Awkward Starts, Stellar POVs and Choice Words — Justin’s Rebel Recap

by in Recap, June 3, 2013

Damaris Mentor ChallengeIt’s an 11-week, live-action job interview. It starts with 12 or so fine foodie folks who compete to be the newest member of the Food Network family. In each episode, one or more of the applicants is shown the exit, and at the end, America will vote to determine who will get the chance of a lifetime: their very own show on Food Network. I survived this process, won my dream job and am living larger than a plate of disco fries on Triple D.

Welcome to the Rebel Recap, where I’ll be recapitating the heck out of what went down last night on Food Network Star. It'll be as though you and I are long-time bros: Neither of us remembers how we got home, but here we are on the couch, shooting the breeze. Grab a slice of cold pizza and let me know what you think in the comments.

This season's teamless format should prove to be very interesting. It should encourage a lot more competition out of the gate. Being mentored by all three superstars could be a double-edged sword. If the finalists are able to take the best powers from all three mentors, the end result could be the Captain Planet of Food Network. On the other hand, having to interpret three very different styles of mentoring could lead to confusion and mania. Personally, I'm glad I was with Mr. Brown exclusively. Even if it's just a customer at my restaurant taking a picture of me, I think about what Alton would have to say about my on-camera presence.

Let's start with GAB (Giada, Alton and Bobby) walking in and explaining what’s at stake and the fact that someone will be sent packing every time they meet. Chad divulges his fear of Mr. Brown, who “knows just a little bit more about everything than you do.” This is entirely true, and I speak from experience.

Bobby, Alton and GiadaPitch tapes: If you can’t spit 30 seconds of fire about what you’re doing there, then you’re probably going spend the next few days thinking about it in the comforts of your own home, with a pint of ice cream, flat champagne and paper towels because you ran out of tissues.

Mentor Challenge Highlights and Lowlights:

  • Stacey goes first, trips up a bit, but my good homie AB says there isn’t anything in the room but Stacey and the box of glass, plastic and metal that just so happens to put her face in the households of millions. I welled up a bit, because he shared similar advice with me my first time on camera.
  • Lovely says that Danushka’s delivery is “not good” — she’s delivering slower than pizza during the Super Bowl. Danushka's level of enthusiasm is that of mine at age 16 when my mother introduced me to a Jethro Tull album. Think Daria’s friend Jane.

Stacey Poon Kinney

  • Damaris has her hands on her hips and starts to do the washing machine as the cameras roll. Bobby asks her to channel her inner wackiness and she has everyone in stitches.
  • Russell’s first attempt looks and sounds like something between an '80s anti-drug PSA and a recruitment video for the legion of culinary doom. Alton wants to learn more about the culinary revolution that Russell is leading, and Russell distills it into seven sins, all of which happen to be really delicious.
  • Rodney, the pie man, freaking nails it. Case closed with lattice on top.
  • Viet is now confirmed as Chef Clark Kent
  • Nikki, who must go to the same dentist as Giada, smiles her way to a bulletproof POV. Giada loves it and I do too. It’s so smart. Just chill on the meat sometimes, guys. It’s worth a try. I think of bacon as a condiment.
  • Nikki says what's on the mind of all women about Chad: “You can’t help but like the guy.” Chad crushed this challenge like it was a ball of aluminum foil in which he wrapped his brisket once it reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, which we all know is a technique called the Texas Crutch.
  • I smell trouble brewing in Lovely-Danushka town, and we’re only 18 minutes into the season. GAB says that Lovely needs to articulate what “glamming out the kitchen” is. Personally? I have no idea what she is talking about. Maybe she can show me how to bedazzle my blender? Sequin my sous vide? Put the chiffon in my chiffonade? That’s actually a show I would watch.

When it comes time to present their vids and share their grub, GAB shows off their newest piece of gadgetry, the dial of doom, which a focus group can use to signal their enthusiasm for the content (or discontent) on display. I'm stoked to see what happens next with the dial of doom. Here's a secret: The dial of doom is a marvelous tool for interpreting results in real time. If you watched closely, Andres was tanking until he shared his weight-loss fact. Suddenly his rating popped into green and stayed there. This should be a clue to Andres to spit that fact at the get-go and build from there. If I were competing this year, I would analyze the doom dial data and weaponize it. You heard it here first: Whoever first treats the dial of doom as a useful tool (as opposed to a threat) will be the next Food Network Star.

