Food Network Star Season 8 EP5 Recap

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Guy Fieri Michelle RagussisA Food Network Star must be ready at any moment for Food Network to ask them to participate in a television special; this week, each team will do just that. Each finalist will have to create and perform a live, themed television special based on a holiday or event. Food Network Star season two winner Guy Fieri hosts each special and gives feedback on which team and individuals performed the best.

Last week:  The best cook in the whole shebang got sent home.  The judges need to fix that about this show.  You can teach a great cook to do good TV.  For evidence of that you need look no farther than Giada De Laurentiis.  Her first season on the air was brutally bad.  She’ll be the first to tell you that she was uncomfortable and awkward.  Conversely, it would take years for a great personality who can’t cook to develop the skills worthy of having their own series.

Eric Lee Food Network StarSeason 7 finalist Justin Balhmes posted on his Facebook page last week in Eric’s defense. He voiced his displeasure that actual cooking is not given more weight saying, “So with FNS 8 underway, we are already seeing the lack of importance placed on actual cooking/knowledge and food in general. I cannot begin to express my sadness that 2 of the most talented cooks on the show were up for elimination last night. Awful. As someone who went through a similar experience, I can relate and know exactly how ridiculous that is.”

At this point in the show Team Alton remains on a different level from the other two.  If I were to name a top 5 at this point it would be everyone on Team Alton plus Linkie.  To me, Eric was the only viable candidate on Team Bobby, however if Nikki continues to improve like she has been she could crack contender status.  When Malcolm is on, he’s amazing.  When he doesn’t have his “A” game he’s totally forgettable.  Ippy and Yven have shown promise but approaching the halfway mark of the season they need to step up their game to fulfill that promise.

TEAM BOBBY – Cooking for Kids

Eric Lee – Eliminated week 4.

Kara Sigle – Eliminated week 2.

Malcolm Mitchell – Malcolm’s roller coaster continues with last weeks home run!  It was a great presentation.  His food was just as good.  Now he needs consistency.  His belief that he does not need a POV may be the root of his consistency issues and it may also be the reason he goes home.  I felt Malcolm was a little rushed and frenetic but he wasn’t bad.  His food was good.

Michele Ragussis – Last week Michele’s presentation meandered.  Her food worked though but still not a great week for her.  Each week she falls off more and more.  I felt last week that she, not Eric, should have been in the Producer’s Challenge.  Their presentations were both weak but Eric’s food was better.  This week it seemed Michele turned a little negative.  That’s not an improvement.  I hope it was just editing or stress and not a new approach for her.  Her presentation and food were outstanding.  A sure comeback?  Well that’s still two good performances in five episodes.  She has to build on it.

Nikki Martin – Last week her presentation was well crafted and her food and plate presentation were good.  If she can maintain her momentum who knows what the future may hold.  Nikki forgot to get flour when buying groceries counting on it being in the pantry (so would I) but Linkie bailed her out.  I’m loving the sportsmanship this year.  She then had an accident with her blender and her teammates had to help her out.  If she survives this she may be someone to watch carefully.  Her food did not go over well with the kids.  It did hit with the judges.  How do they decide that?  Though I applaud the sportsmanship shown by Linkie, Malcolm and Michele the fact remains that Nikki had to be helped out two different times which should be an automatic trip to the Producer’s Challenge.

TEAM GIADA – Big Game Day

Josh Lyons – eliminated week 3.

Linkie Marais – Last week was a step back for Linkie but not a big one.  She still has shown more growth than just about anyone on the show and is the leading contender not only on her team but of all the non-Team Alton contestants.  Earned tons of class point bailing out Nikki with some flour.  For the second week in a row she tripped on her words but she pulled it out.  Nice job.

Martita Jara – Last week her presentation was warm and inviting.  I felt her food lacked imagination but her execution of it has outstanding and there is certainly something to be said for that.  This week she decided to take the tailgate staple quesadilla and give it a spin with vegetables and goat cheese.  Now that’s what I’m talking about.  Her presentation was great.  Her food was awesome.

Phillip “Ippy” Aiona – He survived the chopping block last week.  Bob and Susie both keep trying to turn him into a New York style star; Hawaii is not New York.  Let him be who he is and see if the fans like it.  His energy, though understated, is still light years better than Ina Garten and the Network has been forcing her down our throats for years.  Ippy had his Hawaii cool in full effect but his food was a little iffy.

Yvan Lemoine – I like Yvan a lot but he is regressing while most of the other cast members are progressing.  I felt his performance was the worst of the week last time out but I have high hopes he’ll return to form.  He and Giada agreed on a focal point for his presentation but he later changed his mind.  It’s a gamble.  He came out of the box swinging.  His whole presentation was a hit.

TEAM ALTON – Halloween

Cristie Schoen – eliminated week 1.

Emily Ellyn – Emily’s performance last week was good enough to win any other time.  It’s not her fault that Justin turned in one of the best overall performances in the history of the show.  She’s still in my top 3.  Emily got only a few seconds to do her presentation and having to rush hurt her.  Bob gave her extra credit for pulling off her spiel with only half a minute to do it.  Her applesauce was very good.

Judson Allen –  Last week the judges thought Judson came off as a little phoney, especially Susie.  I have heard Susie say that about a lot of contestants through the years and all of them were happy, good natured people from the Midwest.  Perhaps it is hard for her to believe that people in Illinois and Wisconsin and Minnesota are actually that nice.  Well, they are.  This week Alton helped Judson rethink his POV.  Is Judson the guy to finally make healthy cooking watchable?  His first time out was a home run.  Great presentation.  His dish, as usual, looked gorgeous.  The judges were a bit mixed on it but they generally liked it.

Justin Warner – Boy Genius for the win!  Last week Justin turned in one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.  His presentation was both true to himself and respected the sea of self-aggrandizement that is the New York fashion industry.  His dish was stunning in concept, flavor and even had a plate presentation that rivaled Judson’s.  Justin seems to be getting caught up in his niche and is in danger going too far out of the box.  That may have been why he stumbled in the live presentation.  His food was still quite good.

Martie Duncan – Martie had a great week last week after a sub-par performance the week before.  She has charm and she’s a solid cook but I wonder if she has the glamor that the Network seems to be looking for this year.  Martie lost track of time during her presentation taking time from Emily.  Her presentation rambled and this time it may cost her.


Well the judges decided to change the rules in midstream.  No heads up and no justification for why the rules changed.  They’ve done this before and it has usually meant they were trying to manipulate the contestant pool.  In the past it has meant that the worst performance was not eliminated or more often than not it is used to eliminate the person who actually had the best performance.  I’m officially calling shenanigans.

Team Giada and Team Bobby split the win.  I’m sure that may be the justification for changing the rules but Team Giada was clearly better than the other two teams this week.

My leaders thus far: Emily and Justin.

Dark horse: Linkie.

Most unforgettable performance: Martita.

Most forgettable performance: Martie.

Producer’s Challenge: All of Team Alton.

Be sure to check out all of the Star Season 8 contestant exit interviews HERE.


The next Food Network Star will not be. . .

9999 Food Network Star Season 8 EP4 Recap


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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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