12 Doe-Eyed Hopefuls — Justin’s Rebel Recap

by in Recap, June 2, 2014

Justin's Rebel Remix, Food Network Star Episode 1Welcome to the Rebel Recap. I'll give you so many juicy details of what went down in Star Town you will think you are eating an alphabet steak covered with speculation sauce — all washed down with a glass of refreshing bubbly humor. I'd sure love to hear what you think about the plate of prose before you, so make use of that nifty comment button.

Thirty-second pitch tapes: Most of America would do unthinkable things to get 30 seconds of face time with Giada, Alton and Bobby. With their firstborns sold (kidding, you just have to fill out an application or two), our hopefuls have this exact opportunity.

Read on for some highlights ...

  • Sarah (who tried out in my season) feels that going first is like "the whole universe crashing down" on her at once, which is a great astro-simile, given that she wants to be a Star. She's nervous with all her new "friends" watching, and she blows kisses and strikes poses. She says to the viewers that she is "much more deeper" than the stereotype of pageant participants. I don't know what could be much more unbelievable after that pitch.
  • I think I saw Chris whoop it up on Cutthroat Kitchen a while back. His swagger, much like milk and gasoline, is measurable by the gallon. Slicker than cooking spray on an icy sidewalk made of Teflon.
  • Loreal's badass-grandma synopsis is a real one-two punch to the mentors. Butchering is a skill most home cooks don't know about (badass), and her pleasant Southern charm makes it seem quite learnable (grandma).
  • Fast-casual Kenny's pitch is so fast and so casual that it is a rambling speed metal guitar solo of his work history. Bobby is able to catch all those notes and put them into one beautifully orchestrated chord of "fast-casual at home," which has a nice ring to it.
  • Aryen has more passport stamps than I have Pokémon cards.

Luca Della Casa

  • If this doesn't work out for Luca, he can at least be a poster boy for al dente pasta with that al dente smile of his.
  • Cuban Reuben (that sounds like the best sandwich ever) is all over the POV map, which isn't a bad spot to be in.


Though most of the contestants stumbled in their preliminary pitches, we begin to see glimmers of Stardust in the kitchen and on the red carpet.

  • Cooking-spray-slick Chris strolls out of the Buick and looks the part on the red carpet. While his charisma is perfectly salted and suit perfectly starched, his lamb medallions with sour cherry are underseasoned.
  • Pretty pretty princess Sarah promises to be our "date-night buddy" (ew) and guides us to creating romantic food.
  • Our suddenly seafaring Nicole brings her "Star de la mar" POV to the front and center, and her sesame-crusted tuna is bangin' as well. We have a contender in this one. Fish is tricky, though, and I'll wait another episode before I place my bet.

Donna Sonkin Shaw

  • Back from her sweat lodge retreat with an arugula, avocado and endive BLT is Donna. Bobby thinks it's very forced, and I'm inclined to agree. It feels like juicing sweet potatoes with your hands.
  • Now sequined, Lenny seeks to wrangle the judges with his chicken-fried lobster over French toast with sweet corn gravy. The gourmet cowboy nails it, although there is some question of his authenticity. I want to see what that guy looks like when he wakes up in the morning. Does he sleep with that hat on? Also, for the record, that dish is insane and easily gets my vote for best idea on Food Network Star since my stroganoff purse.


Cue the Scary Music: Emma, Donna and Sarah end up on the bottom. The battle of boring, bizarre and blech. Of all of those maladies, the judges feel that Donna's bizarre presentation and prickly POV are the boils to be lanced.

The Moral of the Story: You have to be a smooth operator to be a Star. You have to be controlled in your uncontrolledness. Food has one real purpose: to keep us alive. When we start making food utilitarian and forcing it to do something other than that, it gets pretty icky pretty quickly. Sadly, Donna's food wasn't very thoughtful and her presentation was not reined in.

But Wait, There's More: Martie is back, Martie is back, Martie is back! I cannot wait to watch my favorite foodie friend rejoin the fray on Star Salvation. I'm still very much in touch with her, and I cannot wait to watch her kick butt on the Salvation videos. Oh, yeah, Chad is back too.