Russell Jackson and Chris HodgesonStar Challenge Highlights:

  • Russell does a “simple potato tasting,” which is anything but: It's potatoes three ways. I’ve said it on my Chopped Rebel Remix blog at least twice: Don’t do this! You run the risk of being judged by the worst iteration of your dish. Lo and behold, Giada doesn’t like the execution. Poor Russell says he got his “butt kicked.”
  • Stacy gets +90 percent from the focus group and kills her dish with a cute story about how the potato skins on her dish remind her of her son’s “wild man hair.” This is what it’s about: saleswomanship. In saying this, she says “You are eating the most-important nugget of my life.” I smell safety.
  • Viet (aka Chef Clark Kent) steps into the culinary phone booth, rips off his shirt and comes out with a potato soup croquette.
  • The semi-vegetarian concept that Nikki is pushing is stellar.

Cue the scary music: Danushka reminds us that everything she did in this episode “suhks,” so clearly she’s not safe. The top performers, Stacey, Chad and Nikki, are safer than a box in a bank. We are left with Russell, Daniela and Danushka.

The judges have mixed feelings about the three, but ultimately Daniela is eliminated. The problem was that she couldn’t get out what she said to the rest of the gang during her goodbyes: She was the “Peruvian Princess,” a woman who could turn an ordinary potato into something that Bobby Flay would like.

The moral of the story? This is the amuse-bouche. A good chef will offer an amuse-bouche to say to the guest: “Look at me! This is just a tiny nugget of what awaits you in the subsequent courses. See how I made a potato into a curiosity? Look how much I can tell you about me in 30 seconds.” It takes tremendous courage to get in front of peers, celebrities and cameras, and every one of these cats proved they could do it. Unfortunately for Daniela, it just wasn’t enough. As Daniela said, this isn’t the last you’ll see of her, and I think that statement is la verdad.

Threat of the Week: Stacey. Running a restaurant is like being pregnant all the time, running a daycare and being a compulsive gambler. She’s all this and a mom on top of it, so I would imagine she knows a thing or two about being resourceful, maintaining poise, and crushing any critters that come between her and baby.

P.S. The more folks that are shown the door, the shorter these posts will be. Thanks for making it to the postscript.

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Comments (232)

  1. JustMe says:

    I enjoyed the first episode until I saw Danushka, as I remembered her from chopped. I enjoy watching (sometimes listening) to FN many hours during every day. I watched the first Star episode live. I do know this; if they keep Danushka on the show, I will NOT be watching it live, nor will I record it to watch. I will wait a few weeks and watch near the end, and catch a rerun of the missed shows. There are several "other" shows which come on Sunday nights which I enjoy, so I will watch those live to be sure I do not miss. Gees, I would watch CNN before I would watch "her" every week! FN couldn't even "fix the broken pieces" and make me tolerate, much less enjoy watching her. I am only ONE viewer, so I realize it doesn't matter so much to FN, but it certainly does to me.

  2. [...] she said this isn’t the last you’ll see of her, and Justin Warner summarized it best in his Rebel Recap post,:”I think that statement is la verdad.” Do you think she deserved to go home? Tell Star [...]

  3. juliebug04 says:

    I'm ready to see Justin's show already--they are pimping a new 'star' and they haven't put out a show for the LAST one...

    And, I'm also ready for Danushka to go and she can take Lovely with her. I really didn't care for either of them. Daniela was not stellar in her performance, but her likability factor was far and away better than Danushka and Lovely, imho. Not sure about Chris and Russell either. I liked Stacey, Nikki, Rodney and Chad--all are likable and interesting to me. I also like Viet, just not sure if his reserved qualities will play out well enough.

    I'm not quite sure what to think about Andres. His POV is great, but is one that we have seen on prior seasons. He really needs to let his personality come out if he wants to stay...he's very bland.

    • Joe says:

      Both the fitness-healthy type and the vegetarian type of POV has not gone over well with the audience. It didn't work with Vic Vegas or with energy-chef Herb before him. People want their comfort food.

