Star Commentary: The Great Debate

by in Food Network Star, June 29, 2011

A rare smile from super-serious Justin B.

Sunday’s episode of Star was jam-packed with surprises: celebrity guest appearances from the cast of Cougar Town, Southern queen Paula Deen, Iron Chef Michael Symon and season 5 Star winner Melissa d'Arabian. But perhaps the most unexpected moment of the night came not from the kitchen or behind the camera but during elimination: Justin Balmes was sent home.    

This week’s batch of fearless commenters on Food Network’s Facebook page and our Star blog are divided in their opinions on Justin B.’s exit. At the heart of this discussion lies one simple question: What is more important — a big television personality or rock-solid cooking chops? We’ve seen from the last six seasons of Star that the winners must find the coveted sweet spot: a point at which they’re completely themselves on camera while displaying culinary credibility.    

Of Justin B.’s exit and the camera vs. food debate, viewers wrote that “he could have been great” and that they “found his food the most exciting seen on this show since Guy.” Others noted that “It's obvious that Justin B. can ‘bang some pots’ but he REALLY had no stage personality or presence at all.”

And while some of you said that “his camera presence did not show any signs of growth or improvement,” another wrote simply, “I was disappointed that Justin B. left last night … I would have liked to watch a show of his because I probably could have learned a lot.”

Hear from Justin B. himself in his Exit Interview and learn his reaction to the elimination and plans for the future. Join the conversation on Facebook and Star Talk, and let us know what you thought of his final Star performance. And be sure to tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c to see who goes home next.

Who’s your favorite finalist so far? Cast your Fan Vote up to 10 times per day.

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Comments (82)

  1. Carole says:

    Well, there you have it! I understand that "The Next Food Network Star" is about having star potential and creating a celebrity out of someone who is not, but is being able to cook really not expected at all? I lost interest in staying "tuned in" to the show after episode four. The decision to keep someone who burned their food and had the audacity to not even be aware of it was sad indeed. Justin B. can cook. He cooks extremely well. He was a leader in the kitchen and he did not get involved in the drama in the house. I guess he was the fool thinking he was going to be on a show that would spotlight his creative abilities. I guess I was the fool to hope for more from the Food Network.

    • Phoenix_q says:

      Agreed, Carole. I think they keep Penny because we'll keep watching until they dump her. And they will. And if she wins, they know most of us will not watch her evil hatefulness.

      As I've said before, this is the Food Network, not the Sopranos.

  2. Susan R says:

    I was surprised that it was Justin B and not Justin D that went home. Has Justin D cooked anything decent yet? Has he done well on a camera challenge? I don't know, because the minute he's not on camera, I forget he exists. I at least remembered what Justin B cooked. The judges obviously see so much that is edited out. I wish we got better clues sometimes, but ah... the suspense builds...

    Penny is not a team player at all. I understand that this show isn't about group hugs, but the other competitors seem to have gone out of their way to be fair to each other, and she's not interested and possibly not capable of any form of synergy.

  3. Hil says:

    On the other hand, I like Jeff. I am rooting for him all the way. He is the kind of guy who is pleasant to watch, and his food sounds great.

    • luvcookin says:

      I used to like Jeff. I've changed my mind after seeing him use the American flag as a shawl then letting it drag on the ground. Total lack of respect from him.

  4. Karl says:

    Orchid is very nice and apparently a good cook but she's fat. I object to someone who's supposed to be cooking healthy meals and looks healthy too. I don't like being manipulated by the network as it is obvious that we are with the Penny situation. As someone else said it would be boring without her tension.

    • luvcookin says:

      So you also object to Paula, Ina, Anne, and Sunny because they are plus-size ladies? Would you even have said this for a man? What about Emeril, Mario, Guy, and Morimoto? They are all plus-size who have grown over the years that I've watched this network. What a sexist statement made by you!!!!!

    • Phoenix_Q says:

      If we're judging on body fat ratio alone, Justin had less than Penny.