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Comments (79)

  1. Shannon says:

    This year has diversity. I will say that. A couple of very strong personalities as well. I agree with Justin and the judges decision. Donna was the right choice to go home. She was not engaging and she was the most non-cohesive of the lot. And her flavors just were not good. I was thrown off by her in both her casting video as well as her "signature dish" interview, so I can't just blame it on nerves.

    There are a few stand outs for me, both in a good and bad way. I am not picking my favorites as of yet. I'm just mentioning a few things that stuck me last night.
    Luca surprised me, he has a very smooth way with the camera, that's a good thing. I said smooth, not slick.
    Sarah, pretty girl. Does not seem to have much depth when it comes to communication. Too bad, she can probably cook. Although the texture was off in the soup, the flavor was good.
    Reuben, I hope they don't try to put him in a mold. Many people want a "healthy" POV, let him do it his own way. Healthy is his goal but not his SOLE focus.
    Lenny, Getting into the whole "Liberace-Cowboy" thing??His belt buckle was amazing, I have never seen one so large. It was all I could focus on. Not necessarily a good thing. But hang on, his food sounded amazing.
    Christopher Lynch, I have a hard time with pretentious people, no matter how well they cook. I just can't become engaged.(if you have not already, watch his casting video-you will see what I mean)
    Chris K, Engaging. (The opposite of Christoper L). He seems very warm and open.
    There are many more competitors, these are just things that stood out to me in the first episode.

    Star Salvation proves that the FN does read/ listen to the viewers suggestions. Last year these boards were covered with suggestions that past favorites comprise this years competitors. What an awesome compromise! Good luck to Martie and Chad.

    • Cleo says:

      After watching the episode alone, Chris L seemed okay to me. After watching his casting video, yeesh. Ew. Blech. Yucky personality.

    • MoHub says:

      Agree about Lenny's belt buckle. It was all I could look at.

  2. Guest says:

    Dear Food Network,
    Please get anybody else at all to write these reviews!!! This guy is terrible. It should be about the finalists and not about his desperately trying too hard to be hip. He says things like - alphabet steak covered in speculation sauce - Slicker than cooking spray on an icy sidewalk made of Teflon - rambling speed metal guitar solo of his work history - tuna is bangin' - like juicing sweet potatoes with your hands.

    Spare us this wannabe comic. You can say fine we don't have to read him. Good. That's a big relief.

    • Yavapai says:

      I totally agree with you. Justin has no. place writing reviews just as he had no place as a contestant. FN is heading for another disaster just as the last several seasons have been.

    • star fan says:

      I totally disagree. Justin is great and has some good insight. If you don't like his writing, don't read it!

    • Tim says:

      Justin has every right to do these reviews. He has serious credentials (Anyone who watched his season of Star would know that). I, a 22 year old male, am not your average viewer for the food network. Food Network for a long time has been catering to the home cook (Let's be honest y'all, the majority of home cooks that watch FN are not in my age bracket and there has never been anything youthful or quirky that could really inspire the youth of America). Then more shows started airing that were less 30-minute meals/barefoot contessa and more Good Eats/Dinner Impossible-y (not a word, I know. I am making up words). While the shows in the former are still quality programs, the latter is taking advantage of a vast and exciting audience of viewers that was previously untapped.

      While Bobby and Giada are the poster children of what you would expect from FN and kinda have that big business food people feeling (I know they are both beautiful and unique snowflakes) because then you look at Alton who I say is the perfect accent to the trio. He started the quirky oddball cooking dude thing by being the epitome of a food nerd.

      Quick caveat! I say nerd in the most loving, John Green-esque, sense of the word (John Green mentioned how nerds essentially just people who get really excited/passionate about things..."Jump up and down excited" to be completely accurate. That sort of passion is refreshing and watching this culinary Bill Nye for the first time so many years ago was so amazing...and then came Justin.

