Food Network Star Recap: Live and Let Pie

Food Network Star RpdneyWe’ve reached that point in the Food Network Star season where two questions loom over every contestant: Is there any way Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson would ever greenlight a show built around this person? And is there any way I’d actually watch it?

I can’t really say I was outraged that food-truck squawker Chris was sent to the guillotine this week. Six episodes in, with the finalists being asked to conceive, cook and pitch a food product to a trio of executives (from Kraft, Kellogg’s and Target), dude was still serving up heaping portions of word salad that didn’t mean much of anything at all: “I have a much more broad culinary point of view than the rest of the people in the competition: It’s easy to make veggies, it’s easy to make pie, it’s easy to make barbeque. But it’s not easy to bottle passion for sharing food with other people.”

Wait, Chris’ culinary point of view was “passion for sharing food with other people”? Alton Brown should’ve flipped a switch to a trap door and flushed the dude from the competition right then and there. Actually, I could’ve asked for the same exact fate for Russell after he screamed “Duck fat makes the world go round!” and made “sexy lips” at the camera, but more on him in a minute.

First, we’ve got to talk about Rodney the “Pie Man.” How in the heck could Food Network consider giving this guy a show when he’s unintelligible at least 50 percent of the time? And does anyone really, truly know what the heck was in that jar he was hawking this week? A pre-made pie crust? Quiche fillings? An old wire hanger? It was never clear whether his “Pie Kit” belonged in the refrigerated aisle or how exactly the various components would be kept separated and fresh. The fact that he ignored Bobby Flay’s advice to keep his pitch simple — and instead performed a mumbly song he wrote in the shower — made him my pick for elimination.

Nikki’s failure to understand the meaning of the word “merchandised,” meanwhile, once again undercut her authority and expertise. Her “meat on the side” concept is perhaps the most compelling of the six remaining players, but if the best execution of said concept is pureed veggies in a jar, then there’s no way she’s gonna last more than a half a season.

Which leaves us with Chad, Stacey, Russell and Damaris as the logical contenders for the crown.

I know Damaris isn’t everyone’s cup of sweet tea, but I find her Kentucky charm to be endearing, and her peach-ginger jam looked both simple and delicious. The woman knows her food, knows how to stay true to her point of view, and might fill a niche in Food Network’s post-Paula Deen era.

Stacey, meanwhile, showed a glimmer of actual personality when discussing her son’s dairy intolerance this week, and if she could incorporate the growing market of cooking for folks with food allergies — while learning to not be quite so married to the script in her mind — I could see her as an actual success story.

Chad, on the other hand, is just as slick as Stacey, but there are moments where he undermines himself by admitting his own nervousness (as he did when he got in front of the merchandising experts this week). Food Network already has Bobby Flay’s Boy Meets Grill, which makes me wonder if Chad’s show might wind up being redundant. I mean, is he really so amazing that he’d have something new to say about throwing meat on the barbeque?

Russell, on the other hand, has a counterpoint to the healthy eating movement that could be a massive hit — but I was shocked to hear the Kraft and Kellogg’s execs describe him as “authentic.” To me, there’s something about his bro-centric delivery that makes me cringe, and I don’t think his actual food is consistently good enough to make me want to take the journey to his culinary revolution anyhow.

What do you think? Take our poll, then sound off below on this week’s episode — and who’d be your pick to win the whole enchilada!

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. Mo says:

    Rodney should have been the one to go home this week.
    He couldn’t even make a berry pie the mentors could get behind, much less take their advice on Keep It Simple, Stupid.

  2. 3dhouseofmagic says:

    I like Russell’s concept (aside from calling it a “movement”) and would probably check out his recipes since they include all of the guilty pleasures but I have a soft spot in my heart for Damaris. Maybe it’s that she isn’t perfect and that makes her relatable or what but I’d tune into her show to see what she cooks, no matter how goofy she may present it. At this point, if she were “normal” it wouldn’t be as fun!

