Food Network Star: Little 'Chopped' of Horrors

Food Network Star Recap Danushka“I think I’m failing in the ‘food authority’ category.”

Let’s be honest, when you’re dropping that kind of self-assessment on Episode 3 of Food Network Star, the only dish on the menu is toast. And yes, you are that toast.

Thus, we bid an overdue goodbye to sour, monotone, Danushka, a former model hungry for fame, but not for any burger bigger than a slider. A woman whose proud ennui during a challenge that emulated Food Network’s dizzyingly difficult Chopped had guest judge Alex Guarnaschelli needing to take a moment to compose herself. A gal who repeatedly  insisted that her biggest challenge was getting her personality across, while failing to realize said personality was about as pleasant as a pie-crust made of tin foil (and as uncreative as her use of dragon fruit as the bowl of a reimagined lettuce cup).

Danuska’s exit was an obvious one, but the week’s dual challenges continued to separate contenders from pretenders.

The first task was using an unusual ingredient to create a dish — then present it with authority (even if the contestant wasn’t familiar with his or her item). Damaris scored a win in her group after Bobby went bonkers for her skillet cabbage with mango pickle, while Viet served up a side of sour grapes by complaining that the wacky southern gal got the easiest ingredient. Rodney triumphed in the other showdown using bitter melon seeds and gin (!) to top off a colorful salad. The winning duo received immediate immunity and got to sit at the judges’ table while their eight rivals went on to the next challenge — which played out like an episode of Chopped: Two heats of four chefs each, whipping dishes in 30 minutes built around four inscrutable ingredients.

Nicki and Chad won their respective cook-offs: Nicki via a chicken and broccoli spring roll, Chad with a peanut waffle and fried hot dog. (Side note: Anyone else think Nicki still needs to deliver her message with a greater air of authority?)

I came away from the episode with three revelations:

* Viet may be the best chef in the bunch, but even his confessionals are coming across as stilted — and he might be running out of time to put the “Star” at the end of “Food Network.”

* Damaris was definitely a more discerning and believable judge than Rodney, who worked way too hard to be nice, and not hard enough at looking like someone who might be sitting on one of those judging panels in a couple years’ time.

* Disconcerting as it was to hear the judges get excited by Chris’ admission that he’s a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, they were right that his frankness about being saved by food gives him a point of entry with audiences. The challenge for the food-truck operator will be tapping into the spirit of culinary rebirth without feeling like he’s selling his soul or using his past pain in a gimmicky way. (Side note: I’m not sure I bought his story about falling in love with a dried fish rub in fourth grade, either.)

My best guess on the next four eliminations: Lovely (getting the “took slick” critique every week); Nicki (doesn’t seem committed quite enough to her “semi-vegitarian P.O.V.); Rodney (fun, but does the pie man have enough true expertise?); and Russell (his “seven sins” idea feels too much like shtick, and not enough like an authentic way of cooking).

That would make for a final five of Stacey, Viet, Damaris, Chad and Chris. Does that prediction sound realistic to you, or do you see it another way? Sound off in the comments on all that, and bid your fond “good riddance!” to Danushka.

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. the girl says:

    Stacy and Chad are definitely front-runners. I think Viet might go home sooner than we think.

    • Joline says:

      I liked last season better with the “teams” concept. This year feels dull and underwhelming.

      • the girl says:

        I definitely miss the teams concept, a lot. I would have loved to see Alton and Viet work together, same with Giada and Stacy, Bobby and Chad. The personal attention really does make a difference.

        • Adam_A says:

          Yep – it allowed us to get to know the contestants better when the coaches mentored them one-on-one. I also liked the end of the episodes with the head-to-head battle for the last spot. More dramatic then the current format.

    • I hate the term front runner , but what surprised more then most things is that they cast Danuska , who has one of the most annoying personalities I have ever encountered

    • Ruby says:

      I really hope Stacey wins. I saw her episode of Restaurant Impossible and she really seems like a genuinely nice person.

