Monday, July 06, 2009

Next Food Network Star-Week Five

Week Five: the halfway point of this season's Next Food Network Star. Who has made some improvements and should go on and who should have been left behind? We shall soon find out.

The remaining six enter the Food Network kitchens. Now it's crunch time-they need to show that they can cook ON camera. This trips up the most seasoned of contenders. The six watch a video of Rachael Ray to find out challenge one for the week: take something that isn't normally considered kid-friendly and make it so kids will like it. Who better to judge this than kids?

Debbie and Katie are given squid to prepare, Jeffrey and Jamika tofu, and Michael and Melissa brussel sprouts. They have two minutes to present to camera on what they did to make their dish appeal to the pickiest palates.

A panel of three kids, Rachel and Bobby will taste the food and the team of judges will rate their on camera performances. Not expressly stated, but implied is that the FN panel will be looking for pointers on how to make adult food kid friendly.

Both Debbie and Katie seem to have a good handle on conceptualizing their meals and preparing dishes the kids will like. Of course, Debbie's got to say "I'm Korean", so those who may have started a drinking game on that phrase can get started early. She's comfortable with the kids and they like her food. Katie thinks that you have to be very animated, but it translated into talking down to the kids. They liked her rainbow inspired squid and veggies served in a pepper.

Jeffrey and Jamika also have good ideas for their tofu, with Jeffrey making spaghetti with marinara and tofu 'chicken' nuggets. He says his son loves nuggets-hey, he's got TWO kids! I have to say that his food looked like it'd be right at home on a kids menu. Jamika went for a savory tortilla wrap and diced the tofu as small as the corn so the kids wouldn't notice it.

Jeffrey's presentation goes well-he's comfortable with kids, but Jamika doesn't do much in the way of demonstrating, since she's busy entertaining the younger judges of what you can do with corn silk and it has nothing. to. do. with. COOKING!

Melissa and Michael are charged with making brussel sprouts and again, great ideas, Michael saying that you can't beat something deep fried with kids and Melissa opting to puree the sprouts, then blend them into smashed potatoes.

Melissa's presentation goes well, but she doesn't have enough time to explain the raw piece of sprout is there because she puts a raw veggie on her kids plate for them to try. If they do, fine-if not, she tried. Over time, she's found her kids will try more things because of the low key approach. It's a shame that didn't get on camera.

Michael seems like a record skipping because he's terrified of the camera. "You gotta have fun with your food" was said over and over, but the kids really liked his deep fried brussel sprouts on a stick.

Bobby and Rachael give their feedback and there really weren't any surprises in their critiques. Then again, we didn't see the whole two minutes direct to camera. Interesting to note is that everyone but Jamika got positive feedback from Rachael.

Next up, the finalists are informed that they will be teamed up and take a kid's favorite and make it appealing for adults. The teams will present their dishes on Rachel's show the next day in five minute demonstrations.

Melissa and Michael get tomato soup and grilled cheese, Debbie and Katie have to prepare macs and cheese, and Jeffrey and Jamika get franks and beans. I instantly feel bad for the two J's, because that's a tough one to jazz up.

Off to the market, where we see signs of trouble brewing. Jeffrey and Jamika are just two super nice people-neither wants to tell the other that their meal ideas SUCK. Debbie and Katie are having issues with Healthy Seoul and Michael's shop on the fly method goes against Melissa's plan before you traipse through the store method that parents have to have.

It's pretty clear at this point that Jeffrey and Jamika aren't able to grasp their meal, that Jamika wants beans and rice and Jeffrey's idea won't work with it-but he's too much of a gentleman to put his foot down.

Cut to the kitchens where Michael has made a tomato basil soup that sounds divine and Melissa makes a toasted bread with mornay sauce on top. Debbie and Katie work their divergent culinary views into something that sounds really good and Jeffrey and Jamika, until now the two standouts, choking on their concept. Jamika's very somber and withdraws into herself, convinced she is going home because her food sucks.

The next day, they're at the Rachael Ray studios. Melissa and Michael are up first and Michael (who thought he'd be fine, as he lives for live audiences) is terrified of the cameras. Melissa is capable and carries the demo, but she's too hyper and doesn't seem to be having fun. Michael doesn't do much until the very end, then we see the fun loving Michael tasting the food.

Debbie and Katie are next and Debbie is completely at ease, but says "Of course I have to use garlic, I'm Korean". No, we thought you were Scandinavian, toots. Katie gets about 2 minutes of the demo, but doesn't look at the camera and also seems very stressed. At least she's not beating people over the head with the you must eat healthy or else stick!

All the while, Jeffrey and Jamika are back in the green room freaking out, because their dish is like the too small pair of pants that is the only thing appropriate article of clothing hanging in the closet and the job interview is in twenty minutes.

They get out there and Jeffrey is the only one talking and seems at ease, but Jamika is quietly standing there with nothing to add to the conversation. I think it was a case of Jeffrey knowing that they had to do something, rather than him hogging the spotlight-he hasn't shown an ounce of that before. Jamika comes to her senses and starts demonstrating, but it's obvious she's stressed and rushing through it.

You can see Bobby, Bob and Susie backstage watching the proceedings. I think it was clear who Bobby and Susie are rooting for, based on their reactions to the ones who stumbled during the demo. (Bobby loves his NY homeboy Michael and it is a neon sign that Susie is rooting for Jamika. They've both got good taste)

After they're done, only Jeffrey and Jamika aren't talking a mile a minute in that green room-the rest of the participants are stoked at how the experience went. She asks to bring the finalists out on set for a curtain call, where she reveals that five of them are headed to Miami. (Darn-Donna and I were trying to get down to that South Beach Food and Wine festival this past February-we missed our chance to see them!)

Rachael offers her opinions of how it went and she seems to love Jamika and Michael, too, wondering what happened to the people who she was captivated by when the cameras weren't on.

Back at the townhouse, it's elimination time. The feedback is constructive and the six are all pretty somber during the proceedings. Debbie, Melissa and Jeffrey are told they are safe, they can leave (though I cheered when Debbie was told that "I'm Korean" doesn't educate people as to what you're using and why. Thank you!!). Michael, Katie and Jamika are told the judges need to decide and that they should leave, too.

At this point, I was convinced that Jamika was out. She'd already had her one stumble last week. It was bumming me out, because she's got charm, class and cooking skills. I'd watch her and dump the annoying Neely duo in a heartbeat.

However, no sooner had I written that status update in Facebook and we were back and thrown the curve ball. Three strikes (or in this case, three times in the bottom three) and you're out. Katie was sent home. It's not a surprise, as they've got a solid healthy program in the Elle Krieger show.

So now we're down to:
Debbie-the one trick "I'm Korean" pony.
Michael-the guy who could fill Emeril's live shoes, but needs to get in bed with the camera (and tied for my favorite)
Jeffrey-the quiet, nice guy who still hasn't revealed much about himself other than he knows how to cook
Melissa-the home cook who is proving that she's got a lot of knowledge without attending culinary school
Jamika-who seemed to glide effortlessly in all of it until the past two weeks. (my other favorite)

Honestly, other than Debbie, I could go for any of the other four on a show. Heck, you could give any two of them a show together and it'd be cool to see.

Next week? I'm thinking that Michael is on the bubble, but I want it to be Debbie.


1 People talked back:

ligirl said...

Yeah...all of their individual idiosyncracies are beginning to really present themselves by now...Jeffrey always referencing his kids, Debbie and her "I'm Korean" thing...those are the two worst! I have a soft spot for Michael, but he really needs to pull himself together or he may really be the next to go!