  3. newinkpop says:

    none of the contestants are really working for me…at this point, whoever wins there’s a 75 percent chance that I’m not watching their show

  4. Michele says:

    I honestly couldn’t believe it wasn’t Rodney. He made a complete fool of himself during the pitch, not to mention his product was a joke too. He was being laughed AT not laughed WITH. He’s getting more and more ridiculous, unintelligible, and an exaggerated characature of himself every week. He’s a joke, and a mess. He’d never be able to be on a show of his own, not to mention his food isnt anything special either. He’s not doing anything different with pies. And the judges haven’t really been impressed with any of his pies at all.

  5. Michele says:

    I think the only people who could be good and natural and genuine on TV are Stacey and Damarus. Especially Stacey. She may be a little rehearsed-sounding but with the other ones I feel like I’m watching people awkwardly trying to be ‘natural’ and ‘cool’ on TV. Stacey seems like a natural to be on TV

    • James says:

      Natural? I think she looks robotic. Have you seen some of those weird facial expressions she has when the camera catches her? People are talking about it in the FNS blog. She may be relaxed but in this last challenge a judge called her polished but boring. I don’t even know what kind of food she is supposed to be cooking.

    • MoHub says:

      “Rehearsed-sounding”? She was literally rehearsed to the point that when she lost her place in her script, she had to rewind the whole thing in her mind to pick up where she left off.

  6. Mel31602 says:

    I must be in the minority but I actually enjoyed Rodneys pitch. At least it was interesting, unlike Chris, who sounded like he was reading off cue cards. And I don’t think his item was that hard to understand, plus it was or of the most interesting of the group. He should go next week but I had no issue w him beating out Chris.

    I also don’t get the complaint that Nicki doesn’t seem like an authority figure. I think her cutesiness adds to her appeal.

    It’s too bad this show isn’t being filmed live, or the execs would send Damaris straight to the finals so she could help replace the Paula Deen void. Now they may cut her bc she is too similar to Paula cooking wise. And like Michael mentioned Chad will probably suffer eventually for being too close to Bobbys POV.

    Thus I think it’s probably Stacey’s competition to lose, even though I prefer Chad and Damaris myself.

    • Zorba says:

      I agree..this article is off base. Rodney has something different, and this is what makes shows stand out. I saw him on an episode of Paula Deen ages ago and frankly I’m surprised it took him this long to show up again.

  7. Aaron says:

    I think Chris absolutely deserved to stay over Rodney, and I totally saw him in the Final Three with Stacey and Damaris. At this point, I am rooting for both Stacey and Damaris, and I think America would pick the latter if she makes it to the finale. And (ironically) we would have a new Southern cook for the Food Network, just in time to replace Paula Deen.

  8. Jimmy says:

    This is probably a race between Stacey and Damaris. Russell is annoying and can you really build a long-term brand around pies? Chad has moments and he has an interesting concept, but again I can’t see him as a food host. For me, Damaris is starting to move ahead. There’s something about her Kentucky charm that I like and I think the network could build her into something. Unfortunately, she’s gets inconsistent feedback from the judges that leaves her second guessing whether or not to turn on that Kentucky charm.

  9. ilovefootball25 says:

    If/when Stacey wins it’ll be an easy decision…I will NOT watch her show. I’m really tired of the whole “I’m a mom and I cook”. That was Melissa D’Arabian’s bit and I don’t watch her show either. I think I’d watch a show with Chad or Damaris….but not really any of the others.

  10. anibundel says:

    I have to disagree with you, Slezak. This week, the only contestant I saw with a glimmer of ability to deliver a show that won’t be 30 minutes of filler on a weekend was Russell and his flying pig. Yes, his “Bacon Candy” was actually “Candied Pork Belly” and belonged in a high end supermarket like a Whole Foods or Wegmans, not a Target. But his POV (developed as it was on that first day) is interesting.
    Stacey is a boring robot. I thought the most damning thing for Stacey this week (besides the hilarity of watching the mentors gag on her inedible cookie) this week is when Damaris tried to be like Stacey and also turned into a boring robot.

