Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Food Network Star - Mash-Up Throwdown (Week 2)

Hey, y'all! It's week two of Food Network Star and it's gonna get ugly!

The first thing we see is Melissa still reeling from being in the bottom three last week, insisting that won't happen again. Be careful what you wish for...

The contestants are given the task of creating a one-minute food travelogue report. They are told to pair off and Erin grabs Martita. For some reason Melissa is all over Ana, who doesn't understand the attraction (her point: "It's just that we like different things"). The other pairings are Rob and Aaron (the bromance is still going strong), Monterey and Jernard, Yaku and Tregaye, and Joy and Damiano.

They are dispatched to Downtown L.A.'s famous Grand Central Market to try out some food and shoot their spots. And they have thirty minutes to get it all done.

Yaku and Tregaye arrive at the Belcampo Meat Company, where Tregaye promises we're going to see "the real Tregaye". But when they try to shoot their spot Yaku can't stop stumbling over his script. Suddenly, they're down to their last two minutes and Tregaye is worried.

Aaron and Rob draw Wexler's Deli and they're in bro hog heaven. Rob: "I really love Aaron. It's like I adopted a five year old hyperactive kid." The guy behind Wexler's counter is a meat guy, and Aaron makes sure the dude knows he's in the presence of a kindred spirit. They have great chemistry on camera, but use up their whole minute talking about the food without actually eating any it. They decide the spot is good enough and opt not to redo it.

Monterey and Jernard head to Olio GCM Wood Fired Pizzeria. They love the food but Jernard is concerned that Monterey's energy will outshine him. He deals with this by bellowing his lines. Monterey is trying to figure out how to diplomatically ask him to tone it down, but admits diplomacy isn't one of her strong suits.

Ana and Melissa arrive at the falafel shop Madcapra and things are looking up. They seem to have found culinary common ground in Madcapra's food. Ana: "We finally found something..." Melissa: "...for both of us!" However, they're just not meshing on camera and stumble through their spot. Melissa's insistence on using the line, "We both falafell  in love with Madcapra," isn't helping.

Southern belle Joy and Italian stallion Damiano have drawn the Mexican seafood joint La Tostaderia. Luckily they're comfortable with the assignment. Joy: "We both love seafood, we both love Mexican food, we both have very distinctive I'm told." They're cute as heck together, but keep stumbling over words. Will they run out of time?

Erin and Martita descend on Sticky Rice and its gorgeous Thai food. They're having a blast with each other and the food, so much so that they lose track of time and don't even start filming their spot until they only have three minutes left. That's cutting it close.

After commercial break, we're introduced to our guest judge, actress and Food Channel "star" Hayley Duff. Can't this show get any real chefs to guest judge? Too busy doing real chef stuff, probably. Hayley apparently has a new show, a culinary travelogue, which is how they tie her presence to this particular challenge. Do it with a real chef and I'll be impressed.

Joy and Damiano's spot is screened first and it's a hit. The ending is awesome - Joy: "Ciao." Damiano, waving: "See y'all!" Hayley's expert contribution: "You guys are very cute together." Alton Brown, you are safe.

Tregaye and Yaku stumble out of the gate. Because he was having so much trouble with his lines, Yaku has decided he shouldn't talk so much. Or at all. Tregaye does most of the talking, especially about Belcampo's deep fried broccoli (it's a meat company, remember?) They wrap by pretending to be exhausted from eating so much good food and Yaku (all 6'9" of him) carries Tregaye offscreen. I think it was supposed to be cute, but it fell flat. Giada to Yaku: "You didn't tell us what you ordered or what it tasted like." Bobby hammers the broccoli thing, pointing out that he didn't learn much about the burger, one of the things Belcampo is known for. Hayley says she thinks they did a great job describing the food. Did she even hear what Giada and Bobby just said? Marcus Samuelsson, you live to appear on Food Network another day.

Apparently Monterey never found a diplomatic way to get Jernard to quit yelling. Bobby: "I thought you were going to huff and puff and blow Monterey down." Giada comments that Monterey "got lost" in the bombast. Cut to Jernard having the nerve to say that Monterey should have told him he was too loud. Not cool, dude. You were worried she'd outshine you and you overcompensated out of fear. Your crappy performance is on you, no one else. It gets worse - Jernard: "That's not a great teammate." Jernard just went on my shit list. If he wins this thing I may have to find a paint drying documentary to watch instead of his show.

Rob and Aaron go into their brodance. Damiano: "They're really making me hungry." Unfortunately, their decision not to include any of the actual food they raved about was a solid miss. Giada: "There was no payoff. I want to see a sandwich." Hayley: "When we do these travelogues, obviously we want to see good food." No, really? Paula Deen, come home. All is forgiven.

