Monday, July 13, 2009

The Next Food Network Star Episode 6

This week, the wannabes headed to Miami for no good reason whatsoever.


After checking their baggage, they run into Ted Allen, who just happens to be hanging out in JFK's Terminal Five.

With Ted is Michael Coury, the "concept chef" behind OTG, the company that manages food service in the terminal. They break the news that each wannabe is going to have to cook a meal that fits with the theme of one of the surrounding restaurants: Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's, Starbuck's, Chili's, and a hotdog cart. Just kidding....

To mix things up a bit, each is assigned a restaurant that will play havoc with their normal culinary comfort zones: Jeffrey gets AeroNuova, an Italian joint (developed by Mark Ladner of Del Posto); Michael gets the French Brasserie La Vie (from the founders of Balthazar and Pastis); Melissa has to work within the confines of Piquillo, a Spanish restaurant (from Tia Pol's Alexandra Raij); Jamika is making sushi at Deep Blue; and Debbie gets 5ive Steak.

*Mr Minx and I got a nasty bout of food poisoning from a seemingly-harmless turkey sandwich from an artisan bread purveyor at the San Francisco airport. One or both of us spent four of the five days we were in CA throwing our guts up. It killed me to call Spago to cancel our reservation. On the upside, I lost 9 lbs.

The wannabes get 30 minutes to cook a dish consistent with their restaurant's style. The winning dish will be sold at that restaurant.

We then get scenes of them rushing around in a small kitchen, dealing with knives that come attached to cutting boards with a leash, Michael wanting to work with oysters but not being able to shuck them, etc. and soforth.

At the end of 30 minutes, Jamika trots out of the kitchen to find a judging panel comprising Tushface, Bride of Fogelstein, Ted Allen, a Jet Blue pilot, and a Jet Blue flight attendant. She serves a seared tuna salad and, while her presentation starts out strong, it soon ends up in the crapper.

Debbie then serves a spinach salad, despite being assigned a steak house. She said it would be a good pre-steak starter, or something for women watching their weight. Fogelstein took offense to that remark, saying that not only women are weight-conscious. Suz, calm down - she didn't call you fat.

Jeffrey bounded out and said since his life has no borders, neither does his cuisine and babbled something about being Lebanese [insert Jamie Farr/Tony Shalhoub/Sammy Hagar joke here. Bet you didn't know Sammy Hagar was Lebanese, did you?]. His poached egg bruschetta was deemed a perfect breakfast/lunch/dinner item by Fogelstein. And Tush really got off on the Lebanese factoid.

Melissa then tells them that Spanish was her first language until the age of 3, since her nanny was Spanish-speaking. What happened at three? Did her parents finally notice they couldn't understand her and can the Latina? Anyhoo, she made pollo a la plancha with chorizo and potatoes and impressed the panel. And Tush really got off on the Spanish factoid.

Finally, Michael brings out his Frenchie-stylie "surf and surf." Despite his "global a go-go" leanings....

It's looking that way.

Jeffrey wins the challenge and will have his dish appear on the AeroNuova menu.

Finally, the wannabes are allowed to get on the plane and head to the humidity of Miami, where they are staying in a cushy, air-conditioned apartment at the Eden Roc Beach Resort and Spa.

Their joy is short-lived, however, when Melissa finds a note from Ted to meet him in the lobby. Presumably they're not going to be doing any site-seeing. Nor visiting the hotel spa.

Oh, so you've watched Chopped, too?

Ted gives them the bad news: first, it's a team challenge; second...

Since Jeffrey won the airport challenge, he gets to assign roles to his team. He appoints Michael bartender, Debbie expediter, and Jamika and Melissa kitchen staff. He chooses the host role for himself.

Each wannabe must contribute at least 2 hors d'oeuvres and they all must come up with a signature cocktail. They head up to their suite to plan a menu before heading to the store with a total of $1500 with which to buy ingredients.

After shopping, they go to the venue - Nikki Beach, presumably the only nightclub in Miami (didn't they film a segment there during one of the seasons of Top Chef?) - to do a measly two hours of prep and cooking.

