Food Network Star Recap: Downward Dip

Food Network Star Recap“It’s time to go to a commercial break. Please come right back and hang out with us here at Food Network 4th of July Live.”

As far as throws to ad breaks go, that one doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy, does it? And yet it was enough to save Russell’s underperforming self — and result in the ouster of an early favorite — on the latest episode of Food Network Star.

This week’s big challenge found the final eight contestants manning various stations for a live, 45-minute telecast focused on a Fourth of July theme. You knew the moment that Giada De Laurentiis literally squealed with glee over Russell’s “big moment,” that he’d be safe — despite his muttering like a madman through most of his live cooking segment, and serving up a potato salad that Bobby described as little more than a cold mash. (Ewww.) And yet while I can’t see Russell prevailing — his whole “macho man” persona plays like amped-for-TV shtick rather than a genuine way of being — I couldn’t really argue with the judges’ decision to send Viet to the guillotine.

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Oh, Viet, the guy who beat Bobby Flay in an episode of Iron Chef, and yet — when asked by a call-in guest for his favorite trio of dips — looked down and stammered like a shy second-grader who’s just been asked to spell onomatopoeia. As Giada noted, just spit out “Salsa, guac and hummus” and be done with it! In his defense, though, Viet’s confidence had already been rattled during the mentor challenge demo, when the pan of peppers for his “sausage and pepper” sandwich disappeared — a much harder staged snafu than, say, Stacey’s lost whisk or Chris’ spilled olive oil. (Nikki grappling with a fire alarm, though, was far and away the most brutal.) And I did kind of like the daring theater of Viet burning a cedar plank right there in the studio.

If there’d been a Bottom 3 this week, I’d argue Rodney should’ve rounded it out. Dude gave not even a whiff of expertise while whipping up a meringue treat or fielding a viewer question about a no-bake dessert. And when Alton Brown yelps “good grief” while tasting your food, are you really a good candidate for your own food-centric series?

Clearly, the runaway winner of the July 4th live challenge was Stacey, who adroitly juggled a hot grill, whipped up innovative sauces and interviewed famed butchers Lindy & Grundy. My favorite touch was her request that the ladies tell her “the fancy name” for Brick chicken — a way to make things fun without dumbing down the overall presentation. The returning Bob Tuschman — I miss him and I miss Susie; there, I said it! — noted perfect can sometimes be boring, but come on, there’s not much time in a 60-second segment to dazzle with one’s own personal POV or anecdotes.

My second fave this week was probably Damaris, who got pinged for not taking her task seriously enough. I read her loopy performance a different way, though, considering she was manning the cocktail station — a perfect arena for a self-described personality that’s “teetering on the line of acceptable” when she’s sober. I dunno, there’s just something fun and self-effacing about the southern cooking instructor, who more often than not manages to make tasty food, too.

So at the midway point in the competition, I’d rank the Top 7 thusly.

7. Russell
6. Rodney
5. Nikki
4. Chris
3. Chad
2. Damaris
1. Stacey

How would you rank the remaining finalists? What did you think of this week’s episode? Did Viet deserve to go, or should it have been someone else? Sound off below!

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. Pat says:

    Unfortunately Viet picked the wrong venue to compete on a cooking show. He’s much more suited for Top Chef. He looks to be a great chef but has very little personality, at least insofar as being able to be the star of his own show. I agree about Rodney, he needs to go soon. He hasn’t really made any food yet that’s been good and he’s rather annoying. For me, while I like several of the contestants that are still left, I don’t think I’d enjoy watching any of their shows. Maybe Damaris because she’s kooky.

    • dan says:

      I was surprised that Rodney got put through to next week so quickly, while Demaris was considered in the bottom three with Viet and Russell. I guess I’m just not a fan of the pie guy; I also think Lovely was the sacrificial lamb last week by being grouped with Rodney who couldn’t form a coherent sentence in their movie trailer (although Lovely’s “donuts” were apparently terrible while Rodney’s food was just mediocre). I also think Chad got off easy because Tushman liked his grilled veggie sandwich (really, Chad was terrible with the famous farmer during their live segment). And what is with Chris suddenly rising to the top? The judges hated his cole slaw, yet praised his camera work because he wasn’t shouting too loud. The Judges are all over the place and I think they’ve set this up for a Stacey-Chad-Chris final three.

  2. Jimmy says:

    Honestly, I don’t really see what any of these people bring to the Food Network that’s new and interesting; either food-wise or personality-wise. Stacey is probably the most camera-ready, but again what will she bring to the network that they don’t already have? The best thing FN could do is skip this contest for a year or two and try to actually find some people who could bring excitement to their network, because they sorely need it.

