We’re about half way through the season at this point. How the hell did that happen?! Usually at this juncture, the ridiculousness has been weeded out and every show is do or die for the finalists, but this season, I can see at least 2 or 3 more weak links that need to get voted off before we really see a group of finalists that stand a chance at winning this competition.
Before we got to the actual challenge this week, the mentors had one on one sessions with their finalists in an attempt to show them what the judges are seeing. About half of the finalists really understood what the mentors were saying. The other half were nodding and saying things like, “sure” and “gotcha”, but you could see the blank stares and realize nothing was sinking in.
Alton told Martie she needed to basically STFU. Stop babbling. Martie then went on a babbling whirlwind that almost sent Alton over the edge. Good lawd! I can’t tell if she’s stupid, or what. When Alton Brown tells you to get to the frickin’ point, you don’t go on a talking binge to let Alton know his message about not babbling has really sunk in. I wonder if what she needs is some ADD medication? She should get checked out because that woman is all over the place. It’s even hard to follow her confessionals! What a hot mess.
Giada, the consumate cheerleader, attempted to dish out some tough love, but because Giada is just so damn nice, it came out sounding more like a pep talk than a wake up call as to what’s going to happen over the next few weeks if some of these issues aren’t resolved. Giada and Linkie had a heart to heart about her confidence level, and Linkie was over the moon to figure out what “her issue” was. Yes, confidence and behaving like she deserves to be amongst those finalists is important, but I’m not sure she really does have the cooking chops to play on that level. Time will tell.
Bobby told Nikki that the judges felt she was insincere and rehearsed. She didn’t apologize for it at all. What comes off as polished to her comes off as rehearsed to the judges. She knows it. She owns it. She’s like the honey badger, she doesn’t give a f*ck. I have to say, I’m kind of proud of her for sticking to her guns, but I feel like Bob and Susie aren’t going to appreciate the fact that Nikki is deliberately not making an effort to work on the issues they see with her becoming the next Food Network Star. But honestly, you go girl. Your POV is wonderful. The camera obviously loves you. I just hope America will too, because at this moment, you’re coming off a little too cocky for your own good.
Malcolm doesn’t seem to think he needs a POV. His cooking skills are going to win this for him. Um…what is your show going to be about?! They are looking, not only for someone with cooking ability and star power, but for someone to come in with a ready made plan for a show! Malcolm is an enigma to me – one moment shining and brilliant, the next moment leaving me wondering if he rides the short bus.
It was interesting to watch Alton talk with Judson. Obviously confused by this guy, Alton asked the simple question, “Who are you?” Judson broke down those walls Bob and Susie had been talking about and let it all out. Judson talks about losing 115 pounds by discovering different ways to cook with flavor. Alton is shocked that this wonderful POV has been in Judson this entire time, and this is the first we are hearing about it…FIVE WEEKS IN!
This week each team was asked to host a live show, called “Guy Live”, with Guy Fieri in front of a live studio audience. To me (from the comfort and safety of my own couch) this seems easy. Guy shows us on a daily basis on Triple D that he can make even the most camera shy person bloom in front of a camera. He can lead a conversation (if you give him enough to work with) and he has this amazing ability to make the subject (in this case the finalists) the star if you just let him! Anyway…
Each team was assigned a theme for their show. Alton’s team was assigned Halloween. Absolutely perfect, since they are a team of eccentrics, and definitely the most creative bunch in the competition. Giada’s team was assigned Game Day. At this point, T and I looked at each other wondering why in the world they were giving themes that seemed to be tailor made to the teams. And then came the announcement of what Bobby’s team was going to be doing: Cooking for Kids. HA! Apparently Malcolm has kids, but Michele and Nikki looked horrified.
Team Alton decided (without deciding) to do whatever the hell they wanted within the realm of “Halloween”. Emily did a canned apple sauce. It’s in season, it’s sweet and healthy, and totally jives with her rad POV. Martie did firey chicken wings. Not sure exactly what that has to do with Halloween, but I guess they could be served at a Halloween party? She’s got a huge issue with creativity, and it’s only magnified by her super creative teammates. Justin took a huge risk and decided to do fried fish bones. He described them as both “eating fried lace” and as “potato chips of the sea”. Sounds horrifying to me, but was definitely scary and uniquely fit the Halloween theme. Judson, all hopped up on his newly found POV decided to do a vegetarian chili. Again, not sure what that has to do with Halloween, but it seems like a fitting dish for fall, and an opportunity to showcase his new “world of flavor”.
