Monday, June 22, 2009

What Do Ina And The Next Food Network Stars Have In Common With The Real Housewives? Plus You Won't Agree With Everything I Have To Say About Teddy

AND I Admit I’m A Little Tough On Melissa

After we see the reprise of the Melissa/Teddy/Brett drama, we learn that the folks are gonna cook for the Contessa this week. Oh goodie! Do you think TR will be there? What about Frank or Miguel? Maybe the fancy friend with the pretty kids who brought candy from her (?) candy store will be there.

But the next thing that occurs that me is that crazy Housewife quote, “I’m up here and you’re down there”. I can’t help but think that the FN “stars” are so far DOWN THERE, while Ina is so far UP HERE, that they’re in two different stratospheres.

And I worry for Ina that she will have to eat something less than perfect. What if they give her the old spin-on-vending-machine food? Oh, sorry, wrong show . Or what if they have to make diet food or, even worse, no-salt food? This could get ugly.

Jeff and Melissa are the very first people shown, but Debbie is the first to speak. Does that mean that one of them is going home? Debbie says (to us) that everyone was shocked by Teddy’s behavior at the last evaluation and how “he totally threw (Melissa) under the bus in front of the judges”. Why do I feel as if Debbie would have done the same thing if given half a chance?

Michael, with that giant red rooster thing on head (oh, sorry, that’s HIS HAIR) misses his friends.

Whoa, hold on, we see Jeffrey and there’s a caption under his name “Owner, Real Estate Firm”. First of all, why are they naming everyone NOW, when it was the first 10 minutes of the first episode that we needed those captions? AND do you remember Jeffrey ever being described that way? Weird.

They take the van to Stew Leonard’s grocery store and there’s cutey Tyler. He tells them that today’s challenge is making a BUDGET dinner party. They’ll have $60 to spend and 12 people to cook for. OH NO! Is that the spin for Ina’s dinner? They have to cook cheap food for the Contessa? They don’t say.

Plus they have to give an on-camera, 30 second tip about how to stretch your food dollar. QUICK! Think of one now. What would you say?

I would say “Shop on the outer aisles of the supermarket and buy chicken thighs instead of breasts, or even better a whole chicken instead of parts.” It’s not sexy, it’s just the first thing I thought of. You?

Melissa is grinning widely, really widely, because shopping on a budget is what she does. Okay, who (but Ina) DOESN’T? They’re not telling us if Ina is involved in this challenge or not.

Jeffrey’s strategy is stews. Teddy is such a complete and total blank. He acts as if cooking on a budget is totally beneath him. (He has an “I’m UP here and you’re down there” mentality.)

AND he says “AS A CHEF, if you go a little over budget on something you just charge the customer.” What is he talking about? Does he work in a restaurant, where you can’t be changing the prices every 30 seconds just because you don’t know how to shop. He bothers me. He’s a wisenheimer. (No, no, THIS isn’t the part you’re going to disagree with me about.)

I love that when Teddy starts to give his money saving tip on camera, Tyler stops him immediately as he launches into a circus ringmaster delivery. “Ladies and Gentlemen, have I got a money saving tip for you!” Actually it was more like a smarmy infomercial. He says to use bread to stretch meat loaf. That’s almost as unoriginal as mine. Tyler calls him “cartoonish”.

Jeffrey is next. Jeffrey’s idea was really stupid (make crêpes and fill them with Nutella), but his delivery was fine. He was friendly without being “annoying” as Teddy even described himself. Tyler gave him the thumbs up.

Melissa tells us, “I cook for a family of six every single night.” Give her a medal. Sorry, but this goes back to previous seasons of, I don’t even remember which, TNFNS or Top Chef where various women use their families and particularly their children as a crutch for their cooking abilities.

Do we really care that she can make mac and cheese 25 ways and keep the price down? Let’s be honest, cooking for kids is not really the greatest test of one’s skills in the kitchen.

If I got a star for every time I made Sloppy Joes (AND in the microwave – they’re actually awesome), I could light the night sky. Good for me, but not the most riveting food television.

My message to Mommy Melissa: Cook for yourself, develop your own skills and the kids’ll be fine.

She is so thrilled with herself for shopping with coupons and keeping to a budget. But isn’t that just real life?

I have to say that I love Michael this week. For once, I think he’s being authentic. He says his average dinner party has 35 kinds of cheeses, 10 appetizers and a tab of $1000. Probably half of that is to pay for the pretty boy bartender…

Is this true what Melissa says for her tip? Cut off the green part of the scallions, stick the white part in water and the green will grow back and you’ll always have scallions. Could that be? If that’s true, that’s pretty cool. Tyler thought she was fine.

