Food Network Star: Bidder Sweet Symphony

Food Network Star RecapWith only six contestants left in the mix on this week’s Food Network Star, I expected some amped-up suspense during the judges’ deliberations. But nope, once again it was a case of, “Eh, either one of these cats can go home; and if we’re being honest, there actually ought to be a Bottom 3.”

The opening challenge was an excellent test of mettle, with Bobby Flay whipping up a slow-cooked salmon with an ancho chili and honey glaze, a black bean and blistered jalapeño crema and a fresh tomatillo salsa. The contestants each got to take a bite or two, and then were given 60 seconds to describe the dish without using adjectives like “delicious,” “awesome,” or “incredible” (i.e. words that don’t convey any actual flavors). “You’re gonna take ‘sexy’ away from me,” asked Russell, in his typically irksome, “I think I’m hot s***, but I’m not gonna come right out and say it” fashion.

The results were telling. Rodney (who doesn’t exactly excel at language to begin with) described his own performance as having his body taken over by someone “who’s just an idiot.” (Hey, he said it, not me!) Chad confessed “vocabulary is not my strong point at all” before an awkward, ummm-filled performance that had Bobby declaring it a “very long minute.” And Russell strung together adjectives with all the care and planning of a toddler experiencing the joys of finger-painting.

Damaris, meanwhile, proved a tad “clinical” for Bobby’s taste, but at least came across like someone who has cooked, eaten and thought about food in her lifetime, while Nikki and especially Stacey delivered the goods like they might actually be ready for prime time.

For the main challenge — which had the contestants cooking a signature dish and presenting it to an audience of foodies who were asked to bid auction-style for a chance to eat it alongside the judges — the ladies once again proved to be clear winners. I’m seriously ready to try Damaris’ green-bean casserole — with roasted tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms and a goat-cheese mornay sauce — this weekend. And Nikki’s wild-mushroom pasta with shrimp looked pretty tasty too. Stacey’s cheesecakes with bacon-maple crust looked a tad soupy, but her sales pitch hooked the crowd and got her the high bid of $180. (BTW, didn’t the “bidding” process seem a bit arbitrary? And didn’t the process favor the dishes that came later in the process — since the chance to sit with the judges and grade the dishes might’ve been as much a draw as any of the food?)

That left Chad, Russell and Rodney as the obvious options for elimination, but the judges promptly gave Rodney a pass because his strawberry-blackberry-rhubarb pies were tasty. To which I ask, “So what?” I mean, was there anything particularly innovative or interesting about said pies, other than his use of bacon fat in the crumble? And since Food Network Star is ultimately about trying to score an on-air hosting gig, how come Alton, Giada and Bobby didn’t seem  perturbed by Rodney’s rambling presentation, the first 40 seconds of which were devoted to a “comedy” bit in which he confused the members of the Gastronauts with actual astronauts? Even his description of his food — and his promise that “it’s gonna make your electrodes in your mouth shoot right back here by the top of your jaw right into your ear holes” — barely crossed the border of total nonsense into mild gibberish.

But the judges made it a battle of the carnivores for the Bottom 2: “Barbecue expert” Chad made a Texas poutine with mushy fries, while Rodney Russell made a deconstructed BLT with smoked trout eggs, pork belly and “bread purée.” Chad was certainly the less exciting presenter — what happened to the confidence he exhibited early on in the season? — but can we pause for a second to consider that “bread purée” again? It looked positively pre-chewed! As Alton noted, he’s not 100 percent sure that “Russell is the cook he thinks he is.” Giada, though, seems to be endlessly fascinated with the food revolution/seven sins dude, and since there wasn’t really any compelling reason to keep Chad — especially since his P.O.V. competes with Mr. Flay anyway — he got the boot.

So now we’re down to Damaris, Stacey, Nikki, Russell and Rodney — yes, I listed them in order of my personal preference. How would you rank the remaining finalists? What did you think of this week’s episode? Did Chad deserve to go, or should it have been Rodney 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. Babybop says:

    Oh my goodness… I didn’t even realize that Rodney said that sentence. He sounds like a crazy person! How on earth do they feel that either him or Russell even have a fighting chance at winning this? They’re terrible. It’s a girl’s race from here on.

