This week, the five remaining Food Network Star contestants needed to nail their food POVs during the Mentor Challenge. Some struggled with the concept of their food brand (we’re talking to you, Dom), while others knew exactly who they were (Hi, Arnold!). Did anyone else notice how diverse the food was? Our final five took us on a journey around the globe with Middle Eastern (Alex), Italian (Dom), Caribbean (Eddie), Cajun (Jay) and Thai (Arnold) inspired dishes. So taking a cue from the finalists, here are some fun facts about ingredients common to each cuisine, but perhaps unfamiliar to some fans:
Tag: episode 8
After Michelle's intentional exit last week, we are left with a complete and all-American five-man sausage fest. Mmmmmm.
We quickly learn about the ever-growing importance of culinary membership clubs from Bobby and Giada. The boys each have 30 minutes to prepare a dish that a home cook can prepare from a package of fresh ingredients, and each rival's dish must be indicative of his personal brand. Per usual, Dom doesn’t know squat from Shinola about his brand.
Jay is making blackened fish and grits; Dom is sticking to his Staten Island roots by making chicken Milanese. And Arnold wants to literally put himself (Arnold Myint) inside the box and jump out of it, surprising the recipient with champagne towers and Mylar balloons. Alex just re-quoted my four-year-old quotes about sandwiches. That being said, he is bringing a very intriguing kofte burger. It’s amateur hour by Eddie’s station, as he is overcrowding his pan with shrimp.
Time to present. Alex is up first and he needs a good day. Even with that pressure, my fellow sandwich man preformed beautifully. His burger, tasty. Jay’s cadence is off at first, but he finds his zydeco rhythm once he starts talking about his food, which Bobby and Giada loved. Arnold’s brand is still not clear to the judges, nor is his food. Dom is calm for a change and he clearly didn’t overthink his presentation this time. He had a fluid and charming on-camera portion and wowed the judges with his signature breadcrumb mixture. May I suggest marketing this product as “Dom Dust”? You’re welcome, Dom; I just want 25 percent off the top. An agreement is in the mail.
To some, burgers may be just that family-friendly, crowd-pleasing cookout classic, but to Bobby Flay, burgers are a beast unto their own. As the owner of more than a dozen successful Bobby's Burger Palace restaurants and a past Burger Bash champ, he knows just what to look for in a successful burger — and what to avoid.
Check out the sneak-peek photo above from Sunday's brand-new episode of Food Network Star. Before he and Giada De Laurentiis take a bite of the burger before them, Bobby studies a half of it, taking into account the apparent ingredient layers, color and texture inside. Given his serious-looking stare and all-business demeanor here, what do you imagine he's thinking about this burger? Do you predict that he and Giada will be impressed by it?
It was only two years ago that Damaris Phillips was likely feeling many of the same emotions and anxieties that are plaguing Alex, Arnold, Dom, Eddie and Jay today. After championing through the remaining weeks of Season 9, she earned the coveted title of Food Network Star, and now, with multiple seasons of her own show, Southern at Heart, under her belt, she's returning to Food Star Kitchen this week to mentor this year's crop of hopefuls. Just in time for brand-building challenges and all-important camera tests, Damaris will be on hand to guide the finalists as they inch one step closer to potentially joining the ranks of Damaris and the other past winners.
Star Talk caught up with Damaris to find out what it's like for her to be returning to set not as a rival, but as a peer among Bobby and Giada. Find out what she had to say, and learn how her own experiences in the competition will affect her judging this weekend.
What's it like working with Bobby and Giada as a peer and not as a competition hopeful?
Damaris Phillips: It feels great. It feels so much better to be on the other side. Competition is awful. ... The part that I like about mentoring [is that] I feel like I actually have advice to give, which makes me feel really proud that in two years I’ve gone from literally being a hot mess to having advice that I think would help, and I mean that feels great, and I think a lot of it has to do with Bobby and Giada and their mentoring.
The Season 11 set is the exact same one you competed on two years ago, isn't it?
DP: The exact same set! Every time I go on, it is anxiety.
