Something died in the middle of this week’s Food Network Star — and not just guest judge Katie Lee’s will to live after being asked to accept the idea that a steaming bowl of soup makes the perfect warm-weather family-reunion entree.
Nope, I’m talking about the last shred of suspense regarding the Season 11 proceedings — which flatlined at the exact moment Jay chose to make Pigs in a Blanket (using store-bought biscuit dough!) and Ants on a Log (yes, that thing where you put peanut butter and raisins on a celery stick) for his mentor challenge.
Look, no disrespect to your childhood or mine, but if Jay gets his own Food Network series on the basis of recipes that would make even my four-year-old twins throw synchronized “Chef, please” side-eyes, then we might as well scrap the entire series and give Bobby and Giada their own Bachelor– and Bachelorette-style dating series. (I kid! I kid! Though Giada is already rockin’ the perfect assortment of cleavage-baring ensembles to bring all the boys to the pasta bar. Also, my mother would drop everything for a chance to spend a night in a fantasy suite with Bobby — so long as there was a grill on the balcony.)
Don’t mistake this as me discrediting Jay’s food or his New Orleans-grilling-meaty POV — dude has served up some really tasty-looking vittles over the past couple months — but this is a competition. And the pigs in a blanket/ants on a log menu — without so much as an inspired dipping sauce or deconstructed twist — is the competitive equivalent of American Pharoah just hanging out in the starting gate and telling his overmatched rivals, “Go on guys — I’mma let y’all have this one!”
All this is my way of saying Eddie is gonna win this thing like Meryl Streep in an acting battle against Kim Kardashian, Jessica Alba and Vince Vaughn (condolences to my TVLine pal Kim Roots for pulling True Detective duty this season).
He’s got charisma, he’s got a Caribbean-inspired concept that Food Network could use and he’s never made me question his culinary authority. Who’s gonna beat him at this point? Certainly not exhausting Arnold, with his uncomfortably stiff posture and painful stabs at “hey gurrlll” camp.
Actually, let’s not forget next week’s episode will reintroduce the winner of online second-chance series Star Salvation back into the competition — and as a man who had the pulled-pork mac-and-cheese at Dom Tesoriero’s Saratoga Racecourse food truck this afternoon, I have to offer this caveat: Don’t count that Staten Island cutie out yet!
With that said, let’s review this week’s proceedings. The mentor challenge asks the four remaining fellas — Eddie, Jay, Arnold and Alex — to nail a “faux-live” cooking segment with host Catherine McCord, and Eddie wins, even though his overly flirty response to Catherine’s beauty makes me wonder about that wife he was raving about just a few episodes ago. Still, his burger toppings and muscle-flexing put him miles ahead of Jay’s tragic after-school snacks, Arnold’s inability to convince us he knows how to use a food processor and Alex’s failure to defend garlic as an ingredient that belongs in a romantic date-night dish. (Honestly, isn’t “garlic-breath” more of a trumped-up cliché than a real consideration for those of us working it out in the kitchen?)
Eddie’s win allows him to give out assignments for a “Summer Live!” program — I guess Rachael Ray didn’t want to host the Food Network Star finalists this season? — where each fella gets five minutes to demo a dish (and engage his co-hosts) in front of a live audience.
Without the judges tasting a single spoonful, it’s clear Eddie and Jay will survive. The former’s vegetable-ribbon pasta with lemon sauce is easy on the eyes and appropriately summer-y – and his charisma even spills over into his rival contestants’ segments. Jay, meanwhile, serves up some less-than-finessed looking chocolate tarts, but his natural warmth (and his easy cocktail) keep him out of danger.
And thus, it’s down to Alex or Arnold for elimination. Both of ’em succeed with their food — though Arnold’s grilled cilantro shrimp and corn meet the parameters of the challenge (and express his POV) better than sandwich guy Alex’s bacon-miso ramen — which means it’s really going to be a decision about presentation. Sure, Arnold’s almost frantic delivery is hard to watch, but when Alex can’t manage to spin a single relatable story about why his family had their reunion in Indonesia or explain why he’s left the soup out of the classic soup-sandwich pairing, it’s clear he’s burnt toast. Giada’s side eye as he insists “In Asia, you’re eating soup all summer long!” tells us exactly where her vote is going — and in this case, she is 100 percent correct.
Before I turn it over to you, though, let’s allow Katie Lee a deliciously bitchy parting shot: “Nothing says summer like a hot bowl of bacon ramen.”
What did you think of this week’s Food Network Star? Was the right contestant sent home? And who do you want to win Star Salvation: Rue, Dom or Alex? Also, can anyone beat Eddie? Sound off in the comments with your thoughts!