The Food Network Star competition got spicy during the first round when the contestants were forced to give up their most-prized ingredients. Eddie had to trade his habaneros to Michelle in exchange for her grape leaves. Michelle was a little intimidated by the heat that habaneros pack — and we totally sympathize! They’re loaded with capsaicin, the active compound in chile peppers that gives them their spice and tingle (that’s why Michelle slipped on plastic gloves before she cut them). A little can go a long way, which is why she was so cautious — although the mentors ended up thinking her dish could have used more.
There’s even a way to measure how spicy chiles are; it’s called the Scoville Scale, based on Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Habaneros are some of the hottest peppers around (100,000 to 350,000 SHU) — although Michelle is lucky she didn’t have to contend with the infamous ghost pepper, which can top the charts at a whopping 1 million SHU!
Here’s how other chile peppers compare to habanero and ghost:
Ghost: (800,000 to 1 million) Known as bhut jolokia in its native northeastern India. Notoriously the world’s hottest pepper — to be used with caution!
Habanero: (100,000 to 350,000) Commonly used in Jamaican cooking, these potent little guys range in color from orange to brown.
Serrano: (15,000 to 25,000) A skinny green Mexican pepper that’s great in salsas or even pickled.
Dom and Michelle may have been challenged to deliver a fitting fusion of flavor on Sunday night, but what they presented — both on the plate and in person — was anything but harmonious. "Just make the food and let's get this done," Dom told Michelle, deciding for their twosome that he'd make risotto and she'd prepare an add-in, which left Michelle feeling sidelined on her own team. "OK. So it's The Dom Show, and Michelle is the dumb sidekick," she grumbled, frustrated that she had little creative input into their dish. When it came time to present, their frustrations quickly got the better of them. Dom felt Michelle to be usurping their intro, and he proclaimed, "Like a true marriage, the husband can't get a word in edgewise," ultimately leaving the crowd feeling awkward and the Selection Committee stunned. "That was painful to watch," Giada said afterward.
Do you, the fans who watched the argument unfold, think that one person was correct and another was clearly in the wrong? Are you in agreement with Dom and his all-business attitude, or do you think Michelle was right to speak up during the presentation? Who are you siding with? Tell us by voting in the poll below. (If you need a refresher on what went down, click the play button on the video below.)
We start this episode Rosa-less, and I’m feeling a little bummed by the absence of her bubbliness. What we start out with instead is each finalist's favorite ingredients, ominously plated right in front of them. Right off the bat, I’m calling shenanigans! Jay has venison, Dom’s got ricotta, Michelle has grape leaves and Eddie has a giant pile of dangerous habaneros. Just when you think all is loosey-goosey in LaLaLand, here come the caveat: the good old switcheroo! The finalists must switch their signature ingredients with another finalist. In turn, Eddie trades his pepper for Michelle’s grape leaves, Alex swaps his five-spice powder for Dom’s ricotta, and they're off to the races.
I love this challenge. It’s a great way to force the finalists to break free of their supposed “comfort zone.” Case in point: I often receive a recipe assignment on The Kitchen that forces me to research and develop a new technique or cuisine that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I enjoy a challenge, and as a Food Network Star, you need an almost-bottomless repertoire of culinary knowledge if you expect to last more than a year in this business.
The cooking begins, and I’m seeing some clever applications. Eddie’s turning grape leaves into a play on escarole and sausage soup, Dom has finally left his own neighborhood for his Grandma’s and is dipping into Asian territory. Michelle is aiming to incinerate the judges' taste buds with a whole mess of habanero, something she has never cooked with before (!?).
It's the nature of the Food Network Star beast that even though no matter how badly finalists want to achieve their dreams of stardom, ultimately only one can win the coveted title, and with that, 11 finalists will be going home. Every week Star Talk will bring you the first exclusive interview with the most-recently eliminated finalist. From thoughts on mentors' critiques to reflections on past challenges and hopes for the future, be sure to check back every Sunday night for the latest one-on-one chat. We're about to break down the ins and outs of tonight's new episode and reveal who went home, so if you've yet to watch the show, read no further until then.
