Remember that time the Food Network Star hopefuls had to make viral-marketing videos? I bet you are LOL-ing right now. That was last week, and with that episode we saw the elimination of Aryen, who could almost cut the mustard on camera, but had a dull blade in the culinary department.
After that so-bad-it's-good challenge, the gang heads to Knott's Berry Farm. Where there was once a patch of beautiful berries, there are now roller coasters and funnel cakes. With eight left, the once many-sided dice of elimination rolls closer to doom for the gang. Read on to see who got jammed and who was preserved in the Knott's Berry Farm Corral.
Mentor Challenge: The finalists are to cook some real American dishes for the 4th of July.
Sarah: I totes called it. POV swap time. Instead of "cooking for date night," we are given a taste of Texas from Sarah. If you ask me, I think the previous POV was a sham. I think she's watched a couple of seasons of this show and has seen how powerful a POV switch can be. Shoot, when I rolled up I wanted to make a food/comedy/variety show. Anyhow, she's assigned burgers and pasta salad, which, as a Texan, she should be able to execute. Unfortunately, her pasta salad is Giada-phobic during the cook time, requiring more seasoning.
Lenny: Although he looks like a Knott's hired hand, Lenny is just a little out of his wheelhouse this week. "Being in the bottom three changes your perspective," Lenny reminds us. Indeed, the bronco has lost much of his buck as he solemnly cooks fish tacos with chips and guacamole. He shellacs his grouper in cumin and sugar, which is a pretty sweet maneuver in my book. Murphy's Law takes over, and the second the judges sing his culinary praises and warn him to be focused, Lenny realizes he has cooked every last fish in the chuck wagon and doesn't have a protein to demo.
Emma: Cooking crab cakes is not an art or a science, but a birthright of those of us whose state sport is jousting. Emma seems not to be among this group, and her use of Old Bay (the Md. state scent) is not enough to mask the smell of inexperience. Hon, you gotta pan-fry or "brol" them suckers. Come down to Maryland and we'll learn you right. Aside from that, the judges are worried she'll coo the audience into a slumber.
Chris: Upgrading grilled chicken to the napkin-less lollipop is a great idea. To boot, Chris has a real association with Independence Day, having served the country that gives us our culinary freedom. Alton says it best: "Say what you're going to say and make sure it's on the plate." By that I believe that his Chicken Lolli and Mac better correlate to the second chances Chris has been given in life.
Christopher: The problem with geocentric POVs is that all you have to do is say the predominant ingredient (shrimp) or flavor profile (spicy), the location (New Orleans) and the word "inspired." Generally this does not make inspirational cuisine. Christopher, on the other hand, seems to make this formula work every time. Could he really, truly, be the 2014 remake of Emeril: the Movie? His food says yes, but Giada encourages him to be "known, (and) step out." In other words, quit hiding behind the guise of a pro chef and be a weird human being like the rest of us.
Loreal: Having prayed to the Creator of Carne, the butcher babe is blessed with steak and potato salad. Of course, she's got a quirky way of getting it on the grill. The problem is, her antennas aren't picking up Loreal Satellite Radio and we're getting a lot of wonk as she fiddles with dials. She knows it, and the judges do too.
Reuben: I understand entirely when Reuben says, "We don't get to celebrate holidays; we just work." It might be hard, in Reuben's case, to put your head entirely into this game and come up with the patriotica that's going on over in Camp Chris. That doesn't mean you should overload a fryer, though. That's un-American no matter where you live.
Nicole: I knew someone was going to get sacked with a barbecue dish. Could you imagine someone competing on Star if their POV was "Slow and Low"? Forget it. Now Nicole has to figure out how to tie a cheatin' version of barbecue to a cuisine of the coast. How does she do it? Mexico! I don’t understand either, but if you've been paying attention, you'll realize that Nicole has pushed this season into a new realm, and I like it, regardless of what her resting face is like. We're all over the age of PG here, and I'm glad Nicole can speak to us as such.
The Live Show (Star Challenge): "How can I compete with a roller coaster?"
Reuben: Someone call the doctor. The panic attack that Reuben was sure to find in his envelope is delivered to the stage via Certified Mail. He's clear and enunciating, but he's enunciating the idea that the gloves he's using might as well be from the hospital. The biggest "que lastima" moment is his apologizing for speaking Spanish. Dude, that's your salt and pepper! Season our lives.
Nicole: I get that she doesn’t actually link al pastor to coastal cuisine, but you know what? That was pleasant, pleasing and looked perfectly palatable. Isn't part of relaxing a subtle disregard for the rules and regulations of the things we have to cook? Wait, isn't that my POV? I have my eye on you, Nicole.
Chris: Forget updating classics. Chris' POV should be "Charisma is my salt." Sure, his chicken was under-seasoned and the mac was more Fredo than John Cazale, but that impersonation? Nailed it.
Loreal: As she's crushing the presentation and sticking that Butcher Babe flag in the stage, we see a real performer in Loreal. The problem is, her technique isn't delightfully weird, it's just plain wrong. It's not creative if it doesn't work. Thankfully, this is just a recap and you missed that portion of the show wherein you were almost encouraged to not season a steak before cooking it.
Lenny: Managing to pull a spoon-shaped rabbit out of his sizable hat, the culinary cowboy gives us a remedial course in making guacamole. Sarah points out that this is kindergarten stuff down in Texas, but I'll tell you what Lenny got right: If you use an avocado, everyone will listen. The rest of America is freaking starving for avocado recipes.
Christopher: "I've done live demos before ... you want people to know who you are and where you are from, and the rest is telling them how I put this salad together." You've truly figured it out. Nothing in between those things, chef.
Emma: Having somehow stolen Sarah's old playbook, Emma delivers a romantic and remarkably sharp performance. Emma is once again tight-roping. Romantic but sharp, enthusiastic but calm, witty but welcoming. Slightly out of her farm-fresh comfort zone, her food is still off-kilter.
Sarah: She's born again as TexaSarah, and we watch as she crafts a believable tale of concocting the best green-chile cheeseburger in Texas. It's a tall tale, and the burger does marginally better than her last effort. The crowd digs her, but Reuben doesn't: "She's annoying." Sarah gets the big picture and thinks she's going to take a hike.
Cue the Scary Music: Giada, Bobby and Alton steamroll, level and repave the road to stardom for the hopefuls. Every single contestant gets a swift kick to their culinary buttocks. Seriously, I've never seen a more excellent display of how much ass those three kick.
Reuben and Christopher are singled out as the least comfortable live. Reuben was awkward, and Christopher threw his dish together like the expediter yelled "Pick it up." For this, he is shown the door.
The Moral of the Story: Being calm and collected has its time and place. In the midst of a chaotic brunch shift is one of them. In Food Network Star, it just doesn't work. Guy Fieri once told me that the camera steals 20 percent of who you are, so even 110 percent just isn't slamma-jamma. I think Chris made some delicious food, but his defeatist attitude of "I'm never gonna be a Lenny or Loreal" is what put him on the bottom and them on the top.
Threat of the Week: The mentors. That evaluation was so spot-on and so slam-bang. It made me love this show all over again, and reminded us all just why they are the ones behind the scary illuminated table. Bravo Giada, Bobby and Alton. You drop the tenderizing mallet like nobody else can.