  2. anibundel says:

    I’m not entirely sold on Stacey, but it’s clear that the judges are, which is a little frustrating. I do like Russell, and I think if he had walked in with his “Seven Deadly Sins” as a concept from the getgo instead of one he leapt onto in the first episode when his dangerous persona failed to fly, he might be in better shape.
    Chad strikes me as having practiced at home and studied the network for years between his audition tapes for FNS. He’s got the “personal touch while focusing on the recipe” patter down to an art. Lovely should take lessons.
    Of your Top Five guesses, I would definitely swap out Viet for Rodney. No I don’t think either will win, but I think Viet’s inability to amp up the personality will take him out ahead the PieMan.
    Before this week I would never have put Chris in any top five (except Top Five Douchebros Who Graced Food Network Star.) I think it depends how comfortable he is with Alton telling him to sell himself as inspiration. Like the one who refused to sell their weightloss stories (Andres this year, Judson last year), I have a feeling he will disappoint the judges by refusing to sell something that he *clearly* doesn’t have a good emotional handle on yet.

    • Tenney says:

      Wow, I would have never of put Chris in the Douchbros bucket, even befor this week. He can come across a little like a sales man but I attributed that to him owning a food truck and when you’re out on a food truck you some times have to stand outside and sell your food to drum up business. From my perspective, he always came across pretty nice. He always seemed to congratulate people when they did well and didn’t really say anything bad about anyone. He’s actually one of my favorites right now. Him and the vegetable lady.

  3. Aryn says:

    I just can’t get into this season…none of the contestants are appealing to me, and there is NO way I could watch it live with commercials and everything – snooze fest…thankful for my DVR I fast-forward thru so much of it, I get done in under 15 minutes. I could care less about any of the people, every other season there has always been a person who I knew would be someone I’d watch, but I think this season is going to turn out like Season 3 where, I think her name was Amy, won. Her show was on for like 6 weeks. Oh well, there’s always next year :)

    • Belle says:

      That’s too weird, you summed up what I was feeling and going to write…haha. But I stopped watching at the end of the second episode and am not going back – there isn’t a true star in this bunch!!!

  4. Engbunny says:

    I am not sure that you should be writing off Rodney just yet. He is great in front of the camera and his POV is something different. I think I might swap Viet for Rodney in your list.

  5. erin says:

    I’ll be disappointed if anyone except Chad wins this season. I don’t mind Stacey, Viet, Damaris, but Chad’s show is probably the only one I’d actually watch.

  6. KJ says:

    I am loving the lack of Susie and Bob this year. Anyone know why they’ve vanished?

  7. Chablis says:

    Can Alex G judge every week? The judges are way too vanilla right now.

  8. dq18 says:

    I enjoyed last year, but I think they’re going back to the original way to try and keep it interesting and make it seem fresh. The problem with that school of thought is that the cast of characters isn’t nearly as appealing as in past seasons. It really feels like the network has over-orchestrated this year, and it’s unappealing. Former Chopped contestants, former Iron Chef winners, former Food Truck Race competitors…I watch this show for NEW faces. There aren’t any other chefs left in the world?

  9. Josh says:

    There aren’t many extremely likeable contestants this year who come off as stars, but my faves so far are probably Chris, Damaris and Stacy, and maybe Viet. I think Stacy will win.

  10. Lily says:

    Although Chad looks like he needs a shampoo, I’m rooting for him. He’s got the personality, the camera chutzpah and he seems like he knows his way around the kitchen.

  11. Lily says:

    Oh and I like Rodney the pie man. He might just pull ahead of Damaris and/or Chris if he can do for his pies what Jeff did with his sandwiches two seasons ago. Good riddance to delusional Danushka. Next I think may be “party girl” Lovely. Even her name doesn’t ring true.

  12. Alison says:

    Here’s my thing. Why would I even want to watch this year’s competition when all they gave last year’s winner was one-episode special and he dropped out of sight? That was a big FU from the FN to viewers. Then on season 6, the “fan winner” was supposed to get a web series, but FN stiffed that winner as well. There have been other examples of hype and promises broken.

    I know they waffle back and forth between the winner chosen by the judges or a call in vote. So FN lets America “choose” and then says screw that. When judges choose the choices have often ranged from epic failures (Amy Finely) or mostly forgettable (Aarti Parti)

    Over the last eight years, with the except of Guy and possibly Jeff Maru, this show has churned out few people worth watching. So what is point of this except filler for summer?

