Food Network Star Recap: Dumps Like a Truck

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!

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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36 Comments
  1. L says:

    I think it will be Vic or Jeff. Please, please, please get rid of Penny. I can’t take her anymore and don’t think the food is the only consideration. If everyone HATES you, your show is not going to do well. I can’t believe she’s gotten this far.

    • Amanda says:

      She’s gotten this far because that type of behavior brings in ratings unfortunately! I still haven’t decided who I want to win. I’m leaning towards Vic, Susie and possibly Jeff.

  2. anibundel says:

    I suspect that the “Middle Eastern Mama” show concept is why Penny and her dreadful personality are still here. They’ll keep her up until the Top 5 or Top 4 (I forget which week is when they actually make the formal presentations of their show concept.) The committee will love her concept, they’ll option it, and then, before we even see the episode where Penny is eliminated, we’ll see ads running for the brand new show, airing on Sunday mornings: “Middle Eastern Mama,” starring a very nice looking woman and her telegenic Middle Eastern family. If Food Network is very brave, her sidekick friend who appears whenever she needs a sou chef might even wear a hijab.The one thing it won’t have is Penny.

  3. Elise says:

    Totally agree w/ your recap, Michael. I actually thought the whole “Balls” concept was hilarious, of course I’m a 40-yr-old who stopped emotionally maturing at 12, but I’m still in the food network target audience. I can’t believe Penny and Chris are still there, but my money is on Vic or Jeff (Jeff being my fave). I actually like Jyl, Suzie and Mary Beth, but I don’t think they are consistent enough to win.

    • Bob says:

      I thought the balls concept was great as well. Sort of wondered if Bobby Flay was going to make a reference to Joey’s Saucy Balls from “America’s Next Great Restaurant”.

  4. Claude says:

    Whitney should have been sent home. Look over this recap and pay attention to the amount of space that Slezak devoted to her. She is a non-presence this season.

  5. darclyte says:

    I think this is the first week the Committee got it wrong. Whitney usually makes decent food, and is pretty, she just needs a personality infusion. Orchid has a warm albeit subdued personality, and started strong food wise but has faded. Mary Beth, aka the lady who looks like the Guy Fawkes Mask from V For Vendetta, has a lackluster personality and as Bobby noted she’s hardly given them any good food. I think SHE should have been sent packing, and Orchid given more time to “right her ship.” There really doesn’t seem to be anything that Mary Beth can contribute beyond food blogging, so she should stick to that.

    Penny and Chris need to go ASAP. He seems to know something about food, but just can’t quite pull it off, and he makes Guy seem mature. Penny has a food POV that is lacking on FN, but NOBODY would watch her show. How they can keep her after seeing her fight with her fellow contestants, right in front of them AGAIN, is beyond me. Yes, her food is decent, but how many times does Giada have to tell her that she HAS to be able to work with others? I’m guessing (and hoping) that her next food slip up might well be her last.

  6. LAG says:

    Personally I would watch Penny. She is the very definition of a couger. I especially love the low cut shirts it is a great view. The fact she is abrasive makes her big star potential. Just my humble opinion.

    • Jo says:

      I am going to make an assumptive statement that you are a guy and probably a bit on the young side, LAG. So you aren’t in the general demo of the Food Network, which means you aren’t the target audience. The Food Network will put on the air the person who has the potential of being watched most…and since many of the Food Networks audience isn’t really going to go for an abrasive couger cooking middle eastern food, the sooner Penny is judged off, the better off the general viewing audience will be!

      • Sergei says:

        i agree 100%. I turned it off more than once when Penny started on her hissing-scratching etc. I am around that type in my own job – being the only male many times in the cabin and on board aircraft. What I would like to see is one of the people who watch and have made the “Foodnetwork Stars” the stars they are be on the judges panel. Trust me, I think that would be one heckuva idea and one I personally think would work. I would volunteer to be the first non-professional and if you want to see the fur fly – let me at some of those I’m the Sh**s” wannabees.

  7. Maggie Ames says:

    I don’t like Bobby Flay…sorry, I think he’s a wise ass and a smart mouth. I love all of the food network people but him…he can be so rude and insulting.

    • Bob says:

      Perhaps if you check him out on “Throwdown” or another show. He is quite nice. It could just be because this is an opportunity to pick a colleague on this show, so he is more harsh.