Michael has no idea what he’s talking about and neither does Tyler. Too bad.

Debbie’s tip is pretty poor. She tells us to “double over” squash and zucchini. I don’t know what that means. Oh, she wants us use twice as much as we need and then cook it the next day in a gratin. Yeah, I really enjoy twice cooked mushy zucchini. Good one! (Not.) Tyler didn’t think she had a message but her presentation was okay.

Jamika looked adorable. Great green top with pretty necklace. I think Tyler was unfair to her. She said to save your marinade, BOIL IT DOWN and reduce it and use it as a sauce. I do that all the time. He didn’t think she emphasized the not-using-it-uncooked-enough. I thought she did.

Eddie makes no sense as he says to use fresh herbs instead of dressings. Huh? How does chopped mint take the place of vinaigrette and, more importantly, how does that save money? Feeble.

Tyler makes Katie start again and she does a good job. She says to cut down on proteins and concentrate on beans and greens. Not bad.

Jeffrey is proud of himself for being $12 under budget. Did he leave out his main ingredient?

Tyler reiterates to Jamika that she didn’t do well in the challenge because of the information she imparted. Hold on a red hot second! I really truly do not agree.

Let’s say I marinate raw chicken in orange juice and balsamic vinegar. And then I boil ( I mean a heavy, rolling, reducing BOIL) it down and maybe add more liquid, wine or stock or something and boil it some more and use it as a sauce. I really don’t get what he’s getting at.

Tyler also says Michael and Teddy’s tapes basically stank. He tells Teddy he’s doing an impersonation of someone doing a cooking show. “It’s very insincere. I thought you wanted to sell me a used car.” Funny, but Tyler wasn’t laughing.

Jeffrey wins the challenge. I don’t disagree.

WE find out that they’re cooking for INA, with the food they bought on a budget, but they still don’t know.

They see the sign for East Hampton on the drive the next day. Debbie and Jamika wonder if they’re going to be cooking for Ina.

They walk into a kitchen and there is Ina herself standing next to Bobby! She greets them with such a warm and wonderful “HI!” that I just want to hug her. (Poor her, though, having to eat their food.)

Then Bobby throws in a twist, which is a little confusing (to me). They’re going to cook in teams (I hate that) and make 3 courses. One of the dishes will be their own. Heh? Oh, it’s teams of two and Jeffrey gets to pick his teammate. He picks Michael. I see. They have to make 1 course together of the 3 course meal and then they each make 1 of the others. Got it?

Melissa and Eddie

Feta and Watermelon Salad – Eddie

Lemon Thyme Chicken with a Pork Sauce - Melissa

Bananas Foster Nutella Quesadilla – Melissa & Eddie

Eddie says he’ll have to pick up some slack with her as his partner. That’s so conceited, but kinda true.

And WHAT is a “pork sauce”? That sounds really nasty. And what is it about Nutella that people think it belongs on a menu? (I love Nutella of course, but I’m not going to serve it for dinner.)

Melissa says Eddie is being “downright mean to her” and so condescending. Wah-wah. (Just kidding, she’s right.)

Ina’s in the kitchen greeting her guests. WHY are they sitting on white fold-up chairs? I guess she had Jeffrey up all night locking away the good stuff in the shed. Plus she’ll probably be scrubbing her kitchen for weeks after.

Eddie presents his salad first, saying the mint is the star of the dish. I don’t object to that.

Melissa says her dish was invented when one week she accidentally overspent on Easter dresses for her four girls.

(I guess The Master only allows a certain amount in the food budget.) Actually, I think she was okay and I didn’t mind the kid reference. It was pertinent and kind of charming.

Ina agrees. She says before she even tastes anything that, “Melissa glows in the dark.” Well, I wouldn’t go that far, Contessa. Neither would another guest, who says Melissa made her crazy with her over-eagerness. Ina says the chicken “other than the outside” doesn’t have enough flavor.

One of Ina’s friends says Eddie’s salad is inedible. I have to laugh. If you’re used to going to Ina’s and getting HER food, how fair is it for them to be judging this meal made with cheap ingredients? I guess a real chef can turn a sow’s ear into cassoulet, so no excuses. Another guy says their personalities are definitely better than the food.

Teddy and Debbie are paired. She’s unhappy because of what happened with Melissa.

Vegetable Linguini with Asian Marinara – Debbie

Pan-Asian meatloaf – Debbie and Eddie

Strawberry Shortcake Trifle – Teddy

OMG, Debbie bought powdered vanilla pudding! What is it with her and buying crap for dessert? She said she was going to flavor it for her dessert, but now Teddy is going to use with his store bought shortcakes! WHAT CHEF WOULD BUY SHORTCAKES !!? I’m not saying that Aunt Edna couldn’t buy them as a quick dessert when the bridge club is coming. But on national television, when you’re trying to win your own cooking show?! Never.

