Moon Over Miami! — Justin’s Rebel Recap

by in Recap, July 7, 2014

Justin's Rebel Recap, Episode 6One week ago, eight Food Network Star finalists made their way to Knott's Berry Farm for a live culinary demonstration. Everyone had their fair share of hiccups, but Christopher was the Charles Osborne of the bunch. With Christopher's culinary chops stuck in Star Salvation, the gang awaits another challenge.

Your Very Own Product
Remember last year when Rodney made that pie kit out of a coat hanger and gaffer tape? It looked like a Mason jar and a sumo wrestler mated. That's what I was hoping to see this year. Instead of pitching to supermarket execs, the gang is to make a commercial incorporating their POV. Because absolutely nothing is ever as it seems in Food Network Star, the gang will also shoot their commercials in front of a green screen, with a randomly selected location as their backdrop. Whose product will fly off the shelves? Who’s product will be in the bargain bin? Read on, Star fans.

Cook Time
Wanting to take old-fashioned hotel butter to the Périgord level, Chris makes truffle butter in the shape of coins. Brilliant! I'd love to slap those on a dry-aged rib eye or stuff them in a chicken Kiev. By making butter, which is always delicious, Chris knows he will ace at least one portion of the challenge.

Because no product-themed culinary competition ever has enough hot sauce, Culinary Cowboy Lenny creates "Black Mamba Brandin' Iron Hot Sauce." I kinda wonder if Giada intentionally tells him to taste each pepper before he puts it in the sauce, because the milk guzzling that ensues is TV gold. Cowboys drinking milk. Always funny. Great job, Giada.

Never going back to Date Night, TexaSarah's favorite thing about herself is that she's a mother. She wants to make Texified baby food with real Texas flavors like coconuts. Neither Bobby nor Giada says much other than "OMG babies." Little Chef’s is a pretty adorable name, and I admit I would buy it just because of that.

Butcher Babe Loreal makes a multipurpose — you guessed it — hot sauce. Interestingly, it also doubles as a meat marinade. What separates her hot sauce from the other thousands on the market is that she pickles her peppers and adds pickled watermelon rind. Giada warns Loreal that unique ingredients can be really good or really confusing, depending on the way they are explained. I am nervous about this watermelon rind.

The hostess of the coastess, Nicole cranks out a tomato-and-onion jam. This is bull's-eye POV material, because New Jersey isn't called the Garden State just because of that Zach Braff movie.

Reuben's hot sauce causes Giada to shudder. He adds agave and keeps it entirely raw. Smart move, as that could be a huge talking point, if he talks about it.

The murder scene on Emma's station is just a product of dealing with beets, and I admire Emma for showcasing them. I got really amped up with the addition of cardamom, easily one of the most underappreciated of spices, and certainly awesome with beets. She's also got a smart tip: Save brine to make salad dressings.

Green Screen: "If you believe in your product, you can sell it anywhere." —Paolo Coelho

Wait, that was Alton Brown who said that. Regardless, the gang gets assigned some very peculiar locations in which to make their commercials. I feel like if the finalists had played more creative card games, like Apples to Apples or SuperFight, they would have had a better chance. It was all about finding the link between the setting and the product — not the setting and the star.

In the comments last week, a few of you asked for my opinion, and in this section, you'll get it.

Nicole is now "Coley," and she has to hawk her tomato jam in the Wild West. She relies on a stretched simile to set the scene. By the third take she has a major case of the crankles, which is when one is cranky to the point of being rankled, or vice versa. It shows. All she had to do was say, "I moved west, and the only thing I cared to bring with me from the Garden State was my Tomato Onion Jam. It would make a boot taste good." The judges dig the jam, with Bob threatening to chug it from the jar.

Having traveled through a green-screen looking glass, Loreal is in a tomato wonderland. She makes a point of not rehearsing, which is a pro move. She has bullet points, but other than that, she wings it, and she completely destroys the challenge. Not much I would have changed except for the massive chunks of peppers the judges found in her marinade/hot sauce.

Lenny sees the Great Wall of China as though it's the elephant on the set. He just doesn't mention it. Well, that's one tactic. Sadly, his pitch is over the top in a bad way. You can't dress as a cowboy and sell something that energetically without it being mentally compared to snake oil. I was waiting for him to say, "Every jar has a prize inside!" If I were in his boots, I'd say, "General Tso invited me to a hot-sauce throwdown …" and go from there. Luckily, his sauce is gen-u-wine, and he gets applause.

Hanging out on a balcony in Paris, Emma wears her best stripes and beret to pitch her pickled beets. The judges think her accent is corny and it's not who she really is, but I'd wager Emma wasn't going for a perfect French accent. I think it was designed to be funny and campy, which it was. If bad French accents were not generally entertaining to us, there would be no Pepe LePew. The judges dig her beets, but I called that.