Team Giada’s team took a more team-like approach, with each finalist being responsible for one dish you would have at a tailgate. Martita did quesadillas (shocking). Yvan wanted to do wings, but Giada pushed him to show off some of his culinary skills and show how to de-bone a chicken. Ippy decided on teriyaki pineapple sliders. And in true Linkie fasion, Linkie was in charge of the dessert. I am DYING for Linkie to be put in a position to do something else. I understand her POV is desserts (at least I THINK that’s what her POV is?), but everyone else in this competition has been stretched in some way (Martie doesn’t like Pennsylvania…oh wait, I haven’t gotten to that yet), yet Linkie seems to go on week after week without having to show much.
Team Flay had the toughest challenge. Cooking for Kids. They all seemed nervous, except Malcolm. He’s volunteered for Michelle Obama’s healthy eating campaign, he has kids, this should be a walk in the park, right? I expected Malcolm to step up a bit and take on a more leadership role this week, simply because it is a team challenge and his teammates looked horrified. Nikki comes up with the brilliant idea of “Mindful Cooking for Kids”. Healthy, yet tasty alternatives for children. Seriously, if she doesn’t win this thing, Food Network would be crazy to not offer her a producing position! Anyway, they further this concept by having Nikki cover breakfast, Michele do lunch, and Malcolm serve dinner. Nikki decides on a green kale and banana smoothie (yikes! This sounds like a bad plan already!) and grilled breakfast pizzas. Michele, in an effort to redeem herself, decided to make her mom’s turkey meatballs with spaghetti squash, giving her immediate talking points and a story built in. Good idea, Michele! And Malcolm decided on chicken skewers.
This was the first time we’ve seen Nikki look less than polished and organized. She forgot flour at the store, thinking it would just be in the pantry. Kind of an important ingredient in pizza dough, right? Linkie ended up helping her out and giving her some of her flour. Once again, all for helping someone out, but these people do realize this is a competition, right?! No need to be like Penny (Season 7′s resident beeyotch), but helping out other teams is a disadvantage to you!!! Nikki’s issues didn’t end with the flour. With 5 minutes left on the clock, she had a blender disaster with her smoothies and had to enlist the help of her teammates to get them done.
Yvan was going to de-bone a chicken, but that somehow got pushed to the wayside and he decided to do beer battered wings. They looked delicious, yet you could tell Giada was a little disappointed.
Emily was her adorable self. Canning away saying cute things like, “I’m Betty Crocker meets Betty Page!” Could she be any more fabulous?!
After their hour was up, the moment of truth arrived… It was time to do the show.
First up was Team Alton. Everyone should have had about two and a half minutes to talk to Guy about their dish before moving on to the next finalist. The clock starts and it’s dead silent. They didn’t discuss how to start the show or what to do. Justin, who had been told by Alton in his coaching session that he comes off as cocky sometimes, backfired and Justin, for the first time, seemed intimidated and scared in Guy’s presence. He finally started talking and Guy actually tried the fish bones…and seemed to like them! Judson really turned it out this week. You could tell he really wanted to be there and knew he had to step up his game. T and I thought he did superb. Martie talked forever. No, seriously, like FOREVER. In fact, she babbled on so much that she ruined things for Emily, who only had one minute and 30 seconds to talk about her dish. Emily was a great sport about it, and if she was upset or nervous that Martie’s inability to STFU cost her time, she didn’t show it. Grace under pressure. Emily, you are a star.
Then it was time for the judges to taste the food. Amazingly, the judges LOVED Justin’s fish bones. Everyone was in awe of Justin’s ability to take a theme and do a culinary mad scientist spin on it. The issue with Justin is people are going to either love or hate him. He doesn’t have a broad demographic. Funny that the judges were talking about that, because just the other night, T and I had this very same discussion over cocktails on our back porch! Judson’s chili was a little too sweet for Guy’s liking, but everyone else seemed more amazed by Judson’s new POV and wanting to discuss how they hadn’t heard about his weight issues before now. Martie’s wings were well received, however they did discuss how she hurt her teammates by not getting to the point. Emily’s applesauce was a huge hit. Her star keeps getting brighter and brighter.
The judges loved Yvan’s wings and his presentation. His ease in front of the camera, and with Guy, really showed improvement over previous weeks. Ippy turned up the energy and excitement and did great! The sliders got mixed reviews, but that was completely overshadowed by how well he did in the presentation. Go Ippy! Martita did a vegetarian quesadilla. T and I thought she was incredibly dull, but the judges didn’t agree with us. According to Giada, she couldn’t have been happier with Martita’s performance. Maybe they showed a different take on TV? Cos we both felt she really fell flat, especially with Ippy and Yvan stepping up their game! Linkie made football cookies. Adorable and fun, but her insecurity in front of the camera shined through yet again this week. Linkie thought she did great. We thought she did okay.