    BTW, it was Russell that made the deconstructed BLT, not Rodney. You mixed up the names in the last paragraph.

  2. Mark says:

    It should have been Rodney!
    I honestly hope Damaris wins cos the remaining contestants are so not interesting

  3. Susan Martin says:

    Personally i think Demaris looked like a hot mess last night. What was with those outfits? She was NOT “appetizing” at all. And the red pants and lumberjack shirt MUSt have been what put Chad out the door.

    • dan says:

      I think there must be a FN stylist putting the contestants’ clothes together this season. Everybody seemed to be color coordinated for the challenges and for the elimination. Big emphasis on red; big mistake to put Stacey and Chad in red jeans on consecutive days (the red skinny jeans on Chad were especially disturbing). I’ll ask the same question I’ve asked for weeks: how is Rodney still in this competition? He is terrible and his food is not creative, unique or even pleasing to the eye. Everything he does looks messy and he was only saved b/c the judges loved the pie (although they also had high praise for Nikki’s pasta, Stacey’s crust and Demaris’ green beans). Next week either Chad or Lovely comes back based on the web-only “salvation” series. Maybe they’ll finally let Rodney take his guitar and leave without any hope of salvation!

    • Crouton40 says:

      DAMARIS has alot to offer. All I can say is, I strongly disagree with your views on fashion. Find Damaris’s Facebook page online. She has looked good with her hair down in the picture of her crushing Viet in her mind. The dark purple/plum top she has on when she is with Stacey looks good on her. A deep green top she had on in a benefit cook-off with Chris Hodgson looks good on her. Med-dark red is good on her, too. Damaris looks good in medium or deeper shades of color (but not beige or lt. blue). She also looks good with bangs and her hair pulled back with some tasteful earrings. But more important than all that:
      1. She is Genuine.
      2. She knows her kitchen and can offer a wider range of dishes. Has had great flavors!
      3. That smile of hers lights up a whole room. Some good humor, too.
      4. She follows the judges advice far better than others are she keeps growing on top of the skill she already has.
      For those reasons, more then the other cooks, good as they are, Damaris is my 1st-choice favorite, and she’s earning it! I think she could do alot of good for the network and be a delight to watch. –Crouton40
      PS–(grin) yer all invited to join the fun in the Blog at:

  4. Will says:

    I admit to being one of the odd ones who likes Russell. I like the idea of his sins/revolution and honestly hope that between the two he picks the sins. A revolution is more broad but a star who’s all about indulgence would be a great addition to the programming. I buy him as a sincere guy and I don’t usually see the “bro”-ness often attributed to him in these reviews. For me it’s Russell and Stacy in my top 2 followed by Damaris and Chad, who I think is going to be the one returning from the redemption challenges online (for those not keeping up, SPOILER but it was down to him and Lovely and I highly doubt that Lovely gets it)

    Also, Michael, you got your R names mixed up. It should be Russell, not Rodney, who made the deconstructed sammich, and I’m pretty sure the sandwich was a deconstructed bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, not a BLT.

  5. 3dhouseofmagic says:

    Shoulda been Rodney to go. He is a likeable guy but could you watch him on TV?? Put him on staff-he can still the the pie guy and visit all of the other shows and make a style of pie that suits. Russell should choose the 7 sins. I’m still in for Damaris, too.

  6. wanda says:

    I live in San Francisco and Russell is not a great chef. His last place closed because of poor food and big attitudes. Let me rephrase that: really bad overpriced food and a major “too cool for you” vibe.

  7. I agree with some of the comments here because if the show is looking for a host that can communicate their point of view it sure as heck will not be Rodney Henry. I mean how many times can we hear him say that he is the Pie Guy , without it seeming to have any meaning?

    I would have kept Chad Rosenthal before Rodney Henry , but when it comes to Chris Hodgon , he had such stark communication issue that I do not see how he could host a show.

  8. Joel says:

    I think Damaris has a leg up now that Paula Deen got the boot. She is pretty much Paula 2.0

    • LC says:

      That might be true, but didn’t filming for FNS complete before the whole Paula Deen thing blew up? They wouldn’t have known yet that they would no longer have Paula.