      Justin was made to be the heir-apparent to the quirky/clever/knowledgeable food dude throne in his season of Star (he was on team alton...duhhhh). I don't know how old you guys are, but I am willing to bet that it is easily above 30 or you just cannot open your mind. People talk like that...like for real. You call him a wannabe comic, but his words feel anything but staged. His words resonated with me and I found them to be the furthest thing from fake or forced...IT WAS FUNNY!!!! FURTHERMORE. I was actually heartbroken when there was no more Rebel Eats, however I am very pleased to see the multitude of cameos that he has had recently. If the FN can keep him around for a while, then I believe they can capture the younger audience

      p.s. My mother thinks he is hilarious and clever. Just goes to show that his humor is not just for the young bucks. Besides, I would respect you if you simply stated that his brand of humor was not to your tastes because that sounds a lot better, I am guessing that you were not trying to sound incredibly hurtful and ignorant (but it kinda happened);

      p.p.s He is hip. If you followed him on twitter, then you would see that. (I found out about this article thanks to the FN tweeting him) #Swag #TeamJustin #RebelFoodDude #SorryNotSorry #THISISJUSTMYOPINION

      • Liz Cantu says:

        Hahaha! Well said Tim! I am a 32yo stay at home mom (but let's be serious, i still feel and act way younger haha), and have been a fan of Food Network (among other networks and food shows) for a while, but there has always been a lack of shows that interest me for long. While Giada and Bobby and Ina and Rachel all have amazing talent, they just aren't quite as interesting as Alton or Justin. I'm glad to see Food Network trying to rope in the younger crowd, without pandering. Sad that Justin doesn't have a show, but very smart of FN to keep popping him in to different shows. Let's hope this year's group will be able to shine and continue to grow FN's audience base.

      • Elderleigh says:

        Tim - I am one of those oldsters who have asked for almost two years now - where is Justin's program? As a Food Network Star winner, he should at least have been given an opportunity to create something and have it aired for a six week run.

      • guest says:


      • Buffy says:

        Are you using his recipes regularly?

    • Mindy says:

      Hey "Guest",
      Justin Warner is the most original, smartest, hippest, most talented winner EVER of NFNS. The fact that he does not yet have his own regular show on FN is, besides criminal, a major mistake for FN. If they want to broaden their demographic beyond Paula Deen and that Farmhouse Rules Woman, they should schedule him on a regular basis.

      • Guest says:

        Put him on Chopped with all those strange combinations of ingredients. People don't cook that way but he'll fit right in. He can brag about how original it all is. When people don't serve those kinds of dishes to their friends he can say they just aren't hip enough. Broaden the demographic to what? His voice sounds flat and he has about as much energy as a bowling ball going uphill.

  3. Jello Girl says:

    The first episode was good. Very slick and well-produced. I Just wish we could have a few episodes without all of the "POV", "Be yourself" and branding nonsense. The appearance of Bob and Susie so early in the season was a real let-down. These suits should be kept away until the stronger contestants have had a chance to get used to the situation.

  4. Liz Cantu says:

    After watching last night's episode I already had about 3 or 4 people that I will be rooting for. Today though, after watching their audition tapes, I think that my first impressions on a couple are correct, and a couple actually caught my interest more on their tape than they did on the episode. So, hopefully they will work out their kinks and let their personality shine through their nerves.
    A couple of things that I enjoy watching are people with style (fashion and cooking), people who aren't afraid to admit they don't know everything about cooking, and who speak plainly but are still fun. I cook at home and am always looking for new videos, recipes, shows etc to give me ideas, so people who are real and give me something to relate to are more likely to keep my attention than someone who is just going to run through the recipe like a robot.

    Aryen- I think she could be a contender, but not sure about the winner. She is middle of the road for me right now, let's see if she can keep it up and shine through some more.

    Chris K- Has a ton of energy, but last night seemed too nervous in his initial presentation and came off as awkward. Hopefully he can match his cooking with his colorful fun wardrobe.

    Sarah- Her initial presentation was awful, she needs to show that she is more than a pretty blonde.

    Loreal- Love her style, her audition tape made her seem real and a lot of fun. Her initial presentation was to the point and genuine. She is in my top 3.

    Nicole- Seems like a Giada clone. She is pretty and seems likeable, but not quite energetic enough to hold my attention. I'm sure she will do a decent job.

    Kenny- way to fast and kind of all over the place. Let's see if he can focus that energy.

    Christopher L- Seems about 5 seconds from name-dropping in order to move along. I can't watch him.

    Luca- Definately in my top 3, partly because he lives right here in San Antonio and the restaurants he is Exec Chef for are amazing. But he is charismatic and I like his point of view.

    Ruben- He rounds out my top 3. He is a little fast, but I enjoy watching his energy and am interested to see what he brings to the table... also, the beard. :)

    Emma- Her audition tape was great! She was fun, energetic and real. Her initial presentation was awkward and forced. Hopefully she lets her real personality come through.