Suddenly not in Texas anymore, Sarah is on a tropical beach. She has coconuts all around her, and luckily for her, her baby food has coconut milk in it. She really does a fine job relating the beach setting to the baby food, but she doesn't mention why she's made it — because she's raising two foodies of her own. I guess she could have integrated that a little more, but I think Sarah did a kick-ass job. For once on Food Network Star, something tasting like baby food was a good thing. Bravo!

Chris KylerLucking out, Chris is in good shape, having made buttery treasure and finding it in the desert. He almost nails it, but rather than explaining anything about the product, he just snacks on it and delivers a "Taste the evolution," which sounds like a good pitch for GMOs. He also doesn't sell himself as anything other than a dude who found butter coins. The judges and I dig the heck out of them, though.

Reuben, Reuben. All he had to say was "Moon over Miami!"

Cue the Scary Music (This music is especially scary because the eliminated finalist doesn't get to go to Vegas, or do they? Watch Star Salvation now.): Nobody really aced the challenge, but Loreal's tomato-patch charm gets her safety, and Chris' weird timing is saved by his genius little butter coins.

Emma, Nicole and Reuben are on the bottom. They were all awkward in their own unique ways, but the judges felt that Reuben's timing and timidity were cause for elimination.

The Moral of the Story: In Food Network Star, and in life, there are challenges. You can look at challenges as something that must be overcome, or you can look at them as questions that need to be answered. The former is more blunt, and less thoughtful, and can sometimes create more challenges along the way. If you simply deliver the best answer to the question, then you have figured out the easiest way to overcome the challenge. The question tonight was: What does the moon have to do with hot sauce? The answer was in the movie Moon Over Miami. From my experience on Star, a finalist's first reaction is to fight the challenge. I think in this case, that reaction was Reuben's undoing. Reuben is one of the most-likable characters I've seen on Food Network Star, and I can't wait to visit his amazing cafe/liquor store when I go to South Beach next year. Cuides, hermano.

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Comments (128)

  1. Bill O says:

    To start off with, there were 2 stupid decisions- Emma deciding to go with an accent when that has gotten everyone who tried that up to now in trouble, and Lenny making hot sauce from chilies he had never tasted before, apparently. Fortunately for them, neither was fatal and Lenny's sauce somehow worked out well. Nicole with a poor video performance. She needs to step that up or she's gone. The more I see of Loreal, the more she annoys me. I find her persona silly and she doesn't project the authority I'd want from someone who's show I'd watch. I don't get the fascination with Chris, I absolutely could not watch his show. He got high praise for his product packaging, but everyone ignored the fact that butter is soft at room temperature and unless his fancy package spent it's life in the refrigerator, it would be a mess every time you unwrapped a "coin". Sara is still hanging in there, but if she got a show based on Texas cooking, I'm not sure I could take her seriously. I was really disappointed that they didn't show who won Salvation. I'm hoping Luca. At this point, while I still see Lenny as the frontrunner, I don't think anyone has established a solid footing to be the next FNS.

    • James says:

      Not sure what to think of Loreal. I'm with you on Chris. One good night does not make a star. The other side of the coin is that one bad night isn't the end of Nicole. She has had lots of good before this challenge. Sarah and Loreal did good on their commercials but they nearly all had a hard time. Frankly, it was almost as dumb as the YouTube challenge, but a little more relevant - selling a brand. You're right about solid footing. Nicole has been most consistent and Lenny still front runner but last night he was cranked up too high.

    • CommonSense says:

      You got me there too Bill. There does seem to be a fascination with Chris which I dont get. I think Alton liked him from the time that he was on his Cutthroat kitchen show. He seems to make the judges laugh no matter what he does. For this they keep him?

      • Amy says:

        My money says the fascination comes directly from Bob Tuschman who has always been about Energy! Energy! Giada is too. remember how she harped on ippy about it.

        Viet, was a nice gentle soul last year and alot of people liked him. But he was too easy-going and soft-spoken. Like Emma this year. It's amazing Emma hasn't been let go, already. Viet is a better Chef. Has Tuschman done an about-face this year? Probably not. He likes Chris and entertainment too much. But if one combs through the many viewer comments in these discussions, he should notice that alot of folks are tired of hype and larger than life. They want good cooking from someone less like Guy Fieri but more lively than Ina Garten. Emma is too close to being Ina-like. Lenny is a better choice for energy or someone a little more toned down than him.

  2. AmherstDad says:

    Here are the problems with bringing Bob and Susie on the show:

    1. With three massive egos on the show already (Bobby, Giada and Alton) having Bob and Susie on the show doesn't leave a lot of time for the contestants.
    2. Foodnetwork viewers watch the channel for the personalities and the food. They don't care about branding, marketing or "point of view."
    3. Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson are so fake, cheesy, boring and depressing they drag down any show that they are on.

