Food Network Star 7 EP3

Dueling Desserts

Dessert becomes dinner when chocolate takes center stage for both of tonight’s challenges, one of which becomes a team event. Meanwhile, Chefs Duff Goldman and Robert Irvine drop in to lend their assistance.

Jyll Everman Next Food Network StarLast week we saw:

The sheer volume of contestants has to be rethought before next year.  Because they have so many we are not allowed to see each contestant’s performance.  Fifteen is just too many.  Hell, twelve was too many.  During last week’s camera challenge we only got to see a few full presentations, another handful  of five second glimpses and a few of the contestants we didn’t even see at all.

At one point we saw Jyll (pictured right) say something funny then Susie commented on how good her presentation was.  Really?  I would have liked to have seen that.  I wonder if Jyll and Orchid’s presentations were cut short and Whitney’s completely eliminated to cover up the fact that Penny’s win may have been more about ratings than who deserved victory.  I’m not calling shenanigans; not yet anyway.

Be sure to check out Alicia’s blog (HERE) where she had this to say about Penny, “When Justin D., Penny, and I were in the Farmer’s Market sitting at the table brainstorming ideas and she keeps cutting me off-THIS NEVER HAPPENED, it was edited to look like that.”  That’s the Food Network Star I’m used to.  Now I’m calling shenanigan’s.  Alicia also recounts a recent visit she and Whitney made to Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune for brunch.

Orchid actually took a step back but one step back means she is still several steps ahead of everyone . . . except Whitney.  I guess anyway, Whitney was one of the contestants we didn’t get to see at all during the first challenge.  Juba and Katy went home – a double elimination.  This may say something about this year’s cast since both were good with great upswing.  Most years the first four or five eliminations are of people who never should have been there to begin with.  Not so this year.  BTW, my favorite Google search that found my site this week was “food network star penny bitch.”  That phrase was used more than once.

The first challenge this week was one of those stupid product placement challenges.  Each contestant had to make a savory dish using low quality Hershey chocolates.  These are the worst challenges on the show because they are clear sell-out segments to a sponsor and they greatly take away from the competition.  The second challenge was to make dessert for 200 while broken up into two teams.  The girls on one team and the guys plus Penny on the other.

After three episodes here are my thoughts on each contestant:

Alicia Sanchez – Last week she had a great first challenge and a poor 2nd challenge.  She has got to stop crying, every time she cries Penny wins.  Really bombed on 1st challenge – food and presentation.  2nd challenge was in her wheel house – her training is in pastry. If she doesn’t do well here it may be time to go.  The only thing that might save her this week is Chris.  Her dessert was not very good.

Chris Nirschel – It wouldn’t take much for Chris to show improvement from week one and that’s what we got – not much.  Chris is kind of like Tom last year in that it seems like he is not taking this seriously.  However, Tom was a much better cook than what Chris has shown us so far.  His admiration for Penny certainly doesn’t go along way in making him likable.  If he doesn’t turn it around he could be the next to go. 1st challenge was another fail.  How long can he hold on. 2nd challenge Chris took a leadership role. After seeing his leadership at work Robert Irvine took it away and gave the lead to Justin B.  Chris’ chocolate cakes kept failing causing his team to redo their menu half way through.  Then he destroyed some desserts that the other members of the team had finished.

Howie Drummond – Eliminated week 1.

Jeff Mauro – He has a great presence but I’m still not sold on his cooking chops.  He took a step back last week.  1st challenge he was funny – food was meh.  2nd challenge his food was OK and his sense of humor is always good.  The judges feel that they are not seeing the same Jeff we do.  They asked him to open up in front of them.

Juba Kali – Eliminated week 2.

Justin Balmes – This guy is such a solid cook.  I would love to just hang out and cook with him.  If he could get past his perfectionism he could be a contender.  He was one of three winners in the second challenge, though admittedly it was a default win since everyone else in his group was so bad. 1st challenge was great food but the presentation fell flat.  2nd challenge he was voted by his peers to take over the team after Chris got the hook.  The switch also brought Justin out of his shell a little – he was great with the crowd but not with the judges.  It’s crunch time now.  He’s got to improve or he may be headed home soon despite his cooking chops.

Justin Davis – He finally got noticed.  For his cooking? A little.  For his presence?  Sort of. Mostly because of his hipster attire especially the bow tie.  But a tie does not a Food Network Star make. 1st challenge they didn’t show him. . . for the third week in a row.  2nd challenge he was asked by Irvine to do something but he refused.  Ballsy.  It came back to bite him but only a little.  His food was good but had he listened to Irvine it might have been great.  Again he disappeared in front of the judges.  It’s kind of frustrating because he is so clever.

