Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Next Food Network Star – Jeffrey Won't Shut Up; Michael Won't Speak...And Jamika's Not Herself

The previews make it seem like all the finalists do a bad job this week. Our first glimpse is of Michael. It can’t be him that goes home, can it?

Bobby is there telling them it’s their “midterm” and they’re going to be doing their first ever cooking dem in front of the camera. Finally.

They watch a video of RR telling them about her Yum-O organization. Then she tells them their challenge will be to make something that’s “traditionally grown-up food” into something that appeals to kids, but it has to be “nice and healthy” too. Oh, like HER cooking and the stuff she sells for Dunkin’ Donuts.

Debbie tells us that she loves Rachael Ray. Well, what else could she say? Then Bobby breaks it to them that they have to use a few ingredients that most kids probably don’t like: Brussels sprouts, squid and tofu.

I can think of ways to cook all three. Add puréed Brussels sprouts to mashed potatoes; deep fry squid (properly deep fried food actually absorbs less oil than shallow frying) and for the tofu? Either a cheesecake or maybe sautéed and cooked with barbecue sauce. Quick! What can you think of?

Oh, they each have to use only one ingredient. Jeffrey and Jamika get tofu. Jeffrey says he’s never cooked with tofu. Melissa and Michael get Brussels sprouts. Why do I think we’re going to hear a story about her little darlings hating or loving Brussels sprouts? Katie and Debbie get squid. They get an hour to come up with and cook their dish. THAT to me is the biggest part of the challenge.

Katie - Calamari Fruit Salad with Quinoa

(OMG, that sounds dreadful…really dreadful.)

Debbie - Baked Calamari with Yams

That sounds interesting. I’ve never heard of baking calamari and how is she going to finish that in an hour? Oh, she’s coating the calamari in lots of crunchy stuff and baking it, instead of frying it, and slicing the yam really thinly and making “chips”.

Jeffrey – Spaghetti with Tofu “Chicken” Nuggets

Gag me, that sounds awful.

Jamika – Corn & Tofu Wrap

She’s cutting the tofu the size of the corn, so the kids can’t taste it. I bet they still will.

OMG, look at this!

Melissa – Mashed Potatoes with Brussels Sprouts

Either I’m as much of a nitwit as Melissa or we both know what kids like OR it’s such an obvious choice of how to camouflage Brussels sprouts that it’s not surprising we came up with the same idea. She does make the mistake (I think) of putting a couple of RAW Brussels sprout quarters on the side of the plate. Ick!

Michael – Brussels Sprouts Grilled Cheese

Hmmm, that IS inventive, but it sounds kinda bad. He does serve up a breaded Brussels sprout on a skewer to look like a little face. Cute.

They bring in the expert judges, who are 3 kids and Rach. The finalists are as excited to see RR, as if she were the Queen of Sheba.

Katie goes first and makes a point of being animated for the kids. She does okay. The kids REALLY like hers.

Debbie tells them she’s Kree-an. and has a bit of trouble with the “mechanics of the dem. I don’t think she was that bad.

Mel comes out and feels at ease with the kids. Rach nods. Melissa doesn’t finish though, so they have no idea why they have raw Brussels sprouts on their plate. Rach thought her mashed sprouts and potato idea was clever.

THIS group of kids, by the way, is sooo much better than those harpy Girl Scouts on that other show, especially the redhead, who didn’t like ANYTHING. THESE kids seem open to eating weird things.

Michael tells them he made Brussels sprout tomato soup and a little Brussels sprouts puppet. Rach laughs and loves him. Where’s the grilled cheese with Brussels sprouts? He starts strong and them bombs by repeating the same thing.

Jeffrey’s next and he’s not bad as he coats the tofu. The kids like the food and him. RR says she wishes she had come up with his tofu nugget idea on top of spaghetti.

Jamika is good with her demo, but she goes too slow and doesn’t actually cook anything. The kids like her food though.

