Next Food Network Star, Week Two

Week two, eleven contestants. Still a long way to go, and plenty of challenges to shake down who has what it takes-and who doesn't rise to the occasion.

First up this week is a challenge for all eleven finalists at the Food Star kitchens. Giada presents the plan-each of them will have one minute to prepare one part of her vegetable lasagna recipe to camera. If you're going to host a Food Network show, you must cook and talk at the same time. The trick is, if someone doesn't get their part done, the next person has to incorporate that into their challenge.

It was surprising that it was done without too many fumbles, but there were some missteps. Dzintra is a frenetic mess, Aarti didn't talk much, Serena talked too fast, DAS spent so much time squeezing liquid out of frozen spinach that Doreen has to catch up and she looks stressed out and mad on camera. Aria is the last and she talks like she's talking to a child. They get good constructive feedback-will they take it and learn from it?

The next day, all are waiting in the kitchens, which has a bunch of carnival foods on display and a Zoltar machine. Immediately, Ed and I exclaim "BIG!", but not everyone knows where the machine comes from.

In walks Duff Goldman, who tells them their challenge is to cook for 100 of his friends and he's shutting down the Santa Monica Pier to do it. Each person ponies up to Zoltar and is given a fair favorite 'fortune.' Duff informs each that the savory dish they prepare must be inspired by the item on their ticket. They've got two hours prep time in the kitchen ASAP, then an hour on site the next day.

As soon as I heard Root Beer Float, I immediately thought of Root Beer Pulled Pork. So did Doreen, who go it. However, she didn't have enough time to make fall off the bone pulled pork. Other chefs and the dishes they made:

Dzintra-Cotton Candy-Sweet and Savory Duck Sticks
DAS- Lemonade-Lemon Pepper Chicken Wings
Paul- Caramel Corn-Some Asian Noodle salad thing with the Caramel Corn on top
Aarti-Funnel Cake (which she has never had!)-Scallion Blini with Tandoori BBQ Chicken
Serena-Ice Cream in a chocolate dipped sugar cone-Marinara and Cheese Mouse in a Savory Bowl 'Cone'
Aria-Banana Split-Meatballs with Garlic Bread 'bananas'
Briana-Caramel Apples-Meatballs in a sweet sticky Asian sauce
Brad-Peanuts-Peanut Smoked Pork Loin
Herb-Lollipops-Salmon and Neufchatel lollipops with Wasabi creme fraiche
Tom-Churros-Fish Taco (not quite) with cabbage and a cinnamon aoli

The contestants were graded by the guests on their interactions as well as their food. Some feedback that was given:

Aria had left a tray of meatballs in the oven back at Food Star Kitchens and realized she wouldn't have enough. At the last minute, she had to make more on the Pier, so she lost the time she'd earmarked to check seasoning, but the judges and guests alike liked her charm and personality.

Tom's laid back attitude turned off some guests and the food confused the judges. If it's a taco, it should be in some sort of 'shell.' As Bob said "If your attitude to people is 'take it or leave it,' they will leave it every time."

Doreen is told that pulled pork must be tender, and she just seemed unhappy to the guests. They ask Doreen point blank what her vision is-and she can't give them a straight answer in evaluation, and she didn't at the Pier, either.

Dzintra was overly frantic and one guest was so turned off, she left. Even when presenting to the judges, she got off track and stopped preparing her dish-Bob had to tell her to make their dishes!

Brad's idea was good, the pork was tender-but he burnt the peanut shells he used to smoke the pork. It took him aback that his food sucked.

Herb's personality and health-conscious approach was a winner on the Pier. He talked up using Neufchatel instead of cream cheese to make it healthy. The judges are pleased that they're seeing the Herb that got selected as a finalist.

Brianna seemed to be phoning it in. The judges loved how she got the concept of the caramel apple, but we see several instances where a guest asked her a question and she didn't engage with them-she just nodded her head with the attitude of "you're bothering me" coming off her in waves.

was on his A game-he was charming, his food was good and he was confident about what he was doing. THIS is a guy I could watch, not the guy we saw last week. The judges loved his wings.

Serena nailed what she needed to do and was so happy to hear that they think her marinara was incredible. The girl can cook, can they get her to talk slower?

Paul's idea to put caramel corn on an Asian salad that had nothing to do it was a poor one-because it didn't even go with the salad. His patronizing tone with the guests also landed him in the bottom three.

was the life of the party, laughing and enjoying presenting her food to the crowd-until the judges showed up. Then the nerves took over. Girl, we want to learn more about Indian food, you're charming and can cook. The judges loved the food, the guests love the food and someone needs to give you a boost of confidence.d

And the votes from the guests made it clear that Aarti was the favorite. She won the challenge and was safe. It was adorable to see her reaction. Six are told to leave the evaluation room (Aria, Serena and DAS are the ones I remember-I'll add the rest when I watch the DVR)

We come back to see Herb there and ask "WTH? They loved his dish!" No sooner do we say it then the judges tell him he's safe. We come to the bottom three: Paul, Dzintra and Doreen. One thing is for certain-the smarmy, patronizing dude never gets past episode five, so Paul's days are numbered-but he definitely wasn't the worst this week.

I posted on Facebook that Dzintra needs to go, she's darn annoying and thinks she's cute, and last week's cop out annoyed me because I think I'd much rather watch Alexis than her. Doreen is on my crap list because I keep typing Debbie-and that is not a good sign, my friends.

The verdict is in, and it's not what I expected, but it makes sense.

Debbie, er Doreen is sent home. It makes sense. Last week, she didn't do so hot in the first challenge "I looooooove butter", the second, where she ran out of time to dress her soup, this week's first where she had the angry furrow while doing her talk to the camera challenge and on the Pier-lousy food and no charm to make up for it.

Ten left and who's gone next week? Will Dzintra learn that she's not as funny as she thinks it is? Will Paul continue to be the smarmy dude? Will Serena be given a tranquilizer to slow down her talking?

Only the Shadow (and Food Network) knows...


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