    • anibundel says:

      About 3/4 of the way through the episode, just before we ended with Staey, and absolutely no one had managed to ace their live segment, I suddenly had a flashback to Alton Brown’s turn on Season Three during the Iron Chef Challenge: “Can we throw them all back and start over?”

  3. newinkpop says:

    Poor Viet…if he had more stage presence then he would’ve probably won

  4. John says:

    Good recap. And the ONLY change I would make to your leaderboard is to switch Chris and Chad. I know Chris can be loud, and Chad seems cool, but Chad also strikes me as a little bit too cocky. Also, Chris really won me over when he helped Stacey finish her plate in the Chopped challenge. Stupid competitive move, but wow, that was classy.

  5. MK says:

    Do people really watch this show? I thought I was the only one. Ha. Well I definitely knew Viet would go this week but I think I knew it last week that it was only a matter of time. I agree that Stacy was the rightful winner but there’s something about Chad that to me, would make a great network person. I think he floundered (no pun intended) by not introducing the vegetable king, but I believe he’ll learn a valuable lesson there. Damaris grates on my nerves. I don’t like her giggling or her shimmies. Their last two winners have been males so it might be the year of the female. But my vote is still with Chad.

    So for me:

    7. Russell
    6. Damaris
    5. Nikki
    4. Rodney
    3. Chris
    2. Chad
    1. Stacey

    And if anyone knows where on this network I can find last year’s winner, Justin…please let me know.

    • anibundel says:

      Ha! I’m afraid Next Food Network Star copied The Voice a little too well last year, complete with disappearing winner.

      • Amanda says:

        Justin should be on air. Hes only had one hour long special. Alton was unable to produce the series as planned, so who knows if it will get off the ground. You can follow Justin on twiiter with the handle eatfellowhumans. Hes been live tweeting the episodes.

        • MK says:

          Thanks. I’d love to see him somewhere. The other guy…The Sandwich King…who won the year before…is all over the place.

    • Caitlin says:

      I can not STAND Damaris. I’m not even sure what it is, but good god in heaven, I can’t stand her. I hope she goes home soon.

      But hey, I’m weirdly attracted to Chris, so what do I know.

    • iakovos says:

      I agree. Where is Justin? The lack of at least six episodes in a tryout series minimizes the credibility of the STAR program and the network’s choice. I do love the show but miss some of the omre cooking-centric competitions, albeit it is a race to be the best on camera. I do not think POVs are as strong overall with this bunch. I miss seeing Bob and Susie weekly. I do like the Alton-Bobby-Giada mix. And I do enjoy what seems as a friendly atmosphere to this show. The mentors genuinely seem interested in the contestanmts success and well-being and offer some real encouragement, warmth, and constructive criticism.

      I cannot say the same for HGTV’s sister STAR program with two judges who seem cross and condescending.

      • Jennifer says:

        Rumor has it that Justin was far too demanding about where to film his show and when it would air, and Food Network fulfilled their minimal contractual obligations by giving his one special episode. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s what I’d heard.

  6. anibundel says:

    I have to agree with your rankings this week. Russell lucked into staying over Viet, (though I saw more of what they are trying to get out of him in that throw to commercial than you did.) But I felt like out of the two of them, whoever didn’t go home was only buying themselves another week at most.
    The problem is, I don’t find *any* of the remaining contestants compelling. Every single one of them has at least one major flaw, including Stacey, who is, as Bob said “too perfect.” She would make excellent Weekend Wallpaper for the Food Network in between more interesting shows. No one would turn off the network when she came on, but no one who wasn’t already tuned in would bother turn on the TV to watch her.
    (Also, Damaris to me came off as drunk. not Paula Deen, red-faced, I-can’t-apologise-in-one-45-second-take hammered, but certainly a bit on the sloshed side.)
    I felt bad for Chad. He was so focused on being “the BBQ guy” that he failed to clue in his job was to host a bigger star than him. Chris is still a douchebag (I’m not over the “I’m touching Lovely because I know she’s not comfortable when I do that” from last week.) Nikki’s “Meat on the Side” is too one note, and Rodney was lucky there wasn’t a bottom three, because he totally would have rounded it out.
    Oh and I’m currently rooting for Danushka to be the one to return via Star Salvation. Because Moar Beeyoch Moddle Plz!

  7. Tenney says:

    I would watch Nikki’s show about meat being on the side. There could be very many people who are are not vegetarians but still like their meat only in small doses and there’s not really a show with the focus currently on the food network. I think Chris has the most food knowledge, but I have no idea what his POV is so I don’t know if I’d watch a show from him yet. Other than those two, I don’t find a lot of interest in the other contestants.