    Since you’re also into fashion–can we talk about Chad’s Hat? I get that the hat is supposed to be part of “the look” and part of “his brand.” But when he wears it in the studio, the lighting guy has to shoot his face from a lower angle to get under the brim, and his makeup lines show *really* badly. He needs to Lose The Hat.

    Nikki doesn’t know how to sell her concept. “Meat on the Side” is a great tagline, but she’s never thought it out beyond YouTube into the reality of being a brand. She kept saying “This is a fun thing to do with veggies” about her sauce. That makes no sense…why would you buy it done for you then?
    And then there were Chris and Rodney. Rodney’s packaging was a joke, and his presentation was clueless. I got the idea behind it “Roadie cooking.” But who wants a pie made by a roadie. i was with the woman from Kraft I didn’t believe that pie could possibly come from that jar.
    But the reason he stayed over Chris is because Chris has no culinary POV. He has no brand, no angle. That was obvious when he turned up with two products that were also “BBQ Guy.” They already have one of those competing, and he’s been selling that angle since day one. (not to mention Chris stunningly robotic presentation: “You. Will. A. Gree. This. Be. Longs. With. The. Oth. Er Con. Di. Ments. On. You. Shelf.” What was UP with that?)
    At least one good thing came out of this week–Chris will go up against Lovely on Star Salvation, and for once I’ll be rooting for her to knock someone out.

  11. Lily says:

    Tough season. I thought I liked Chad at first but I’m getting disinterested in what he has to say. Russell is a joke. Stacey puts me to sleep and Damaris gets on my nerves, but you bring up a good point Michael, when you say it’s possible that she’s the new Paula Deen (whom I never liked) because they’ll need a southern type cooking show. I wouldn’t watch any of them. And then there’s the internet show where Robert brings back eliminated contestants and chooses which one will go back on the show. So far it looks like Lovey is in the lead, just from watching the promos.

    I say bring more of that Justin kid back and start this season over. There’s no one who I can see having their own show.

  12. dan says:

    How is Rodney still alive on this show? He should’ve left two weeks ago, but Lovely’s donuts were terrible. Then he should’ve left last week, but Viet’s presentation style was terrible. And he definitely should’ve gone home at the end of this episode. I was shocked that they kept Rodney and booted Chris (and I haven’t been a Chris fan this season). What was with Chad? He seemed to be in a bad mood the whole time and the hat looked dumb. Plus, he named his product “Big Boy Beans” which made no sense (the professionals were trying to figure it out and his explanation was stupid). I kept waiting for one of them to say “you know, there used to be a restaurant chain named Big Boys so this may be confusing to consumers.” Glad they didn’t like his beans. I still think Chad is a frontrunner along with Stacy, but now I’m thinking that Russell and/or Demaris may sneak in to the finals. Nikki? I’d be surprised if she makes it to the end (the mentors have never been overly impressed with her food and her presentation style gets mixed reviews). The sooner they get rid of Pie Man the better!

  13. Chablis says:

    Not a fan of Chad at all. Couldn’t watch Niki DINKI show. Between Damarus and Russell for me.

  14. Ashley says:

    I like Damaris, and at this point in the competition, she just might have a chance at winning. But, whoever said that Damaris will be eliminated because her cooking style is so similar to Paula Deen is probably right. If that’s the case, I bet they are regretting that decision.
    I also think Rodney needs to leave. He gets on my nerves so bad. When he brought out the guitar and started singing, I was tempted to scream at the TV “You idiot! What part of keep it simple don’t you get?!”, but I didn’t.
    Stacey bores me to death. And whoever said she’s a boring robot was 100% correct. I don’t like her. And every other time she’s on camera she says something about her son or being a mom. Seriously, what doesn’t remind Stacey of her son?
    The only two I might actually watch if they had their own show are Damaris and Chad. The rest just bug me in one way or another.

