Food Network Star 7 EP 8 Recap

Ina Garten & Rachael Ray

It’s a dessert challenge, and baking no less, when the remaining finalists are asked to make cupcakes. Next up is another live cooking demo, but this one is on national TV for the Rachael Ray Show.

Last week we saw:

Susie Jimenez Food Network StarThe Pen-sanity has ended!  Last time out we witnessed the long awaited exodus of Penny and Chris.  For fans of reality TV this was not a welcome development but for fans of the Food Network it was weeks overdue.  I have watched both Chris’ and Penny’s audition reels and I really don’t see what Food Network saw.  I guess those live casting calls are the difference.

Alicia Sanchez had theorized that both were actors hired to spice things up.  During her exit interview Penny was thrilled to announce that she had indeed been offered a roll in a movie and a quick search of Explore Talent’s database has her listed not as a chef but as an actress.  Her cooking was so good, however, that you can understand why the Network would want her.  At the same time it raises suspicions about whether her particular brand of crazy was genuine or a character she was performing.

Other than a rumor that Chris auditioned but failed to make it onto MTV’s the Real World, he appears to have only been a chef.  In the exit interview that he quite literally mailed in, Chris did warn that he had a confidential project in the works proclaiming that we would see him soon.   I understand there are a few openings in the Jersey Shore cast so . . .

With these two gone Food Network Star can now begin in earnest.  In my opinion, the top two remaining at this point are Whitney and Vic but I have a feeling that for the judges it is Vic and Susie.  Jyll has proven herself quite the warrior handling an impromptu cooking lesson from Wolfgang Puck with grace.  For me the two weakest left are Mary Beth and Jeff but not because they aren’t good just not quite as good as the others.  Speaking of Jeff – it’s his birthday so stop by his Facebook page and wish him well.

This week:

I’m glad to see Ina could find time in her busy schedule for a guest spot on Star; of course this is serious business and not anything frivolous like say, a little boy with leukemia.  I think when Whitney and Rachael Ray stand next to each other it prompts some folks to check and see if their punch is spiked.

1st. challenge – Make cupcakes.  This is a nod to another Food Network reality show, Cupcake Wars which is quite possibility the worst food show in history.  I’m going to go ahead and say that I really don’t care what the food is like in this challenge; for me it’s all about the camera.  I mean, they’re cupcakes for goodness sakes – they’re the training wheels of baking.  The fanaticism of cupcakes these days is wacky; it’s akin to foregoing a Mont Blanc pen in lieu of a #2 pencil.

2nd. challenge – The annual Rachael Ray Show extravaganza.  This is one of the best challenges in the series because this is the job in a nutshell.  Where most of the challenges on Star have absolutely nothing to do with being a TV chef this one actually has meaning.  Each contestant got 30 seconds to define their POV and then 3 minutes to demo a recipe in that style.  They also had to take a question from the audience.

NOTE: If you do not watch the actual performances from the RR Show (links are below) then you will have no idea what each performance was like.  Food Network’s editing on this episode was incredibly misleading.

After eight episodes here are my thoughts on each remaining contestant:

Alicia Sanchez – Eliminated week 3.

Chris Nirschel – Eliminated week 7.

Howie Drummond – Eliminated week 1.

Jeff Mauro – Jeff is usually a great personality but of those remaining he may have the weakest cooking chops.  He’s just so damned likable.  1st challenge – His cup cake was weird with salami and fruit icing. 2nd challenge – An absolute home run.  Jeff was on his game.  He walked the line between energy and chaos masterfully.  He was witty, he was charming and he was knowledgeable.  Just a terrific performance.  WATCH IT.

Juba Kali – Eliminated week 2.

Justin Balmes – Eliminated week 4.

Justin Davis – Eliminated week 5.

Jyll Everman – She’s easily the best on-camera person in this show but her cooking doesn’t quite hold up to the professional chefs still in the mix.  She’s a better cook than either Jeff or Mary Beth. 1st challenge – her attention to detail lead to a great cupcake.  2nd challenge – Gonzo energy on her pitch.  The crowd was into it.  The demo was utterly amazing.  It was exactly what you want from a celebrity chef demo.  A+.  WATCH IT.

Katy Clark – Eliminated week 2.

Mary Beth Albright – I get the feeling the axe will be falling soon for the DC lawyer.  It’s possible that with Penny and Chris gone she will also become the focal point for those who love to hate – hello, lawyer.  1st challenge – wanted an elegant cupcake. 2nd challenge – Not bad.  She crossed the line from energetic into frantic a few times but pulled it back together.  Her saying “thank you” whenever Rachel gave her the time remaining was very distracting.  Her Shepard’s Pie looked interesting but I’m not sure how it would taste, too much carrot.  WATCH IT.

Orchid Paulmeier –  Eliminated week 6.

Penny Davidi – Eliminated week 7.

Susie Jimenez – She had another good outing last week.  1st challenge – she did a weird duck comfit cupcake.  It was terrible but the judges liked it. 2nd challenge – Her introduction was kind of clunky.  Her nerves really showed.  She made up a word – elegancy.  Her motto was Mexican Everyday.  Sorry, Susie, but Rick Bayless owns that, literally.  Her demo was also jumbled and at times uncomfortable.  She didn’t take the question from the audience.  The food looked really good but Bobby didn’t like it at all.  Overall she had the weakest performance.  WATCH IT.

Vic “Vegas” Moea – This contest is Vic’s to lose or is it?  1st challenge – did a Vegas cupcake.  2nd challenge – Pitch was pretty good.  Energetic but borderline clumsy.  His food demo started off well – combining lasagna and chimichanga to make a la-changa.  Energy started to fade a little bit but he held it together.  The finish was pretty good.  He missed the question from the crowd.  WATCH IT.

Whitney Chen – A great week last week.  She’s back in the hunt.  1st challenge – she did her version of one of Ina’s cupcakes.  2nd challenge – A fantastic job.  She was engaging and charming.  Her energy was perfect.  It was a near flawless execution.  Her food sounded great.  Whitney nailed it.  WATCH IT.

Be sure to check out the WTVC Food Network Star Polls – six categories for contestants who best embody the spirit of former Food Network Star competitors HERE.  Don’t forget to follow the live Tweeting with Serena, Bobby, Giada, myself and who ever else stops by.  Last week we had drive-by Tweets from Whitney Chen, Orchid Paulmeier and Jeff Mauro.

Top Tweets:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/RobByrd117/status/95191964038856704″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/roadtohell/status/95301625597526016″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/jacklumanog/statuses/95303372315443200″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/DvRystr/status/95305012934213632″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/chefjustind/status/95304106100539393″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/lucaszfitz/status/95307774216503296″]


“In it to Win it” type quotes – 0.

Number of people crying – 2 – Whitney and Jyll.

Number of WTF moments – 3 – LaChonga?!?!?!.  #2 Who got to stay.  #3 and the biggest WTF this season is who got sent home.

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

Who will win based on what we’ve seen in the past: Vic or Susie

Winner(s) first week: 1st challenge: Jyll. 2nd challenge: Jeff.

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

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!


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

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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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2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
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2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
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2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
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