The vanilla pudding is a complete and total travesty. I have to play this again to make sure I got it right. Yup, that’s what she said.

As they cook, Debbie says she and Teddy are actually working together nicely.

Teddy basically forgets about dessert and it seems like it will even crappier than it needed to be.

Debbie comes out (chest first) with Teddy behind her. Teddy says (to us) that Debbie is very calm and that makes him calm and they’re both fine describing their dishes.

Ina is surprised at how much flavor the pasta has. Joe Realmuto, Executive Chef of Nick & Toni’s says he didn’t think the Asian flavor would work with the pasta, but it does. The meatloaf is great, says another diner. Susie says this collaboration was really successful. (She hasn’t tasted dessert yet.) Ina says the meatloaf is delicious. Bob says this may be his second favorite meatloaf. (Guess which one is his favorite?)

They hate Teddy’s dessert. Bobby says it tastes store-bought…because it WAS.

The next teams are up.

Jeffrey & Michael

Roasted Tomato & Red Chili Soup - Jeffrey & Michael

Grilled Chicken & Sausage on a Crostini - Michael

Chocolate Filled Crêpe - Jeffrey

Actually, I’m a little unclear as to whose dish was whose, but their menu sounds really good. Jeffrey thinks the soup needs more kick, so he adds some chili seeds back in.

OH, Frank IS there! Hi Frank. But no TR.

Jeffrey was fine presenting his dish. Michael was a little hyper. Someone asked what the topping on the soup was and Michael froze. Jeffrey filled in nicely. Okay, all you Jeffrey-lovers, he was good. He was natural in front of the camera and he can cook. AND he didn’t over-pronounce Achiote even once.

Ina says it looks delicious. Bob says it doesn’t look like a budget meal. Ina says the soup has good texture. Various people say they expected more heat. Nick and Toni guy says he’s a big fan of the chicken and sausage – it’s nice clean food. Ina says Michael was all over the place in his presentation and Jeffrey was much more self-confident and he connected with the diners.

Oh gosh, ANOTHER meal is coming out. I’m tired of this, how could the judges possibly be able to eat another three course meal, even thought the courses are small?

Jamika and Katie are paired. Katie looks thrilled. Jamika? Not so much.

Jamika & Katie

Salmon with Seaweed & Pepper Slaw – Jamika (Eww)

Whole Wheat Pasta with Chicken Sausage & Broccolini – Katie

Fruit Salad with Grilled Pineapple -Jamika & Katie

Jamika goes on a bit too long about this meal bringing family and friends together. Where’s the family?

Ina says the salmon is flavorful…and perfectly cooked. Chef Joe says he didn’t think all the ingredients went well together. Another one says it seemed like the menu wasn’t a collaboration. (It wasn’t…they each made what they were going to make.)

They like Jamika’s presentation, but Bob says that all they got from Katie was that the dish was healthy. And Ina pipes in, “And that made you run in the other direction!” That Ina!

Bob thanks Ina and she says it was just so wonderful. Well, maybe not the food, but the setting and the hostess certainly was.

Boohoo, Ina’s not in the judging room with the judges.

Bob says there wasn’t a genuine collaboration between Jamika and Katie. They loved Jamika’s dish. The liked Katie’s alright.

Bob says Jeffrey and Michal’s dishes didn’t look like they had any budget constraints at all. But Bobby says Jeffrey’s soup was timid. Now this is interesting. Bob calls Jeffrey out on his monologue about making crêpes with his daughter on Saturday morning. Bob says that’s the only story they’ve heard about his family and that it’s time to get a new one.

Michael admits to feeling off, but they loved his food.

Melissa says Eddie made her feel a lot of tension and Bobby agrees. He said he watched him rolling his eyes at her and it drove him nuts, “A little chivalry in the kitchen goes a long way.” Go Bobby.

Actually, I wish he hadn’t used that word. It just buys into Eddie’s theory of Melissa as a ditzy housewife. Of course, that is how she describes herself. THAT is why she should get off the kid thing and just talk about HERSELF and how cooking is a passion or whatever.

Bobby tells Melissa her chicken was nice to look at, but it needed seasoning. Susie tells her the nice things Ina said.

Bobby tells Eddie his salad was crap. Well, that it needed finesse. Then he said it seemed like something he’d made before. Eddie says, yeah, it was from a Paula Deen cookbook. What an idiot! He got dressed down for not using his own recipes.

They liked Debbie and her dish. Susie says Teddy’s dessert was “an abomination”. Bobby says he thought there was no effort.