After they’re all done, RR tells Katie she was spot on with her timing and Debbie that the kids loved her “flavors”. RR loves the “compromise” of Melissa’s meal. (Huh?) She calls Michael “Mr. Showoff”, but in a good way. About Jeffrey – “All the kids love the dad.” About Jamika, RR says she forgot to cook, while she talked. That was a legitimate complaint, but that’s something you can learn…easily. Do NOT get rid of poor Jamika.

Then RR tells them they’re going to come onto her show tomorrow and do the reverse of what they did today. They have to take kid food and make it into adult food. Dumb! AND they have to work in pairs. Double Dumb!

Katie and Debbie have to make an adult version of chicken nuggets and mac and cheese.

Michael and Melissa are making tomato soup and grilled cheese. Easy peasy.

Jeffrey and Jamika get hot dogs and baked beans. If he even begins to utter the word "aaaascccchhhhiiot-tay", I will scream.

They have 45 minutes to shop.

Debbie wants to do a rich dish, Katie something healthy, so probably neither will be happy. Jamika and Jeffrey aren’t agreeing either. He says “they’re both compromising”. I hate to say it, but I actually agree with him…THIS time only.

They have an hour and a half to prep for the RR demo.

Michael & Melissa

Grilled Cheese Skewers And Tomato Soup With Bacon Lardons.

Jamika says neither one wants to offend the other. Jeffrey feels the same way. Jamika knows it’s not coming together. I think she’s going home, they’re showing her a lot. That’s a bad sign.

They walk into the RR studio the next day for the challenge. There’s a huge portrait of Rachael on the wall…the kind that’s usually of the Pope.

Rachael gives them a 30 second pep talk and then goes out in front of her audience. She introduces the judges, who are on camera sitting back stage. Susie says she’s looking for grace under pressure. Bobby says he wants them to bring the audience to its feet. Bob says do they actually have what it takes to be on real life TV? Hold on! Which Food Network show is Real LIVE TV? None that I can think of.

Mel and Mike come out. You can just tell Rachael LOVES her position of power, holding the stop watch. She would have been good as the person yanking people off the stage with a giant hook in a vaudeville show.

Rachael loves telling them their time has started. Melissa starts off well. Michael gets freaked by the cameras and says nothing. Melissa becomes “too intense and forgets to smile”. Michael comes through at the very end. Bobby likes the food.

Debbie and Katie go next. Bobby gets slightly po’ed that Debbie always mentions that she’s Korean. Katie isn’t bad, but the judges don’t like her, because she’s not looking up. Debbie is good and relating well to Rachael. Katie is far away from Rach, so she’s not getting the same coat tail effect. RR says, “Nicely done.”

Bob says Debbie was natural. Bobby really hates that they always hear that she’s Korean, but she never says what it is about her cuisine that makes it specifically Korean. I agree!

I have to say, though, that Debbie hasn’t come across as being too evil this week, in fact, we haven’t really seen her except for her actual cooking. That MUST mean that Jamika is leaving. Susie says Katie’s chicken is sooo dry, but that Debbie’s shrimp mac and cheese isn’t bad.

Jamika and Jeffrey look really nervous. Jamika says (to us) that she’s hoping for a miracle. Jeffrey starts. Not bad. He looks up and talks to the crowd. Jamika is just standing there. She can't get a word in edgewise. Bob says Jeffrey is hogging the spotlight. Finally, Jamika gets some words out and talks about the bean dish, but not in an excited way.

Jeffrey is such a ponce, that he actually says to her as they walk away, “You were awesome…beautiful and bright...” That is sooo patronizing, because she knows she didn’t do well. AND Jeffrey knows it too as he tells us, “We’re both in unspoken unease.” (WHO talks like that?”) He continues,”We’re not sure what just happened.”

I’LL tell you what happened, Jeffrey. You opened your big trap and wouldn’t shut it and let her in. AND because Jamika was feeling uneasy about the dish to begin with, it just wasn’t going to happen. Susie recognizes this and says he seemed so domineering, but she thinks it might have been BECAUSE Jamika wasn’t speaking up.

I know that Jeffrey couldn’t just stand there and let Jamika flounder and waste their precious time, but he could have thrown her a bone at some point and involved her earlier on. I KNEW I had a good reason for disliking Jeffrey from the beginning.

