Bobby Flay opens the episode by reminding the final four competitors (Jay, Arnold, Eddie, and Alex) that they are just one episode away from final three, the episode where each finalist will create his own pilot episode for Food Network. So basically, if you’ve made it this far, you really really don’t want to be sent home tonight.
First challenge: a 2-minute demonstration on live TV. This is pretty much what we see in those cooking segments of Good Morning America or any random 2-minutes on The Chew. The winner will have an advantage going forward. Finalists were given 30-minutes to prepare a dish and then share it, within a 2 minute span of time with this week’s guest Catherine McCord (she of Guy’s Grocery Games) who, in this faux TV segment, would host the finalists. Seemingly at random, Catherine introduced the themes that would direct the food each finalist would prepare.
Jay – satisfying after school snacks. He chose to make Pigs in a blanket & ants on a log. Two fat jokes in the first 15 minutes of this episode = not good. In presenting the theme, Bobby said, “Jay, you look like you enjoy snacks” and right as his 2-minute presentation began, Catherine said, “are you like a big kid who’s gonna show us after school snacks?” What’s up with that? Though Jay designed his food items to accommodate a 2-minute presentation, he was criticized for choosing such elementary “dishes.”
Arnold – an easily prepared fast breakfast. He made Chopped egg crostini with smoked salmon spread. For his 2-minutes, Catherine recommended he “breathe!” There was a lot of talk, and at one point it seemed Catherine appeared stressed to get her own words in edgewise, though he was commended for quickly rebounding from an equipment snafu.
Alex – a one-pot meal for a hot date. He made Portuguese fish stew. For his 2-minutes: a self-identified disaster. He wasted the first minute chatting with Catherine about the theme, setting the scene for a date. She hesitated when he mentioned using garlic without much response and so, with a few seconds left, he raced to prepare the dish. Interestingly, as a matter of nomenclature Alex revealed this initial challenge is called a “Mentor Challenge” and the following one, the one that takes up nearly three quarters of the episode, is called a “Star Challenge.” Who knew this?!
Eddie – burger toppings for a summer BBQ. He made Caribbean style burger with beer battered onion rings & jerk ketchup. For his 2-minutes, he hit it out of the park. He was fun, played with Catherine, explained his burger toppings. I think producers of this show really like Eddie (as they should). Though he began the season with an emphasis on “cheat day” meals, his recipes lately have had a decidedly Caribbean flavor and so I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere down the line he was pushed in that direction.
Needless to say, the person they thought did the best in this challenge was Eddie.
The following day, finalists were introduced to this week’s Star Challenge: tape a full-blown live TV show. The foursome were tasked to work together (like on The Chew) to cohost a show called “Summer Live.” Guests for this challenge were, from The Kitchen, Katie Lee and Food Network Star season seven winner Jeff Mauro. During this “full-blown” show they each took turns leading a five-minute segment. They were instructed to each demo his dish, as well as engage and include his fellow hosts. Themes included: indoor grilling, family reunions, taking summer vegetables to another level, and summer sweets. As winner of the Mentor Challenge, Eddie was tasked to assign these themes to the finalists.
Eddie – vegetables. Vegetable pasta.
Arnold – indoor grilling. Grilled shrimp and corn.
Alex – family reunion. Bacon ramen.
Jay – summer sweets. Strawberry cocktail and coconut tarts.
They were given 45-minutes to prepare their dishes and then were told, at the last moment, that their faux TV show would be performed before a live audience. As though it were a live telecast, commercials and all, each finalist was provided a set-up during a small break in between the demos, so it wasn’t like they had to pass a baton for a continuous 20 minutes. Eddie started with his vegetables, which looked delicious, grilling the “pasta” (shaved vegetables) in a skillet. The judges commended his use of the other three finalists. Arnold went next and the judges weren’t happy. Again he was criticized for speaking too fast, for not breathing. Bobby found it a train wreck. Third up was Alex, who was criticized rightfully for not making his “family reunion” dish relevant (because… ramen?!). Jay and his summer sweets finished the show. The guests loved Jay’s presentation. Giada: “Jay and Eddie were engaged with their cohosts from the beginning.”
Y’all, I think we just got a peak at our final two.
After a commercial break, the judges brought in the finalists and reviewed both their presentations and the food itself. At this point, it was clear there was a top two and a bottom two. On top was Eddie and Jay. On bottom: Alex and Arnold. The judges loved the food all the way around, so it basically came down to presentation. They found Arnold was rushed, and that Alex was “boring.” Teary-eyed, Arnold revealed before the final commercial of the episode that his goal was to make top three.
We come back after the break and the judges cut to the chase. Eddie and Jay were safe. It was down to Arnold and Alex, and Alex was sent home.
You know… I think Alex was too smart for TV. Continually he over-described his dishes and their ingredients. Also: though they had little time to do so, he over-thought the dishes he made. Take tonight for example: who the hell chooses to make soup for a summertime family reunion? He does, which simply made this challenge that much harder for him. Knowing that presenting live would be a struggle to begin with, he should have chosen something perfect like a burger (he is the sandwich guy, after all) or pasta salad or just something obvious and then focused on the presentation. Ramen was quirky but he couldn’t make the connection and so he had to go. It was really a no-brainer. Ironic, given how much this challenge should’ve been in his wheelhouse, but a no-brainer because he flubbed it.
FOOD NETWORK STAR recap: "Lifestyle Brand" (season 11 episode 8)
FOOD NETWORK STAR recap: "Live TV" (season 11 episode 9)
FOOD NETWORK STAR recap: "Dish of a Lifetime and Pilots" (season 11 episode 10)