I'd haveto say NFNS swing wildly from an actual audition for the Food Network to Top Chef territory. This as Top Chef territory with another catering under stupid conditions style challenge.
Whoah. There's a lot of beefcake in the NFNS house. Paul, Adrian, and Michael are getting up at 5:00 am, shirtless. Michael is remarkably good shape for 50 years old. They head to Jersey and Michael and Paul are resolving to do better. The contestants arrive at Fort Dix army base. JAG thinks he has an edge since he's been in the armed services. In a Fort Dix hangar, JAG is seeing all of the gear and getting flashback to his military days. Surprisingly, he's feeling uncomfortable. But maybe it's because he mislead the Food Network about his experience in the military. Giada arrives with two guests from the Army. Surprisingly, Giada wearing a scoop neck sweater that shows no cleavage. Maybe she's sending a hint to Rory. The challenge is to reinvent a MRE - Meal Ready to Eat. All of the basic MRE ingredients look like dog food. It's a pretty ridiculous challenge that not even Tof Chef would do. There are reconcstituted beef patties and pork ribs. They have to make a three-course meal out of that garbage.
Our first F4 of the episode. Amy is feeling out of her element. JAG is feeling confident, except when HE sets a dishtowel on fire.
Amy - Shut up about being the gourmet next door. Noone wants to watch a show with a big French know-it-all. She throws minestorne soup, cheese sauce, and chicken breast together for a "mexican Mac and Cheese." Huh? She also serve some truly vile looking toasts with a shrimp salad on top. She also serves a vile blend of lemon poppyseed pound cake mashed with pineapple and condensed milk, Giada and the officers are not happy.
Adrien - Adrien makespork rib chopped up with pineapple. And corn chowder with shrimp and tabasco. He just serves the cookie as is. It looks pedestrian but the soup is way to spicy.
JAG - Using the rib packet meal, JAG makes a stew with white beans and carrots. He makes it a "chipoltay" stew.
Paul - He puts together chiekcn and the sweet potatoes and a dijon cherry glaze. His dessert is a caramelized pineapple layered with the lemon poppyseed pound cake and sprinkled with M&M, He envisions the Army folks would throw the M&Ms at each other. Giada likely.
Rory - Rory explains her dish with the circular argument that what brings the soldiers right home is somethign that reminds them of home. She makes a beef stew and a cobbler.
Michael - Chops up the meat patty with mac and cheese and a crumbled pretzel topping. He also makes smokey BBQ stew and bread with BBQ sauce. He calls the MRE an MRI.
In the end, the loser of the challenge is Adrien who did nothing to his dish and JAG who was least successful in his presentation of the dish. Paul wins for both presentation and actual food. JAG is pissed about losing and makes a stupid analogy of Rambo being put in Vietnam and forced ot bake a cake. I wish that were the last reference to Vietnam in the episode.
At the next challenge, Paula Deen joins Giada for the home cooking challenge. She's perky and radiant and while some folks thinks she was corny in the episode, I thought she was fairly genuine and warm. Anyway, for the challenge, the Food Netowrk polled the soldiers at Fort Dix on what home cooked foods they missed the most. The top three were lasagna, meatloaf, and pot pies. For the challenge they need to prepare the entree with two sides. THe remaining six break up into teams with Paul choosing since he was the first challenge winner. The teams are: Paul and JAG - meatloaf; Amy and Rory - lasagna; Michael and Adrien - pot pie. He sets up the challenge to help the girls. The teams also have three minutes to present their dish to the 75 soldiers.
F4 with a lot of huge pots, pans and mixing bowls. Adrien's lack of cooking skills really shows and he defers to Michael. JAG seems be fairly competent and Paul is turning up the gay. Surprisingly, Amy and Rory go off like gangbusters. Amy is a-twitter because there's no brown sugar and she has to change her chocolate chip cookie to a shortbread. Paula comes along and tells her to chill the hell out. Michael and Adrien decide to use fried potato chips as a crust for the pot pie. JAG and Paul are seasoning their meat (DIRTY!) and SINGING. This is hilarious. The ladies haveare hard time draining the pasta from the giant pot. And then come THE INCIDENT. THey find that their oven is on cool down as opposed to heat so the oven doesn't work. Paul is surprisingly calm but JAG is losing it calling sabotage. JAG in his anger, comes up with the solution of deep frying the meatloaf, This sounds iffy to me and Paul. What I do like about Paul is that he is going along with the plan and NOT undercutting JAG. Michael and Adrien make a dessert of peaches and cherries and cool whip, They are frozen and Adrien asks Michael if they should run them under cold water. Michael says no. F4 to get everything on the trays.
Then it's time for the presentations.
Amy and Rory - They do a silly military routine complete with cadenced yelling. Rory turns up the Southern accent. I actually thought they did well, if not a little over-rehearsed. THey highlight their different styles but focus on the home cooking aspect. They make garlic bread, salad, and shortbread with chocolate chips. Amy notes that Rory is stcked. Not that we ever forgot.
Michael and Adrien - It starts off badly with Adrien trying to shake Michael's hand and Michael ignoring him. THey thank the soldiers profusedly. Along with the potato pot pie, there is a tomato salad and the vile looking cherry and peaches. In a completely cringeworthy moment, Michael goes on and on about Vietnam. I seriously don't get what he's trying to do.
JAG and Paul - In a smart move, JAG does most of the talking. THey make meatloaf, flambeeing vegetables and some really bland looking steamed vegetables. Paul seems to be firing on all cylinders because he is definitely turning down the gay. JAG won't let go of the oven incident.
The judges like the meatloaf, except for Paula. Paula likes the sweet potatoes. They hate the steam vegetables, especialyl Giada who is bringing the bitchface. They also are slamming the frozen peaches and the lasagna. THe only thing they like fro mthe ladies is the shortbread. Back in the kitche, JAG is STILL pissed about the ovens. Everyone is trying to calm him down.
At judging, it's cryfest 2007. JAG tears up at the memories of his military experience. Giada tells him to deal with his demons. Paul gets props for being best in show. He is told to be consistent. The judges like the potato chip crust. The jduges HATE the rapport between the two. What they really hate is the talk of Vietnam. Susie called it disingenuous. Michael can't elucidate his culinary point of view. In what is totally emblematic of where the Foodnetwork is, they admonish Adrien to be more of a jackass. That explains a WHOOOOLLE lot. Amy and Rory get dinged for their lasagna but get props for their presentation. The judges push Amy to be less rigid. Rory is told by Giana that being a star is a soul searching quest. This sets off the waters in Amy. She feel uncomfortable about the public/private challenge. This sets off Michael. And then sets off Rory.
Post waterworks, the lovable Michael is sent home for really flubbing it that day. Sadly, were left with NOONE I think is a particularly strong host. It should be renamed the Next Food Network Bleh.