Bobby says it was an awkward duo. RR comes in to sit with the judges and says Michael was “unusually quiet” and that Debbie and Katie’s pairing worked at “bringing 2 very different takes on food together”. Rachael said that Jamika being so quiet was unusual. Bob says both Michael and Jamika saying so little made him sad. Awww, poor Bob...

RR calls the finalists out and tells them that 5 out of the 6 are going to Miami.

They go back to their gaudy waiting area and then get called into the judging room. NOW, I think it’ll be Katie going home, because they’re going to remember that her food has been just dreadful the whole way through. And THIS is the only week where Jamika’s personality hasn’t shone through. Plus, if Jamika is ever paired with Jeffrey again, she knows now just to knee him when he won’t shut up.

Okay, back to the action: Wait! Just one more second, this is weird. They show a close-up of Jamika. She’s looking sideways and then just for a split second, she glances straight at me and gives me a look like she knows I’m pulling for her. I’m not kidding. She looks straight at me!

Okay, NOW to the action:

Bob says they’re at the halfway point now. Is that really true? We have the same number of episodes in front of us as we’ve already seen? Arggghhh! Bob says it’s about how much star potential they each have.

Susie asks Katie if she’s ever been in front of a live audience before. Is that a trick question? She says no. Susie says that must have been why she sucked. KIDDING, just seeing if you’re still paying attention. She says she should have looked up more and engaged the audience. Then she says Katie’s food wasn’t up to snuff.

Bobby says, “The chicken just didn’t have any flavor.” Katie says that’s so disappointing, as if it’s not HER that he’s talking about. She’s just not getting it when they say her food stinks. Every week. She keeps saying, “Oh, REALLY?!!

THEN Susie tells Katie that she HATED her in the calamari challenge and thought she was slow and condescending. Bobby disagrees, but Bob doesn’t, so I think her goose her is pretty much cooked, although in her case, it’s probably a skinless chicken breast.

Susie and Bob tell Debbie they liked her very much on RR, but then Susie says her culinary point of view shtick (my word) is getting a bit repetitive. Bobby says when he first heard her, he thought he was going to learn something about Korean cooking, and all she says is I’m using ginger, because I’m Korean; I’m using garlic, because I’m Korean. She actually seems to take it to heart and it does seem like she may improve as a result of their critique.

Melissa is up next. She says she was rushing and nervous about the time. Bobby says raw Brussels sprouts are weird and Melissa explains that she likes to serve raw veggies to kids.

Michael acknowledges that he doesn’t do well when he sees a camera. He says the camera is so “judge-y”. That’s funny. Susie says watching him is chaotic.

Bob says watching Jamika and Jeffrey on Rachael’s show was really uncomfortable. He says it brought out an uncharacteristically (poor) performance from both of them.

Bob says to Jeffrey he’s not sure he’s aware of how he came across - how he talked nonstop and Jamika was standing on the side with nothing to say and nothing to do. Yeah, Bob, give it to him!

Jeffrey looks mildly surprised. Susie says she doesn’t want to look at Jamika as a victim and that she could have jumped in anytime. (You try talking over a blowhard, Souze, it’s not easy.) Bob says she seemed like a shadow of herself.

Jamika says she was derailed by being unhappy about the first challenge and when she’s feeling less than confident, she lets that show. Bob says (rather unnecessarily, I thought) that it was a bad week for that to happen, since they were giving them their mid term exams.

My guess? Katie. We learn the first one safe is Debbie. Susie says if they have something to bring, NOW is the time to do it. The next one safe is Melissa. And Jeffrey is safe. Ugh!

They let the bottom three leave the room, while they discuss. Bob thinks, in spite of Jamika’s bad week, that she does have raw talent there. Bobby says Michael had a bad week. Yada, yada, yada…ok, just agree that those two had a bad week, but that Katie can’t cook, so send HER home.

Sorry, hon, I’m sure your family loves your cooking. Actually, didn’t she say her family knows she’s the one that always brings the healthy dish (read tasteless?) to family gatherings?