    Lenny- Wow. I live in Texas and believe it or not, real cowboys don't dress that way. His style seems like a gimmick, but his chicken fried lobster last night looked Amazing! So, we'll see about him.

    I am excited for this season, and hopefully my Top 3 picks do well. :) I pegged Justin as a winner in season 8 and I was right :) and as for the guest who didn't like his review, too bad. That's why Justin won, his style, his knowledge, his sense of humor and the way he communicates. Just like you said, if you don't like it don't read it. :)

    • guest says:

      Season 8 Justin was so flat and monotone. He often stared into the camera, nearly unblinking. He almost never smiled until very near the end of season. He made strange dishes that almost no one would eat or serve to their friends. That's what the public voted for. Some people have a strange idea of star power.

      • Liz Cantu says:

        Clearly the majority (along with the judges) disagreed with you or he wouldn' t have won. But you are entitled to your opinion, just as Justin is entitled to his in his review, and others who commented have theirs. Just because you think differently than I do doesn't mean I'm going to tell you you're wrong. We just disagree.

        • guest says:

          Nicole is not a Giada clone. They may both have Italian roots but they are very different, although both good. Luca is Italian. Would you call him a clone, too?

          • Liz Cantu says:

            I was not calling Nicole a GIada clone based on Italian roots. Please remember this is all just my little opinion, but look at Giada, and look at Nicole. Physically they are extremely similar. Based off of look and just the very brief look we received in episode 1 I could see Nicole having a very similar type of show, along with gaining the audience base of current Giada fans. I am sure she will do a decent job as I stated above, but for my personal viewing I would go with someone who has a bit more energy and diversity. I do hope that episode 2 shows us more of what Nicole is capable of since her food did look great, and I'm sure after tomorrow I will have a different view on some of the contestants.

          • Mike says:

            Nicole has a commercial fishing background. Giada doesn't. That alone should make their shows different.

    • shannon says:

      Liz, great breakdown of the competitors! I completely agree about Emma, I thought her audition tape/casting video was great. I hope it was nerves that ran amok in the 1st episode. I hope she pulls it together.

  5. Llbb says:

    I personally like Justin's comments. They're fresh and funny and not staid and cynical. And he brings the perspective of having been through that meat grinder. Keep up the good work, Justin!

    • Yavapai says:

      Obviously, you have your opinion, but that's not how he comes across to many of us.

    • Guest says:

      Totally agree. Justin was refreshing, funny, creative and always interesting on Season 8 -- he stood out from the typical food-show contestant pack. I only wish I lived close enough to eat at his restaurant.

    • Guest says:

      Justin has some good points, although he could ease back on the personal comments. (I mean seriously, "poster boy for al dente pasta"? Come on) My top 3 picks would be Loreal, (she's obviously going to go far) Aryen,(she has a really interesting POV. And Justin? How many Pokemon cards do you actually have? Because if you only have 2, of course Aryen is going to have more passport stamps than you have cards) annnd....Chris. He could easily be the next Alton Brown (especially with that wardrobe) My bottom 3 would be Sarah (she reminds me of Alicia from the season that Jeff Mauro won, with slightly more composure) Emma, (her POV seems bland and not unique) and Ruben (what the heck is that guy's POV anyway?) Lenny is probably the character of the season, now that Donna has been kicked off. He could go far, but I don't think he's Star material. He reminds me a lot of Rodney from last year (Remember Pie Style? :P) Seriously, why does FN choose healthy food POV people who are "nut jobs"? Just my opinion.

    • Helga says:

      me too. i actually enjoy complex sentences, metaphor, simile. Goodness knows, we get enough "See Dick Run" everywhere we look.

  6. LHC says:

    I'm glad to see a return to the simple format used in earlier seasons with no teams and Bob and Susie judging throughout the season. It's hard to pick a favorite yet, but I can't wait to keep watching. I always like reading Justin's funny and honest reviews. Keep it coming!

  7. Bill O says:

    I enjoy reading Justin's recaps. I don't like that they eliminate someone week 1. I'd like to wait 3 weeks for the first eliminations so that everyone gets a chance to settle in a bit. Then, if they need to catch up with the numbers, eliminate 3 at once.

