“There Is Nothing Textbook About Being a Food Network Star.” — Justin’s Rebel Recap

by in Recap, June 23, 2014

Justin Warner's Rebel Recap, Episode 4A week ago we watched the culinary sabotages of Cutthroat Kitchen get the better of the remaining finalists. Fast-casual Kenny’s wonky breakfast parfait sent him to Star Salvation. On the other side of the spectrum of success, Christopher and Emma were scoring high marks for their Bloody Mary Pasta and ChocoBacoBurrataBomb, respectively. With nine finalists left, tensions are high.

Selfie Challenge
The gang gets hand-held cameras with the assignment of making a video incorporating their POV from their POV. The whole set is opened up to the contestants, and they can shoot what they please. Who will get the most "likes" from Chef Flay? Read on.

Nicole: The Star de la mar channels a surfer bro for the first half of her selfie, calling the kitchen "sick." It was pretty refreshing to see her drop the "professional" shtick for a second, but a typhoon of "polish" wipes her out in the end.

Reuben: A sofrito is a pretty cool thing to know about, but Reuben falls into his old (meaning from birth) habit of speaking with the same clarity as Miami Sound Machine's "Conga."

Sarah: A self-proclaimed Star superfan, Sarah is super comfortable showing the world how those evil doors work. It's a smart move, but her egg-cooking tip is a no-brainer.

Chris: Having suffered in the past for timing issues, Chris energetically shows us around the Star set, but he forgets to make his presentation personal. Without the context of knowing that he's a contestant, it might as well have been a PA showing us how to cut a bell pepper.

Lenny: Maybe not the best candidate for selfie-director of the year, Lenny is nearly out of breath by the time he gets to his tip, which I guess was about seasoning a cast-iron pan. Maybe it was actually about washing dishes. It's hard to tell, and Bobby was lost as well.

Emma: NPR-voiced Emma calmly crushes the challenge. She's quick, creative and comedic. Read on to see what the victory earns her in the next challenge!

Christopher: "Never gonna be a Lenny or Loreal," Chris doesn't need song and dance to get his POV across. He confidently assembles a spice rub with much authority. The "never" statement, though, does not a Star make.

Loreal GavinLoreal: Delightfully weird, Loreal shows us how to literally break down a bird. The tip is perfect. It's actually how I learned to break down birds. Where did she learn this? Nobody knows, because when she was putting on lipstick, she could have been telling us that she's the butcher babe of our dreams.

Aryen: Although she's polished from her work in broadcast journalism, Aryen sets up the camera for an IMAX-like presentation from Chef Godzilla. She has none of the confidence of the kaiju, and she's even more nervous going into the next round.

YouTube Space LA
The hopefuls pile into Buicks and roll up on YouTube's LA outpost. They are split into teams of three and tasked with creating a marketing video for a Hershey product. For those of you who remember, I'm a huge fan of Hershey, and I would have loved to be on team PayDay. I actually eat a PayDay before any big gig. Are you listening, Hershey? Anyway, Emma gets to pick the teams, which means she is going to put all the nuts on team PayDay and Team Almond Joy, and she'll recruit the silky-smooth types for her own team: Reese's. Lastly, they will be mentored by Shay Carl, a YouTube legend.

Team Reese's: Emma, Reuben and Nicole end up in a classroom setting. They quickly sketch out a skit involving a Spanish teacher and two very different students. Reuben has trouble getting wacky, but Shay shows up and defibrillates the whole team.

Team PayDay: Assigned to what looks like the set of Good Eats 2 is Lenny, Christopher and Aryen. The gang makes Lenny into PayDay-stein, taping my favorite candy bar all over his body. Christopher has problems loosening up in front of the camera, perhaps because there is a half-naked Lenny on a table in front of him, and Aryen is Igoring all over the place. Shay reminds them to make the last line stick and make PayDay the star.

Team Almond Joy/ MoundsTeam Almond Joy/Mounds': Chris wants the lead role real bad — to the point that he looks like a rejected character from an early Dave Chappelle Show. Sarah wants to present the classic angel/devil/shoulder routine. Nothing gets done until Shay shows up and organizes them into a wacky dating scenario.