Come Sunday night, it's all about culinary pairs, both in terms of mashed-up ingredients on the plate and in terms of finalists working together as duos in the kitchen. After a classic ingredient swap in the Mentor Challenge, finalists head out of Food Star Kitchen and to downtown Los Angeles, where they'll meet up with the mentors, plus Anne Burrell, for a collaborative challenge at Patina Restaurant. While Anne's used to searching for the best of the worst on her show Worst Cooks in America, on this weekend's all-new episode of Food Network Star she'll work with Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis to seek out potential glimmers of stardom among the best-of-the-best finalists.
Check out the sneak-peek photo above for the first look at what's to come on Sunday. Jay's getting up close and personal with a fish, which is staring him down as herbs fluff out the side of its gills. What do you think Jay's looking for on the fish, and how do you anticipate him using the seafood?
On Worst Cooks in America, Anne Burrell sets off to find who among her cast of recruits is the best of the worst, but as a guest judge on Food Network Star this weekend, she'll work with mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis in the search for the best of the best, that one person worthy of Stardom. She's familiar with what it takes to work with — and compete against — a teammate, as her Red Team of recruits regularly faces off against Tyler Florence's Blue Team, something that will likely affect how she judges the Star finalists during Sunday's brand-new partner challenge.
Ahead of her special appearance, Star Talk caught up with Anne to find out what she's looking for from the finalists at this stage of the game, and to learn her advice to them for working as a pair. "Whenever I watch Food Network Star — and I watch it every year — I always have such anxiety for the people who are on this show, because I know how hard it is to do a cooking show, the stand-and-stir kind of show when you're just talking to a camera," she told us. "It's so wildly unnatural. I feel for these people because I went through it, and I think if I'd had to compete on this show to be able to get a show, I would have never had a show." Read on below to more from Anne in an exclusive interview.
When you meet the finalists, they'll be five weeks into their Star journey, nearly halfway through the competition. What are you expecting to see from them at this stage? What should they have mastered by now?
Anne Burrell: To understand how to be comfortable in your own skin and in such an unnatural situation and have a camera presence that doesn't annoy people or come across as fake. The camera can see everything, and if you are trying to sell me something that you don't really believe in, people can tell and they'll turn the channel. So when they really say, "What's your point of view and do you believe this?" you have to, otherwise you're not going to go anywhere. By week five, I still expect to see people who are figuring it out but who are on the right track to getting there. This is a crash course in an education, and you have to be a little bit crazy to be able to do it. I think a lot of people want to do it, and then actually when they see what goes into it, it's actually very, very difficult.
There are certain foods that are synonymous with amusement parks, fairs and carnivals. One of those happens to be funnel cakes — fried, cakey and doused in powdered sugar. In last Sunday's episode of Star, the remaining finalists and judges headed to Knott's Berry Farm, an all-American theme park. In between takes, the Food Network Star crew snacked on this doughy treat (pictured below) in pure Knott's fashion: covered in the family's well-known boysenberry jam. Historically, Knott's Berry Farm was a berry market and nursery where the berry plants were sold. The boysenberry actually became the family's trademark and soon afterward the family started selling jams and jellies.
Craving a funnel cake now? No need to head to your nearest Ferris wheel. Try making one at home — it's easier than you think. The trick to making a great funnel cake is the flour. Alton recommends you use bread flour (watch this video). Don't forget to try one slathered in jam, which you can make from the judges' recipes below.
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.
Every week, Alton Brown is joining the Star Talk roster to talk about the most-recent elimination and the thoughts behind each difficult decision from the judges' perspective.
As far as I'm concerned, this challenge got down to the nitty-gritty — the real skills required to do the actual job of being a Food Network Star. The finalists had an hour to concoct a crowd-pleasing dish based on a classic summer pairing. Then they had to demo that dish to a crowd of roughly 400 food fans. The food was as up and down as the rides at Knott's Berry Farm. When it came to the demo, two finalists were clearly on the bottom: Reuben and Christopher.
From missing ingredients and gadgets to fake fire alarms, Sunday's episode of Star challenged the remaining contestants' culinary skills as well as their patience, live-demo capabilities and on-the-spot thinking.
Click play on the video above to watch some of the funniest and most awkward moments that prove anything can happen when the cameras go live.