    • Adam_A says:

      All good points. Didn’t know about FN abandoning its winners. Kind of like Xfactor not giving Melanie Amaro an album. You’d think the fact they advertise these prizes and not deliver would hurt the brands.

  13. Thomas says:

    I gotta go with Rodney. So many of the others are just more of the same. I’ve been waiting for him to get a show since he was on Paula Deen.

  14. cs says:

    I just hope Robert Irvine shows up at some point and says to Stacy, ‘hey, didn’t I save your restaurant? Weren’t you the lady who couldn’t run your business right and was in debt, etc.? Hmm, maybe you shouldn’t be here at all.’ She is so packaged, so fake, that smile of hers makes my skin crawl ;-)

    • Saabgirlatx says:

      Stacy was on RI? What was her restaurant?

      • SororSalsa says:

        Her restaurant is called The Trails. She didn’t have any huge issues (food was ok, restaurant wasn’t filthy, etc.) but her cook only wanted to do breakfast & lunch and Stacey didn’t want to do a dinner service. She was in major debt and had borrowed her dad’s retirement money to keep the restaurant afloat.

        • Adam_A says:

          Were all these contestants on another TV show??

          • Evan says:

            Fans have found a good chunk of them have come from other shows previously. Lovey from Hell’s Kitchen, Danushka from an episode of Chopped as well as other reality shows (the look on her face when she saw it was a Chopped challenge knowing how she did the first time on there said it all), Chris Hodge from Great Food Truck Race, Viet from competing on Iron Chef (the only one they’ve acknowledged who had previously been on a FN show), and others.

            It’s really starting to get bad that they can’t just find anyone completely original and have to farm out from other shows. But that’s Reality TV nowadays, in the end, its always about getting the best actor.

        • pinkie says:

          I knew I’d seen her somewhere else. Thanks for that info.
          She does seem TV smart, however.

          I also agree that Rodney will stick around longer than Viet.

          And Hallelujah, Danushka is GONE!!

  15. Babybop says:

    I don’t like Russel’s idea for a show, plus he has a horrible stage presence. He’s my vote for next elimination.

    • Joline says:

      Especially in this day and age of heart disease and movement towards healthy eating. This show would never fly.

  16. Ashly says:

    I predict Chad, Stacey, Viet, Nicki (because she keeps fighting even after she receives negative feedback), and Rodney (only because his concept is relatively new).

    My personal faves are Chad and Stacey.

  17. Beachrick says:

    Said it before, say it again: you want original…never before seen on FN…you want cooking expertise…selected “best” twice so far….Damaris. Watch and learn.

  18. threefriendsandafork says:

    I agree with almost everything that has been mentioned…
    1. The show loses credibility when the past winner doesn’t get the promised show.
    2. I am tired of seeing contestants recycled from other shows.
    3. This year’s cast includes no one that makes you want to root for them.
    4. The team concept was much more exciting. You had not only the contestants competing, but the 3 mentors were in somewhat of a competition themselves, which added an extra element to the show.
    5. Danushka lasted waaaay longer than she should have.

  19. Skadi says:

    I THOUGHT I saw Danushka in the commercials (I haven’t actually watched any Next Food Network Star because I don’t really care). She was a riot on Chopped…but not because she was funny or creative. Both of her dishes, before she was chopped, were criticized for being underseasoned and her response was something along the lines of ‘The family I cook for doesn’t complain about my cooking’. I told my boyfriend they must be an old couple who doesn’t like flavor (much like my son’s grandparents – his grandmother doesn’t use salt at all when she cooks because according to her ‘salt dries food out’). I was wondering how long Danushka was going to last…at least it wasn’t long. I could barely stand her for 2/3rds of an episode…I’m sorry you guys had to deal with her for 3. And yeah – if the winner doesn’t get what they’re competing for, the show loses credibility (a la Hell’s Kitchen).

  20. Justin Funicello says:

    Danushka is obviously FN’s “bad guy plant” ala T.V’s pro wrestling. They keep recycling her so that people will tune in just to see her fall. For my part, I think just the opposite will be true, Every member of my weekly cooking group agrees that we will not watch any program that she shows up on.