  8. Andie says:

    I would watch Penny’s show, and I am a female in my 20s. Although I don’t like her personally, and wouldn’t want to be her friend, I think Penny is great when not forced to deal with others, and it would just be her on the show. Plus her food seems really interesting, and I would enjoy learning how to make it. That being said, I would also be fine if Vic, Jeff, and possibly Susie won, too.

    • Gretchen says:

      For me, it more a matter of not rewarding a person with an attitude like Penny’s with such a prestigious job. She plain doesn’t deserve it.

      Can you imagine how she’d treat anyone working on the show in any capacity? Not well.

  9. Bob says:

    Maybe I’m alone, but I like Mary Beth. Do I expect her to win, probably not, but I don’t think she’s as horrible as she’s been made out to be, and I seem to remember that she has delivered her share of decent food. I remember the begining where they called her “mediocre” and she really fought back.

  10. Nico says:

    I think it will be Vic or Jeff too, but I’m rooting for Vic. Jeff seems like a cool guy, I like his “king of sandwiches” idea and I even liked his “balls on the roll” concept, but he is boring to me. I’m glad that Vic is no longer the dark horse!

  11. verver says:

    I was quite disappointed that Orchid was eliminated. I thought it would be Whitney or Mary Beth.

    I like Jeff, but I prefer Vic out of the remaining contestants.

    • Stephanie says:

      I started out not liking Vic at all, and liking Jeff a lot. Jeff has slowly started to grate on my nerves and his going Over-the-top lately has just seemed desperate and is turning me off. Vic, who was a bit scary to me at first, is really starting to grow on me. I hope he gets it. He’s probably the only one I’d watch now.

      Penny. ICK. No way I’d watch her show. If they haven’t picked already, I hope the PTB read these blogs and realize they wouldn’t get anyone watching. She is just horrible. And please, lady, wear a shirt that fits you and is appropriate for your age.

  12. Barry says:

    Great recap as usual. I totally agree with you and the comparison of Penny’s on-screen personality and a hyena was spot-on. No way will anyone at all tune in to see her. I’d have to stick with Jeff & Vic as the front-runners but I’m voting for Jeff. Vic is fine but I think that his vibe is way too similar to Guy Fieri’s. Picking Jeff would make up for them having skipped over Adam in favor of Big Daddy a few seasons ago.

  13. darclyte says:

    You know, I thought that I’d seen him before, and not just because he resembles Vin Diesel. Click my name to see Vic Vegas in his audition video for Next Food Network Star from 2008 (yep, he’s been trying for at least 3 years.) Note that right at the start of the clip it shows him as a competitor in one of their Food Network Challenge contests. That’s why I thought he looked familiar, I probably saw that episode as I used to watch it all the time.

  14. Shay L says:

    OMG I LOVED your REVIEW this week!! I am a HUGE connoisseur of Next FN Star! I’ve been watching since BID DADDY took home the Season 2 title..sadly I think it shouldve gone to Adam Gertler..but thats another post for another day. I couldnt AGREE MORE with anibundel above, when they said Penny will make it up to the final elimination, and before we’ve found out if she’s won or not, theyll air an ad for “MIDDLE EASTERN MAMA” with NO PRESENCE of Penny whatsoever-just like they did last year with FAMILY STYLE, with NO PRESENCE of Aria. Great job FN! NOT! I COMPLETELY DISAGREE with the judges decision to send ORCHID home..I fell in LOVE with her from the beginning, and was pulling for her to rise above the opposition >AHEM< Penny-and was FLOORED when they told Chris he was SAFE after tearing him apart for his cream cheese bagel. I could go ON and ON! As much as my dripping disdain for Penny and her "STILETTOS IN THE SEXY BACK KITCHEN" POV, shes consitent with making great food, but I agree with Giada, Queen of FN, THIS IS A FAMILY NETWORK you have TO GET ALONG WITH PEOPLE!! I can definitely see this year going to the guys, aka Vic or Jeff..I would like to see Susie or Whitney there as well! But not sure if Whitney can sober up and actually show some more personality.

  15. Gretchen says:

    Well, that was shocking…how Chris, Mary Beth and Penny outlasted Orchid is beyond my comprehension. For the second week in a row, Penny is arguing and witchy in front of the judges and still she remains? Yeah, her food might be fabulous, but judges, come on! Right now, the Food Network seems to be standing behind a persons with a horrible attitude, it reflects poorly on every judge and makes it seem that such an attitude is condoned when Penny keeps moving further in the competition–which is worse, a miserable, entitled attitude or one week’s bad food? A quieter person who can learn to be more forward, whom people would enjoy watching, or a woman who picks fights and won’t accept responsibility and has to bring others down?

