Just as this week marked the halfway point of the Food Network Star competition, so too did it on Star Salvation. This is Week 3 of the six-week journey to redemption, and for the four hopefuls remaining, time is running out until Alex Guarnaschelli and Jeff Mauro must select a winner to return to the on-air contest. The latest round of Star Salvation focused on the finalists' abilities to embrace the unexpected, as Alex told them, "A Food Network Star must have an educated palate and the ability to adapt in unpredictable situations." In their first-ever two-part challenge, the competitors not only had to sample a mystery sauce to discern its ingredients, but they also had to use those ingredients to concoct a dish all their own.
It was Emilia's plan all along on Sunday night to take a grand risk in front of the judges, as she explained of her plans for her comedy club performance in front of mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis, plus Food Network executives Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson, "I know going into this presentation I have to do something risky, something that's going to show who the real Emilia is." While she indeed delivered on her risk, it surely didn't pay off; by roasting her fellow finalists during her demo, mocking them, and calling to attention their perceived flaws and quirks, she came off as "mean-spirited," according to Bob. Bobby, too, noted the awkwardness of her performance, as he said, "It got a little uncomfortable there at the end." And Susie admitted, "I felt slightly abused by her."
But Emilia told her side of the story in her exclusive exit interview with Star Talk and explained, "I stand by the fact that I took a risk; I wish I would have thought about doing it in a different manner." Though she added later, "I knew the guys would laugh. ... You know, they're like my brothers, so I'm allowed to make fun of them."
We want to know what you, the fans, think of Emilia's presentation. Did she go too far in mocking and insulting her fellow finalists, or was it simply all in the name of good fun and a laugh? Cast your vote in the poll below to share your thoughts.
The finalists start this week with a fresh new attitude. So long, bickering and negativity; hello, pizza and Duff Goldman.
Challenge numero uno is a pizza extravaganza judged by Duff and the CEO of CiCi’s Pizza, Darin Harris. The winner of this Mentor Challenge will not only receive glory, but also have his or her original pizza creation featured on the menu at CiCi’s Pizza. They have only 30 minutes to bake the pies, so I am predicting a lot of soggy, undercooked, white-crusted pizzas. And they begin ...
Dominooch is ecstatic to sling some stovetop sweet sausage pizza; Alex believes a pizza is just an open-faced sandwich; Arnold’s going the clever samosa pizza; Michelle is sticking to her Mediterranean guns; Eddie is making a fruity Caribbean pie; and Emilia is also doing a samosa pizza.
Time’s up. Hands up. Jay begins with another fluid delivery. The guy might as well be hocking Satsuma ShamWows at 3:00 a.m. on QVC. Unfortunately, his pizza is piqued. Arnold’s presentation begins with some promise, but again he fizzled out midway. Wisely, he remembers to take a bite of his pizza and FOCUS ON THE FOOD, which totally saved his dying presentation. Alex read a recipe out loud again and delivered a lackluster pie.
From towering elegant designs ideal for picturesque weddings to colorful creations in the shape of famed figures and objects, Duff Goldman's cakes are known for delivering wow factor, both in terms of presentation and flavor. That next-level excellence is precisely what he'll demand of the remaining Food Network Star finalists when he stops by to judge the Mentor Challenge on Sunday night, a brand-new pizza test that he and the mentors, as well as the CEO of CiCi's Pizza, will oversee.
Check out the sneak-peek photo above for the first look at this week's show. Duff's chatting with Giada in Food Star Kitchen, seemingly using his hands to count off something. What do you think he's dishing about here? Are he and Giada plotting the details of the pizza challenge, or are they discussing the finalists' performances?
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.
This past Sunday's episode of Food Network Star was all about love — from finalists' most-beloved ingredients to a paired challenge that tasked twosomes with creating harmonious fusion on the plate — and when it came time for Star Salvation after the show, hosts Alex and Jeff took that theme one step further. In Round 2 with only 30 minutes to cook, the remaining four redemption rivals had to create a dish that spoke to the moment they first fell in love with cooking, testing their cooking chops under pressure and also their story-telling abilities.
All four finalists wasted no time in prepping their plates, but ultimately Alex and Jeff said goodbye to one competitor after an unimpressive dessert left them craving more. Think you know who met his or her fate once and for all? Click the play button on the video above to see which rival was eliminated.
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?