The dream team of Erin and Martita charm the judges and fellow contestants. Monterey: "Martita and Erin are like sugar and spice." Ana: "It looks like an episode already on Food Network." Bobby: "I liked it." Captain Obvious makes some inane comment about the importance of timing in travelogues. She keeps hammering that word, probably on the advice of a publicist; whether it's her own or Food Network's I have no idea. I don't have a show, but I'm pretty sure that timing is important in most areas of television. Save me, Alex Guarnaschelli.

Ana and Melissa introduce themselves as the culinary odd couple and unfortunately, not in a good way. Erin: "More like culinary awkward couple." Melissa's falafell  joke bombs. Bobby is actually at a loss for words and finally Giada lamely offers, "It's rough. It's a little rough." She's being kind. It was painful.

The judges give the win to Joy/Damiano and Martita/Erin. They don't appear to actually win anything except momentary bragging rights.

The next day, like lambs to slaughter, the contestants arrive for their next assignment. And bombshells are dropped. First, the teams from Grand Central Market will now battle each other in a head to head cookoff. Bobby: "Friend has become foe." Except possibly for Ana. I have a feeling crushing Melissa would give her the warm fuzzies. Rob, on the other hand, seems bereft at having to battle his broheim Aaron. Then we're treated to an awkward shot of Melissa: "Ana, I wish you luck, dear. You're going to need it." Yeah, because Ana's food was such a mess last week. I wonder if crow fits Melissa's description of healthy food.

Giada then drops the other shoe: At the end of the day, not one but two of the contestants will be eliminated. And baby, they were not  expecting that.

Bobby then explains that the theme of the cook-off is an "extreme culinary mash-up" - combining two classic dishes into one. Citing some of the items she makes for her catering company, Tregaye is extremely confident: "I mash-up for a living."

We now meet our second guest judge. It's Rev Run, he of Run-D.M.C. and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame...and of a show on the Cooking Channel. His mash-up credentials? A little ditty called "Walk This Way" you may have heard of that involved Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith. He's also very popular with the contestants.

Rev Run will prove to bring a little more, shall we say, gravitas to the proceedings than generic blonde ex-Disney Channel (I'm guessing on that one because I can't be bothered to look it up) D-list actress.

Now the mash-up board is wheeled out. I don't really know how to describe it, but it has classic dishes listed on each side, with the contestant/teams listed in the middle. It also has flashing lights. One of the lists is American classics, while the other lists different types of ethnic food, which for some reason Bobby describes as "new American favorites". The good Rev picks one from each side for each team at random. Here are the results:

Joy/Damiano: Clam chowder and tacos
Erin/Martita: Meat loaf and pad thai
Rob/Aaron: Fried chicken and pho
Monterey/Jernard: Mac & cheese and gyro
Yaku/Tregaye: Chili cheese dog and sushi
Melissa/Ana: Cheeseburger and paella

They have 45 minutes and Rev informs them he's bringing his family for the tasting/judging, so be sure to make enough food for everyone. And we're off and cooking.

Tregaye: "I don't like raw sushi, but I like how it looks, so that's what I'm gonna go with." She cooks her hot dogs with rice and rolls it up in a tortilla and voila: Chili Dog Hand Roll. Yaku goes the comfort food route with his Deep Fried Chili Dog Sushi.

Monterey decides she's not going to compete with a Southern man when it comes to mac & cheese. Her plan is a gyro with, "A little bit of mac & cheese...influence." Her dish is Feta Pasta with Tatziki and Lamb. Jernard is doing Lamb Mac & Cheese. He comments that he's happy to be pitted against Monterey because last challenge, "Monterey left me hanging." Dude, no she didn't. You think Food Network should give you a TV show, you should know enough to speak rather than yell on camera.

Aaron is familiar with pho. His dish is Asian Fried Chicken and Bacon Pho. Because bacon. He's the meat guy, remember? Rob decides he doesn't have time to make soup, so he's going with Asian Fried Chicken and Pho Slaw.

Melissa notes that rice and tomato sauce are part of the paella base, so she's going with healthy brown rice in a burger. She's roasting tomato slices in the oven, something you're going to want to remember - it will become a problem in a few seconds. Ana, who had a lot of success with her burger last week, is doing a Paella with Prosciutto Chicken Patty.

Someone starts yelling about tomatoes and flooding. Melissa rushes to the sink to find her sheet of roasted tomato slices being rinsed down by a running faucet. For some reason we never find out how her tomatoes came to be at the sink, or why the water was left running over them. Melissa proclaims her tomatoes ruined and starts looking for the ketchup.

