So the Next Food Network Star came back in a huge way on Sunday. Gone were the Real World style histrionics and the Survivor style backstabbing and the Top Chef Style team challenges. In their place were challenges that actually relate to the job of being a Food Network host. The judging was about the actual FOOD and the presentation of the food and it was fair and deserved. One thing you can totally tell is that Giada did not want to have Colombe horning in on her sexiest lady on the Food Network Turf (not including Nigella). It was totally hilarious to see the Giada daggers of death coming out of her eyes during judging.
So we start in the NFNS apartments where Amy is being told she talks in her sleep by Rory. Rory insidiously says that Amy is talking about informing her kids about being eliminated. And wow does Rory have big ass teeth. We also get Rory talking about how nervous she was being on the chopping block last week. Well stop making ugly-ass cakes.
We next go to the Food Network studio where Giada is the guest judge/mentor. She looks lovely although her makeup is crazy heavy. JAG already icks me out by says Giada is "hotta." How creative. Giada announces that the challenge is to demo Giada's chicken florentine recipe where each contestant gets 1 minute to demo a step. Amy seems to take charge and goes over the recipe with everyone. Rory volunteers to start.
1 Minute Demo
Rory - Spends way too much time setting up the premise. She is surprisingly approachable but gets behind on the actual demoing.
Michael - All right, I've gotta admit that Michael has won me over. I totally want him to win. He's warm and friendly without that aggressive HI I'M MICHAEL energy that so many Food Network hosts have. He's pretty skillful about dealing with the pan being too hot for the butter.
JAG - He's pissed Michael hasn't made up more time and he gives us a good tip on cooling down the pan (run the back of it under cold water) and is able to get the group back on track. Here's the problem with JAG, like Guy, he's tough. Unlike Guy, he doesn't give off any of that gooey-heart-inside-of-a-tough exterior vibe. He's just tough. I will say he's really competent. But he's giving the CHEF vibe.
Colombe - Dear, dear Colombe. She's friendly and warm but totally feels like she's stoned. Stoned to the point that she doesn't notice a pan is filling with smoke.
Paul - Wow he is managing to bug the hell out of me. Taking over from Colombe, he bitches "speaking of BURRRNING Colombe, how about we take this pan off the heat." Just address the issue without calling out your competitor. Seriously this guy belongs on Top Chef. On top of that he wasn't particularly engaging. There are points where he just trips himself up.
Adrien - Ok, I don't know why the Food Network doesn't acknowledge he has his own local cooking show. He's really competent and speaks clearly. He's like a less surfer boy version of Tyler Florence which is always a good thing.
Tom - Starts off fine but then just goes off camera. He doesn't look up at all.
Amy - Shut up about being a Mom giving you the edge. It's not like we haven't heard that on every other reality show. But otherwise she's got that unruffled, calm Sara Moulton thing going on. Oh Sara Moulton how we miss you and your lack of histrionics.
Nikki - Wow is Nikki uptight and boring. She looks PISSED and never looks up to the camera. Giada is shooting her the daggers of death.
In the debriefing JAG btiches about being off script and Giada gives the completely useless advice of not letting the audience see you sweat. Well HOW do you address kitchen mishaps without being a spaz? Anyway she gives props to JAG. The next challenge is a totally relevant and very interesting challenge of making the cover recipe for Bon Appetit. I am immediately riveted. Christine Kidd from Bon Appetit comes on and explains what Bon Appetit is looking for in a cover recipe. The criteria is looking delicious, something a home cook can make themselves, and something that you would want to eat in season.
Taking a piece from Dancerindc, much F4 ensues. F4 = scrambling around and prepping. Not really worth recapping other than Rory deciding to make 5-hour ribs in 90 minutes.
Bon Appetit Challenge
Tom - Grilled ribeye steak with a forlorn spring of broccoli rabe underneath that's been drizzled with olive oil. That plate looks like an abattoir. He definitely has a big personality that mines the Boston Eye-talian thing he has going on but without the presentation skills. He bugs the crap out of me by coming back to the ready room and saying (unironically) he has "mad skillz." The judges hate the presentation.
Michael - The ever-beloved Michael. His chicken and vegetables have clear grill marks and the elements of the dish (chicken, zucchini and corn) all are distinct and well presented. The judges go gaga over his "throw herbs on the grill" tip. He has a nice balance between being interested in what he is saying but not spazzy. He is justifiably confident.
Amy - Blah blah blah French words. Her chicken and vegetable dish looks like a dog's breakfast as Ina Garten would put it. Nothing stands out and everything looks like a big chaotic mess. There's supposed to be goat cheese in it but it's lost in the chaos of chopped stone fruit. The Bon Appetit editor bitchily dismisses her. The judges hate the chaos but like the backyard presentation.
Adrien - People are complaining about the Giada bitchface on this one, but come on. It does look like someone regurgitated all over a bell pepper. It looks like some kind of mushroom, corn hash. The judges hate all of the spicy flavors in the hash. Although, Bon Appetit editor likes the flavor aside from the spiciness.
Colombe - This is just plain painful. She has lng awkward pauses in her presentation and seems completely discombobulated or stoned, take your pick. She mistakes her skirt steak for flank steak and just fumbles through the whole thing. Everyone looks like they want to send her to the lions. Bitchfaces all around and quite frankly, th bitchfaces were deserved.
JAG - His plate reeks of trying too hard with lamb chops, caramelized onion and mushroom ragout and grilled vegetables. Once again, I totally agreed with the judges that the dish looks too composed and more like a restaurant dish than something you would serve at home. He is too busy blathering on about the dish that he forgets to actually serve the judges. The Bon Appetit editor asks to taste it and she tries to engage him but he's mentally out the door. I just realized that Christine Kidd looks like Amy Sedaris.
Rory - It's all about redemption. She presents her dish on a cast iron grill pan. It's unpretentious and the elements of the ribs, corn and grilled cantaloupe are distinct and beautiful on the dish. Like one of the judges, I know I would hate the parsley salad because I think parsley tastes like grass. She does a great job describing how the dish reflects her Texas roots.
Nikki - Oh dear. She is totally rehearsing her presentation to death. She works every nerve I have when she starts, "July. Is. For. JAMAAAIIICA ME CRAAAZY jerk chicken MON!" Oh COME ON!!!!! There's certainly plenty of jerk in the room but it's not on the plate. Her dish is a jerk chicken and pineapple skewer with a potato and apple salad. Actually well presented but Nikki completely fake and cadenced speech is even more robotic than Katie Lee Joel. The judges like the potato salad but the chicken didn't have much jerk spice in it.
Paul - Another float in the parade of crazy. It's a good thing I am not a judge because making the little hats for the rack of lamb is not home food to me. It's just silly and affected, just like Paul. It's a beautiful presentation however and looks clean and presentable. What isn't presentable is Paul, who starts off ok but then goes into these total drama queeny deep breaths. Drag Queens on Broadway bring less drama than Paul. Wow does Giada look unhappy. The judges hate the use of dried instead of fresh herbs.
The redemption of Rory. Michael and Rory are singled out as the top Bon Appetit dishes. Rory wins the challenge and both she and Michael are safe. Michael is totally gracious and happy for Rory. I so want him to win this thing. I do have to laugh at Bob Tuschman's statement that Food Network viewers can spot phony from 500 miles away. An clueless statement considering that this is the network of Sandra Lee. In the middle of the pack are JAG, Amy, Tommy, and Paul. In the bottom are Adrien (?), Nikki, and Colombe. In the end Nikki gets kicked off and vows to keep trying.