  3. Liz Cantu says:

    This week on #FoodNetworkStar there was actual cooking! haha. Product placement and promotion is a big thing. I've seen Bobby's yogurt commercials. Emeril has his own line of spices. Some of my favorite gifts my husband has given me are a great knife from Giada's product line & my Martha Stewart pot & pan set. So, getting the chef's to create their own product and market it is actually very relevant. I'm sure there will be the comments of "I'm not watching FN to buy products I want all cooking all the time" but seriously, that's not being realistic.
    Lenny- Ok, so the "culinary cowboy" doesn't seem to know his peppers.... that's kind of important in a hot sauce. And not a smart idea to taste all of them at once!! The great wall of China? The over the top cowboy act can be pretty abrasive, stay natural Lenny. Your natural accent is big enough lol. The judges liked the product, but not necessarily the commercial.

    Chris K- Butter coins sound like a great idea. I'd rather pick up something ready made to make dinner a little more flavorful for those days I'm in a rush. I think it's great trying to tie it in to those chocolate coin memories from childhood! An adult version :) Timing!!!!! This is Chris's biggest issue so far this season. He could have said something more about the actual product. Again, judges loved the product, but not the execution of the commercial.

    Sarah- baby food is a great idea, I got so tired of feeding my kids sweet potatoes and peaches lol. Something with more flavor is good, although I don't think Texas when I hear Coconut, at least it should work with her commercial location. Very nicely done. She was informative, had good energy. Bobby liked it , but to me it seems Giada won't be happy with anything Sarah does. There is a bit of a bite behind the way she talks to Sarah, even just telling her it's her turn..... we'll see how that works out. Yes she could have mentioned her kids, but even without that she did a good job.

    Loreal- Hot sauce yes.... watermelon pickle? I don't know about that. Tomato garden seems like an easy place to sell a hot sauce. She is working that tomato garden, love her energy. DANG! Bobby liked the product, I think maybe the size of the peppers could have been cut down to a more manageable size. Overall I think she nailed it.

    Nicole- Tomato Onion Jam.... Sounds weird lol, but seems like she can tie it in to her POV. Making coastal products available to those of us that don't live near the beach is a great idea.......but she looks very uncomfortable and had no energy and didn't explain the product very well. :(

    Reuben- Miami Spice! haha. a good salsa or hot sauce should have a great kick, and from Giada's face this one does haha. Wow. The moon. I think the director had the right idea about bringing the movement to the commercial, because his energy level was not there this time :( I agree with Sarah, he wasn't his RRRRRReubeny self. The judges all liked the salsa and packaging, just not the presentation which put him in the bottom last week as well.

    Emma- pickled beets, I actually like beets! and the fact that you can use the beets and the juice is great, you don't have to throw out half the product. She really got into her set, showed she could have some fun. My DVR stopped in the middle of recording, so sadly I missed Emma's commercial :(

    Bottom 3- Nicole, Reuben, Emma?! Dang, I had these 3 in my personal top 5. Based on this episode, Nicole and Reuben were very awkward in their commercials, but the judges loved the product. I'm bummed I didn't get to see Emma's commercial and the judges thoughts. Chris and Lenny also had awkward commercials, but their products were a couple of the judges favorites. Loreal had a great commercial but the product was just ok. The judges had some notes for Sarah's commercial but she still did a great job and had a great product. Given the energy and presentation issues these 3 have had previously I can see why the judges picked Nicole, Emma and Reuben for the bottom 3. This season seems more about the Camera Presence. Which to me is very important. There are a few shows out now that I really can't get into no matter how good the recipe looks, simply because the hosts are boring and too laid back. It's clear that everyone left on this season can cook. Yes, there have been some ups and downs, but the innate talent is there. So the focus goes to who will be easiest to coach into a show that will get the ratings. I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again. There is only so much a director/production team can do to coach a performance out of people. It is harder to teach someone to shine in front of the camera than it is to get someone with cooking talent to cook consistently. That being said..... I would totally watch a show with Reuben! SO, I'm sad to see him go.... Let's see how Star Salvation does.... but now it's between Reuben and Luca!

  4. Rachel says:

    "There is only so much a director/production team can do to coach a performance out of people. It is harder to teach someone to shine in front of the camera than it is to get someone with cooking talent to cook consistently."

    Really? And yet on more than one occasion Bobby Flay has said If you've got the cooking chops, we can help you on the camera. Robert Irvine might teach someone how to cook and give them good recipes but it also takes having a certain creativity, feel and knack for things after the teacher is gone whether its Irvine or Bobby. Camera is important but this year it has been emphasized too much at the expense of quality dishes.

  5. Michaelene says:

    Food Network Star has lost its POV!!!! Is that not what the Egos say to the contestants???? The episode of 7/6 was insanely stupid!!!
    The Egos ( Judges) are so obvious in preparing to GIVE IT to Loreal. because she is loud and brash . The Butcher babe! In my opinion, they are trying her as a paula Deen for them. NOT gonna work. In comparison, Paula had class, Loreal is just an annoying screamer .

    In this episode, the person who created the most marketable product was sent packing. The judges actually said everyone they knew would buy it!