    • mia says:

      Agree with you about Nikki. I’d buy her cookbook too. I’m an omnivore, but I enjoy eating more veggies than meat, so some recipies would be awesome. And she really seems to know what she’s talking about.

    • Dove says:

      Made her chili and it was delicious. I love her POV!

  8. Chloe says:

    I liked Chris in the Food Truck Race, and I like him here. If he can get more consistent with his food, I think he has a real shot at winning. My ranking is

    7. Russell
    6. Nikki
    5. Damaris
    4. Rodney
    3. Chad
    2. Chris
    1. Stacey

  9. NEMO says:

    Well, I agree Viet deserved to go – but to be honest, he’s the only one who remotely interested me as a person. I watch the Food Network a lot – I probably would have watched his show, although I still have no idea what his POV would have been about. I don’t need another Sandra Lee or Melissa d’ Arabia neither of which add anything to my viewing experience now (ACH!). That’s kinda how I see Stacy, Damaris, and Nikki unfortunately! I like Nikki’s meat-on-the-side POV/show idea the best of anyone’s — not sure I can stand the sound of her voice though. She will have to significantly get less perky, lol. I will keep watching Next Foodnetwork Star, but I probably won’t watch the winner’s show.

  10. Ace says:

    I like Nikki way more than you do, as well as her POV… I didn’t find her “girly” demeanor to be that lacking in authority, either. Still, I think Chad is a touch above her, so I’d only make a slight alteration to your leader board:

    7. Russel
    6. Rodney
    5. Chris
    4. Nikki
    3. Chad
    2. Damaris
    1. Stacey

    Still, it could go any way for pretty much anyone but Stacey. Whoever has a bad week other than her is essentially gone, because no one has been really consistently amazing.

  11. Mandy says:

    I was sad to see Viet go, but mostly because I was enjoying the eye candy. He’s a cutie. I’m glad you like Damaris, I was afraid others didn’t. It could be because I’m always partial to southern cooking, but I like her, she’s fun and makes me laugh.

  12. Ashly says:

    I miss Bob and Susie too! I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    Honestly, I don’t why Rodney has stayed as long as he has. Has he ever made a good dish? He is an extremely likable guy, but I doubt I would ever watch his show.

    Stacey and Chad are definitely the front runners for me, but there’s something about Russell. Maybe I just think he’s cute, but I think if he tried to be a little more genuine he could go further in this competition.

    Right now, it looks like either he or Rodney will be on the chopping block next week.

  13. 3dhouseofmagic says:

    It would have been interesting to see how each contestant handled the missing peppers. I think that was probably one of the worst “tricks” in that challenge seeing as it is a main ingredient. Fire alarm on live TV they would just cut to a commercial.

    I agree with the poster who said Viet would have been better suited for Top Chef – but that is a different network :). I struggle with the judges telling Stacey she is too perfect, but criticizing the others on being too amateurish. I’m sure we are not seeing everything they are being told, but come on-have some consistency. I like Stacey (polished), Damaris (kookey, yes but entertaining). I’d probably watch Nikki’s show too to see how to work with veggies more and Chads to work with meat. Russell’s POV would make a great book and possibly a few special themed episodes.

    • Goob says:

      I agree. If they really wanted a challenge to be able to rate the contestants – they should have used the same disadvanage for everyone. And if the throw to commercial was really so important – they all should have thrown to commercial, taken a phone call, and done a live segment.

      Everytime I see Stacy, I have to remember she is not Ellie Krieger – and where did she go?

  14. Pinkie says:

    First of all, I don’t ever miss Bob Tuschman. I have a great dislike for the man. But I do miss Susie.

    As for why Russell is still there, well, I think they, like me, see something more in him that doesn’t come out too often. And it did when he had to spontaneously throw to commercial. There we saw who he can be. Plus, I think Giada thinks he’s cute. :-)

    Stacey seems like she just can’t lose this competition, but she is TOO perfect. That wouldn’t seem to be a negative quality, and I do like her, but I like flaws in a person. Shows that they are human.

    I wanted to like Rodney, but he never seems to make anything at all close to what would make me think of him as the Pie Man.
    As for Damaris and Nikki…neither would get my vote.

    I think Chris would have a chance if he could get out of his “food truck hawking for customers” voice mode.

    And I think Chad may not have known this farmer was someone famous, but he was a little lax in at least not introducing him to camera. I’ll give him another chance.

    Viet should have gone home and never should have been there in the first place. He’s scared to death of the camera. How could you host your own show under those conditions?

  15. syb says:

    I’d watch any of the females left and maybe Chad if nothing else was on. The others not so much.