The Review: Bigwigs from YouTube are brought in to weigh in with Giada, Bobby and Alton. Team Rrrreese's fares well, as Nicole delivered like Food Network's Sarah Silverman. Reuben and Emma did fine, but Reuben's face was obscured with his massive beard (not his real massive beard), and Emma's role was more of a supporting one.

Team Almond Joy/Mounds nonsensical "we date candy bars" sketch is weirdly funny, but Loreal and Sarah play second and third fiddle to Chris. Unfortunately the candy bars were fourth.

Back in the lab, team PayDay shocks the judging panel with nekkid Lenny, but Chris looks more like a Tribble in a lab coat. There's a lot of yelling and screaming, which makes for a largely inaudible show.

Cue the Scary Music: Team Reese's gets dinged for not getting to the point, but the finalists earn safety with their funny Spanish sketch. Team Almond Joy/Mounds didn't share enough spotlight with the product, and the rivals' lack of teamwork was evident. Somehow, they are spared. The PayDay gang made an impression, but it was too "cray cray" and inaudible. Out of Christopher, Lenny and Aryen, the judges felt like the biggest fault landed on Aryen for not nailing the tagline at the end.

The Moral of the Story: Just like the Adidas slogan for the World Cup says, if you are going to compete on Food Network Star, you have to be #ALLIN. Aryen never brought it all, and Food Network just doesn’t have a recipe for weak sauce. Her POV was interesting, and she was pleasant and polished, but without the oomph and enthusiasm, it became an old geography textbook. There is nothing textbook about being a Food Network Star.

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Comments (74)

  1. msjs0315 says:

    If plugging candy products in social media is so critical for a Food Network Star, why isn't the internet crammed with Giada's Almond Joy tweets, Alton's Payday recipes and Reese's Throwdowns from Bobby? C'mon, FN! Your efforts to reclaim your past glory took a sad and desperate turn last night. Wowza!

    • MoHub says:

      The YouTube marketing was just a vehicle. Every season of FNS has had a Hershey's candy challenge, although in the past, the challenges have involved cooking with Hershey products rather than flogging them on the Internet. YouTube probably provided beaucoup bucks to get itself involved in the competition.

      And stay tuned. We'll definitely be seeing a Kellogg's cereal challenge soon. It is to be hoped that it will actually involve cooking.

  2. guest says:

    This episode was disappointing, basically just an hour-long commercial for candy. I think we learned more about the contestants from the mentor challenge which preceded the elimination challenge. I felt uncomfortable for all of these people. This video attempt did not just push them past their own comfort zones, it pushed me past mine.

    I don't think Aryen would have lasted much longer in the competition, but her elimination, and frankly the elimination of anyone, just did not make much sense based on the challenge. It was not especially clear to me what they were expecting from the contestants that had anything to do with hosting a cooking show. Oh well, I don't decide what the challenges will be on this show. Maybe next week's cooking demo in front of a crowd will at least let us see more of each person's cooking skills rather than their entertaining talents.

    I don't want to analyze the performances in the candy challenge as I think they just aren't relevant, so I will try to compare the contestants based on the scant information we have on cooking skills. So far Lenny, Christopher, Emma, and Nicole seem to be competent in the kitchen, but Christopher needs a severe attitude adjustment or I would be discouraged from watching his show even before the cooking began. Loreal and Sarah may be good, but I just don't have enough information. To Sarah, stop with the Bobby Flay crush already. We know you have been a fan since you were 10 years old, but you are a grown woman now and need to start treating him like a fellow professional rather than a teen idol. There is just too little information about Chris and Reuben regarding their cooking ability for me to make a judgment call. I'm glad Reuben lost the full beard, but it was funny that he decided he needed an even fuller fake beard for the challenge. You don't need to hide behind facial hair, Reuben, as we would like to see the real you!

    We viewers desperately need more cooking challenge segments on the show to figure out who really would be the best next Food Network star, so I hope future episodes will deliver.

    • Rachel says:

      Lenny is competent but over the edge. Emma is nice but too much the other extreme of Lenny. Rueben slipped back into his old fast talking ways. Sarah is confident and fun to be around. I can listen to her. Chris K doesn't finish his dish or is all entertainment and no cooking.