    • Crouton40 says:

      Damaris is different than Paula. Paula will be missed but if anyone could fill Paula’s shoes, I’d put my money on Damaris. In the first place, I don’t think she’d always be using gobs of sugar and too much butter in so many dishes. We know from watching her so far that her food is very tasty. Did Paula ever go to culinary school? (No offense to Paula). Damaris teaches, and, she’s been cooking ever since she was a young girl. And I’m sure she knows more than just southern food, too. In the auction challenge, Damaris connected beautifully with the audience.
      Who knows what the network will do? But I think she has the most good.

  9. iceturkee says:

    new this year, a previously eliminated person gets back in thanks to a web series hosted by robert irvine. last round competiton has been held so either chad or lovely gets back in. i swear if its lovely, i am officially done with food network.

    • Sarah says:

      same here-I don’t even know how *spoiler* she beat Viet last episode. I really thought he would do well, especially because the salvation challenges are basically just cooking without any of the presentation/talking aspects. Actually, the whole salvation thing doesn’t make sense because the reason some people got kicked off was more for their personality/lack of POV as opposed to cooking skills, and vice versa.

  10. ilovefootball2525 says:

    I’m done with this show. Stacy is going to win and I really, really don’t like her.

    • ann clay says:

      I don’t like her either, she seems phony and fake. She smiles at everything, especially when she knows the camera is on her., Rodney even said it last night, that she seems fake, and whatever people might think about Rodney, he is real, Stacy thinks she’s got this in the bag, I hope she goes next.

      • liz says:

        Its the way she smiles that’s most fake I think. Its this full-face smile that shows all her teeth and makes her eyes crinkle up. Normally, people do this when they are actually happy – its not their regular every-day smile. But Stacey does it alllll the time, which makes it feel fake and forced.

    • KJ says:

      I don’t like Stacy either. There’s something about her I find very off-putting.

  11. sebaroni says:

    Seriously, why are Rodney and Russell still there? I am losing my faith in Bobby and Alton (I don’t care about anything Giada has to say.) Russell has been at the bottom of the barrel almost every week and yet they keep him. I know ultimately, they will never win, but they are both so irksome, I don’t even want to keep watching to find out which girl comes out on top.

    • Will says:

      Minor correction, but Russell has alternating between being the best of the week and in the bottom every other week since the beginning, so he’s actually been in the top and bottom almost equally (this week makes the high-low ratio 3-4). So saying he’s “been at the bottom of the barrel almost every week” isn’t really accurate.

  12. Chablis says:

    Damaris FTW

  13. Norah says:

    Damaris is oddly delightful. And it seems like girl can seriously cook.

  14. erin says:

    I’d be happy with any of the three women winning. I am not a Russell or Rodney fan.

    I think Stacey probably WILL win, which doesn’t bother me, as I liked her back when she was on Restaurant Impossible, but I’d probably prefer Damaris.

  15. Mattie says:

    None of them are interesting or likable enough to make a hit show. I think Guy F. has been the only winner to become a FN star.

  16. CF says:

    I’m definitely rooting for Damaris and her quirky, southern charm. Plus, her food always looks great! On a different note, this is the second time that Stacy has been unable to finish her challenge on time without another contestant helping her. I realize that the challenges and time limits are completely arbitrary, but this still seems problematic to me. It was really kind of Nikki, as it was of Chris the first time, to lend a helping hand.

    Also, I totally agree with Michael that the auction challenge gave a glaringly unfair advantage to those who presented later in the queue.

    • James says:

      I agree. Just don’t have her saying y’all so often like Paula did. If Stacey gets eliminated, it will be an all-out war online between the veggie-lovers who want Nikki and those who like Damaris. Personally, I’m going with Damaris. She’s a better Chef than Nikki. Wider range and knows more. And she’s still outgoing and real.

  17. syb says:

    I’m a dedicated carnivore, but Stacy consistently presents dishes that look interesting and tasty. She could convert me. However, maybe since I’d finished dinner before watching, I most wished I could try the Blackberry Rhubarb Pie and the Bacon Maple Cheesecake. yum. I’m glad Chad got the boot. I’d take any of the ladies over any of the guys left, now that Lovely is gone.

  18. liz says:

    Love Nikki; fresh perspective and comes across really likeable. She can’t use her name though, ‘Nikki Dinki’ is like *the* worst name. Maybe she should go by her first and middle names?
    But I’ll be happy if either her or Damaris win.