And it is…Michael’s safe. Katie goes. That was the right decision. Jeffrey is so smarmy as he says gleefully, “We’re in the top five.” EWWW. I don’t like him, I really don’t. Jamika is grateful to be there.

I don’t want to say that Jeffrey is going to win. If it were between Michael and Jeffrey, I would pick Michael, except freezing like a deer in the headlights every time he sees the “judge-y” camera may not bode well for his successful outcome.

I vote for Michael Chiarello to take home the crown. Oh, wrong show. I don’t care, I’m still voting for him.


DebCarol said...

Well this is second Sunday night in a row I had company and missed NFNS. Not too sorry I missed this one though, I'm never fond of the Rachael Ray segment, don't know why. Rather see them on Ina's show .... and hey, Jeffrey could be the judge!! So it was Katie's turn to go, well we knew that was coming sooner or later. I'm still waiting for Jamika to shine through - she can cook and has the camera presence - she is the only one left I can picture watching (well maybe Michael if he gets his act together).

Stacey said...

Try going to Rachael Ray's tv show web site and watch the full clips of all the contestants from last Thursday. Really shows you the editing job done at NFNS.

Sue said...

The nerve of your company to interrupt your FN viewing!

The Rachael Ray challenge really doesn't prove anything. If I saw a dem by Rachael Ray herself, even with all of her experience, I would still vote her off the island. Imagine someone who isn't used to the camera and is in a strange setting etc, of course, he or she is going to do badly.

In fact, now that I think about, the entire premise is so dumb. Cooking dems, like so much else, is a learned skill. Sure you can have a pleasant personality that people enjoy watching, but you can always be taught the mechanics (as Debbie said). Here, they just love to leave the contestants floundering around on their own with no clue how to do anything.

You're right. Someone pointed that out to me in past seasons and it's true, the dems look completely different sometimes. I have to check out this year's batch.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I missed the first 20 minutes, so I'm glad I had your recap. No one else summed it up quite so well.

I think the fact that this contest seems to belong to almost anyone every week is what keeps me glued here. I used to think Jamika would outlast Debbie. Now I'm sure it's the other way around. I believe the competition in the end will be between Melissa and Debbie. Melissa will fill the void Rachael Ray left by Rachael Ray as she edges more into her talk show and is less involved in 30MM. Debbie is their new token Asian.

I can see they're getting tired of Jeffrey. His act is getting old, but he is filling the arrogant douchebag niche, so he'll stay longer than Jamika.

Michael will outlast Jeffrey, but he won't win due to his camera fright. They seem to like having him around since he fills the important flamboyant gay guy niche.

Basic Meatloaf Recipe said...

very informative posting...thanks.

Nandini Vishwanath said...

I did check out RR"s website, and its true that stuff has been edited :| at FN.

I do like Jeffrey though. I remember he did give Michael a chance at Ina's when he forgot. I guess this time around, he was equally nervous and it came out in the form of chatter as against Jamika's silence.

I cannot stand Debbie. I swear. I'm waiting to see next week's episode considering she did or rather did not do something!

And wasn't John Besh the cutest! :D

Sue said...

You're so right. ANYONE could win and, to me, there has never been one obvious candidate up to task of hosting a show on his or her own.

I love your description of Jeffrey. That's how I've seen him from the beginning. And Michael too. He's funny and likable, but not being comfortable in front of the camera seems like a pretty large hurdle to overcome for someone on television.

Hey Basic Meatloaf,
I really dig your idea of adding oatmeal to meatloaf.

You're so kind to Jeffrey. And, based on the previews of tonight's show, I'm not sure he deserves it.

And, N, John Besh was on TOP CHEF, not TNFNS. Get it straight! Just kidding, I love that you're watching all the same stuff. Your feelings about Buddy?

Cynthia said...

I can't wait to see what happens tonight.

Nandini Vishwanath said...

I do catch Buddy off and on. I want to make it regular, but always forget the time!

And I know JB is TC and TNFS :D I wouldn't mind him anywhere I think ;)