  5. Diana says:

    Justin B's culinary presentations have been so excellent, but he has (unfortunately) shown no improvement in his on camera skills, nor has Justin D. Even if you do not posses those skills, you have to show that you are making improvement in that area; that's what television is all about. I agree that this seems to be becoming more of a "Hell's Kitchen" type thing with the personality flairs - aka Penny. Everyone else competes, gets along - and she has no friends because. . . pick a reason. She would throw any one of those judges under the train were she to become a Food Network coworker. I would never watch her. It is not because she has a strong personality - it is because she is negative and unlikeable.

    • Phoenix_q says:

      Diana, I think, if the network execs read any of the message boards, they will know that Penny is a losing proposition. She may be a good cook (except for the macaroni), and she is pretty, but she is not nice. She seems to have forgotten that her potential viewers are watching the competition and don't like her as a person. We'd like Paula Deen if she made asparagus and bananas with cyanide sauce. Most of us never would watch Penny.

  6. TXMom says:

    While I think that Justin B. definitely needed to improve his camera presence, I think Penny should have been sent home. She burned her cheese and had "no idea" that she'd done it. She is not warm, and I have no interest in watching a show in which she would star. Justin B. can obviously cook, and cook well. He was a bit wooden on camera, and he was slow to show improvement, but that man can cook! Justin D. or Penny should have gone. I'm annoyed at Bob right now.

    • Joyce says:

      I agree with you. She burned mac & cheese...are you kidding me? I am still surprised that Giada supports her so. I don't get it.

  7. Lois Bowers says:

    I truly can;t see the network going with a Penny show, especially if they've read any of the blogs.. I noticed Bob has tuned down his presence, I wonder if he read some of the comments after the "opening ceremonies"...just kidding, but he does seem a bit more subdued. I saw a trailor on T.V. for this Sundays' show and it had Guy talking to Penny, I haven;t seen it since, anyone else catch that. Looked like he was telling her you can;t cut people off, ....I hope so, she needs to disappear...I can;t say who I'm really rooting for, none of them have that something special, I like a few but they all seem to timid, I guess I've just gotten used to the

    • Phoenix_Q says:

      Lois, I agree with you. I think they're holding onto Penney for the ratings, but they are business people, not a charity. They ask for our opinions, and 99% of us say we never would watch Penny's show.

  8. Grandma Joyce says:

    We're just made to be the way we are, what is more important is healthy eating and exercise.

  9. Little Bunny FooFoo says:

    Justin B shold not have gone home, simple enough. He's one of the few contestants that could have brought something new and different to FN. I think it was hard for him to open up at times, but I feel he could have broken out of that shell. I hope we see him again, just as we have seen other elimated contestants from past seasons like Adam & Tom. Now I'm rooting for Vic & Susie. Maybe Chris or Jeff... The rest are just unwatchable.

    Penny needs to go. I would be interested in a mediterranean type show, but never with her. She's just a nasty person.

    I don't get the fascination with Orchid. I'm sorry, I can't bear to watch her. Some comments on her weight are spot on. The first thing you see when she walks in is a gigantic belly covered by ill-fitting clothing. Sure there are a hand full of overweight stars, but geesh!

    • Phoenix_Q says:

      I agree with most of what you said, but I think hating on Orchid because she's not supermodel skinny is out of bounds. She seems sweet and natural. I like her. (Let you think I'm just standing up for the fellow "big girl," I actually am underweight for my height.)

  10. Lynn says:

    The one thing I don't like about Foodnetwork Star is that, when there is a person who has potential - like Justin Balmes or Herb or Brad from last year - that there is no time or seemingly no coaching to bring them to a point where they are confident with the camera. As some of the other comments have stated, Orchid has a great smile, but come on - what does she cook that's so great? Justin Balmes ALWAYS had something interesting! Bobby Flay, you've been uptight in the past and you are past that, so how long did it take? Maybe Justin B. wouldn't have ever gotten past that, but man, I really looked forward to seeing what he would fix next. I wish there were a comfortable balance here, but there HAS to be something wrong when your viewers are ALL saying get rid of Penny and you get rid of some other contestant like Justin Balmes!