Unfortunately, there seems to be more cooking than there is time to do it in.

Eventually, the time comes when the boys have to take their place at the front of the house. They try to get the girls' attention so they can leave instructions about cooking their dishes, but the girls are just too busy with their own stuff to stop and listen.

They all get their shit together in time to run out in front of the gathered hoardes and make a brief presentation. Jeffrey announces that the drinks are spicy and the food will be spicy too.

"and will provide no Pepto Bismol. You're on your own, people!"

Michael is having a grand old time as bartender. He keeps channeling Telly Savalas and yelling, "who loves ya, baby?" every few minutes.

The wannabes come out with serving trays and make a little presentation to Bobby Flay, Tushface, Fogelstein, and Ted Allen who haven't had enough to drink because they are completely vicious.

Tush says, "Jeff likes to make people happy, but his food is flat." Like his ass.

Melissa is "warm, likeable, fun" but her food has "technical issues" and...

Meanwhile, there are tables that have not yet seen food and hungry people rushing the servers as soon as they appear with full trays. (Kinda reminded me of the Top Chef 5 premiere party I attended last year.) In the kitchen, Debbie is fiddling around with her own two dishes, not expediting and not even turning around to see if either of the other ladies needs a hand or two.

Bobby decides he needs to sneak into the kitchen to see what is going on back there.

At the same time, Michael goes into the kitchen and sees a lack of organization, so he jumps in and does some cooking, grabs a few trays and heads out to the judges.

They attack by saying he was memorable but his food was not. He confesses to being more comfortable with crowds than with cameras. Hmm...sounds like that admission could be a mistake.

Finally, Debbie stops fiddling with her trays and makes an appearance to the judges. Although not happy with her lack of expediting, the judges admitted that her food was the best conceived and best executed of the lot and Bobby thought she really brought her Korean flavors.

The next morning, Jeffrey is practicing for the elimination.

They meet in a blue room that is much more soothing than the Screaming Yellow Room of Doom back in New York. Probably a good thing, considering most of them have hangovers. The judges, I mean.

They cast judgement on each wannabe in turn. Jeffrey came out strong but promised too much. Michael was the "hostess with the mostess" but not the favorite personality in the crowd. Jamika seemed rushed and overwhelmed and although they liked her shrimp, her chicken wasn't spicy enough.

Melissa's vegetarian dish was the best of her three, and she was commended on being smart enough to offer the option. But the judges also questioned her need to make three dishes when all she needed to do was two.

Debbie's dishes were both favorites, but she seemed chaotic. She claims she was being selfless. Then the judges brought up the fact that the food wasn't coming out of the kitchen in a timely manner and started pointing fingers. Was it Jeffrey's fault? He defends assigning expediting duties to Debbie.

Stinkin' liar!

Melissa then tells the real truth.

Melissa claims she did her three dishes and Jeffrey's two. Jamika did her two and Michael's two. Fogelstein seemed confused by all the math but realized that left only two dishes for Debbie to worry about. Selfless, my ass.

They all get sent back to the suite where they point fingers at each other during the fifteen minutes it takes the panel to make their final decision.

Jamika, Melissa, and Jeffrey are all safe, leaving Debbie and Michael on the chopping block.

Ultimately, it was Michael who was asked to leave. Sorry Bobby - maybe next time.

This verdict pissed me off. Michael was indeed the "hostess with the mostess" and just because he's not comfortable in front of the camera doesn't mean he won't be great eventually. I don't remember Aaron McCargo being all that comfortable, and his show is in its second season. Bah.


Miss Ginger Grant said...

Does anyone hate Ted Allen as much as me? Or Guy Fiero? Or Aaron McGyver Jr, for that matter?

LoveFeast Table said...

Thanks for your rendition!! Fun to read!

John said...

It sounds like it was a stupid episode up until the end with all that drama. God, please let them all go home next week!

I was at the Chelsea Market yesterday visiting New York and I had no clue that it is the home of the Food Network. I thought "THIS is where all the evil happens!"

bernal_vernal said...

You're right about the judges on Chopped being bitter. I'd like to see them be contestants and see how well they do.