    BobbyFlay can cook. Giada and her fake smile makes my face hurt...and those who tried her recipes say "UGH!"! Alton is too professor-like to warm to him. Really...in his previous programs, who uses grams etc. to measure ????

    Ina is so quietly spoken, she could substitute as a sleeping pill. I'll take Emma over Ina, judges!!! Keep that in mind. Emma...go ahead and defend your pleasant ways with THAT!!! For you, it is a blessing!

    I am wondering just how the ratings for this network are doing??? Dislike intensely Guy, Ace of cakes, don't care for chopped.....no reason to watch.
    Most of us cook as Sandra lee...put her on when we are here to watch...4 to 6 or such.

    Emeril, Mario are on the food channel. Excellent.

    Robert Irvine saving restaraunts is fun. As is Pioneer Woman.

    Otherwise, nothing of interest.

    Things are a HOT MESS on next Food net Star. Maybe the whole FoodNet should be renamed One Hot Mess!!!!

    • Buffy says:

      Your comments are funny. People like Emma. Are you prepared for what she is going to bring?
      I will disagree on Sandra Lee. I do not have a box of prepared food in my house. The only can goods I have are whole and diced tomatoes, until I can prepare a decent tomato sauce. Oh and panko, I have not investigated how to make panko.
      Ina's recipes do not fail.
      I would not worry about Loreal replacing Paula. I am thinking Loreal wants to slap her hiney to get her point across sometimes.

      • MoHub says:

        Anthony Bourdain once described Sandra Lee's "cooking" as taking sh!t out of a can and mixing it with sh!t from another can and presenting it on a fancy tablescape. I think he was pretty accurate and said it far better than I could.

    • Cindi says:

      Sorry to disagree.. I have made several of Giada's recipes....never an "UGH" ( your word ) was heard. Maybe because I pay attention to the people that I cook for... Who knows!

      I want to like Loreal... I like the idea of a female butcher... but this chick is downright annoying! I like Emma... but her voice is quiet... not sure how well that translates to live demos/tv.

      Ree Drummond can be fun to watch... Robert Irvine, saving restaurants, not so much....

      and "Aunt Sandy" needs to go away....

      • guest says:

        Who would you replace "Aunt Sandy" with?
        Anthony Bourdain is boring as h___.

        • Deanna says:

          NOONE. Most people can take a store bought pizza crust, top it with store bought sauce and shredded cheese without 30 minutes of instruction.

          • Ben says:

            Oh please, that example is true and yet I might do that once in two months. There will ALWAYS be a very legitimate need for what Sandra Lee does. And Kelsey's Essentials. I like Sandra's cookbooks. Most people do cook this way. Sandra and Kelsey are getting more people to do cooking. Not everything is out of a can.

          • Deanna says:

            Just because you have the notion that "most people cook this way" (let me ASSURE you that is NOT the case in my circle of acquaintance) doesn't make it a quality idea. I've seen her open cans of chili, cream of soups, and poppin' fresh dough for way more years than is necessary. Rachel is also famous for taking a little help from the store. opening packages is not cooking. It's reheating. You don't have to agree. Obviously.

  6. Crouton40 says:

    Episode 6. Selling a product.
    This reminded me of last year when Damaris went to "the Auction." I have to say, I liked the way they did this challenge better, last year. Most finalists had trouble with this.

    LENNY---Ohhh man! What happened? From the beginning, the ol' Cowboy has surprised me week after week in a good way. He's well-spoken, entertaining (I still like that lady adjusting herself on the stoop comment. Funny.) and has made alot of good dishes. Just when I think I'll be tired of Lenny next week, he does good again. And then.....last night, he went too far. Too Loud. Too Guy Fieri. Too infomercial. But---all is not lost. Not by a long shot. Lenny, people DO like you just the way you are. Keep makin' good food and just dial it back to "the lady on the stoop" and yer doin' fine.

    NICOLE--by the same token, if one bad night doesn't ruin things for Lenny, it doesn't for Nicole, either. Yes, she was on the bottom this time. A little stiff and uncomfortable. But--she was the Last One to get there! Everyone else has been on the bottom, sooner! And some of them more times. Nicole has outlasted them. Looking at the big picture, Nicole has done very well. In the beginning when they all walked the runway and introduced themselves, she shined as Star de la Mar with confidence and clarity without any pretentiousness at all. In the "teaching Alton to Cook", she was confident, friendly, knowledgeable. While others have either cooked well and did poor with speaking, or presented well and had poor dishes, (no one has been perfect, but)--Nicole has shown good Consistency (and quality) over the challenges. Judges love her food. I find her easy to watch and follow along with. See this video of her:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Qwhl-Opl4s

    CHRIS---also by the same token, if one bad night can happen to anyone, one good night does not anyone an instant winner. ("It's a Marathon, not a sprint."). Chris had an excellent start to his "selling his coins", and then....it collapsed. Bob T. was disappointed. Still, he won best product of the night. But two things keep dogging Chris: 1. He does good at cooking OR speaking, but not both in same challenge. 2. He doesn't finish in time. Last night was good for him, but he still behind others.