Damiano is whipping up Italian Clam Tacos and crowns himself "Damiano The Taco Maker". Damn, he is cute. And the man does love his tacos. Joy is doing a Mexican Clam Chowder.

Martita talks about sticking with what she knows, and that's Mexican food. She's putting together Albodigas (Mexican meatballs) and Red Pepper Slaw. Erin is going with Pad Thai Meatloaf Bowl. Unfortunately, as time runs out Erin hasn't been able to get her sauce on her plates.

Rev Run then brings out his "family" - actually his "hip-hop family" of about 20-30 people. What's more, each contestant has thirty seconds to sell their dish to the crowd. After each team has presented, the family members will go to the dish that most interested them. Rob and Aaron are up first and it's a bloodbath.

Rob: "Who are you gonna trust fried chicken from first? My good looking fellow over there, or the heavy guy who eats half the bucket on his way home?" Rob is a freaking force of nature and although Aaron plays the bacon card in his presentation, he can't match Rob's natural energy and it's no contest. To make matters worse, rebuttals are offered and Rob grabs the microphone and turns on his broheim: "I got a couple words for my man Aaron: Pho. You." It's brutal and unexpected, and there's no way Aaron's recovering from that. Bobby: "He doesn't have it." It goes downhill for him from there. The judges aren't impressed with Aaron's dish but feel Rob nails the Vietnamese flavors. Bobby on Rob: "He's showing his range."

Monterey tries to hype the crowd and it goes okay, but Jernard busts out the Chef of Love card and croons about his dish Barry White style much to the delight of the family. Monterey must have finally done her job and told him to lower the volume. His dish included bleu cheese and Monterey starts her rebuttal with, "I didn't know bleu cheese came from Greece." The barb hits, but Jernard's rebuttal comes in the form of busting out his Chef of Love dance moves, and he's won this battle. It gets worse for Monterey when the judges weigh in on the food. Giada doesn't feel she got the inspiration of mac & cheese - her pasta doesn't ooze cheese. Run: "That's a Greek salad sitting on top of spaghetti." They do think that Jernard nailed the gooey, cheesey mac & cheese concept.

Next up: Ana and Melissa. Yaku: "Get your popcorn. This is going to be a catfight." Ana can barely form a coherent sentence. Then it's Melissa's turn and damn if white girl doesn't rap: "This is Rev Run's and his family's day/and I got something for you in the most delicious way." And then - wait for it - she literally drops the mic. Holy shit. No idea she had it in her. Everyone is dumbfounded, but the family likes it. Ana is able to bounce back with, "Obviously if you're going to have paella, you're going to have it from a Latina." Martita goes to bat for her homegirl: "That's right, baby." This time Ana is able to speak clearly and describe her dish, but Melissa feels she's made her point and declines to rebut.

But while Melissa may have blown her out of the water in the presentation, it's Ana's food that draws raves. Run: "I could eat it all day long." Bobby points out that however entertaining Melissa was, "I didn't really hear what she was saying about the food." Turns out it really wouldn't have mattered. Her food isn't seasoned well and the just that. Run: "You can talk the talk, but you better be able to walk the walk...and let it hit my fork (pronounced to rhyme with walk)." This cracks up Bobby and Giada. We then cut to one of the family who says, "If I'm going to be entertained I'm going to see Melissa. If I'm going to eat I'm going to see Ana."

Damiano does a good job of describing his food, although I think his energy could be a tad higher. It doesn't really matter as the women are all swooning over his Italian accent. Joy surprisingly goes into a rap of her own: "I wantchu all to try my chowder, cuz I'm gonna make you all scream louder. My dish can even be served in a glass and it's so good it'll make yo mama slap yo...mama." It's awesome. Jernard: "Boy, I didn't see that coming." Joy wraps up by busting a move of her own. Bobby and Giada are flabbergasted. Unfortunately, as Bobby observes, "All the girls are going to Damiano's table. It's tough to beat." As far as the food is concerned, the judges praise both dishes.

Yaku comes out and goes the Barry White route. Ironically, Jernard finds this snooze-worthy. It's a complete 180 from Yaku's inability to perform in the previous challenge and it's smooth as silk. In response, Tregaye takes the opposite approach, upping the energy level. In her pitch, she describes herself as "The Whimsical Queen". We're only two episodes in and she's used the word whimsical to describe herself more than once. I'm not seeing it (now Erin...that's whimsical) but like Yaku she does a good job of describing her food. The family is split about 50/50 on which dish to try. Run praises Tregaye's confidence, but Giada thinks the inside of her roll look more like a burrito than sushi. They go nuts over Yaku's dish. Not only does it look like a sushi roll, but both Bobby and Giada agree that they couldn't have done it that well. You don't hear that very often.