    • Liz Cantu says:

      That is a good point Bill. It is very hard to get a good read on someone in 1 day, especially with nerves taking over for some.

    • Cleo says:

      That's exactly what I was thinking when this episode ended. I know they want to keep the show exciting with the elimination format, but your suggestion just makes more sense.

    • Marcie says:

      Crouton40 mentioned that elimination idea last year. Still a good idea.

  8. lindakje says:

    Great review of the new contestants, Justin. Can't believe some of the preview bios. Most came off as overbearing and over confident. No one that I personally am rooting for at the moment.

  9. Cleo says:

    To be perfectly honest, all of the contestants seemed like caricatures to me (though this could be due more to the editing, packaging, etc. than to the contestants themselves). I found basically none of them likable with the exception of (maybe) Loreal and Emma. I really wanted to like someone so that I'd be interested enough to watch the show. As of now, their personalities lack rotundity, so to me, the contestants seem both one-dimensional and inauthentic. Again, this is likely due to the need for a POV and a pressure to express a clear identity in the first episode...

    I agree that this review was heavy on the "hip" figurative language, but it still seems authentic, as does Justin, and I do like Justin. Also, as a 21-year-old, the Pokemon reference made me laugh.

  10. Crouton40 says:

    I always enjoy this show each year. I seen every season of it. Here's some 1st-impression . thoughts on last night:
    30-second "explain-your-POV"---Most blew it, here. Example: why bother to say you have passion, or cook with love? Who doesn't? "One for everybody." It does nothing to set you apart from the crowd. Better to use a different selling-point.
    To Bob Tuschman, Susie Fogelson, Bobby, Giada & Alton: THANK YOU, for No Teams this year. Everybody on their own merits, is better. I believe this is direct response to blogger/viewer/posting feedback from last year. Thanks again.
    Too early to pick favorites yet, and perceptions can change later, but here's some 1st-impressions:

    THE FINALISTS: (much to say, but as people are eliminated, things can get shorter)...

    DONNA: I did *not* feel that she was "beating people over the head" with her POV, she was just explaining it. Unfortunately, how it was delivered, could have been better. And the audience wasn't wild about the dish. However--and this is sad, because we didn't SEE this part last night: Donna has good credentials for what she does and her message is still a valuable one. Everyone should read: http://www.donnasonkinshaw.com/about-donna-sonkin... but again, we didn't get to see that. Still, she needed a better delivery. She will help many people.
    REUBEN: Would like to find out more about "the flavors of Miami" (see his casting). But Bobby Flay wasn't wild about the meat in his dish, and Reuben talks to fast. These are fixable. It's early yet.
    ARYEN: Not a good night for her. Raw shrimp? "nothing good to say about Dish"--Alton and too "slogan-y"? Still, anyone can have a bad night. Let's see what she does next week. But he'll need to get with it.
    CHRISTOPHER LYNCH: Made Bedurian (sorry, dont know spelling of this) balls. Good news: Judges really like his food! Bad news: timid/getting-stuck speaking, seems canned or pretentious. Will he be going home next week because of it, or, will he take it to heart and do much better?
    SARAH: I would not have done the blowing kisses/pageant stuff. Not a good way to start. HOWEVER--last year, Damaris had her "shimmy" and at the time, she took her share of heat for it, too. But--as Damaris herself has said (on TV):..."but i reigned it in, and look at me now." Yes, indeed! Who's to say that likewise, Sarah can't also learn from her mistakes? Her website, http://www.sarahpenrod.com is clearly-written. (Click on: "About Sarah"). I trust she speaks/teaches pretty-much the same way (it's all her), and anyone who has been invited to cook at The White House must be doing something right...so....I'm not giving up on her yet. Bobby Flay said he could tell she wants this (in a good way). Her soup had good Flavor.
    LUCA: I'm sure many ladies will love this guy. Handsome. Smooth. Confident. But his accent is quite strong. Is it romantic, or will people find him hard to listen to? Unknown. (more)...