    • Crouton40 says:

      I see a difference for the good. I’m betting that Damaris would show us the “heartiness and good eating” of southern cooking, but without 3 whole sticks of butter, a pitcher of heavy cream and 2 giant scoops of sugar, so often. With a teaching background I’m sure she could show us lots ways to use ingredients and make all sorts of different things. She has already wowed the judges (and not just once) with excellent flavors! And her smile lights up a whole room. When the judges tell her something, she takes it to heart and grows. I’m not saying the others are bad, and things aren’t over yet, but I do feel that Damaris is more consistent and does better. I wish her the best.

      • Ashley says:

        You have a good point Crouton40. But honestly, I don’t think the judges like Damaris. They tell her to do something, she does it and they say “You weren’t yourself. You would’ve done better if you’d been yourself.” She is my favorite though. She just seems the most genuine, she consistently cooks better than a lot of the others and she just seems to have a great personality (and sense of humor). I don’t see what’s not to like about her. I hope she does make it to the finals, and I think if she does, she has a really good chance of winning it all.

        • Crouton40 says:

          Excellent. Well-said! And the judges should just let her be. I agree. I see her as genuine. She can teach and she has a good energy. I still like her video. More and more, I am leaning in her direction. And it’s not arbitrary, she’s earning it. Great food, personality, more consistent than the others. I hope the judges end up agreeing. Her critics should play fair and grant her the same right to smile, laugh, crack a joke, do a little dance or anything happy that they allow for others. Remember when, I think they were talking about spices, and Stacey said: “like me” (having spice, i guess)…and almost nothing is said. Ha! If Damaris had said that, people who root for someone else woulda pounced on her like wolves! But they can’t deny her good cooking and sincerity. Damaris may just be the best one to come along in some years, now…I hope enough people can see it.

      • MoHub says:

        Hi, Crouton! Nice to see you on this board.

  15. amadeline says:

    Why don’t you ever give us the “None of them” choice to vote for? So far I wouldn’t watch any of them.

    • topsyturvy says:

      Because it doesn’t matter if you wouldn’t watch any of them (I wouldn’t either). The question is who is going to win … because, unfortunately, one of them will.

  16. liz says:

    I’d buy a cookbook from Nikki. I love her POV and she knows what she’s talking about. For me, that’s really the qualifier that she should win.

  17. Dee says:

    I was fully prepared to dislike Damaris from the start, thinking she was just a little ditsy southern blond, but she has consistently won me over with her silly personality and authenticity (much more authentic than Russell, thank you very much!) I see her struggling to be herself without turning off the judges, but I love her personality, and she is the only one I can totally see watching on her own show. I do have to say that I enjoy Rodney’s whole “pie guy” schtick, but my bets are on my D-Girl all the way!

  18. yesenia says:

    ….they are all horrible!! What a waste to give any of these clowns a show.

  19. Amy says:

    I was thinking about what show I’d watch based on the food that they make. At this point, I’d want to cook like Damaris. Her food always looks good. And, I think that she has the most personality. Stacy is very put together, looks great on camera, but I’ve lost track of what it is that she cooks? Russell’s food is fun and I’d watch a show over him vs Stacy. Rodney is too hyper and I do not want a show about how to make vegetables as the main dish (sorry, Nikki). I think that Chad is in Bobby Flay land….how many bbq shows can you watch and do we think that Chad makes better bbq than Bobby? Plus, I don’t think that he has a ton of personality.