    • Sheri Scott says:

      I couldn't agree more with your assessment of Sarah!

      • guest says:


      • Gina says:

        There you go again. You're on a mission. Doing everything you can to make her look bad. You can hate her if you want. And you seem to be doing just that with several posts in several places. That looks driven. There's no one you say you do want. Doesn't look like there's anyone else you don't want, either. Just stop Sarah. Over and over and over. Everyone needs a hobby.

        • Buffy says:

          I agree.
          Sarah has a gift. She was able to present positive commentary in regards to others while some did not.

  3. Chris says:

    I've watched this show pretty regularly over the years, but I am curious: has there ever been a previous episode of FNS, where the contestants had no obligation to, umm, cook anything?

    • Lauren says:

      I feel like FNS has become a competition rather than a cooking show. The network cares about the show itself, not what comes out of it (the winners show). Justin hasn't had a show and most of the past winners aren't successful.

      • Guest1 says:

        Spot on. This isn't a show to find the next Food Network Star. The show has become a quest for ratings (hence the casting of Bobby, Giada and Alton Brown) and the integration of social media campaigns into the competition. The network really has never cared about the people they cast or finding their next star. If the winner happens to thrive with the limited money or support they are giving with their early AM Sunday time slot, as Jeff and Melissa did, they will slowly give them more opportunities.... but most are not given the support they deserve. Additionally, the cast- the people who put aside families, lives, careers, and more to compete are treated like equipment and tossed out as soon as the season is over. The whole thing is a ploy to get ratings by audience engagement with the finalists not actually find or build a contestant into the next Food Network Star. It is ratings they are after and nothing more. If they get a star out of it, that's just a bonus but certainly not the main objective. (and let's not even discuss their complete betrayal of Season 8 winner Justin Warner)

  4. PSC312 says:

    Yeah . . . . the "no-cooking" thing is a mystery. They did it again on Star Salvation. Aryen got sent home on another "no-cooking" challenge. Crazy.

  5. Liz Cantu says:

    This week's commentary is a bit long haha
    Part 1:
    Thank goodness for DVR! I can enjoy family time and still catch Next Food Network Star at a reasonable time without having to wait til Thursday's rerun.... which makes being on Twitter really hard if I don't want spoilers haha.

    I seem to be in a minority when it comes to last night's episode.
    I know a lot of people have an issue with this week's episode because there isn't really any actual cooking. Seriously though, I think this is a great exercise to get to know personality and how comfortable they will be on camera. You can teach cooking and you can teach camera skills, but to do both would just take so much time and effort that may or may not pay off. By giving the finalists control of the camera for a bit it really does help to see where they shine, and what brings them out of their shell. Granted, the types of videos and shows the winner will record will most likely be of a more serious and rehearsed nature, but there will be marketing and commercials. "The finalists won't be selling candy bars" Probably true, but Bobby does commercials for yogurt. People cross promote all the time, so to say this particular episode is pointless really isn't entirely true. Also, if you watch "Good Eats" its kind of a goofy show, Alton doesn't take himself too seriously but he still imparts a ton of knowledge and cooking awesomeness. Bobby and Giada have a more toned down approach with their shows and to me, sometimes they tend to run a little on the boring side but they can cook really well. There are several shows on FN that I would put in the Bobby and Giada category, so maybe it's time for another lively show. Whichever way they go with the winner's actual show, the one thing that is incredibly true is that social media is taking over. A strong social media presence is necessary to stay relevant now. That's just the way it is. 15 years ago this was not the case and it really was all about solid cooking. Food Network understands the need to adapt to the times and part of keeping the ratings is adding the things that are necessary for the now. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook all great marketing tools that they would be silly not to utilize. I follow all the finalists on Twitter, and I can tell you Christopher L and Aryen are two of the least visible. Lenny also doesn't have a strong presence. Emma, Nicole, Reuben and Sarah are always promoting, sharing and putting themselves out there. Why do you think Reuben is at 27% in the fan poll right now?