Jyll Everman – A much better week with no team challenges to drag her down.  A great week in fact.  Her personality is a winner but are her cooking chops up to Orchid or Whitney?  Home run on the first challenge.  She put together a great team for the second challenge.  Supportive and efficient but it did lack a little leadership when things got rough and as a result they lost.  She did an imitation of Penny that I have to admit was kind of hot.

Katy Clark – Eliminated week 2.

Mary Beth Albright – Much better than week one.  She was much more likable . . . until she started referring to herself in third person.  That’ll have to go or Mary Beth will have to go.  She was one of three winners in the second challenge.  Good first challenge.  2nd challenge she screwed up her dessert.  And she seemed resistant to help offered to her from Whitney.  Her food bombed, her energy bombed and she definitely slid back to the pack.  She had such a bad night she may be done.

Orchid Paulmeier – As mentioned earlier she took a step back but not much of one.  Still in the top 2.  Back on track on the first challenge – good food and a great smile.  2nd challenge she helped Susie salvage her dessert and made a pecan pie so good that Bob even liked it and he hates pecan pie.  Her personality wasn’t that great.

Penny Davidi – After a venom-less first challenge that saw her the winner (Really?!?), Penny again rolled out the sociopath in the second challenge.  The reward for her win was to set up the teams for the 2nd challenge in which each team member would compete against each other on the same dish.  Penny decides to put all of the best cooks against each other and fills her team with what she feels are the weakest.  It almost backfired.  She got smoked by two of the three and barely avoided being sent home.  Ah karma. 1st challenge was meh. 2nd challenge her personality was good and her food may have been the best.

Susie Jimenez – Much improved over last week.  She’s got game.  Still wondering if the saturation of Latin chefs on the Network won’t ultimately be her undoing.  1st challenge was not memorable.  Her food on the second challenge fell apart and her rebound dish failed even worse.  2nd challenge did not go well.  She’s in danger of going home.

Vic “Vegas” Moea – He actually got food to the judges.  Bobby especially was impressed with Vic’s cooking.  But his presence wasn’t there.  He’s yet to put it all together. His food bombed on the first challenge but energy was good.  2nd challenge Vic was on point.  Great food and personality.  Finally.  Tuschman said his dessert was the best of the day.  That’s quite a turnaround.

Whitney Chen – Whitney probably got less than 2 minutes of face time last week which is odd considering the 90 minute episode.  Could it be that she is so good that if they showed everything she did it would take all suspense out of the season?  It wouldn’t surprise me.  She was one of three winners in the second challenge but it was clear that she had the best performance. This week her 1st challenge was another home run.  She is so solid.  On the second challenge  Whitney’s dessert was by far the most difficult and she rocked it.  Every time she presents the judges talk about how great she is on camera then in the evaluation they say they want to see more warmth from her.  Their contradictory statements also lend credence to my theory that they just don’t want viewers knowing what a slam dunk she is to win this.

Be sure to check out the WTVC Food Network Star Polls – six categories for contestants who best embody the spirit of former NFNS competitors HERE.  Don’t forget to follow the live Tweeting with Serena, Bobby, Alexis, myself and who ever else stops by.  Last week we had drive-by Tweets from Adam Gertler, Scott Conant and Anne Burrell.

Top Tweets:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/chefanneburrell/status/81189892511629312″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/CaseyTColeman/status/82615829807644673″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/chefjustind/status/82616137254313985″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/mbalbright/status/82618448160624640″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/apowerfulbeat/status/82621074742845441″]


“In it to Win it” Quotes – 1.

Number of people  crying – 1.

Number of WTF moments – 5 Penny actually said, “It’s clear that you can’t make friends in this house.”  Chris taking a leadership role which brought chaos to his team, then ruining his own cakes – twice and dropping a sheet pan full of pies.  Chris was a walking, talking living breathing WTF moment tonight.  Also a WTF for Whitney knocking out a Croque en Bushe one of the most complex desserts around.

Who should win based on what we’ve seen so far:  Whitney

Who will win based on what we’ve seen in the past: Whitney or Orchid

Winner(s) first week: 1st challenge: Jyll.  2nd challenge: Boys (plus Penny).


The finalist(s) who will be going home is . . .

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Check out my mourning-after exit interview with each banished foodie HERE.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less
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
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2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
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2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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