Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Next Food Network Star: 6/29/08

(I want to apologize for the late blog - weird weather caused interruptions in the satellite last night, so I recorded the late show)

knows that he is in trouble... first it was raw food, then it was too much slapstick. Lisa thinks the only thing she needs to work on is her on camera persona. She's got that right, because right now, her on camera persona is not friends with me.

It's challenge time. Chef Car Cora enters to explain the picnic like baskets on the tables to the perplexed contestants. It is all about descriptions. They have 30 minutes to create an original dish with the six ingredients in their basket, and then they have to describe their dish on camera.

Here's what's in their baskets.

Lisa: Udon noodles, beets, ginger, chicken, lemon, scallions.
Jennifer: Basil, Swiss chard, prosciutto, pork tenderloin, mango, almonds
Kelsey: Cod, Saffron, blood orange, fennel, polenta, onions
Shane: Avocado, habenero, flank steak, anchovy, cumin, garlic
Adam: Napa Cabbage, turkey, mushrooms, cilantro, heirloom tomatoes, gala apples
Aaron: Strawberries, white chocolate, pound cake, dark chocolate, coconut chips, cinnamon

They all seemed to do a pretty good job with the cooking. Then comes a twist. They have to describe other people's dishes! They will have 90 seconds to taste the dish, and then describe it.
Kelsey gets to describe Shane's dish, and she uses the words "burst of flavor," twice, and she didn't say what was in it, and gets a lovely surprise of habenero when she thought it was citrus. Cat Cora said that she didn't say why the flavors were so good, and that was a problem. When the camera stopped rolling, Kelsey downed a glass of water. Yup, that's habenero for you.
Shane's up next with Kelsey's dish. He did a good job figuring out what was in the dish, and he did a good job visualizing everything.

Time for Adam's chance with Aaron's dish. He keeps talking about the perfect bite, but I think he missed a lot of the ingredients. He also shoved a lot of food into his mouth right when he was supposed to be wrapping up. Not strong.

Aaron didn't introduce himself and seemed pretty tentative on camera. He took a long time contemplating the dish and not talking. Not good. Cat told him he had to think on his feet.

Lisa squints her way through describing Jennifer's dish, and I couldn't concentrate on what she was saying because of her giant pearls. She did a pretty good job describing the dish. Cat thought she seemed a little false.
Jennifer had a really hard time with Lisa's dish, and couldn't tell what anything was. She kept saying "and what is this over here?" She thought the udon noodles were linguine, and she didn't say anything of substance.

Shane ended up winning the challenge, and I think that was an earned win.

The second challenge of the show has a prize of getting the winning recipe featured in Bon Appetit. They have to make a 45 minute simpler version of a complex dish.

The choices are Beef Wellington, Coq au vin, and Turducken. They will work in the same duos that they had for the first challenge. They also have to make side dishes.

Shane gets to pick first, with Kelsey. Kelsey is delighted when Shane chooses Beef Wellington.

Adam and Aaron get the coq au vin, and Lisa and Jennifer get the Turducken. Neither are really happy about the choices made for them. They will be serving the editors and staff of Bon Appetit.

They have 30 minutes to go shopping for their ingredients.

Aaron and Adam's Coq au vin redo is up first. Adam's side dish was the polenta, and Aaron's was the pasta. Aaron was really nervous with Adam's idea to use bone-in chicken breast, and Aaron ended up winning out because the bone-in stuff wouldn't cook. They also had issues with their polenta being "gluey," and Aaron was unhappy with the plating, thinking it looked really sloppy. Adam was kind of funny during presentation when he said "Coq au vin brings up so many memories... the first time I had it was about 10 minutes ago." Aaron was not feeling proud of the dish, and was feeling nervous. He admitted that the sloppy plating of the pasta with the pasta hanging over the edge of the bowl was a mistake. The judges thought that the chicken was ok, but the polenta was a bad idea, and they were hoping for some more stew-like components.

Lisa and Jen's Turducken redux is a turkey medallion, with a pre-roasted chicken as a part of stuffing, and duck sausage. Jennifer is making acorn squash side dish, and Lisa is making roasted green beans. Lisa had one piece of duck confit, and it was roasting along with Jennifer's squash, and then Jennifer broke a big bottle of apricot juice all over the grill and everything had to get thrown out. Lisa thought that the turkey was a little bland, so she tried to make a highly seasoned sauce (or velote, if you prefer. Lisa does), but Jennifer didn't like it, and thought it was too herby, saying it tasted like she had just eaten a hunk of tree, and they don't use it. Lisa is really disappointed by that. During the presentation, Jennifer spent a lot of time apologizing for the lack of squash and duck confit, and said that the velote was not good, so it wasn't served.

Shane and Kelsey do their best with the beef wellington redo. Shane is doing creamed pearl onions, and Kelsey is making roasted veggies, and Kelsey is a whirlwind around the kitchen. They had the nicest looking plates in the group, and I would be most likely to eat their dishes! They did the absolute best presentation, too. How did it taste? The Bon Appetit crew had a problem with the plating, but the flavors seemed ok. The selection committee liked the way that Kelsey can answer questions thrown at her, but wish that she would stop saying how little experience she has. I would tend to agree.

It's evaluation time! Everyone is nervous. Kelsey was criticized for her descriptive skills about Shane's dish in the first challenge. Bob told her she needed to up her authority and stop talking about culinary school. Aside from the slightly unappealing look, their No-Nightmare Beef Wellington was really well received.

Jennifer was again warned that she was not knowledgeable enough about the food she was trying to describe, and the fact that she messed up with the second challenge was a problem. The judges said that they were going to be reminding Lisa that she needs to be more human (instead of vulcan).

Aaron got dinged for his inability to taste and talk at the same time, and though their chicken was yummy, they had almost no connection to Coq au Vin. Adam is told that his polenta was ridiculously unappealing, and he is really just there because of his personality. Aaron is told that he is self-editing in presentation, and that is his biggest problem, because he hasn't really shown himself.

In the end, Shane and Kelsey's Beef Wellington won the challenge, and I was not surprised by that. They are both safe, and I think that's proper.

Lisa is safe because of her skills and expertise. It's not her personality. Aaron is safe with a warning that he has to bring more of himself to camera. Adam is told that he is on super thin ice on a culinary standpoint, and Jennifer is told that her lack of some level of expertise is really a problem, and she is heading home. I think it is the time for her to go. I like her personality, but she just had a hard time showing that she can cook. Adam needs to step up the cooking, and tone down the buffoonery, and maybe he can get somewhere.

Next week's got Rachel Ray, and I like her, even though I know many do not. Looking forward to it!

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