Food Network Star Season 8 EP2 Recap

“NYC on the Go”

The finalists hit the streets of New York in this 90-minute episode to conduct local food tours aboard a state-of-the-art tour bus, where they are challenged to take a busload of tourists on a culinary tour of an iconic New York neighborhood. They will be judged on how entertaining they are, what landmarks they highlight and how much food knowledge they impart. During the food tours, each finalist must prepare and serve a dish based on their exploration of the neighborhood.

Christie SchoenLast week – Team Bobby (TB) took the team honors while Team Alton’s (TA) Judson Allen established himself as the early frontrunner.  To quote the judges, he was “the total package.”  His modern spin on shrimp etouffee wow’d with flavor and featured the best plate presentation of the night.  It was a dish you would expect to get at Commander’s Palace, K-Paul’s or Emeril’s as it captured the essence of old New Orleans but with 21st Century splendor.  Not far behind are TA’s Emily and TB’s Michelle.  Team Giada (TG) has two promising Starsters in Ippy and Yvan.  Both are diamonds in the rough.  Ippy’s food was aces but he could bring just a touch more energy.  Yvan’s presentation was gracious and charming but the judges thought his food just missed perfection.

Last week’s showdown was between Josh (TG) and Cristie (TA).  From the footage that aired Cristie had the better performance but the judges make their ultimate decisions based on a lot more than what makes it out of the editing room; they chose Josh.

To me TG has a nice balance of culinary and media chops with a few promising Starsters but no clear stars.  TB has a solid set of cooks but only Michele seems to have both cooking and personality working for her.  TA is by far the best team.  AB chose well, especially getting both Judson and Emily on his team as well as Justin.  This is a great cast and so far we haven’t seen any of the trailer park elements that made up the bulk of season 7.

The only complaint I have with the new format is that all members of the winning team are safe from elimination.  I want the worst performance gone.  Period.  It didn’t effect the outcome this week but remember, last year Chris Nirschel survived back-to-back worst performances in the history of the show simply because his team won.  Because of that two people who had very good performances went home when they shouldn’t have.  Rules like that will always call the integrity of the show into question.


Eric Lee – Last week he insisted on making everything from scratch and had to race the clock to get his dish done.  He has to balance his POV with the time frame of the contest.  There was a lot of good to Eric’s presentation but it had a few rough moments.  The food was terrific.  This guy can cook and he does it all from scratch.

Kara Sigle – She’s charming and pleasant looking.  I have no idea what here POV is and quite honestly every time she appeared on screen last week I had to remind myself who she was.  Big revelation this week – she doesn’t like chicken on the bone.  To me that hurts her credibility as a food expert.  I loved her hat but her presentation was not very good at all.  Her food was not good either.

Malcolm Mitchell – Malcolm’s performance was underwhelming.  The judges wanted more flash both in performance and food.  This episode was Malcom’s second chance.  He grew up in Harlem; this should be his shining moment.  It was.  His food and presentation were outstanding.

Michele Ragussis – The strongest member of the team.  Great personality and food but she may have to learn to filter her personality.  She must stress the Standards and Practices department.  The energy was down a little, her confidence was off and so was her food.  She took a step back, but only a small one.

Nikki Martin – Editing portrayed her as a bit of a diva.  I’m not sure if that is accurate or not.  Bobby felt she disappeared during the challenge.  Her food was good though.  This week: Wow! A lot of energy.  I don’t feel that putting BBQ sauce on shrimp really captured Dinosaur BBQ.

TEAM GIADA – Arther Avenue

Josh Lyons – Needs to make strides in both personality (mainly his confidence) and his food.  He didn’t.  Not at all.  Once again the worst performance of the week.  He’s a likable guy but this just doesn’t seem like his cup of tea.

Linkie Marais – Her personality was very nice but her food didn’t go over very well.  Her presentation was pretty darned good and so was her food.  In fact she may have had if not the best performance of the night, at least the most complete.

Martita Jara – She was hit or miss.  At times her personality was great and others not so much.  The same with her food.  She was much better but she still has a way to go to be a contender.

Phillip “Ippy” Aiona – This kid is just plain cool.  Like Johnny Deep cool.  It’s hard not to like him.  With a little more polish. . .  His charm was soaring tonight.  A great presentation.  His food went over well, too.

Yvan Lemoine – His energy and charm are endearing.  His food just needs a touch of fine tuning.  His energy is so positive.  He did a salad on a stick presentation of a traditional insalata caprese.  I’ve done that many times myself for caterings and TV demos (HERE) so it is possible the judge’s won’t be wow’d by it.  But if the mozzarella as good as advertised it shouldn’t matter.  The judges thought his food was too simple.

TEAM ALTON –  Lower East Side

Cristie Schoen – eliminated week 1.

Emily Ellyn – Her look (which is totally hawt!), her food and her personality are all off the charts.  This week she flies out of the gates on her presentation but then gets hit with a fit of some type.  The food wasn’t bad, good enough to save her.  One mediocre performance should not send her home.  It was just a hiccup.

Judson Allen –  Polished and ready.  His food was the best of the night.  His personality was also tops.  Judson lives in the same neighborhood as season 7 winner Jeff Mauro.  What are they putting in the water in Chicago?  His presentation was a little off.  Plenty of energy but it just didn’t flow well.  His food was just a little off.  Alton felt it wasn’t pickly (new word) enough.  Not a great job but nothing that should have his future in the balance.  Judson still rocks the best plate presentation of anyone on the show.

Justin Warner – He has that whole Doogie Howser thing going on.  Henceforth he is to be referred to as the boy genius.  So let it be written so let it be done.  He has something and it will be interesting to see where it goes.  His presentation was pretty good tonight.  His food didn’t suck either.

Martie Duncan – Nice charm, descent food but she needs to refine both.  For the record, to me she has absolutely no accent.  Martie’s story telling was on point and her food was good as well.  All and all a good showing.

Team Giada wins so despite having the worst performance again this week Josh is safe.  I told you I did not like the “Chris Nirschl rule” for this very reason.  Someone light years better than Josh should not be facing elimination tonight?

My favorites so far: Justin, Judson, Michele  and Yven.

Dark horse: Ippy, Linkie, Emily

Most unforgettable performance:  Linkie followed closely by Ippy and Martie.  Let’s hear it for the people with names that end in “ee.”

Most forgettable performance:  Josh.

Producer’s Challenge: Kara vs Judson.

Be sure to check out my exit interview with Cristie Schoen.

The next Food Network Star will not be. . .

Food Network Star: The Wannabe TV Chef Interviews


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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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