    LOREAL--I think she is the tortoise (spelling?) in this race. And a wildcard. She had the best commercial last night. I can see -both- where people in the audience may view it as 1. kinda corny and yet as 2. funny/amusing...sort of in a funny Julia Child way. Last week, she took criticism about the way she seasoned. But--i think she is bit by bit getting better and better. I do hafta say: she is growing on me. I think "the Chops" really are there, and she can be amusing/funny. Last night, Bobby Flay stood up for her. Susie F. said her brand is gelling. Bob Tuschman said she was an "absolute standout" and "communicated eveything in 30 seconds". DANG, girl! :)

    SARAH--"Best that I've seen you", and..."Absolutely killed it!"--both from Bobby Flay. I totally didn't get or even care, about whether Srah did or didn't mention her kids. She could have, but don't feel it was necessary at all. (I think Giada has been miffed at her ever since the comment about the wooden spoon. And, while I like Giada's shows and recipes...Sarah was right about that one). Sarah is good at Social media. And on Camera. last night it showed, again. Her baby food she made was good. She explains well and has that Star Power energy exec's look for (without being too loud, just outgoing). She needs to continue to put out great tasting dishes, but she's likeable, can teach and is growing.

    Emma--When i saw/heard the french accent, I thought she was just getting into her character. However--these challenges ARE like school assignments and everyone needs to do them the way the judges/teachers want them done. Bob T. said he wanted to her to still be an American in Paris. Emma is very likeable, too. But so was Viet, last year. Energy and overcoming what could be too generic of a POV are nagging her. Susie F. mentioned that there is "serious room for improvement". Maybe she'll do better, but some others have pulled ahead.

    RUEBEN--Nice guy. Good humor. RRRRRueben! but, it's a case of too little too late. I'd have to go back and check all his dishes but off the top o' my head, I'm not remembering a spectacular moment where I was blown away. He lasted this long but others simply did better overall. The word last night was-"Flat."

    • Liz Cantu says:

      As always you make excellent points. :) You always remain balanced and give good reasons why you do/don't like something. :) and I agree, I think Giada has been pretty snippy to Sarah, and I still laugh every time i think about Lenny and his "adjustment" episode. There has been a lot of growth from the contestants and I hope to see more.... I also can't wait to see what next week brings and who the winner of Star Salvation is :)

      • Crouton40 says:

        Thanks for the kind words. I liked your review, too. Good specifics. Star Salvation--can you just imagine the audience reaction if the person who comes back ISN'T Luca? Or, what if it is Luca, he comes back, but soon loses. For me, becoming a Star takes FOUR things. Someone who:
        1. Cooks awesome, flavorful dishes consistently
        2, Teaches clearly, simply
        3. Is outgoing/informal/warm w/ a good smile
        4. ISN"T: obnoxious, dull, conceited or freaky.
        It takes ALL 4, (not just talking or cooking) & whoever does it best, should win! :)

        • Liz Cantu says:

          Haha, I was thinking that about Star Salvation. It's a hard choice between Reuben and Luca, either way I'll be happy... but it would suck if they came back to lose in the next episode. lol

    • Tinochka says:

      I love your reviews of each episode. You make some very good points. I will admit that I'm not a fan of Chris and definitely was not impressed with his product. It was a pretty good idea, flavored butters are pretty cool and it does fit in with his POV of elevating simple ingredients. But, he still hasn't shown me he can cook. I love Lenny and Loreal but Lenny was a bit over the top even for me. Poor boy must not have played pretend very much when he was a kid. I love him most when he is humble and just simply Lenny and not Lenny the entertainer.

      • Crouton40 says:

        Thank you! I have a feeling that Lenny will take the feedback well make an effort to dial-it-back and be more himself. I'm not sure what the network will do with Chris. In all his challenges so far, has he ever had a dish that he finished in time and that the judges REALLY liked? In fairness to him, maybe he has and I should go look it up, but sitting here typing, thinking about it, nothing immediately comes to mind. Ya know, Emeril was VERY entertaining (and no, I don't expect Chris to be Emeril) but Emeril had a piping-hot plate of knock-yer-socks-off food Finished--and on the countertop, to back up his entertainment. At this point, I would say Lenny is probably coming closest to doing that, but--I have other faves, and Lenny needs to tone it down from last night, and also focus and be less scattered...i.e...using all the grouper and having none left in an earlier challenge. "the Devil is in the details." Thanks for your reply.

    • shannon says:

      Hello Crouton, very good thoughtful review, as usual. I must say you were right previously when you alluded to the fact that this would be the week when things really started moving. Now perceptions are shaken up, can't wait to see where they land.

      • Crouton40 says:

        Thank you, Shannon. I appreciate your views, too, which I read in Sarah De Heer's thread. Good job :)

        Sooo many questions come to the front now.
        IF, Luca is the one to return, on the night/challenge that he does, if others do very, very well....will it even get noticed or will it be so focused on Luca-is-Back that no one else gets any credit? I don't know. Not Luca's fault. While Luca deserves credit for a job well done when he does it, I hope the viewers still consider how everyone is doing. Will they even notice?

