It’s Been One Heck of a Ride — Justin’s Rebel Remix

by in Recap, August 5, 2013

Food Network Star Season 9Ladies and germs, the time is upon us: the final showdown! We've seen this batch be flummoxed by chips and dip, serve golf balls as doughnuts and get tipsy on the Fourth of July (don't we all, though?). Indeed it's been one heck of a ride for our final four, and now for just one of them, the real road trip is about to begin.

Giada, Bobby and Alton have been sitting on these eggs for 10 straight weeks. After one final meeting with the mentors, it's time for these eggs to hatch and meet the big birds, Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson, one more time.

Stacey has seen firsthand the transformative power of a helping hand in the kitchen. Stacey was a woman who was once in debt, running a restaurant and raising a family. Robert Irvine jump-started her stalled vehicle on the road to success, and it hasn't stopped running since. Now at the top of her game, Stacey wants to help transform the dishes and, ultimately, lives of Americans by throwing some rims on their hoopty recipes, and turn their stroganoff into a fashionable hand-bag pattern. Obviously I can get behind that. Heartbreakingly, her pitch was too melancholy to sway the selection committee. Regardless, I do not see Stacey Poon-Kinney slumping in a corner in San Diego. I see Stacey kicking butt, as she's done for 10 weeks now.

The Pilots

Behold the power of editing. Isn't it amazing what some quick cuts and narration can do? All of a sudden, three little peeps are now Coronation Sussex chickens, and look at them strut.

Rodney HenryRodney: Holy smokes, man. How was I sleeping on this guy? Rodney caught my eye with his bitter melon bramble back in the third episode, but I never really saw him the way the Star Fan Poll has. The ticket was when Alton said "Pad Thai Pie." Bingo. Funny as heck, utterly likable and 100-percent original. I finally saw the light of pie style. I would gladly commune with this former Glenmont Pope, and you bet your biscuits I'd invite Rodney to Do or Dine to get "pie style" with any of our dishes. Also, Rodney is from Maryland, and so am I. Can Maryland bring back-to-back Food Network Stars?

Russell JacksonRussell: If there was anyone who I could endorse based on POV alone, from Episode 1, it would be Russell. I am the culinary rebel of the family. Sometimes rebellion leads me to butter-stuffed burgers, but sometimes I have to rebel against that and make vegan chilled corn soup. What excites me is that Russell is here to provide moderation in moderation. I don't have to repent for my deep-fried duck-liver sandwiches anymore. It's healthy to treat yourself nicely on occasion. I think one of the great scourges of American happiness is that, when it comes to what we ingest, we "should" on ourselves:

"I should be eating kale, but I'm eating Justin's butter burger instead." "I shouldn't have a nice glass of whiskey after work." The great "shoulding" of America diminishes our ability to appreciate food properly and to venerate and hold holy things like bourbon, bacon, fat and ice cream. Can I get an amen?

Damaris PhillipsDamaris: Indeed Damaris Targaryen has walked through fire and tamed her dragons. Damaris has a Day-Glo personality. Even when it's bright, she’s brighter. Damaris' Eat, Date, Love concept is right up my alley. I, like Alton, have used the preparation of food to woo a few. At one time in my life, I would have gotten up at 6:30am to watch a show like Damaris' — I was that desperate. The gem of the whole thing is that what Damaris is really encouraging is confidence, hospitality and gentility. We all know a "dude-bro" who could benefit from this sort of program. Damaris also leads the pack in LOL moments for this season. She had exactly seven. I'm not an LOL sort, you see. Do I see men watching her show? Enthusiastically, yes. Do I see women watching her show? Absolutely. It doesn't get better than that. It's hard not to be a little sweet on Damaris, especially after watching her pilot.

Cue the Scary Music

The moral of the story: When I got the call to audition for Food Network Star, I leapt out of bed and ran around the room in my skivvies. It was as if the loudest, happiest song of all time had just played on the other end of the phone. You see, my three-month-old restaurant had to close for a few days to deal with some legal issues that I very rebelliously overlooked. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to reopen it. I had nothing to my name, other than a closed restaurant. I came into the preliminary audition with one hard-boiled egg. It was all I had. In one shot I explained how to peel the shell off that one egg like it was a pair of pants. You know how that story ends.

In the epilogue of my Food Network Star tale, the once holey-socked, scrappy-waiter-turned-cook is now the champion of rebellious cuisine. The president of the borough of Brooklyn set aside a special day to acknowledge my contributions to gastronomy. I've shot commercials all over the country. I've done culinary demos in standing-room-only auditoriums. I've helped charities. I can Snapchat with Giada. I can pay my rent. My restaurant is still kicking. And I've made what I consider to be one of the finest hours in food television. The best part, though? I get to make people happy just by existing. As a career hospitalitarian, this is the highest honor. Thanks for that, America. I owe you one.