    Also, the judges came across as very humorless at the “Balls” truck. Was it silly? Sure, but the concept was original and based on reaction to those who went to that truck, the food was good. You would have thought they had paraded a nekkid person onscreen to watch the reactions of Bob, Bobby, Suzy and Giarda. I realize Food Network is family viewing, but please.

    I’m rooting for Vic or Jeff.

    Whitney–looks too much like Rachael Ray. Mary Beth–boring. Suzie–of the women left, she’s my favorite, but needs more personality, she’s shown less of a sparkle than Orchid. Penny–no, thanks. Chris–should have been gone in the first two weeks. Jyll–boring, as well.

    Looks like two go home next week, looks like Vic and Jyll and Suzie are the bottom, based on the preview snippet. So perhaps it will be another two weeks until we see Penny get her just desserts. Her departure won’t be a quiet one.

  16. Neen says:

    It really bothers me that Penny is being allowed to continue participating in the food challenge. It makes sense of course for the tv network as she adds a whole lot of drama to the show, but she is a nasty piece of work and why should the other contestants have to put up with her? The fact that she thinks she is sexy, hot and a “cougar” is why she hates and victimizes all the other women. In reality, she is unattractive physically and her behavior makes her even more ugly. She should not be rewarded for her aggressive and whiny character. Who cares if she can cook?

  17. Pennagirl65 says:

    Cheez Wiz is what is put on a true Philly Steak. So Vic was right in this instance. I wish he would drop the Vic Vegas name, he has seemed to drop the Vegas routine…and started to cook. Honestly, I don’t like any of them this year.

  18. Pat Karl says:

    It’s a Food Network show, so the quicker Penny is toast, the better.

  19. Evan Meadow says:

    I probably would have voted out Mary Beth.

    If you watch the video they made for the food truck she says she was going to make a saucy chicken parm wrap which of course wasn’t even close to what she came up with and I was surprised none of judges went “What happened to the chicken parmigiana?”

    Her ad would have sent me right to the truck cause I love chicken parm and to find out she changed her mind would have annoyed me.

    • psychokittyface says:

      Oh, good catch – I didn’t notice that. I really want to like her but for some reason she just bugs. I’m rooting for Jeff and Vic.

  20. Maryclare says:

    Viewers CAN NOT TASTE THE FOOD!

    I know the network stars have to be good chefs, original, and knowledgeable. But the most important factor is how likeable they are and how they connect with the viewers. I would never, ever watch Penny’s show. Of the contestants left, I think Vic and Susie have the most potential. A lot of people like Jeff, but I find him as annoying and clueless as Chris. They have both shone such bad judgement about what is appealing to their audience.

    • EM says:

      Have they “shone” bad judgement? Really? Maybe you should whip out the spell check or learn how to correctly structure a sentence before you make one of your asinine comments.

  21. topsyturvy says:

    Maybe they did and we didn’t see it but I can’t believe the judges called Mary Beth out on her “shimmy” during the commerical but said nothing about Penny’s awful “wrap” hug gesture. The woman’s a horror.

    YES they did get it wrong. Arti – flower + 10 more pounds may = Orchad, but how would Vic or Jeff be any different that the other male personalities they’ve gotten from this show? The dreadful Guy? Adam Gertler? Big Daddy? “Outrageous” Tom? BIG personality = loud, juvenile and hollow.

  22. William says:

    Honestly Michael I’m shocked that you don’t absolutely love Penny, given that your favorite person on The Glee Project was Emily Vasquez. They are like perfect foils for each other in that both are trying to be sexy, are cattish women who can’t stand to be anything other than selfish and out for themselves, and who do not and did not deserve to make it anywhere past the 2nd round of elimination in their respective competitions in spite of having some talent.

  23. Ashley says:

    My brother-in-law actually got to meet Bobby Flay on a few occasions (he’s the editor of a newspaper and they were at some of the same events) and he said that despite his somewhat abrasive and brash TV personality, in-person Bobby is a very nice person who is down to earth and very nice.

    I too had a mistaken perception of Bobby Flay’s personality until he set me straight.

  24. Marlene says:

    The last two winners have been women so I suspect that this years winner will be male. Although I am fond of Susie I predict that the male winner will be Vic. The judges seem to really like him. I really don’t think that I would watch him. (All those tattoo’s and piercings turn me off!)Jeff is ok but really there isn’t any one contender whom I really am crazy about.

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