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Last week we saw the first elimination of Season 10. Donna was shown the door, while Emma and Sarah were dragged to the next round, like babies attached to the wedding dress of stardom.
Alton's Teacher Challenge
The gang is split into two: Team Green Bean Casserole and Team Chicken-Fried Steak. The kicker is each finalist must talk Alton through a few steps of the recipe. I anticipated a few hiccups, but what ensues is embarrassment and certifiably awkward moments:
- While Mr. Brown is Hulk-smashing green beans and throwing them into boiling water, Lenny, who sees through Mr. Brown's shenanigans, delivers a smart tip: "If you are going to chuck things in to boiling water, chuck them away from you, so as to scald your competition."
- I would like to adopt Christopher for the holidays and show that man what a can of French's French Fried Onions looks like. Diced and sauteed onions on a green bean casserole is like putting ketchup on a hot dog in New York.
- Seizing the opportunity, Sarah Zambonis Christopher's mistake and leaves a glistening, slick recipe for Luca.
- Reuben forgets to make a roux. Rouxben. I bet he rues this mistake.
- Aryen has to deal with Rouxben's folly. Lenny talks her through it and she overcomes, but Lenny is bummed she's getting credit for his clever solution.
- Nicole navigates the sometimes-tricky world of breading a country-fried steak. She advises that Alton keep one hand for eggs and another for flour. I kind of wish she didn't because it would be very funny to see Alton with battered clubs for hands.
RoboChef Star Challenge
The gang gets a hodge-podge of pantry ingredients, which they use to make what the industry calls a "stand and stir" instructional video. Because nothing is ever as it seems on Food Network Star, Alex Guarnaschelli is waiting in the wings. I thought maybe Alex would be guest judging or sabotaging the kitchen. Not so! Chef Guarnaschelli follows every instruction the hopefuls give her. Some dishes are worthy of the Iron Chef, while others would be better suited for a show called Rusty Tin Fry Cook.
- Lenny and his plate-size belt buckle get really "swanky" with a crab cake. Not only is the dish replicated with ease by A-Guarn, he is funny as heck. If anyone has any doubts about authenticity, get your DVR out and look at that man’s face when Bobby says he's a serious cook.
- Loreal dials it down too hard and we are treated to a brunch salad with Ambien dressing. Luckily it's tasty.
- The "Star de la mar" (who did swimmingly last week) is Nicole. I was stoked to hear her tip about "using your ears" in the kitchen. I feel like a lot of home cooks don't think about this unless they are microwaving popcorn. Unfortunately, listening to popcorn pop is more fun than watching Nicole cook.
- When I see Luca, my head sings Right Said Fred, but my heart sees a good chef who happens to be the Adonis of Season 10. I think what makes him so approachable is that he isn't a prima donna. Somehow this manifested itself as shyness, and Luca couldn't look at the camera. It's one thing to be a head-down cook, but Star town isn't the city.
- For real, I could listen to Emma talk all day. I don't care what the judges said. I felt like I was in some sort of egg being incubated by that warm voice. When it was time to hatch, I was born smarter and with a delicious plate of pasta before me.
- N'awlins Chef Christopher is quickly becoming too "chef-y." I live in his world and speak the same jargon, but without a primer for words like "a la minute," "S and P," and "GarMo," a home cook feels "eighty-sixed" from the equation.
- Kenny doesn't plate his dish, and to make matters worse, he tries to talk his way out of fault. As in life, when you screw up on Star, it's best to own it.
Cue the Scary Music: Lenny wins the challenge with his swanky crab cake and gen-u-wine personality. In the bottom of the barrel are Chris and Kenny, who didn't plate, and Luca, who didn't engage the camera. One of these things is not like the other, and Luca is shown the door.
The Moral of the Story: Food Network Star has never been about being the best chef on Earth, or René Redzepi would be on 24/7. Food Network Star is about finding a person who can be beamed from a studio to a flat piece of glass and still touch your heart, mind and stomach. If Luca could have looked us in the eye, he might have found his way to our living room, and we could have found our way to Luca's Italy.
Threat of the Week: I didn't include a TOTW last week because I was just getting to know the tenderfoots. Lenny brought out the quirt and made the other koozies look like real hat-benders. That's all the cowboy I speak, but if Lenny continues to bust broncos like he did today, we'll see him and his big belt buckle on the Jumbotron in two months.