    • Liz Cantu says:

      Part 2:
      "Selfie Challenge"
      Sarah- Great personality in her selfie. Energy was great but her tip was a little rushed and not quite complete in my opinion. I think if she can keep her energy level close to this her show could be fun.

      Christopher - "I'll never be a Lenny or Loreal" is the smartest thing to come out of his mouth so far this season. He is entirely too confident in his abilities as a chef, but he seems very cold on camera and would make me turn the show off.

      Aryen- Way too nervous on camera, kept stumbling over herself and yeah the camera was way to close and unflattering. So far her cooking skills have been mediocre, so this isn't helping.

      Chris K- Picked up the pace pretty well, left himself some time. I liked the pepper tip, it's something at home cooks can master pretty easily and help them feel professional. and really who doesn't like to feel that way, even when no one is watching? He did leave a little extra time to tell us more about himself, but it's good to see him working on the timing issues from the last 2 weeks.

      Emma- I loved her energy and enthusiasm and her "cow." I love a little goofiness!! She talked about home and gave a great alternative for fresh tomatoes. She deserved the win in that first round :) great job picking the teams haha.

      Lenny- Had his usual great energy, but I agree his tip was a little unclear. I have a cast iron pan I am terrified of using because of cleaning and maintenance, so I would have liked to see a more in depth tip about that. This is stuff normal everyday non-professionally trained people think about, so it was a good way to go on that tip, just not completed as well as it could have been.

      Loreal- Funny video, she seemed very relaxed and much more herself this time. (Also much better outfit that her black biker dress from the end of last episode) The chicken tip was good, I don't cook with a whole chicken (like ever) so I wouldn't know where to cut, and now i do.

      Nicole- Oh how I wanted to see some of that fun attitude I see on twitter. The beginning was great. ok, well maybe "sick" isn't the right word to describe food, but I got it, and I think most people under the age of 40 would laugh and enjoy her enthusiasm. The end was a little more rehearsed, but I will now try to peel my ginger with a spoon next time just to see what the difference is. :)

      Reuben- Sadly the thing that is going to get the most notice is not his food, but the fact that he trimmed his beard. So, let's get that out of the way now.... I like it, looks a little more professional but still very Reuben. Now... on to the important thing.... Yes he was still a little fast, but much better than the first episode, so it's a work in progress. I think it would be like trying to take away Lenny or Loreal's accent. It's there, it's part of who they are and where they live. Slowing Reuben down can be taught so it's not a deal breaker for me.

      Team Youtube Challenge--

      Team Payday--- I'm surprised to see Christopher act a little more outside the box although still a bit more subdued that some of the others.. Lenny was brave to bare it all for the camera haha and the judges are right, he is willing to do whatever he needs to try and win. Aryen was not clear in her delivery which is a huge deal for getting the point across.

      Team Reese's-- Totally fun, good idea playing up the things that people have commented so much on (beard/ accent) videos that don't take themselves too seriously usually do well. Yes, it went a little long, but still showed everyone's energy and on camera presence. Well deserved win.

      Team Almond Joy-- Goofy, told you what the candy was like (super nutty/ tall dark & handsome) but Sarah and Loreal could have interacted just a bit more.

      Judges Pick-
      Christopher, Lenny and Aryen..... I agree. I also agree that Lenny should be safe because he was what made that video funny, his enthusiasm and commitment was great.

      Christopher- still held back, some people are better behind the camera, but at least he tried to step out of his comfort zone a little more. and his food has been consistent.

      Aryen- It was really hard to understand her and the judges are right, if you can't understand the promo then it's really not gonna fly. Based on the overall knowledge that we have from the 4 episodes, I agree that Aryen should go. Her cooking the first few episodes was not up to par and her ability to deliver on camera today was not that great.
      Anyway, this is all my opinion. Who am I? I'm a 32 year old stay at home mom who likes to cook and be on social media. Seems like a demographic that cooking shows may want to aim for.

  6. PSC312 says:

    I enjoyed reading your posts . . . very insightful, I think. I actually agree with most of your analysis. Still, it is hard to stomach any contestant getting eliminated based on that challenge.