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Comments (518)

  1. Elderleigh says:

    I did all I could for Damaris in terms of votes - so here's hoping she has the victory. Please, please, please FoodNetwork, let us have the Damaris many have warmed to and come to genuinely like over the course of this season - not some Dear Abby in the kitchen. Let her instruct and be funny.

    I know I am one of the only people that feels Russell has "something". He can cook and with the correct handling could be a presence.
    Get him to a stylist and lose the Mohawk - it's time to grow up and look like a professional.
    Then give him a show called something like - Decadent Dining...or...Dream Dining with Russell Jackson. He would go to viewers homes and make a dish with an ingredient that that person considers decadent or "sinful". I am not a big truffle fan, but perhaps there is someone who is; maybe some one loves dark chocolate - that would open up a challenge for a dinner and dessert using dark chocolate.
    It would get Russell into the kitchen and cooking and with the weekly person telling him what they want him to cook with, it would move him away from the 7 sins and all the baggage that comes with that narrow POV.

    • Crouton40 says:

      Thank you, Elderleigh! I feel the same way.
      While I would watch Damaris either way, I am hoping to see her as that awesome Chef/Instructor that so many love to see. She's funny, too. I got a kick out that time she was talking to her...peaches, i think.
      How about it, Food Network? The viewers have warmed up to her just fine as she is. "Let Damaris be Damaris." Please.

  2. Callie C says:

    I am glad Stacey is gone, and she took that fake full teeth smile with her. That is not a natural smile (and that goes for anyone else who is on FN and thinks they look natural with that fake forced smile).

    I am glad Damaris is in the final 3. But I wish that Nikki, Viet, Chris or Chad could have been the other ones in the finale.

    I still am not impressed by Rodney. The last thing I want to do is take a recipe mix things up and put them in a pie shell. (Leave that for the nursery rhyme...4 and 20 black birds), no I don't crave pies and no matter how different he is, his food is not going to compel me to watch. If he wins remember you will have to add subtitles as you loose a lot because he mumbles.

    And Russell, I would rather watch him paired up with someone like Aaron Sanchez and do that running through the city making things trying to get to the finish line. But watching him I can watch any of Anne Burrell's "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef" or Ina's "The Barefoot Contessa" to make enticing and sinful meals and I know they both can cook!!!

    • Shannon says:

      Callie, I forgot about that show, Chef VS City, I actually liked that one!! So of course that's the one that's not filmed anymore.

  3. Jim Kirk says:

    Why hasn't Justin gotten his own show yet?? He won fair and square. I think he's great and I was very interested in watching his idea for a show. It sucks! Give him his due. I promise to watch! FWIW, I tried to vote for Damaris but the site wouldn't let me. Too bad!

    • The Gecko says:

      Why hasn't Justin gotten his own show yet??

      Don't know, mate. It might have something to do with the bloke's deep-fried duck liver sandwiches, or fish-skeletons or cooking octopus. Then again, the public knew what he was like and they voted for him. Outside-the-box was all the rage. I'll take tea and crumpets.

  4. Crouton40 says:

    I have two special articles written. Waiting in the wings, if Damaris wins.
    I hope she got enough votes. She's got mine.
    It would be nice if Food Network shows everyone the breakdown of votes cast for the
    three finalists. Meanwhile, suspense.

    • Shannon says:

      Crouton, I know, I wish we could see the results as they tallied. That would ruin the results show though. I am looking forward to tomorrows show. Can't wait!

  5. Sally says:

    I Like damaris she's very good

  6. Rosemarie says:

    I am absolutely amazed that Bobby, Giada and Alton kept putting Rodney through. He made one really good dish through the entire season, you can hardly understand him, and he's more concerned with making a splash rather than being a cooking expert. How may people did they let go, especially Nikki, because they didn't come across as a culinary expert. YET they kept Rodney who comes across as the least expert. I watch cooking shows to learn. There's nothing that I can learn from Rodney. If he wins what a loss for the network.

  7. p.o. says:

    CVeraS you said "Bored with reality show drama....." but, honestly, do you believe this is a "reality show"? It's not, you know. It's well scripted and well edit (all the way back to deciding the contestant "mix"), I go back with FN all the way to its beginning when it was on the air for a half day and with great shows about food like the one hosted by Donna Hanover and David Rosengarten. Today's FN is in morph mode trying to compete with the other so called reality shows and as a result beginning to feed garbage to its viewers.

  8. Louise says:

    Go Damaris!!!

  9. reba says:

    Crouton we are ready for your victory commentary!!!

  10. D from PA says:

    Looks like FN has its new Paula Deen, y'all. I just knew it would go down that way. THE most disappointing Star season ever.