Nikki was flustered when it came to her turn with Guy. She really was having an off week! She kept blending and blending that smoothie, taking up time. Michele asked Guy if he was her brother, which took him a little off guard, but I think the judges liked seeing that old Michele who says whatever is on her mind come back out. Malcolm talked about letting kids play with their food, and completely missed the opportunity to connect with Guy on being a dad, or the fact that teaching healthy eating habits is important to him. DOH! At the end of Team Flay’s segment, they had a bunch of kids come out and taste the dishes. The kids didn’t like Nikki’s smoothie, but Bob drank the whole thing. Too bad the challenge was to make kid friendly dishes.
At this point, the judges throw the finalists and their mentors a curve ball. Instead of having the weakest link from each team up for elimination, it’s the weakest team that is going to battle it out between themselves. WHAT?! At this point, T and I paused the show to discuss what we thought would happen. The only team that did well as a group was Giada’s team. Both Bobby and Alton’s teams had some serious issues, but which team would be up for elimination?
TEAM ALTON. As sad as I was that Alton had a finalist up for elimination (again), I was thrilled at the thought of Martie going home.
The Producer’s Challenge this week involved throwing a dart at a map of the states and then coming up with a dish from that region. Judson’s dart landed on Arkansas. Martie was upset by getting Pennsylvania and immediately started complaining that there’s no distinguishing food from Pennsylvania. Um, ever heard of a Philly Cheese Steak? Or how about cream cheese?! I’ve had enough of Martie’s inability to take what is given to her and coming up with ANYTHING! Justin’s dart hit Nebraska, which, to me, is MUCH harder than Pennsylvania, but he didn’t complain at all. He immediately starting thinking of things to cook. Emily wanted the southwest and managed to hit Arizona. Brilliant!
The finalists then had 30 minutes to prepare their dish before presenting to camera.
Martie wasted the first 10 minutes trying to figure out ANYTHING to make. It was only at Alton’s nudging that she decided on cream cheese stuffed portobello mushrooms. She then spent the remaining 20 minutes running around like a wild woman. UGH! I’m so frustrated by her!
Emily knew she wanted to do something bright and colorful, while still keeping with her 1950′s POV. She decided on chicken posole made in a pressure cooker to decrease the time from hours to 20 minutes. BRILLIANT! Not many people know how pressure cookers work and showcasing her ability to use the kitchen gadget, along with her cooking prowess was ingenious.
Justin came up with a “Spaghetti Midwestern”, which was basically a calorie laden dish – carbs upon carbs upon carbs. His thinking was that farmers in Nebraska use up a lot of energy during their hard work days and they need to ingest more calories than the average person. Extreme? Yes. But then again, so is Justin.
Judson came up with the great idea of doing an oven fried catfish with cajun seasonings. Perfect for his newfound POV, and something that most of America would want to see. Even if you don’t like catfish, the technique of broiling, rather than frying, with all these delicious spices is something a Food Network viewer could translate to their own dinner table that evening. Hell, I use that technique ALL the time with my oven fried chicken!
Then it was time for the finalists to present their dish to camera…
Martie was a mess. Alton kept trying to tell her to just tell the story of the food. She was so nervous and screwed up the rehearsals, even asking Alton if she could get a glass of water. Flustered and a complete disaster, she seemed to pull it together for the final take, but it seemed as if it took everything in Alton’s power to pull it out of her. This is not the level she should be at half way through the season.
Emily’s presentation wasn’t great, but it didn’t stink either. She kept to her POV, but you could tell she was nervous, this being her first time up for possible elimination and all.
Justin’s Rebel with a Culinary Cause did great per Alton. We didn’t really see much of his presentation since he didn’t need a ton of rehearsal.
Judson seemed to do a good job as well, but, like Justin, we didn’t get to see much of it. My fingers were crossed he was going to come across as authentic.
When it came time to watch the videos with Bob and Susie, Justin was up first. Wow. He wasn’t anywhere near as good as I thought he was going to be. He said he felt like he was smiling much more than it showed on film. He needs to work on being more likeable.
Emily’s video seemed like she was talking a bit slow and trying to remember what she wanted to say. She was nervous. I get it. She was still the best.
And then there was Martie. Um…I hate to say it, but she did great! I mean, it only took 4 tries and a near panic attack, but she pulled it out.
Judson’s video showed steady improvement, and with his Roadmap to Flavor POV, it seemed as if he would be safe. He’s obviously not at the level of the other competitors just yet, but he’s definitely improving and he has such a great new POV…
Susie and Bob told Emily and Justin they were safe and to go ahead and excused them. It was down to Martie and Judson. T and I were sure that Martie was going to be sent home, but in a strange turn of events (the first time we have ever disagreed with who was sent home), they let Judson go. Susie told him she felt there was bit of a “BS artist in [him]“. T and I were SHOCKED! I mean, neither one of them was going to make it to the final, but Martie is so obviously the weaker link. She hasn’t improved at all, not able to take in what is said and then improve her performance. She’s completely unoriginal, uncreative and can’t explain a simple train of thought!
Here’s hoping she goes home next week. UGH.