  7. Cookiemaker says:

    After 10 minutes I knew this episode would be a flop. No cooking and all camera shenanigans. Every year that is show has been every episode was cooking. Go back to basics because of all this no nonsense stuff doesn't show who will be the next food network star. At this point it looks like Emma may be in the top 2. Another thing if these 3 are going to judge the show then they should make time for filming it instead of taking the time off to be elsewhere.

  8. originalview00 says:

    This season is a flop. When will a contestant cook something for us???Also looks like something is up. Luca sent off to win salvation, however, he is receiving some intense training giving him a boost to ultimately win. Is this a new comedy show or what???

  9. alamo annie says:

    I am sorry but I felt this episode was just a waste of time. Who would want to watch of these people do anything like they did last night on a regular show. Please get real and let us see some cooking. Can you see Barefoot contessa, Bobby Flay, or any other first class chef making fools of themselves like these folks did last night. Get rid of Butcher Girl and Lenny and lets see if any of the others can cook or even boil water.

    • LennyGoHome says:

      My feelings exactly!!! I also hate team challenges. Someone who should go home can be saved by being on a better team. Not good when only one person is going to win. PLEASE get rid of Lenny. When the judges say he's will to do whatever it takes to win, THAT'S A BAD THING! That means we will never know who he really is. This makes him look so phony (like he doesn't already) that I'm left wondering who he is and what is his point of view. He seems to be able to cook (I think, because there's not enough cooking going on) but he's always trying to go over the top and mugging for the camera. I watch Food Network to learn about food, not see a carnival side show!!!!

  10. Crouton40 says:

    I understand the need for a Social-Media Presence. I think all finalists should be on Twitter.
    Some of them are also doing recaps of their challenges after we see them. And they are already doing a far better job of that, than the candy bar commercials we saw last night.
    Liz Cantu made a good point above, (she beat me to it. I'm on the west coast. smile) about social media presence: ..."Christopher L and Aryen are two of the least visible. Lenny also doesn't have a strong presence. Emma, Nicole, Reuben and Sarah are always promoting, sharing and putting themselves out there." I agree. I've seen it, too.

    But last night was my LEAST favorite challenge so far this season. I think the BEST one this season, so far, was the one where everyone was teaching/instructing Alton how to cook.
    More relevant. More like what a winner will be doing with viewers after getting their own show. Cooking, personality and communication. We need more of all *that!*

    I feel like we all hit a gigantic "pause" button last night. Like I'm still waiting to find out who's better and who's worse. Hardly anyone moved up or down that much. The beginning selfie challenge was better and told me more.
    Chris L.--Bobby said he is starting to let his hair down. But it wasn't enough. He says he'll never be another Lenny or Loreal. He doesn't have to be. But he does need more warmth & humor. Frankly, I half-wonder if he'll end up throwing the competition after the reaction to him in the youtube video last night. I don't know that, and yet, if it happened, I can't say it'd surprise me all that much.

    Emma: It was good when she bit into the tomato. Bobby said she connected the dots well. But he also reminded that he asked her "who are you?"

    Loreal--while I don't fault Bobby for giving the 1st victory to Emma (she did do a good job), I actually felt that Loreal was more "like a funny Julia Child". If she would have just mentioned her butchering experience for how she learned to handle the chicken, she coulda nailed it. She didn't sound rehearsed.

    Lenny--unforgettable last night, but I'd like to see him get back to making his good dishes and telling a story. The lady adjusting herself on the stoop is still funny.

    Chris K.-- seems to be eiher not finishing his dish, or all entertainment. He needs to do more than one good part in his presentations. But his energy was good.

    Sarah--Nice job on showing us around. Sarah is confident on camera and has more energy than some others. Good smile, too. I saw a youtube video of her where she was on a news show (abc13 ?) where she talked about better food in schools and she made a very nice Salmon dish. Nice job. Likeable w/good skills. Emma described her last night as cute/personal/real. Bobby Flay liked her video.

    Reuben--shaved his real beard some. Good. Nice guy but still talking too fast at times. This will need persistent attention.

    Aryen--I DID enjoy her delightfully evil sounding laboratory voice. She got into her character. But Bobby felt she was scattered. And her previous dishes were not good. Alton hadn't enjoyed anything she made.