        Here's something: Emma vs. Chris. Both are likeable. Chris, has Emma beat in presentation (espec. in the eyes of Bob & Susie last night) but on the other hand Emma "gets it done" on the cooking and Chris usually doesn't. Who will win out with the judges?

        If Luca returns, who would be his two strongest competitors?

        Everyone has been on the bottom now, havent they? If ANYONE ends up on the bottom a 3rd time, are they really "Star-Power" Recall that last year, Damaris was -never- on the bottom 3.

        I read a comment somewhere on these Blogs to the effect that Loreal is a replacement for Paula Deen?? Naaaah, not buyin' it. ....and....yes, i'm going to say it....and I may yet change my mind...but for now, tentatively....I will say (in my own opinion), that I feel the final four should be (in no particular order): Lenny, Loreal, Sarah and Nicole.
        That could either change, or get reinforced stronger, depending on how things go. Then, I keep going 'round n 'round with: Emma, Chris and Luca. One of them will be the fifth. or, possibly replace one of (my) Top 4. Things are heating up. :)

        • shannon says:

          Croutons, good points and even better questions. I think this year has such undefined leaders because there really has been a lack of cooking( I know I hate to harp on that but it really is a factor). I went back and reviewed all their cooking. It does seem as you said that Emma has out cooked Chris, however here are some side by side comparisons..1st dish Emma made an open faced grilled cheese that was not well received by the judges-Chris made lamb medallions that the judges really liked, next Emma made penne pasta with shrimp and spinach it was well recieved-chris was making pork and Apple fried wonton which he never finished, next was the breakfast vs spring. Meatball challenge, while Chris dish was good Emma stole that round with her chocolate bacon dish, the judges did not like either Emma's crab cakes or Chris chicken lollipops. I have a hard time saying that Emma out cooks Chris. Think they are pretty even on that score.
          Comparing all the others...Loreal only did well in the 1st challenge they loved her Sour cream pound cake..not so much with her salad,sp. & Meatballs or unseasoned steak they did like her potato salad. Sarah's soup tasted good but had a funky texture, they did not like either burger she made But they did like her breakfast. Lenny has done VERY well in each challenge with the exception of his (sp?) Sopapila. Nicole has done well in each challenge too,from her sesame crusted tuna,her couscous salad,her meatballs(minus her gnocchi) to her pork and pickled shallot rings.
          I have to enjoy someone's personality but they have to be able to cook too,so here is my pick: I am going to have to go with Lenny and Nicole they are no brainers for me...the next is hard..while I like Emma Sarah and Chris they are all equal to me at this point, I need to see them cook 1 more time.
          Oh and no way is Loreal anything like paula deen.
          I can't lie either I like Luca, he is engaging, does really well in the teaching aspect and has never made a bad dish. I want to see him compete, I don't think.It will be just about his looks he has the necessary skills in my opinion.

          • Crouton40 says:

            Of my top 4, I am most confident with Nicole and Lenny. I like them and they have both shown good consistency. Emma and Chris pretty close on food. Feels like Emma doing a bit better there as I keep remembering Chris not getting done. On the other hand, a grilled cheese is pretty ordinary. Last yr., Stacey won some challenges where she cooked easy things that were easy to well-execute. Right now, Loreal looks like she has better spontaneity and spunkiness than Emma, which judges are liking, but....Emma may yet edge-out Loreal, or Loreal may continue to improve. Hard to say but Loreal also has a more definite POV, so that tips things her direction, for now. I'm curious if next week will help "cement" this for me, or make me want to revise things. Could go either way. ( I did say--tentatively.... Smile).

          • MoHub says:

            I think if Loreal can be compared with any already-established cooking celeb, it would have to be Nadia G., but with a different regional perspective. Like Nadia, she has developed a persona with distinct speech patterns and body language.

            However, somehow Nadia works for me while Loreal just makes me uncomfortable.

          • Bill O says:

            That's exactly what I was thinking, Mo. I love Nadia. I just don't have the same feeling towards Loreal. Maybe it's not right to say, but Nadia seems to have a lot more class than Loreal and despite her schtick, I take her more seriously. And I've enjoyed cooking some of her recipes. And Crout, other than being a butcher, does Loreal really have a definable cooking POV?

          • Crouton40 says:

            Again, I may revise or change my Top 4. This is only tentative and "the view from this far along." Who knows? Next week if Luca comes back it may "re-shuffle the whole deck" in the minds of alot of people. As for Loreal, the judges do seem to like her. AS for her POV, if I'm not mistaken, I believe it may be her audition video or her Bio where it says she also has Pastry and baking training, So between meat, pastry and baking, that's a good cross-section of "Chops". Unfortunately, she needs more good dishes. It's possible that Emma may pass her. But with Emma, POV also needs better defining. Susie Fogelson told Emma there is "serious need for improvement". Loreal needs work, too, but she is "more entertaining" than Emma (again, Tuschman, Giada, etc. seem to eat that up). I'm still open. For all I know, suddenly Chris or Emma could rock the house and surprise some of us this very next time. But if that happened...would they become front runners? or, surviving and still needing to catch up w/others? I have more confidence in Nicole and Lenny who are more consistent and have done better at Cooking AND presentation overall.

