Food Network Star: Mind Your Pilafs & Cues

Food Network Star RecapWe’re down to four contestants on Season 9 Food Network Star, and amazingly enough, one of them is a dude who’s only intelligible on every third word — and whose main dish this week looked like a sloughed-off hunk of forearm.

I know I’ve been saying for weeks now that it’s a three-woman race, but I’m starting to worry that the most paranoid TVLine comments-section posters have been on to something with their terrifying theories: Is it possible someone behind the Food Network curtain sees a Guy Fieri 2.0 in guitar-playing Rodney, a man prone to yelling “Pi Sty!” — translation: “Pie Style!” — and ignoring Alton, Giada and Bobby’s advice at nearly every turn? How else to explain him surviving another week despite Giada’s verrrry damning comment that, “we’ve seen glimmers of cooking chops from Rodney”? I mean, she certainly couldn’t have seen a glimmer of anything (other than possibly food poisoning) in Rodney’s deep-fried chicken cacciatore pie this week — part of a Restaurant: Impossible challenge where the five finalists tried to update and revamp an outdated dish from a restaurant called Phil Trani’s. “I like dough,” said Alton, describing the shell of Rodney’s dish, “But I don’t like it raw.”

Rodney keeps repeating that “‘Pie Style’ is basically a way of life,” but over the last nine weeks, it’s looked like the way of life of someone who doesn’t have the culinary chops to warrant a cooking segment on his local cable access channel, let alone to share a (TV) home with the Barefoot Contessa and Bobby Flay.

OK, to be fair, this week’s evictee, Nikki, sealed her death sentence by serving a rice pilaf to the panel, then drawing a blank when they asked her for the definition of the dish, and all she could do was ditzily mutter, “Rice pilaf is a rice that has stuff in it.” Later, in the confessional, she tried to brush it off: “Plenty of people don’t know what makes something a pilaf!” The problem is, none of those people have their own show on the Food Network, either.

Nevertheless, while Nikki may not always come off like a total authority, at least the judges found her salmon over broccoli cakes to be a tasty — if not pretty — update on the original recipe. And girlfriend doesn’t even like salmon! How the heck did she get eliminated again?

Given Rodney’s ineptitude — and the fact that the audience will decide the winner this year — I think it comes down to Damaris (my personal pick), Stacey (who’s got culinary chops, but no real point-of-view and a slight whiff of entitlement) and Russell (an inconsistent chef at best whose speaks in a way that you can never tell where his sentences begin and end).

Heck, the judges found Damaris’ steak and potatoes to be all too average this week, but her jokes to guest judge Robert Irvine about being from New York — despite her clear Kentucky accent — and her “Just kidding! I don’t fist bump!” riff were 10 times funnier than anything that came out of Rodney’s mouth. Oh, who am I kidding? I can’t understand a word Rodney is saying!

What did you think of Nikki’s ouster this week? Does Rodney have any chance at the finals, or are the judges about to regain their sanity and give him the axe next week? Sound off in the comments!