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It’s the third week of a live-action job interview. Ten contestants arrive at the Food Star Kitchen. We’re reminded by Danushka very early on that she’s been eligible for elimination for the past two weeks. I smell one of my favorite literary ingredients: foreshadowing.
- Chad’s been smoking (get it?) the competition for the past two weeks, but salsify’s subtle flavor isn’t listed one bit in the big book of baller barbecue, and that’s confirmed as Chad comically mispronounces it.
- Danushka, the challenge is to showcase the bonkers ingredient, not use the dragon fruit as a duffel bag. Do you pay more attention to the filling of the taco or to its shell? If Danushka was a taco, would she have filling at all?
- Russell's arrowhead root has more starch than a French cuff and is about as fun to eat as one, as well. Russell attempts to trick out this plain white T of an ingredient with his seven culinary stains sins.
- I'd pay a Buick's worth of bucks to see Russell and Viet throwdown like Superman vs. Doomsday. There's actually a little resemblance, stylistically.
- Viet's dish is freaking beautiful and highly technical — a dish worthy of presenting to the House of El, which we all know is the royal family of Viet's home planet, Krypton.
- Lovely, on the other hand, channels her inner Ron Browz. I would have called it Glambutan Bread Pudding.
- Rodney treats the karela to a day at the gin and berry spa, which is just what its bitter, wrinkly body needed. π-style indeed, as π-style is synonymous with excellence.
Star Challenge: π-Rod and Damaris, having laid waste to the rest in the Mentor Challenge, sat on the judges' table with guest judge and newest Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. Whoever thought of this gruesome twist was a real genius, and I’d like to shake that person’s evil hand. Shoving the already bruised, battered and deep-fried competitors into a Chopped challenge is brutal.
- Want to know a secret? Chad made a waffle. A man who can make a quick bread like a boss will always keep his family fed and his wallet nicely leavened.
- If there was ever a Casey at the Bat moment in Star history, this is it: Russell, mighty Russell, added tofu to his dish.
- Danushka gets fired up when Damaris tells her that she’s too apathetic about being involved in a competition that could alter her life’s trajectory forever. That’s the fiery Danushka I wanted to see so badly last week, but, again, she didn’t burn brightly when it counted the most.
The second batch of finalists is pummeled with the delectable detritus found under the back seat of an active mom’s minivan — or SUV, in Stacey’s case.
- Chris: What a stand-up guy all of a sudden. Is this what Chris was talking about in round one when he said he wanted to help people with food?
- Stacey’s pot pie and presentation both got rear-ended on the way to the soccer game of destiny.
- Chris' breakthrough: Dr. Flay is like, “Zis iz zee breakthrough vee haf been looking for!”
- I’m still drooling over Nikki's dish and will probably attempt to re-create it after a long night out with the boys.
Threat of the Week: Damaris. Damaris Stormborn Targaryen: The mother of sauces, the liberator of flavors and the rightful heir to the culinary throne. Her presence at the judges’ table was so stately and so powerful. According to Chad, it was like she was a different person. She’s used to sitting on that side of the culinary desk, red-checking pencil in hand. If she can maintain this poise, she will walk through fire.
Cue the scary music: Lovely, Danushka, Russell and Stacey were up for elimination. Lovely lacked depth, but the judges let her float to the surface of safety. Russell’s head-scratching food and performance, as well as Stacey’s pot-pie flub, were also forgivable. What couldn’t be forgiven was Danushka’s nonchalance and simple food. Seeya. I had high hopes.
The moral of the story: Something Alton told me and a lesson I live by: “The camera is always on.” Want to be a Food Network Star? Live it like you love it and love it like you live it even when you’re sleeping.