          • MoHub says:

            Loreal is actually primarily a pastry chef. She took up butchering relatively recently, but butchering much more of a gimmick than pastry, so it's only natural that that's the angle she would play.

            And Luca is definitely returning, with a good chance to garner the viewer votes to win it all.

          • Crouton40 says:

            OK. Fair enough. Playing the Butcher angle is OK with me. Damaris, also has Pastry training at Jefferson Community & Technical College, where she teaches, yet she does the Southern angle. I wish they'd put her on during the week.

            I think Loreal has good potential. I think this next challenge will be an important one in whether or not to hang in there w/her or not. Likewise, with Emma and with Chris as it is feeling more now like we are waiting for them to break out of the pack. It reminds me of when so many were waiting...and waiting...for Martita, to "show us how it's done". One thing, that I feel somewhat hurts Loreal, is those big handkerchief-type head-things she wears. Yes, it helps keep the hair out, but she could wear something else. Something more professional and a little less "Costume-y" looking. They are too big. But it's the quality of dishes and presentation, as we all know. There has been a frustrating lack of letting the finalists cook their own way and showing us what they can really do, this year. It should not take til episode 7 or 8 to pick ones faves. Sigh. And then there's Luca, as you said, so who knows how that may affect the other finalists?

          • Joan says:

            Why should Loreal be compared to anyone whatsoever who is on any different show at all other than Food Network Star or one of its former winners? I never let anyone on Chopped, Top Chef or any other show affect how I feel about this one or how I judge the finalists. But to each his her own.

    • Cindi says:

      If Sarah had pulled out the Texas POV & mentioned her kids in the first episode or two... She'd be in the top of the field... Instead she plated around with different ideas ... and she had a home run in her pocket! Melissa kept talking about her kids/family & that hit the mark with a lot of viewers

      • shannon says:

        Cindi, I have to agree with you. Going as far back as the first episode there were people,myself included remarking on the same thing. She was trying to project date night then Texas but all the while it remained clear,her kids are her world and that is a wonderful thing. Every episode that went by she always always mentioned her kids. Being a mom is what comes natural to her, she should have capitalized on that.

        • Bill O says:

          Maybe she should dump Texas and do Cooking for Kids. So far has she demonstrated a knowledge or expertise with Texas recipes? If she doesn't already do it, she's not going to be able to learn it on the fly during the rest of the series..

          • guest says:

            If I'm not mistaken, Sarah has lived in Denton, San Antonio and now in League City, Texas. Three different and separated parts of the state. I trust she has alot of "texas knowledge" but there are only so many challenges left. As time goes on she can show us more.

          • Miss Tress says:

            How interesting. If she doesn't already do it.
            Would you apply the same standard to all of them? People have been waiting for Chris to do the whole ball of wax at once. He hasn't. What if he does next week? Would you say he should make it til the final vote? Yes? OK, then if Sarah got it more together next time would you also grant that she should make it to the end, too? Why one and not the other? People have been -waiting- for some others, too. Maybe we should say that they aren't going to be able to learn it, either. If they do better next time and we say they're learning, what about the finalists who have already shown it?

  7. Tinochka says:

    This week it was still all about camera presence but at least there was some cooking involved. We all know the FN wants to make money from their "stars" and branding of a product is one way of doing it, so last nights challenge wasn't too far off the mark.

    I have to disagree with the judges about Chris. I'm sorry, making flavored butter coins isn't cooking. At least the others did some cooking. Not that he didn't have a good idea but seriously "the best idea I have ever seen on this show"? I'm still not a fan and the judges were right about him not promoting his product better. Why do I need a stupid butter coin? I can get butter out of my fridge and slather it on bread, what's so special about yours?

    Lenny what happened to you babe? I've been in his corner from the beginning but he even got on my last nerve last night with his way over the top cowboy persona. I think he said it himself, he feeds off of the crowd and his environment. There was no environment and he doesn't know how to play pretend very well. Fortunately the boy can cook and it's keeping him in the running. I will agree with Giada on this, we all do you like you just as you are. When he isn't trying to put on a show he's a winner.

    Loreal hands down did have the best commercial. She seems very comfortable with who she is and isn't afraid to put herself out there. Her product actually didn't even look all that good to me but she probably could have sold it to me anyway.