  16. McAmster says:

    Since when is Terence J and eNews! LIVE? They record early in the morning. You can see this from G’s reality show as well as her tweets so how is TJ such a plethora of live TV info? So lame of Food Network. Trying to keep relevant and their sister channels relevant. And this is why I stopped watching eNews. I can see it all online and Im SICK OF THE EFFING KARDASHIANS! I love Giuliana and she’d have been better as she truly has done alot of live tv but seriously Food Network… Talk about sell outs!

  17. LEP says:

    I missed last night’s episode and will have to catch up. I agree, I don’t think this group of candidates is very intriguing nor do I think they have a show I would watch, except maybe the one about vegetables with a side of meat. Due to some unforseen health issues, we’ve had to make some major changes in the way we eat. I was diagnosed with advanced Celiacs late last year. Prior to that, I had kind of rolled my eyes at the gluten free buzz words. Little did I know I was very ill. So much of our society (and cooking shows) revolve around eating breads and pastas but those are things I can never eat again, as is. I’ve been very disappointed by the very expensive gluten free substitutes. All that to say, why not a show tailored to special diets or a gluten free show?

  18. mia says:

    I like Nikki and Damaris. Nikki has a really original and topical POV and Damaris is just fun. The network could use someone a little less predictable, a little more like your fun aunt who gets drunk at the Christmas party.

  19. Babybop says:

    The fire alarm thing was cruel! I think it’s ridiculous to get mad at her for not continuing to cook. I’m sorry, but if the fire alarm is going off, I’m going to evacuate the building, not stay there and keep shooting!

  20. Erick says:

    Spilled olive oil is nowhere near as a drastic of a ‘curveball’ as a fire alarm or missing peppers. It’s practically a non-problem.

  21. Bread bakery says:

    I hardly drop comments, but i did a few
    searching and wound up here Food Network Star Season
    9 Recap: 4th of July Live – TVLine. And I actually do
    have a couple of questions for you if you usually do not mind.
    Could it be only me or does it appear like some of these remarks
    look as if they are written by brain dead people? :-P And,
    if you are posting on additional places, I’d like to keep up with everything new you have to post. Would you make a list of every one of all your shared sites like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

  22. Jo says:

    Here is my take on the ‘Next Food Network Star’…bottom line…there really is no search…Food Network has got to love the ratings from ‘Star’…and that’s what they care goes on for many weeks and that equates to many viewers. If they happen to find a ‘Star’ that may attract more viewers down the road…that is secondary.

    • Jo says:

      one other thought…’Next Food Network Star’ airs in PRIME time….when was the last time you saw the latest ‘Star’ winner with a show in prime time?…they are buried in daytime….and sometimes maybe a 1-time special…Guy Fieri is the exception…and he is over-exposed..

  23. Daniel says:

    Stacey certainly seems to be the frontrunner, and she’s done well to deserve that spot. I don’t know if I’d watch her show, though; it’s nothing new by any means. That last point goes for Chris, too, but I don’t see him winning. He’s making progress, but I don’t know if he’s going to get there. Damaris, though… there’s a show I’d like. Based on personality alone Damaris is my favorite. She can cook for sure, and now she just needs to be more camera ready.
    I do have to agree with the judges on Nikki. She has an intriguing concept but I can’t take her seriously.
    Rodney and Russell irk me and neither of them are winning by a long shot.
    And that leaves Chad. His food has been right up there with Stacey’s, and his personality seems to be there. He just can’t express that. He’s sort of like Damaris in that way.
    As of now, I have:
    7. Russell
    6. Rodney
    5. Chris
    4. Nikki
    3. Chad
    2. Damaris
    1. Stacey
    Aside from what I think, the committee seems to be going for a Stacey-Chad finale with either Damaris or Nikki filling the third spot.

  24. Gypsy says:

    I don’t think Food Network needs to find NEW stars. If they don’t want to continue to lose ratings, they should bring back the PREVIOUS stars like Ming Tsai, Sara Moulton, and Mario Batali, AND GET BACK TO ACTUAL COOKING SHOWS and get rid of all these stupid competitions that mean nothing to anybody.

  25. Glo says:

    I’m not enjoying this season’s NFNS. Granted when you are on a cooking show you need to be prepared for anything but isn’t that what editing is for? It’s not like the shows are live. Even though Viet didn’t handle some of the camera challenges well, at least you could understand what he said and he is very pleasant to look at. I don’t think I would watch any of the remaining contestant’s shows. They just don’t catch my interest. Seems the more watchable shows on Food Network and The Cooking Channel are from the contestants that didn’t even win the show, Kelsey, Jeff Saad.

  26. Aaron says:

    I’m thinking we will get a Final Three of Chris, Stacey, and Damaris, and one of the ladies will probably prevail. Given the edits, I think the producers would be pushing for Stacey, but I wouldn’t count out Damaris because I think viewers are really digging her.