  19. liz says:

    Does the competition seem less…intense this season? The last few seasons seemed like the contestants worked harder, got challenged more by the judges, etc. This season they seem to just kinda be getting an easier trip.

    • Yeahcanwe says:

      Yes, it really seems like this season is missing *something*. I cant quite put my finger on it, but since the very first episode this seasons oemthing was off. The pace and tone is gone, the urgency is gone, the competitors dont seem as into it, and neither do the mentors. Everyone just kind of seems like theyre going through the motions. It’s really bland to watch and I find myself doing other things while its on.

      They took a bunch of risks last year and switched up the format drastically. Not all of it worked, but at least it took a significant risk and the energy felt fresh (although I hated that room they’d go into). This year just feels very…been-there, done-that.

  20. sd says:

    I have no idea why Rodney is still there. At least Damarus made me laugh.

  21. Yeahcanwe says:

    Where’s Susie this season? I don’t like how the mentors are the same ones that judge, too. There needs to be some sort of divide. Also, I really liked Bob and Susie. They were legit and they would be the contestant’s actual bosses.

  22. Anise says:

    Michael! Grilling is not the same as barbecue. Grilling is a technique, but barbecue is a passion, a delicacy specific to a region, a culture. Bobby Flay just borrows indiscriminately from this ‘n’ that and likes to cook caveman-style. Pitmasters, with their secret recipes and special techniques and “squeeze butter” are a whole other entity.

    I’m from MN and the entire bbq mystique is so entrancing to me, having grown up in the land of the hot dish. I love regional food, and how crazy people can get over it.

  23. yep says:

    Right now the only two I would actually tune into watch their show are Demaris and Nikki. Stacy is to fake for me and the guys are incomprehensible. I also like some of the non-winners last season better than any of this year’s crop.

  24. Aaron says:

    Man, all of these reality shows are going for female domination this TV season – “Idol,” “The Voice,” “Big Brother,” “Food Network Star” . . .

    • Aaron says:

      I say “Big Brother” because that’s clearly where it’s headed, and “Food Network Star” because Rodney and Russell clearly should (and hopefully will) be the next two to go. They’re both hot messes. All of the viable male contenders (namely, Chris and Viet) already left.

  25. Bree says:

    Of course, not everything worked with the changes made last season, but the mentor roles and the team aspect was really cool! I liked how the mentors picked the team members that they thought they would work best with and actually mentored them and helped them achieve their potential. I miss Susie and Bob a lot. They are ultimately the best judges and I think they are necessary for the concept of the show to work. Mentors can give opinions and be advocates, but it loses something when they are judges too.

    • ChefInTraining says:

      I don’t agree. Teams were bad. Mentoring was good, though. But they should all get mentoring tips from Bobby, Giada and Alton as it goes on. By having teams, then it leaves things open to saying “but I would have won if I just would have had a different mentor.” Also, last year, who’s the best mentor practically took over who’s the best cook? And bad chefs getting “rescued” just because their team did good. Bad idea. This year, is far better.

  26. Zorba says:

    I’m really disliking Stacey. It sounds like she is reading off cue cards. I actually bought Rodney’s astronaut confusion and didn’t realize it was a skit. At least it was entertaining! Nikki’s voice over was redubbed in the challenge and they fast forwarded through some of it…do they think we don’t notice these things? I’m also really surprised Stacey’s dish set because it sure didn’t look cooked before she brought it out. Very confused this season.

  27. Dyna says:

    Rodney will be their season winner b/c they want him to be their next Guy Fiera (probably misspelled), who is their only true success story. Last year’s attempt to market another weird Alton Brown was a bust — that guy was horrible, but I knew within first few episodes that he was their pick.

    It’s obvious they are going to pick Rodney, despite only cooking a good pie (who couldn’t) once and sounding like a blubbering idiot evey time he talks.

    This season is really a joke when you see how many reality tv contestants is on the show. I recently read that Danuska had been on four shows, including The Bachelor and Fear Factor.

    Additionally, these individuals also have been on reality shows: Rodney, Russell, Lovely, Chris, Stacey and Pham. Really? This season is horrible — between the contestants and Gilda (whatever), I’m ready for the big “CANCELLED”. Stick a fork in me…….