Then they say that they loved the meatloaf. Teddy says he really felt like that was HIS dish. Everyone is shocked and appalled.

Debbie says that she made the sauce, but that the dish was a collaboration. BUT if you go back to the video tape, it does show that SHE made the sauce and had nothing to do with the meat loaf, other than greenlighting it.

Debbie explains to the judges that she’s having a hard time with Teddy’s honesty and integrity. Yada, yada, yada. I hate Teddy, he’s a boob, but he DID make the frickin’ meatloaf. I guess he just shouldn’t have said anything and looked like the doofus that made the dessert.

Am I wrong here? Teddy’s the dog that everyone loves to kick. GOSH, what an awful reference! I take that back. He’s the bully that everyone likes to see get his comeuppance. And I suppose this is the law of karma in action, but he still made the meatloaf - no matter how much he’s detested.

The winning team is Jeffrey and Michael. Not a surprise. They can leave the room. Debbie is safe, along with Jamika, Melissa and Katie. They can leave.

In the waiting room, Jeffrey says to the others that Teddy has self-destructed.

Teddy and Eddie step out for a moment. Bob says Teddy doesn’t have the character to be on the Food Network, while outside Teddy weeps an apology to Debbie.

Susie thinks both Teddy and Eddie could go. Susie says they’re not seeing the progress week to week in Eddie’s cooking or presentations. Bob votes for Teddy to go. Bobby votes for Eddie. Bobby says they’re trying to find out who Teddy is.

AND…Eddie is going home. The “stars” are not happy. They wanted Teddy to go.

This was an excellent episode. Why? Because I actually cared what happened to these people…finally. Not that I like them all, but I was interested in what they had to say or do. Maybe that’s just a function of there being fewer of them or maybe the challenges were more interesting, but it was a good one. And, as unlikable as he is, I think Teddy got shafted. But he lives on to be an even bigger jerk next week.


Shays’ Rebel said...

I don’t believe it hit Teddy until the very last minute that he would be more responsible for the dessert than for the meatloaf. Otherwise, I don’t think he would have agreed to make that horrible dessert and collaborate on another dish. Better for poor Teddy had they collaborated on dessert. Do they forget they are being taped? It’s like he forgot he had already claimed the dessert as his own and the meatloaf as both his and Debbie’s.

I’m sick of the words “truthfulness” and “integrity.”

Anonymous said...

I agree somewhat about Teddy. I don't think he meant that Debbie had nothing to do with the meatloaf, but rather that he focused more on it than the dessert. Therefore it was "his" - that he was proudest of it.

But didn't he buy stuff for a dessert? He didn't have to use the pudding. Just because Debbie bought it and suggested it, didn't mean that it had to be used. He should have - on his own - come up with something better.

And I do think that Teddy is getting blamed for for what Brett did last week. Teddy acted like he wanted no part in the throwing Michelle under the bus. Just because Brett slapped him on the shoulder, doesn't mean that Teddy agreed.

I just wish the food network would get contestants that are more "food" that personality. I think Bob is insulting when he says the home cook doesn't want to know about fancy ingredients or whatever. Gees.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I missed it this week, so I'm glad I had your excellent recap to sum up.

I knew Eddie would go soon. They won't let go of Teddy too soon. He has to be in there for the drama as I've said before.

I think Katie will go next week and then maybe Debbie if she makes any big screw ups (if Melissa makes any big screw ups she might be the one who goes too). I think they'll hold on to Teddy a little while longer.

I don't get why they are so down on store-bought desserts. Let's face it, the big guns at FN use store-bought stuff all of the time. Rachael Ray has made a career out of telling people she can't bake.

Sue said...

Hey SR,
I'm not sure Teddy was as blameless as all that. I think he just didn't want to fight Debbie on anything and he got psyched about the meatloaf and, yeah, he did forget about dessert, but he shouldn't have.

I so agree about the truthfulness and integrity. They're not exactly studying for the priesthood here or even on a crappy reality show in the jungle, depending on each other for food and shelter...

I agree with you about everything. Teddy IS a jerk, but not for the reasons that they're trying to make us think he is.

He's patronizing to the women; he has no clue how to present himself effectively to the camera or the judges; but his worst sin is that his food hasn't been up to snuff. Great that the meatloaf was good, but there is no excuse on the planet for EVER using powdered pudding bilge. It is a thing of such evil that it can't be excused under any circumstances. And I agree that he should have come with something different. ANYTHING would have been better than that.

You're right about Teddy sticking around. They need a bad guy.

It IS disingenuous of the judges to criticize store-bought desserts, when they still allow Sandra Lee on the air. BUT that dessert was of such awful proportions that they had no choice but to blast it. And remember it was Ina who was being fed.