    NICOLE: Positively impressed with this one. "Coastal Cuisine"--a good POV/concept! Great job on her food. I was happily struck by how she clearly got-to-the-point (pleasantly)-and how she is real, and UN-pretentious. Niiice! I want to see more.
    LOREAL: Also impressed. Also real. Judges loved the flavors of her cooking. With her butcher, baking & pastry training, she's a serious contender. Let's see more of her, too.
    CHRIS KYLER: He may be a sleeping giant. We'll see. Worth watching. When he got out of that Limo, he just ooooozzed confidence with appearing stuck-up. However, his dish....not bad, not great. This time. Let's keep watching.
    EMMA: Gut-feeling that she may "blossom"/improve nicely. A pleasant lady but needs more "Command" without appearing bossy. Aim for warmly-happy confidence". Sorry, but a grilled cheese is just to average/ordinary. However--did you know? Emma has over 500 recipes. Keep watching.
    KENNY: Needs work. Talks too fast. Scattered. Later, he was more confident, but food was just so-so.

    Hang in there, people! Even an Iron Chef has their day. This is only the beginning. FOCUS. Learn from mentor feedback. Show us that you have the Cooking, personality/charm/confidence and clear teaching.--Crouton40

    • Crouton40 says:

      PS--sorry for the typos. (sigh)...

      • MoHub says:

        It's time FN got an edit feature for its message boards. Of course, I ask for that with every new board, but it hasn't happened yet.

    • Liz Cantu says:

      I can agree with alot of your assessments there. Great job explaining your take on everyone. Also, thank you for posting links to give us a better look at a couple of them. I know that what we see on TV is only a fragment of what actually goes on simply due to editing for time (and of course drama and content) I for one will be checking out those links. Do you happen to have one for Emma as well? you mentioned she has over 500 recipes. I would be interested in seeing some of those.

    • Elderleigh says:

      I am willing to give everyone a second look - and wish that Donna had been given that opportunity. There is something about being able to develop a little comfort that should be equalized for all contestants.
      So I half agree with someone else who said give every one 3 weeks and eliminate three at once. I would like at least two weeks and then a double elimination.

      Having said that, right now, my primary problems are with two contestants:

      1 - LENNY - It certainly looks like he can cook, but with all the theatrics I can't watch him for long. He has a bit of the essence of PieMan about him. If he really can cook, he doesn't have to create an overblown, bombastic character. (People I know that work with cattle would just cringe at the Rhinestone Cowboy - apologies to Glen Campbell.) But I also realize that some people are not comfortable being themselves. So, we'll see. Maybe working with the metors and time are the answers in his case.

      2 - SARAH - Not sure there is an answer except, "Goodbye."
      This woman wants to be ANY kind of a star. I believe she would leave this show mid season if someone asked her to be a model at a car show or as a background character in a commercial. She wants the spot light and she doesn't care how she get its.
      I think someone may have told her she looks a bit like Jenny McCarthy and she has tried to borrow some of McCarthy's personality traits. (Please give them back.)
      Did anyone else notice that during the cooking segments she was always looking around for the camera to strike a pose or widen her smile, comment to someone next to her or flail around a bit in mock exasperation?

      But perhaps the most telling thing for me was at the end when she said something to the affect of (paraphrasing) --After all that hard work, they didn't like anything I did. I guess I will have to go back and start all over--.
      So are we going to se a whole new Sarah next week? Since attempts 8.1 and 10.1 weren't very good I wonder who will hit the stage next week in Sarah Version 10.2?

      This woman is a two time contestant and that gives her an edge over everyone else. This should have been a no-brainer but may merely be - unwatchable.

      • Crouton40 says:

        Enjoyed your post. Yes, it's hard to know. While I like to give everyone a chance to bounce-back or learn from a mistake, it will depend on how she acts/grows/learns. All of them, really. Suppose someone won 3 out of 4 of the 1st challenges and then got an ego or swelled head? Or suppose someone made decisive wins but acted TOO surprised/humble at winning...i.e..."who? Mmeeeee??"...i.e..I'm flashing back to Aarti. Seems like false humility. Its horrible pressure to have every move scrutinized...yer hairstyle...yer lipstick, yer shoes, a whiny voice, a fake smile, any comment they make about another contender and on and on. Hats-off to all of them for having the GUTS, to go through it. Unless I got my wires crossed somewhere, Chad had also tried-out for a season, and was an alternate when they finally called him.