Martita starts her presentation and for some reason we cut to Tregaye bitching about her spiel. It's the same every single time, at least according to the Gospel of Tregaye. I think that's called consistency. Martita is poised and authoritative and does a great job. Tregaye doesn't agree. Then poor Erin crashes and burns. Crippled by her failure to finish her dish, she just can't sell it and is a shadow of what we've seen before. Rob: "What happened to Giggles McGee?" Even if the dish was a disaster, she should have tried to sell whatever her original intention was. And as it turns out, neither dish sits well with the judges. Erin's meat is well-seasoned, but her noodles don't have any flavor. As for Martita's dish, the judges don't think it reminds them of pad thai.

Here comes elimination. The judges announce that the member of each pair that got the most people in Run's family to try their dish will be safe. And they are: Tregaye (barely, this was probably closest), Damiano, Rob, Jernard, Martita and Ana. In addition, two others, based on the quality of their cooking, will be saved, leaving a bottom four. This saves Yaku and Joy. Everyone save the bottom four are dismissed to the waiting room.

My bottom four: Aaron, Erin (sorry girl!), Melissa, Martita.
The judges' bottom four: Aaron, Monterey, Erin and Melissa.

Monterey is already red-eyed. Giada tells her that her food was good, but it wasn't a good mash-up.

Erin is told that her problem was that she let everyone know that she was disappointed in her food. IMO, a rookie mistake. She'll learn from that.

Poor Melissa. She didn't want to be in the bottom three again and now she's in the bottom four. Be careful what you wish for, dear. Bobby tells her that she engaged the crowd and yet more people went to taste Ana's dish, and he asks her if she knows why. Melissa: "She described her dish more." Bobby: "You didn't actually describe your dish at all."

Bobby tells Aaron his dish was one-note and Aaron doesn't take that well. He then proceeds to make the mistake that anyone who has ever watched even one episode of a Food Network competition show knows you never make, and that's arguing with the judges. Aaron wants to know where was the pho in Rob's dish. He also starts making faces while arguing with Bobby about his food. It's creepy - the boyish charm that had everyone pulling for him last week is suddenly replaced by a weird spoiled brat. Giada finally cuts him off with, "Rob did it better, I guess. At the end of the day, Aaron, that's what happened." She may be little, but she be fierce.

And here's where it gets really ugly. Cut to Aaron: "I know my dish was better than anyone else's." No, it wasn't. And I understand that having to out-perform Rob is a tall order, but if your dish was so great why couldn't you have at least done a solid job of selling it? Forget trying to keep up with Rob's personality and poise and sell your supposedly awesome food. You didn't. You just said bacon a lot and it wasn't a bacon crowd. I think a lot of people just deserted Team Aaron. I'd rather watch a paint drying documentary than this tool.

I found myself wondering if the decision on the final cuts had already been made, because if not Aaron just burned some major bridges. I get my answer when the four are dismissed to the waiting room so Bobby and Giada can mull over their decision. I don't think it's much of a decision.

Aaron bursts angrily into the waiting room cursing up a storm. He starts bitching about how awesome his dish was and then makes the completely delusional claim that, "Rob and I had the same presentation." His fellow contestants gawk at that one. He also calls the judges' decision BS.

Monterey opines that she doesn't think it's a good idea to call the judges' decision BS. She is still badly shaken, now even moreso at the idea of being eliminated in favor of Aaron after that performance. "If he stays and I go..." She can't even finish the thought. Neither can I. But I don't think we have to worry about it.

We are then treated to Bobby and Giada discussing the pros and cons of the bottom four. Their conversation about Aaron doesn't mention his crappy attitude, but praises his potential, with Giada suggesting, "I'm tempted to keep him on." No, you're not.

My eliminations: Aaron and Melissa
The judges' eliminations: Aaron and Melissa

We're then treated to Aaron's comment of, "I'm a great cook, I've got a lot of personality, I'm a complete package." What you've got there son is a big fat ego that just got a much-needed check.

Melissa tried and failed, and there's nothing wrong with that. But Aaron fucked up big time and I think I speak for most if not all of the FNS audience when I say Star Salvation has its villain, the guy we won't  be pulling for to get a second shot. Because no one wants to tune into Aaron's show now. A grown man throwing a tantrum is not just unattractive, it's also not something I want to watch.

At the very end, Aaron is addressing the judges/mentors, but my DVR cut off right after he said, "Mentors..." God knows what he said, but my guess is it was something tool-ish.

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