  20. James says:

    Damaris is best! She is likable and sincere. She is an excellent Chef who has had far fewer misses with her food than the others. She is not overdoing the southern charm and saying y’all every 4th word. The mentors need to quit jerking her around. She follows advice and then is told to do it different the next week. She’s fine! Informal and a bit humorous is good. They need to stop magnifying every tiny thing she does and let the poor girl breathe. She knows her kitchen and I’m sure could offer a huge variety of dishes. And she isn’t some trendy fad that would burn-out in 6 months. Out of the whole bunch, I find Damaris very likable with the most to offer. She’s real, she’s knowledgeable and fun.

  21. Jamie says:

    I honestly could see Damaris having a show because there’s just something that’s comfortable about her and entertaining. So I too think that she might have a chance of cooking. However, I’m not sure if she’d be the next Paula Deen because I haven’t seen any butter worshiping from her, haha.
    I strongly agree with the opinion that Rodney needs to leave because he’s so overconfident in himself and completely ignored the advice he received. My jaw honestly dropped when I saw him come out with that guitar and was too over the top. As for Stacey, her presentation was average and she scripted herself, but she recovered and I respect that. Unfortunately, I don’t think she’s gonna last long if she keeps bringing up her son and being a mom. Russel’s also starting to become likable because he seems a bit more laid back, but his delivery in his presentation still had something cringe-worthy in it. He just seems fake.
    I’m hoping for Damaris to win this, but like people said, the judges seem two-faced and nit-picky with her; telling her to do something and then telling her that it’s not “herself” and that they want her personality when she does. I hope they realize that.

  22. Linda says:

    I believe Stacy should definitely go home. She is very fake and has cheesy smiles all the time. She is not a natural.

  23. Jane says:

    I was really disappointed to see Nikki go. I like her point of view and would have watched her show, but can see from above comments that I am in the minority. Can’t believe that Rodney is still on the show. Also, not a Stacy fan. Guess I could support Damaris as a second choice..

    • MoHub says:

      I’ve believed from the beginning that Food Network intended Stacey to win this from the get-go. Nikki and Damaris are Stacey’s only real competition, and Nikki’s elimination this week is a likely of Damaris’ elimination next week. With Stacey competing with Russell and Rodney for the viewer vote, FNS probably figures viewers will vote for Stacey rather than see either of the two guys with a program.

      I for one would throw my vote from Damaris, if she’s eliminated, to Russell rather than Stacey.

  24. Crouton40 says:

    Surprised to see Nikki go home this soon. She is much better than either Pie-man or Russell. SO! The game has changed. Now it is a battle between Stacey and Damaris. Of those two, I choose Damaris. Because:
    1. There’s just something immediately likeable about her. The Hollywood Reporter people said she had “Charisma.” I agree. She was EXCELLENT on camera at the donut shop challenge! Before that, when she sold her Jam, they said (very close quote): “we liked her more as we talked to her more.” Didn’t she also have the audience laughing in the auction challenge?
    2. Some people say Stacey seems “fake”. They never say that about Damaris. People describe Damaris as: “Genuine”, “funny”, down-to-earth and other positives.
    3. Damaris is a better teacher than Stacey. She teaches culinary. When Nikki didn’t know what a Pilaf was, she playfully called Damaris “teacher” and it was her that she asked.
    4. Besides Southern food, if I’m not mistaken, Damaris teaches or at least knows pastry, and baking. Those three, offer us a wide range of dishes. I don’t think we’ve yet seen even one-quarter of all this lady is capable of. Given this, a Damaris show would have more staying power than one with Stacey and we could learn more from Damaris.
    I am not saying everyone else is bad, but I feel that these are good, tangible reasons why Damaris is better. I can only hope that in the end the network will feel the same way, but it’s out of my hands. Their call. One more thing–
    5. Damaris would NOT go out of style. She would not be a passing fad. She would stay relevant.
    If you believe this is an accurate and a fair assessment, I hope you will tweet/share/copy this message with your twitter people who watch the show, too. Or refer them them to this tvline discussion. Invite them to post their opinions on the food network STAR blog. Thanks for reading this.