Last week Food Network Star finalists embraced one of the most-faced aspects of Las Vegas — an over-the-top party scene — as they hosted a poolside bash for hotel visitors, and this Sunday they'll indulge in the city's opulent food offerings when they experience one-of-a-kind meals. But to win big in Sin City's culinary scene, competitors will need more than just a bit of good fortune, as luck can change there as quickly as the spin of a roulette wheel.
Check out the sneak-peek photo above from Sunday's all-new episode. Looking elated, Nicole seems to have landed the jackpot as she stands next to her fellow rivals. Do you think she's cashing in on an advantage, or has a top performance warranted her hearty smile? How will Nicole and the other contestants fare in the face of Las Vegas' fancy food?
Even if you're a frequent restaurant diner, there are surely times when you want to dig in to dinner in the comfort of your home, and on these nights, you shouldn't have to settle for average, predictable dishes. You can indeed turn out restaurant-style meals — like the ones the finalists reinvented during last week's Star Challenge — with quick, simple recipes. This week, Food Network Star mentors are sharing their can-do versions of a few of the meals the competitors made over at Phil Trani's restaurant. Try Giada's, Bobby's and Alton's top-rated recipes for chicken cacciatore, salmon and steak to enjoy professional chef-quality plates in your own kitchen.
Rodney transformed the chicken cacciatore at Phil's into a pie, but Giada's Chicken Cacciatore (pictured above) is a tried-and-true classic that's full of traditional flavor and texture. After quickly browning chicken breasts and thighs, Giada simmers them in a bold white wine-tomato sauce with sweet bell peppers, onions and briny capers until the meat is cooked and tender.
When it comes to cooking in the Food Star Kitchen, mediocrity will never suffice. Week after week, Star finalists must turn out camera-worthy meals that are both deliciously inspired and intelligently presented. But just because mentors demand excellence on the plate doesn’t mean the rivals have to concoct complicated dishes that take hours to prepare; easy-to-make, quick-cooking offerings are also acceptable, and the finalists proved that with their preparations of classic pasta dishes during last week's episode.
Damaris', Stacey's and Nikki's pastas were among the simplest prepared during the Mentor Challenge, so much so that you can make them easily in your home kitchen. Nikki's Fire Island Burst Tomato Pasta with Lemon Herbed Goat Cheese Balls is a family-friendly plate that puts seasonal cherry tomatoes to work. Nikki starts by sauteing the tomatoes with garlic until they're soft and sweet, then she tosses the sauce with linguini and tops it with a sprinkle of fragrant basil and mint. For an indulgent finish, she studs each plate with a few goat cheese balls, which she's rolled with bright lemon zest and fragrant basil, mint, rosemary and thyme.
Martie Duncan and I used to say, "When one door closes, it's time to get out the jackhammer."
Since her elimination from this contest, Lovely Jackson, with help from Robert Irvine, has been the architect of her own reconstruction — drilling through six other competitors to regain a cutting board in the Food Star Kitchen.
With pizza doughnuts well behind us, the gang, now including Lovely, is to make a pa-sta deesh, for Gee-ah-da and her Food Network fratelli. That's not all. After the competitors cook their dishes, they have to describe with edible eloquence the dishes of their rivals. It's about to get pazza in here.
From private chefs and culinary instructors to restaurant owners, underground chefs and James Beard Award semifinalists, this year's cast of Star finalists boasts a long and impressive kitchen resume. They're keenly aware of what it takes to turn out balanced and full-flavored dishes, but thanks to the pressure of cooking on camera and against the clock — for a panel of esteemed food stars, no less — some of the rivals' offerings have proven disappointing, some even inedible. While the Selection Committee has demanded culinary excellence from day one of the competition, now nearly two months into the contest, the judges are finally starting to see consistently stellar plates.
In the sneak-peek photo above from Sunday's all-new episode, it looks as if Alton's come across a dish he especially likes. No need for utensils or a tasting table here: He's gone hands first into a pot of one finalist's offering, picking at it while looking over his shoulder with a serious side-eye. What kind of food do you think is waiting for Alton in that pan, and who do you think made this sample-worthy meal?