    Sarah did pretty well, BUT I think she really needs to solidify who she is and what she wants to do. She's been jumping around all over the place and by this time she should be smoothing out her POV, not still trying to figure out what it is. I know that they have one every season, but still at this point she needs to say more than "I'm all about Texas". I lived in Texas, which part of Texas are you talking about? What kind of food are you trying to teach us about? Every region in Texas does things a little bit differently, is she open minded enough to explore all regions or just that part she is comfortable with? I thought her commercial was actually pretty good, one of the better ones. She was Sarah, not the finalist trying to impress the judges and doing something just for them. Like burgers for Bobby and pasta for Giada. She needs to create things for her and not for anyone else.

    Emma drove me nuts with the fake and bad French accent. Sorry, I had a hard time understanding her and I didn't find her commercial charming or cute. Why would I want to buy your beets even though I love beets. The accent just didn't do anything for me.

    Nicole was so obviously uncomfortable on the screen. She is her own worst enemy. She gets in her head too much and over thinks things. I was impressed with Giada, she actually tried to make Nicole feel better and gave her a compliment and you could see Nicole honestly took it to heart and appreciated it. Giada wasn't nearly as nasty last night as she was last week.

    Reuben was so low key to the point of being boring, like Christopher last week. I think Reuben has been trying so hard to dial back his fast talking that he forgets to just be Reuben. He has taken to heart what the judges/mentors have told him about speaking in Spanish and talking too fast, but he's gone so far in the other direction that it has hurt him. He's charming when he isn't trying too hard.

    In the end Reuben was the one to go. I suppose as Christopher said last week, how many times can you be on the bottom and end up being safe.

    • Crouton40 says:

      Good comments! Nice and specific.
      I see we have lots of agreement.

      I shoulda said this earlier: Loreal. I LIKE how she gets in front o' the camera with just a couple bullet-points in the front of her mind 9the important stuff) and then gets out there, is herself, and just gooooees with it. On the fly. Improvise. More often than not, she can be cute n funny. Still not as :there yet" as I'd like but doing better and better. DANG! (smile)

      I'm hoping Sarah (who has been to San Antonio, AND Denton, AND League City...has, and will do, all different parts of Texas as time goes on. It's always tough when anyone changes their POV, but if she sticks to it from here on and focuses on good flavors, hopefully things will continue to progress for her.

      Here's a thought: if it turns out that Luca IS the one who returns, do you think the focus (that episode) would be SO on him, that no matter how awesome anyone else did, that night....that they wouldn't get credit for it and things would be "all about Luca?" None of that would be Luca's fault. He seems like a good man. But, the audience. Would be a flood of emotion online and no reason? Not sure. Time will tell.

    • Cindi says:

      & ...as far as flavored butters go... A National Brand marketed flavored butters last Fall & they are pretty amazing!

  8. NotaFanAnymore says:

    Sorry people, that was my last time watching this rigged show. First, if the viewers are to pick the winner, how in the world to you completely ignore them and send the fan favorite home? Next, its funny how AFTER the judges saw what the contestants were going to make THEY assigned where each commercial was to take place. Talk about rigged. Sara getting a tropical island, because she had coconuts? Loreal getting a tomato patch, making a tomato based marinade? What about Chris making a compound butter and you stick him in the desert? This was all about who the judges wanted to shine and who they wanted to make it difficult for.

    This is all manipulated by FN to get who they want in the final. Its obvious they want Lenny and the "Butcher Babe" because they are over the top and they feel that's what sells. They want people to tune it every week to see what silly antics they will try and pull. Its all about ratings. Does anyone remember the "Pie Guy." All he did was stick anything and everything in a pie crust, you call that cooking? But the judges liked him. Just like Lenny and Loreal.

    So sorry people, FN already knows who they want. So do yourself a favor and stop watching because they have already decided who is going to win and it won't be chosen by Y'All..........

    • mary says:

      Yes, I have been thinking about the "pie guy" and the fact that he came in 2nd. A real messy person with flour all over the kitchen!! Even Guy is not that bad. Mary

      • MoHub says:

        Rodney's pies are actually very good; he just didn't belong at the helm of a television program. His stuff is very popular in the Baltimore/Washington area and includes brick-and-mortar sites and a food truck. He needs to let his product speak for itself and stay out of our sightlines.

  9. Bobbi says:

    "Moon over Miami" is sheer brilliance, Justin. I kept thinking that Reuben should have opened with, "Houston, we have a problem. We need an out-of-this-world hot sauce." I do think the poor guy was understandably shaken by a very cumbersome costume and the helmet. I for one would just like to see product pitches done from boring old kitchens next time. That way we can really focus on the person, the product , and the POV rather than crazy special effects.

    • Buffy says:

      Apparently " Houston, we have a problem" is not used in Miami. Remember, Reuben says the people in Miami are different. You nailed one pitch. Amazing, he could not make the simple connection.

  10. CommonSense says:

    Proud of you young rebel Justin...you didn't just echo the judges in this review~

    Loved your common sensical understanding of Emma and your going against the grain to support Sarah in spite of what Giada said. Now go ask Susie Fogelson what it takes to go against their opinions and truly speak your mind.