        The Cowboy--I had wondered if he he might be this years Pie-man2 before the show aired, but then he is more well-spoken and judges really liked his food. But can he keep the food going or will it become too much entertainment, not enough cooking? That hasn't happened, yet, and maybe it wont. I don't know...but there's no missing that outfit in a crowd. On another note, I, too, had posed the idea last year of no one going home for the the first three shows, then a triple elimination to give more equality/chance. But its not to be, this year. At least we don't have Teams again. Everyone on their own merit is better.Thanks for weighing-in on this.

      • shannon says:

        Elderleigh, awesome assessments.

        • Elderleigh says:

          Thank you both. I enjoy the discussions on this board and the varied opinions.

          Upon a little more reflection, I am asking myself:

          Is Sarah this year's version of Penny - Danushka.... Season 10's "villain"?

          Is she the contestant who is there to create controversy and drive discussion among the viewers?

          Is Sarah the person we will comment on and hope to see sent home each week?

          Is she the one who will not win but who will kept on by the judges to help put focus on one of the others and then turn up time and again on Cutthroat Kitchen or some other FN show?

          Even though I was intent upon going into this year with a totally open mind to all participants - I seem to have eagerly sipped a little of the Network kool-aid.

          While I stand by my first impressions I am a bit angry at myself for responding to the manufactured drama from the network so soon.

          Damn - they got me already! (Sigh!)
          I am taking 10 lashes with a wet noodle.

          On to Week 2!

      • MoHub says:

        Donna did even worse in Redemption. It's one thing to be health oriented, but it's another to rattle off a list of nutrients in the food you're presenting. Her presentation sounded like a Chemistry lecture and was very off-putting.

      • Pat says:

        That doesn't sound fair. You're entitled to your opinion but if any contender does better in a future show, I wouldn't write them off as fake or making new versions of themselves. They could be learning from the judges and improving. It's not like they completely revamped their whole point of view. You make it sound like your mind is already made up that if they do better, you'll just call it insincere acting.

    • grammyb says:

      Hello there Crouton 40!! Whew! I looked yesterday and didn't see anything from you yet. Glad to see you back this year. Also hello Shannon, BillO, Elderleigh, some familiar names. Truth be told, I much prefer reading your assessments than the show itself. Certainly you all made last year more bearable. I also enjoy reading Justin's take. We'll see how this year shakes out, and I will look forward to this part of the website each week.

      • Crouton40 says:

        Heeyyy! How sweet. Thank you! Nice to be missed. Just happened to be roaming thru this thread again and, luckily, noticed your message. Here's a fun question: have you ever wondered about HOW other viewers vote for who they want? Of course, they can want whoever they want, but I have often wondered if lots of people just look to: "who makes the KIND of food that's my favorite?"....example: I.e. cooking-light...and then relentlessly defends that finalist even though they are NOT the best....they just make Mexican, Italian, pick-yerFav-food, etc. Are we seeing some of that already?

      • shannon says:

        Hello to you too! It is great to see the familiars on these boards again. I can't wait to see everyone's take as the season rolls on. Keep sharing everyone, it's enlightening to others perceptions and points of view.

        • Crouton40 says:

          Where is Beachnfrizzy, or Wayne, or Sugarcube and Lady Irish or Twobits and more of CveraS? Maybe we see more of them later.

          • shannon says:

            I bet we will hear from them. Here's hoping, I always enjoy hearing their view points ( beach can always make me laugh).

          • CVeraS says:

            I'm here. Thanks for asking. Snowed under with a new job. I agree with the poster who said they enjoyed reading the blogs more than the show - just sitting back and absorbing it all before putting my 2 cents in. I will say the network seems to have gone overboard this year in making sure every diversity group they can think of is well represented - heaven forbid anyone should be offended - for shame - just give me someone who can cook and hold my attention, not someone with a belt buckle the size of Alaska!

          • shannon says:

            Lol, Hello CVeraS, yes quite an amazing belt buckle.

          • Crouton40 says:

            Nice to see you back again!

          • Mike says:

            I agree about the heaven forbid anyone should be offended. Too true. But I get a kick out of those who don't get in trenches with the rest of us, who act like by holding back on their opinion, that they are somehow more objective (cough) than we are, and that when they finally jump in that their view will then carry three times more weight or validity. I don't think so. But to each his own.

    • Crouton40 says:

      Just a quick note to say "Thank you!" to all who replied. Much appreciated. Glad to see people sharing their thoughts in all of these Blog discussions. #FoodNetworkStar