Dessert Chopping Block
The pressure is on as the 13 remaining finalists arrive in the Food Network Star kitchen to meet Chopped judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Scott Conant, and Marc Murphy. In the Star Challenge, each team must use a mysterious basket of ingredients including a Hershey’s sweet treat to create their best concoction in a head-to-head, inter-team battle for the winning dessert – Chopped style! And just when they’re getting comfy in their teams.
When the wacky mystery baskets are revealed, the finalists aren’t the only ones who are stressed — their mentors are competitive, too! But no matter how heated the competition, with fun personalities like Alton, Giada and Bobby, there’s always time for a lighthearted moment like this one. Alton’s goofing around on the judges’ panel has Giada in stitches.
Last week – The ugly side of Food Network Star raised its ugly head. Josh, despite having the weakest performance of the week (again), was saved from the Producer’s Challenge because of the “Chris Nirschl Rule,” – all members of the winning team are safe from elimination regardless of how poorly they perform. No good can come from a rule like that and that’s why it exists. It creates controversy.
Though Kara’s performance was weak enough for her to have to fight for survival Judson’s was not. Sure he didn’t have the best performance last week but even his off-days are better than some contestants’ “A” Games. That made episode 2 a little seedy. The cook-off between Kara and Judson did not seem as close as the judges made it out to be. Judson was clearly better but it did give us the best moment of the episode when he declared, “I am not going home.” Also the neighborhood distribution for the team challenges were very suspicious. Team Bobby and especially Team Giada got great foodie neighborhoods that were easy to present while Team Alton got one that was not as accessible to most Americans. That seems a little fishy considering that Alton clearly has the best team.
TEAM BOBBY – Basket: Hershey’s Bar, pineapple, pasta sheets, black lava salt
Eric Lee – He had a very good week last time out. This dude has serious cooking chops but from what we’ve seen could use just a touch more polish on the personality aspect. I was fearful the 30 minute time limit might conflict from Eric’s everything-from-scratch philosophy. His presentation was nice and his food was really, really good. He’s not only established himself as the best pure cook in the cast but also one of the top contenders.
Kara Sigle – Eliminated week 2.
Malcolm Mitchell – He really came out of his shell last week. He’s the only contestant who was actually raised in one of the featured neighborhoods and that familiarity came through in a stellar performance. Let’s see if his new found confidence has staying power. His presentation was clumsy but his food went over well. He’s fallen back off a little. The confidence was not there this week.
Michele Ragussis – Still the strongest member of the team but the gap closed last week, partly because a few others stepped up their game and partly because she took a step back. She said Giada was getting into her head but as Susie pointed out she’s in her own head.. Her presentation was a little choppy. The food was pretty good.
Nikki Martin – She had a much better week as well. She still doesn’t seem to get much face time but she was more pleasant and relaxed in her time on camera. Her food didn’t look good. The judges were happy with it. Her presentation was good but felt a little scripted.
TEAM GIADA – Basket: popcorn, grape soda, coconut, Reece’s Pieces
Josh Lyons – Once again he had a terrible week. He’s a great guy but it just doesn’t seem to come out with the game on the line. This cat has used 2 of his nine lives. You really have to feel for the guy. Presentation was consistently disorganized and he forgot his tip. The food wasn’t too good either. Another poor performance. Again, too bad, he seems so likable outside of the competition.
Linkie Marais – She was the big winner last week. Great food and great personality. Now she needs to work on consistency now. Presentation was pretty good. Her accents is so adorable. The food rocked as well.
Martita Jara – She was more consistent than in week one. She also still needs to work a little more to make full contender status. Presentation was not too good but she forgot her tip. The food was pretty good.
Phillip “Ippy” Aiona – Ippy took a big step forward last week. He’s someone to watch. His presentation was okay – not great, not bad. His food was pretty good. Ippy is very likable but the question is whether that’s enough. I think no against this cast.
Yvan Lemoine – I almost wrote the same thing as last week – great personality but he still hasn’t proven to have the cooking chops. That being said, he is very good on camera. He is very positive and it spills over into supporting his competitors. His presentation was pretty good and his food was even better. His personality is so good.
TEAM ALTON – Basket: pancetta, cumquat, graham crackers, Hershey’s Kisses
Cristie Schoen – eliminated week 1.
Emily Ellyn – She took a bit of a step back last week but she’s still someone to watch. It was illness not a chick in the armor though. I look for a strong rebound. Great food, great presentation. She’s back on her game.
Judson Allen – He was a bit off his game last week but it certainly was not an elimination-worthy performance. I look for him to bounce back. His presentation was smooth and relaxed. They didn’t show much of the judge’s comments about his food other than Scott Conant expressing concern whether his was cooked all the way however the plate looked amazing. Judson’s plate presentations remain a wonder.
Justin Warner – The Boy Genius had another good week. In fact it was a very good. I can’t wait to see where the Justin Experiment leads. Josh’s “chaos in a blender” cooking style dazzled and baffled the judges. His presentation and food were terrific.
Martie Duncan – Martie took a huge step forward last week. Her personality and her food impressed. Not a good week for my fellow Alabamaian. Her food was too simple and well executed. Her presentation meandered a bit.
Team Alton was awarded the win, only there was no advantage to winning this week so it was really an empty gesture.
My favorites so far: Emily, Judson, Eric and Yven.
Dark horse: Ippy, Linkie
Most unforgettable performance: Justin – the Boy Genius.
Most forgettable performance: Say it with me, Josh.
Here’s what the Twitterverse thinks of Josh:
Producer’s Challenge: Martie, Josh & Nikki.
Be sure to check out all of the Star Season 8 Contestant Exit Interviews HERE.
The next Food Network Star will not be. . .