Monday, July 19, 2010

The Next Food Network Star 6 - Episode 6

This week, the Wanna-bes head to the Food Star kitchen to find both Bobby Flay and Close-up Toothpaste model Giada DeLaurentiis waiting for them, along with several menacing-looking pic-a-nic baskets. Giada states that this week is all about a hugely important skill - expertise. Wait - there are experts on the Food Network? Oh right, Guy Fieri is an expert at talking with his mouth full of food. Sandra Lee is an expert alcoholic mixologist. Rachael Ray is an expert at getting on my nerves.

For the episode's first challenge, the Camera Challenge, the Wanna-bes have to share their expertise in...entertaining.

Each basket contains a prop for a specific type of party and three ingredients which must be used in a unique "party bite." (At this point I'm thinking there's some cheesy "Twilight" connection to the challenge, but thankfully I am wrong.) In addition to talking about the "bite" in their presentation, each Wanna-be must also deliver a tip targeted to people who watch the Cooking Channel.

They open the baskets in front of them.

Aarti gets New Year's Eve, grapefruit, honey, and champagne;
Brad gets a Bachelorette party, vodka, strawberries, and olives;
Aria gets Sweet 16, peaches, cream cheese, and something else I didn't catch;
Serena gets a Poker party with Scotch, bacon, and peanuts;
Tom gets a Ladies' Lunch with almonds, Mimolette cheese, and tea;
Brianna gets a Child's 5th Birthday with apple juice, yellow mustard, and carrots;
and Herb gets a Pool party with ginger, pickles, and pineapple.

There are 30 minutes to cook and one minute to present. The results are, predictably, mixed. And predictable.

Ok, maybe not so predictable. Brad finally showed what he could do - he smiled, he was interesting, and he made good food. Tom also did an impressive job.

Aarti, who alternates every week between "great" and "disappointing," finished early and couldn't think of what to say to fill her remaining 11 seconds. Herb, the "energy chef" had no energy at all and seemed flustered. He had to examine his food to jog his memory about the ingredients.

Brianna cooked food that was far too sophisticated for a 5-year-old's party. And her tip was outrageous.

Ok, maybe she didn't use those exact words, but the meaning was similar. Finally, although Serena didn't babble, she was still awkward; fortunately her food was good.

Brad and Tom get the win, with an advantage in the next challenge and a 30-second spot on the Cooking Channel, home to reruns of Two Fat Ladies, Nigella Lawson, and that guy who says, "vokka."

The next day, the Wanna-bes head back to the Food Star kitchen and meet a special guest judge.

Today's "expertise" challenge is the ability to modernize classic dishes. Each of the contestants must take a "classic" dish and reinvent it for today's diners. And each will serve their dish to a panel of judges at the former home of Frank Sinatra, in Palm Springs.

As winners of the last challenge, Brad and Tom get to select the dish they want, plus assign the other dishes to the remaining Wanna-bes.

Brad takes Chicken Cordon Bleu and Tom selects Lobster Thermador. They stick Aria with Pigs in a Blanket and Brianna with Tuna Casserole, over which she has a cow.

Aarti gets Deviled Eggs; Herb gets Beef Stroganoff; and Serena gets Pineapple Upside Down Cake. The Wanna-bes then make a trip to the grocery store before heading back home.

The next day, they head to Palm Springs. Brad is feeling "Rat Packy" and wears a vest, but doesn't switch his trademark cap for a fedora. (Shockingly, he does have a full head of hair under that cap.) The Wanna-bes strangely seem to find Sinatra's home, "classy."

Well, maybe YOU have swagger. I guarantee I would not.

The chefs cook and present in turn, with Aria going first. She has decided to reinterpret pigs in a blanket as fried shrimp. She's taking a risk because she was called "forgettable" last week. This week she'll be called, "coo-coo."

Yeah, but it looks FABULOUS with the bar.

Besides Ted Allen, Bobby Flay, Bob Tushface, and Bride of Fogelstein, the guest judges for this Star Challenge are Maile Carpenter of Food Network Magazine (big woo), and Cal Fussbudget Fussman of Esquire. He's wearing a hat and is trying to seem like a cool member of Sinatra's gang of hoodlums but instead looks like he's wearing a Halloween costume.

Aria's dish, while tasty, doesn't work for them. But the judges liked her and her presentation.

Tom is up next, grilling lobster on an un-greased grill. He calls the sticking aftermath, a "lobster massacre." But he gets enough of it scraped off and onto plates to call it a meal. He's a casual guy so when he starts talking about the dish, he starts "like"-ing and "you know"-ing and "um"-ing. He talks too much and the judges aren't particularly excited by the food.

Aarti takes her deviled eggs and turns them into "devil-ish" eggs on rice with a curry sauce. Finding the curry flavors a bit harsh, she puts a very small amount on the dish, which garners complaints from Bride of Fogelstein.

And though she is in a rich-man's setting, Aarti talks about making this dish on a budget, which turns off the judges.

Brianna is too good to have made or eaten tuna casserole (she studied in FRANCE!) so she decides to make a dish with crab and Brie topped with dried mushroom "breadcrumbs."

Did they teach you how to do that in FRANCE?

Even without mushrooms, her dish tastes good. But her presentation is largely negative. She really has no people skills at all.

Finally, Serena tells a good story, but her store-bought-pastry pineapple Napoleon falls flat.

Back at the studio, in front of the Selection Committee, the Wanna-bes defend their choices.

Brad said he took a tip from Sinatra and did it "my way." Tushface thought he was "magic" and that he was "casual but commanding." No surprise, Brad gets the win. Aria, Tom, and Serena are safe. That leaves Herb, Brianna, and Aarti on the bottom.

Herb had made a feeble attempt at making Beef Stroganoff lighter, and failed miserably. And he seemed a bit pathetic during his presentation.

Hey, Bobby, tell that to Rocco DiSpirito!

Aarti makes the mistake of saying she wasn't trying to lose with her dish, but she wasn't trying to win with it, either. Brianna sabotaged herself with her negativity.

In the end, Brianna is given the boot. And while I never disliked her, I think she's very attractive and clearly can cook very well, I don't think she's got the personality for a television presenter. And now we're down to six Wanna-bes.

Who will be out next week? I'm thinking Serena. Or Herb. Or Tom.

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