One contestant took delicious, expensive lobster and buried it under gloppy gobs of cream cheese (terrifying image embedded at the end of this recap). Another made a screeching alley-cat sound as a way to escalate her war of words with a fellow female finalist. But in the end, it was the person who got criticized for “simmering” while other rivals were “at a full boil” that ended up getting the boot on this week’s installment of Food Network Star. If outcome didn’t really make total sense, perhaps this handy translation tool will help:
You see, when judge Bob Tuschman used that stovetop analogy to describe Orchid’s not-quite-intense-enough persona, what he was really trying to say was this: “Sorry, but we filled the bubbly, curvaceous ‘ethnic-food lady’ slot when Aarti Sequeira won Season 6.” And thus, when Orchid delivered a lackluster dish and tepid on-camera performance — Tyler Florence’s advice for her to get a “decent rolodex of good adjectives” was particularly astute — the selection committee took the opportunity to hit the “eject” button and send her home. Oh, sure, neither Chris or Penny deserved to outlast Orchid, but seeing how those two buffoons have turned the entire season into a fascinating exercise in self-immolation, what was the harm in giving ‘em both an extra week to flop around like fish on a dock?
Either way, this week’s challenge was intriguing, if not entirely satisfying: The nine remaining contestants were split into teams of three, then tasked with creating a food-truck concept and shooting a commercial to promote their finished product. When 150 diners showed up to eat, they had to choose only one cart, and base their decision solely on the 30-second ad spot. It bothered me a little that the crowd rewarded Chris, Penny, and Mary Beth for their utterly banal food-truck name (Wrap It Up? Seriously?) and clichéd Charlie’s Angels-themed commercial (plus Penny’s lowwww-cut top), while punishing Jeff, Whitney, and Susie for their goofy “Balls on the Roll” concept, but on the other hand, what better test of a contestant’s Food Network potential than to see if his or her ad can pull in a crowd? After all, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good your food is if your personality isn’t appetizing to a larger audience.
Which seems like a good segue into talking about Penny, who exhibits all the warmth and charm of a hyena ripping the leg off an injured zebra. The judges loved her filet mignon kabob and greek salad wrap with garlic, yogurt and dill sauce, but at this point, she could turn water into wine and not a single Food Network Star fan would make an appointment to watch her show. The funny thing is, Penny seems like a fairly intelligent woman, and that’s why I can’t understand why she doesn’t try a little harder to rein in her she-beastly tendencies; surely she knows her continual behind-the-scenes squabbling with her fellow contestants is creating insurmountable obstacles to her getting a series on Food Network, let alone her local cable access channel. Why not just thank Mary Beth for helping chop her onions and then shut her pie hole?
As for loutish Chris, well, I suppose as long as he’s on the show, we’ll at least get the comic relief of moments like Bobby Flay and Tyler Florence hilariously dissing the terrible things the frat-boy contestant did to his buttered, poached lobster:
Bobby: “It tastes like a bagel with cream cheese.”
Tyler: “Which I’d rather eat, frankly.”
Mary Beth faltered, too, with a beige-looking ginger-lime chicken wrap that she blandly described as “simple” and “mild,” but had Bob comparing it to “leftovers.” I suspect that comment Bobby made about how the food blogger hasn’t really delivered much in the way of good food this season was foreshadowing of her imminent elimination.
With Orchid out, and Chris, Penny, and Mary Beth faltering, it looks like the battle for Season 7 will come down to Vic, Jeff, Susie, and perhaps Whitney. (Sorry, Jyll, but with your blonde hair and beaming smile and slightly manic enthusiasm, your vibe’s a little too close to Season 5 winner Melissa D’Arabian.)
Vic’s Philly-rito looked tasty, but I’m not really sure that replacing Cheez Whiz with American cheese is the kind of innovation I look for in a Food Network host. What’s more, his whole concept heading into the challenge — “If we stick to originality, but infuse it with something new, that’s what I do.” — was the kind of verbal gobbledygook that had me hitting the mental mute button. On the plus side, though, the guy has an affable on-screen persona, and when he talks cuisine, he comes across like a true expert, not a lightweight wannabe. If he winds up winning the whole enchilada, I won’t be upset.
Still, as juvenile as his “Balls” concept was, I have to say I still find myself rooting for Jeff. I mean, this is a guy who actually made me grim as he asked with mock wonder, “Balls in a soup?” And I loved his response to the judges’ question about where everyone was when the “Balls” cart had no patrons: “They are in line to be disappointed, pretty much.” At the end of the day, I’d rather the selection committee choose someone who’s a little over the top, and needs reining in once his show is greenlit, than choose a middle-of-the-road option with little or no breakout potential. Also: WHO DOESN’T LOVE SANDWICHES? Then again, as long as it’s not Penny or Chris, I suspect I’ll at least sample the winner’s series once it hits the airwaves. You?
What did you think of this week’s Food Network Star? Before you head to the comments to sound off, behold a close-up screengrab of Chris’ stunning lobster roll. And for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!