    Nicole--I like Nicole, too! Think about it: Nicole has still not been on the bottom three. Good for her. I like her Coastal Cuisine POV. More than just fish. Add her Italian background and she alot to offer. Good job opening up a little more last night and some fun acting.
    The pressure is on! The ranks are thinning. Finalists--is your cooking better than the others? Are you fun to be around? Are you confident w/ a good smile? Are you easy to follow, clear, and can you build MY confidence, watching you? Everyone will "need to get their game-face on and bring it!" In the coming challenges, who will? And who will most consistently? Good reasons to watch... :)

    • shannon says:

      Good recap crouton. I am going to wait till next week when we actually see something that shows more of their actual personalities,cooking styles,cooking skills and teaching styles. Then I will revisit them individually. I just did not feel that anything in last night's episode helped me to see who they really are or what their styles are. The only comments I can make would be very negative ones about some of their actions last night. I am not going to base any changes in opinion off of "that" episode.
      I have to say that after many years of watching the show that had to be my least favorite episode to date. I understand the personal videos they made, they were relevant. I completely understand connectivity and social media are extremely important but the you tube videos were not relevant. They were hawking a product- yes they are going to have to have the skills to be able to do commercials/ads in the future, but I promise you there will be directors advising them and scripts will be written for them.

      • Crouton40 says:

        I hear ya. I almost didn't bother this time. While I had some impressions from last night, I don't give it much weight. I want to see flavorful appetizing dishes, clear teaching and a warm personality that draws me in. And judge by those. Not skits.

    • Sheri Scott says:

      Yes, Sarah has a good (big phony) smile which could get her a Colgate commercial, but I absolutely could not watch her artificial personality on a cooking show. It seems that mostly men don't see that in her. Is it because women can easily fool men?

      • Dennis Haynes says:

        Well...I guess there's no mistaking who you don't like.
        And you don't have to like her, or anyone else, You are completely within your rights. I simply disagree.

        Out of all the people reviewed, you only zero-in on just one.That is what makes me feel as if you are definitely more focused on who you want to get rid of, than who you want to see win. You can do that, too. It's a free country, so go ahead. Let me guess, you don't have a favorite, yet. Yeah, people who want to get rid of one or two cooks and who don't positively root for anyone else always say that. I also notice you said nothing about how or what makes her "artificial.' Just a label without any examples. I say if anyone has a smile good enough for a toothpaste commercial. more power to 'em. But I'm not voting for just a nice smile. Not by a long shot.

        As for women fooling men, would you also say that Luca is, or can, fool some of the women viewers with his smile? Naaah, I didn't think you would. I like Luca, too.

        • shannon says:

          Dennis, I read what you wrote and it made me analyze myself. After consideration I would have to say year after year I start out the same way as Sheri. I don't know if that is a bad thing. There are a few in the beginning that I definitely don't like and would not watch, I root for them to be voted off. Truthfully it bugs me when the judges dont follow my advice (smile).They may be great people on a personal level but I know there is no way I could invest time in watching them. I share (on these boards) my opinion of every one good bad or indifferent. I also don't pick a champion at first, I find a few I like and watch their progression to see how I feel about them as the weeks go by.

          • Dennis Haynes says:

            But do you keep posting persistently over and over, in this thread and that thread to vote-them-off-the-Island like she does? Add to that the exclusion of almost no other sort of comments on anyone and it's not hard at all for it to look like a single-minded mission. Most people don't like two or three people. Or at least have one that they do like. When it's so focused negatively on one person, over and over, it looks nearly obsessive.

          • shannon says:

            Maybe maybe not. Sometimes I feel very strongly about someone and will reply to many individuals posts. Sometimes I just want to vent....that's what these boards are all about...personal expression.
            I support the fact that you disagree with sheri's opinions about Sarah, blow holes in her reasons.....give reasons and examples to support your own feelings!!!!! Just never do personal attacks on a fellow poster. Lively respectful debates are awesome to participate in as well as to read. I can't wait for tonight's episode....the countdown has begun!!!

      • guest says:

        Phony? Strange that you would say that. So far, none of the judges have said anything about it or felt that way.