This season, however, reminds me a lot of season 4. No one looks all that interesting or watchable.

    • ten says:

      Penny is too aggressive which is dissappointing because I would like to see more shows showcasing different ethnic foods.

      My favorite is still Orchid and hopefully she can step up her game.

  10. Jack says:

    But if you aren’t watching the actual shows, then by definition, for you, no one on any season is watchable.

  11. Tami says:

    Something that annoyed me: it may have been incredible, but Penny’s lamb kebab business was straight up classic Middle Eastern cuisine. In no way was it a creative twist on sausage & peppers. I believe Bobby that it tasted amazing but seriously–anyone else utterly lacking creativity would get slammed!

    • Gretchen says:

      Didn’t they slam Jyll for lack of creativity? Yet Penny gets kudos for the same…Penny isn’t stepping outside her own “box” much and when she has (mac n’cheese), she is awful.

      I found Penny’s chiding Jyll for being one-dimensional amusing for that reason. Penny may do her genre well, but it’s all she can do!

    • Lori says:

      I agree. I didn’t see the relation to her dish and her assignment at all. The fact that the judges gave her a free pass about it says that they want to keep her around for a while.

      I am also sick of Susie calling her a confident woman…a confident woman doesn’t need to be rude or snarky because a confident woman doesn’t build her condfidence by putting everyone else down.

    • la says:

      Agreed. When Penny slammed Jyll for being “Packer & cheese” all I could think was that Penny is equally uncreative. The only reason no one is noticing it, is that they seem to be equating ME food as unique since no one else is doing it. Her ME food efforts may taste good (b/c let’s face it, ME food is GOOD!) but they aren’t original, inventive etc. And when she’s done non-ME food (burnt cheese?) she’s failed – a sign of someone who doesn’t understand cooking.

  12. 4F says:

    I’m still on the Penny train, but not in the sense that I’m rooting for her to win. I know she’s not cut out for this so I wish her much luck in the restaurant world. Doesn’t she already own a restaurant or two or three? She should build a Middle Eastern restaurant empire.

    Chris is a moron, and yes I would be very surprised if he went on much further.

    I wish Orchid would get it together because she seemed so promising in the beginning.

    Whitney found a groove this week, but I don’t believe she’ll be able to keep it up. Call me cynical, but that’s just how I see it.

    Mary Beth…meh, I just do not get what the judges see in her.

    Jeff continues to be somewhere near the top of the pack, but I don’t know if he’ll ever fully pull ahead of the competition.

    I like Vic more and more. I thought the wig was funny and it disarmed people in the right way. “Okay, the big scary guy with tattoos has a silly sense of humor.” I agree with Jeff when he called Vic “the biggest sleeper in this competition.”

    I cannot stand Jyll. Ugh. I find her phony; remember how they kept comparing her to a newscaster this week? She has that kind of forced friendly veneer. She’s midwest nice, and she needs to go back to Wisconsin and stay there.

    • darclyte says:

      I find Mary Beth as trying to be more “lively” than she is. She might make for a decent host of food based interview show, but and I HATE to say this, but she looks a little too much like the “Guy Fawkes” mask from “V For Vendetta.” Sorry. Whitney is not bad on the eyes and knows a lot about food, but she also seems to be “forcing” a personality that just isn’t her natural self. Whitney, Mary Beth, and Jyll are all very calm, cool, collected people for the most part, and not particularly exciting. They all are trying, but a “tv personality” just isn’t who they are. Jyll is probably the most “out spoken” of the 3, but typically only in regards to Penny and her own lack of adaptability to each challenge.

  13. Mark says:

    Jeff and Vic are the front runners? Well, good to know, saves me the half hour for watching a new Food Network show. Jeff is the kind of person who merely having him in the room would be offputting. He’s so grating I can’t imagine why or how anyone would find him likable. And, I dunno, but a sandwich show is maybe good enough for the Cooking Channel, but on Food Network, it plays a little amateur to me. He’d need a Melissa-like revamp to actually have a show. But I won’t be watching.

    Vic is likable, but his on-camera performances together have yet to reach 3 on the 10 scale — all added up. Either he lights up the next time the camera is on, or he’s not happening. Some people just can’t relate to the camera, maybe Vic is one of them. And, honestly, Vic Vegas? Use your real name. I have no interest in the lounge act name. The guy clearly knows something about cooking and seems genuine enough, but it needs to be real.

    • la says:

      I could care less about Vic as a chef … but I might be inclined to watch a show about the Vegas food scene with him as host.

      • Mark says:

        That’s an idea I could get into. Vegas is an amazing restaurant town. Camera access might be tricky, but there is off-peak time and they only shoot 10-13 eps of those shows anyway.

  14. jrs says:

    Really enjoy this show! While Penny will never win, she makes great TV. Love watching her on this screen, her scowls, her drama. Right now I’m on the Vic bus for the win. I like him, he’s entertaining, different. seems to know food. Hurry and get that doofus Chris off my screen. Cannot stand that d-bag. And Jeff can quickly follow. Not at all a fan of him. Was sorry to see Justin go last night, but it was his time. And as the writer noted, I don’t get at all why they did the first challenge and never addressed the winner or anything about it. Did they just run into an editing issue where they ran out of time because of all the other good stuff?

  15. Paige says:

    As much as I liked Justin D I had a feeling he was gonna get the boot after what happened last week, it was a shame though because in the interviews he seems much more lively then he did on the show.

    I’m thinking a guy is going to get it this year. But, as far as the girls I think of Susie probably having the best shot.

    Not really sure who I’m pulling for now but I like Vic thus far. I haven’t seen much of a true stand out this season though, which seems odd this late in the game.

  16. Claude says:

    Sad to see hot/cute nerdy Justin D eliminated, even though he deserved to go. I think the potential was there, but for whatever reason, he couldn’t figure out who he was and how to present himself.

    Thought it really strange, considering the importance of appearing comfortable on camera, that the judges never commented on the on-camera challenge. I was hoping to see the final edits and learn who was declared the winner.

  17. Merle says:

    Personally I would watch Whitney do anything.

  18. Christy says:

    Penny is on the wrong show. She would be better on Master Chef or Hell’s Kitchen. Hoping that we’re going to forget that she is a nasty mean person is not going to endear her to Food Network brass in the long run. I’m sure that all the judges watch the footage (and probably more that we’re not seeing) and they are not stupid. Because nobody wants to watch her. And Gordon Ramsey does nasty much better.

  19. Rumpelteazer says:

    I also thought it strange that the on-camera challenge appeared to be an afterthought this week; it just seemed like a long promo for Guy’s show. Then I noticed that the FN store has slashed Fieri’s DVDs to $1. Perhaps DDD has taken a nose dive in ratings and they want to draw in FNS viewers? Didn’t work for me – he used to be amusing, but now comes off as an immature cretin.

    I’m with those here who want to see Penny axed. It seems that the producers just keep her around for reality show drama, but if I wanted to watch that kind of bitter back-biting, I’d switch to vile Ramsey’s “Hell’s Kitchen”. I thought FNS was better than that.