Time flies when you are watching hoping-to-become celebrity chefs duke it out on camera. Two months ago, we were introduced to 12 hopefuls, and one by one, the mentors have crushed the dreams of all but five of them. Now in New York City, the competitors are given a heaping helping of "It’s Getting Real," which is one of my favorite buffet-style dishes.
They stop by Food Network HQ, which Sarah says feels "like Christmas morning." I still get that feeling when I stop in. This reminds me, I have a mood ring that belongs to one of Susie Fogelson's kids', and I need to give it back.
If the competitors had mood rings, the rings would turn black the second it’s revealed that the gang will be doing a live field story in Chelsea Market. It sounds simple. The gang will head to a vendor downstairs. There they will find a summer staple (think ribs, lobsters, ice cream, yogurt-based dips and corn) and report to the Mentors back upstairs.
The Field (Piece) of Dreams
Sarah heads to Manhattan Fruit Exchange, which is a completely bonkers produce store. If you're in Manhattan Fruit Exchange, you have good taste taste taste taste. Oh sorry, that was the major echo that Sarah was hearing during the first half of her story. When it comes to summer staples, we've all got a little Santa Claus Melon in our larder! Sarah nearly biffs it when the mentors ask what the fruit tastes like, but she recovers like a good upholsterer. Indeed, taking that bite saved the scene.
Luca goes to The Lobster Place, which won the award for Most Accurate Restaurant Name. They have special padded floors at The Lobster Place so you don’t hurt your chin when you see their array of jaw-dropping crustaceans. Luca plays it real safe with a nice mom story, but answers the OTF (on the fly) question from Bobby with an unintentionally funny "downgrade to shrimp." It was pretty darn smooth, and the mentors see tremendous growth in the camera sector.
A few weeks ago, I said there wasn't much funnier than "cowboy drinks milk." Man, that was so last-month funny, because have you guys seen "cowboy gets intoxicated from yogurt and falls down stairs of fame"? Yeah, the story was about our local farms, Lenny, something I recall you saying that "every chef preaches" in Episode 1.
Seriously, Loreal has the best record for "luck" this season as she draws a freaking butcher, and one of the best — Dickson's. I celebrated my birthday the day I shot the "Meet the Press" challenge in my season. Natalie, who is referenced in Reuben's "Selfie" challenge, got me a kimchi hotdog from Dickson's. It might have been the most-memorable hot dog of my life. Loreal notices another butcher babe, who has probably been working directly underneath Food Network for some time, but Loreal doesn't seem threatened. She grabs some butts of the pork variety. Unfortunately, she was groping for answers when the mentors asked for any basic piece of information about it.
What with her killer marshmallow ice cream last week, the summer-that-never-ends that is Nicole soft-serves herself a trip to the cats at Ronnybrook Milk Bar, who are kind of like the kings of dairy (no relation to Dairy Queen). Nicole finds the eggless "Philadelphia-style" ice cream to be the tastiest trivia in the joint. As opposed to the strange hold we saw in early episodes, Nicole delivers her tip like that cool chick down the block who is a reporter but also knows how to surf and plays with Legos and is a total ice cream buff. It is awesome, and she gets an advantage in the next challenge.
Welcome to the Family
The gang will be on the Rachael Ray Show, for very, very real. Did you watch it the other day? It was pretty darn good. Each challenger was assigned to a family with dinner dilemmas, which they will solve in just under four minutes on very real TV. Having licked the platter of success clean in round one, Coley gets to assign the families.
The Burns family is more fruitful than their wallets, and they are looking for a meal on the cheap. Coley sends them to Lenny for assistance, and for a man who wears rhinestones and makes fried lobster French toast, this seems a fitting (unlike his pants) challenge. He has to be resourceful on the trail back home, so he goes for inexpensive cuts of chicken. He also manages to serve mirepoix as a dish, with toasted rice. Lenny doesn't announce his intentions, but delivers a few nice tips and engages the family. Then his pants rip, and he convinces kids that food from bowls is fun. He tosses his hat to the fans, who may or may not be cheering for Rachael Ray.
The next family is one in transition, and the matriarch needs individual freezable meals. Coley refers them to Sarah, who knows a lot about freezing things, because she has two kids. She pulls a very smooth move with liquefied tacos. Soup is pretty much what my freezer is for. Unfortunately, Sarah geeks out about being on the Rachael Ray Show and presents in a very automatic manner. The kids dig her taco soup, though, so Sarah calls it a win for Texas.
Nicole gives Luca the children who hate vegetables. Little does Nicole know, Luca's family suffers from a similar affliction. Luca's sister hated veggies, so one day his mother made a risotto with cauliflower instead of rice. Bobby loves the idea, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it at Bobby's new joint, Gato. Luca doesn't articulate the Bolognese sauce, and the gastronomic xenophobes, I mean kids, don't bite.
The Flags are a family who eats mountains of meat as their main meal, and there isn't much wrong with that in my book, but they want to change, so Nicole offers to help them by making shrimp wraps. She overdoes it on the Scoville scale and serves those in swaddling clothes a skiff of Sriracha. It's the one faulty beam in the beautiful ceiling of fame. The mother wipes the child's tongue clean of Nicole's dish.
By default Loreal adopts the Harts, who need fast, cheap, easy food to eat on the go. Unless the Harts have a food truck, Loreal is ignoring the challenge. She sets up a tenderizing station, cooks vegetables and then stuffs them in chicken — only to be roasted again as her answer to "fast, cheap and easy." She wants to show them that you can cut a chicken breast like a book and put stuff in it. Here's a clue: If the food involves string, it's not going to be cheap, quick or easy.
Nicole gets spared.
Sarah and Loreal are in the bottom.
The decision, unlike the food, is quick and easy. Loreal gets the boot.
The Moral of the Story: I didn't go to college or culinary school. I don't have a paper that says, "I am an expert in something." Food Network Star was my opportunity to write that paper. Loreal didn't see this as her dissertation. She didn't tell us what she knows, and she didn't expand our horizons. I'll tell you, though, I bet you she already has a Ph.D. in "cool person" and will be just fine.
Next Week: You vote for someone to take my job.
- A First-Person Account of Being Judged by Bobby and Giada, Plus the Finalists to Watch — Alex’s Star Report
- The Realities of Live TV, Flopped Lobster Lettuce Wraps and the Need for Deep Breaths — Alex’s Star Report
- Bold Food + Big Personalities + Bumps in the Road = 5 Unusual Finalist “Recipes” — Alex’s Star Report
- 6 Important Pitfalls to Avoid, Plus the Makings of a Mash-Up Pizza — Alex’s Star Report