      I'm curious why more people aren't behind Lovely. Her video was nice. We haven't even seen much cooking from anyone yet. The judges telling her to define bling is something she can correct immediately. As much as so many people say they like someone upbeat I would have thought she would have more online support.

      Some of the ones who worked in a restaurant, what kind of food are they known for?

      • beachinfrizzy says:

        Right, Bob and Susie liked both Vic and Herb as personalities, so they gave them 'POV makeovers' as the season progressed. Vic became "Italian Momma's Boy" and they badgered Herb into focusing more on his "only Latino kid on the block eating oxtail soup while all my friends had hamburgers" backstory than his current "energy" lifestyle angle. It must be a challenge to present healthful eating as accessible, fun and appealling without coming across as lecturing or preachy - I remember B&S's eyes glazing over as one gal went on and on about antioxidants and phytochemicals, it might even have been during Vic's season.

  4. momofboys says:

    really liked chad, he seemed to be down to earth but great on camera. hope he sticks around for a while!

  5. KGC says:

    no one stopping anyone from trying out for FNWS. thousands applied i was one of them a can cook my a$$ off. But i didn't have the chops to do it. (((according to the casting director.)))
    so stop complaining about the people that where chosen!

    its done and over with nothing you guys say will change that!

    Please stop complaining about how you 'saw them on other FN shows" does that make them fnws already? No! they just happen to be featured on a show or two So freakn what!
    do they have a show? No they where featured on someone else show ! Right! Duh!
    and if you happen to remember them from other shows , well ya think the casting director might be doing a good job then. finding people that are "unforgettable"

    there's an old saying in the rock biz.
    "the worlds greatest guitarist is playing in his/her bed room right now"


    and quit COMPLAINING about Justins show! that was a pilot he shot it takes a long time to shoot a WHOLE show. maybe he's working on it now!

    • LeM says:

      No wonder you didn't make the show. You plainly don't even get what it's all about.

    • Jennifer says:

      So if its the casting director for FN Star that decides who will compete then what did he/she ever see in Danushka or some of the others? This is the best they could come up with out of hundreds that applied?

      • Shannon says:

        If Danushka or the Peruvian Princess were the best of the applicants, I would hate to see the worst. Period. KCG on the other hand seems a bit bitter about not making it on the show I would say. I would further say that he or she does not seem to understand or firmly grasp we are not complaining or giving our opinions because we don't have the right stuff or the desire to do it ourselves. We, unlike KGC are expressing our opinions as viewers and loyal watchers of the Food Network. We are looking to see who our next Food Network Star will be , literally.

  6. Ruth says:

    lol, same song another verse. Every year they have to play the ethnic card, the hateful snobby princess card, the southern belle, the 'you are a heath nut' card, and on and on and on and on. If it was a straight up show they are assuming it would not be watched. labels and stereotypes, how fun for TV. people.

    And we fall for it. Complain and moan about each year's 'villain' or whatever. It's all just the same ole blah blah blah. AND blah and MORE blah. If we halfway like or even LOVE someone, we NEVER get to see them anymore.

  7. CarrieAnn says:

    Justin , I'm beyond excited you got another blog assignment ! I hope you'll learn even more from the contests going through the process you went through . Alton's right - tv is about you and the camera and using. It touch people - I feel that through tv we have gotten to know who you are and most of all have fun . I wish someone would've taped our party and LJs . I'd love to watch back now and learn communication skills from you - you did such a great job trying to chat to everyone !
    As usual , I go t off on a tangent !

    Russell reminds me the most of your culinary style and I'm hoping he mentions you somewhere In the season .
    My other favorite is of course Rodney - he has a great PoV and might become our second Maryland winner !
    Best always Carrie .

  8. Matt says:

    I love this show, it's my summer guilty pleasure. I also live blog each episode on my own website, , and I was glad to see that Danushka (whom I refer to as Doucheka) was in the bottom three. Here's hoping the stays on the bottom.

  9. Jonathan says:

    Justin, this was a fantastic read!!

  10. Becky says:

    Personally, I've always loved this show. Last year was probably my least favorite season and Justin was the only person I actually liked. This season seems much more interesting, no more teams, and I actually like the people way more.