Food Network Star Recap: No Return Policy

Food-Network-Star-RecapI’m not gonna lie to you: I’ve carefully watched every second of Season 9 of Food Network Star, but to steal a line from Aretha Franklin, there “ain’t no way” I was going to get lured into the online spin-off Star Salvation.

To be fair, the stakes off the latter series were fairly high, with evicted contestants battling for a second chance to reboard the mothership. But I’d have preferred if the Star Salvation winner was rewarded with a chance to compete on next year’s Food Network Star, rather than a free pass to potentially knock out a rival who’d already ejected him or her from the current competition.

To make matters worse, it’s not even like any of the Season 9 eliminations have been egregious or unfair. So when the studio doors opened and Lovely (!) strutted into the room with minimal fanfare, it was the equivalent of Bobby Flay coming to your table in the midst of a five-course meal and declaring, “Here’s a plate of Saltines that nobody asked for!”

Unfortunately for Lovely, our esteemed judging panel seemed to suffer from similar feelings — none of which changed when Lovely failed to cook up a vivid description of a pasta dish in the opening challenge, then went splat like a Thanksgiving turkey sliding off a platter during a segment where she interviewed diners at a pizza joint and started to turn her back before the dudes could mutter a couple of unenthusiastic comments. (Anyone else also find themselves bothered by Lovely declaring the pizza had a “crispy crust” as it drooped in the middle like a wet Brawny paper towel holding up some baby potatoes?)

Yes, as casually as Bobby shrugging his shoulders after saying the word “fetuccini” in front of Giada, Lovely got the axe (again!) before she’d even brought her water to a boil, so to speak. Naturally, this led to the glam caterer speaking in the third person: “Either you take Lovely exactly as she is or not at all.” [Insert your own punch line there.]

With Lovely’s re-entry and re-exit, the competitive momentum stalled a bit, but not before Russell and Rodney — who teamed up with Lovely to write, produce and deliver an “out-in-the-field” segment from Vito’s Pizzeria — got another chance to grace the Bottom 3, and somehow escape elimination. As the judges noted, neither dude shared any intel on the owner’s 500-year-old yeast concoction, choosing instead to randomly insert their respective “seven deadly sins” and “pie style!” slogans to absolutely useless effect. Sure, everybody chuckles when Rodney’s on the screen — but as Giada so damningly put it, “Your inability to demonstrate food authority is catching up with you.”

On the flip side, Damaris, Nikki and Stacey put together a lively, fun segment from Mr. Donut — although the judges were well within their rights to ping the latter contestant for steamrolling the bakery owner during their in-the-kitchen segment (even if dude did seem to be a tad retiring on camera). At this point, I’m wondering if the producers brought back Lovely just to ensure there wouldn’t be a streak of five consecutive dudes getting sent to the guillotine.

Any way you slice it — even pie style! — it’s a three-horse race among the ladies, no? That said, Stacey lost a few points with her crying spell and her contention that “every week I’ve worked so hard to be here.” Um…hasn’t everyone else? Yeah, it’s pressure to be a front-runner, but it beats being a perpetual bottom dweller!

What did you think of this week’s episode? Did Lovely deserve to go, or should it have been Rodney someone else? Sound off below!