Monday, June 27, 2016

Food Network Star - Motorsports Tailgating (Week 5)

So between having family over and celebrating my birthday last weekend (and getting some amazing news that involves writing, more about that later) I never got around to recapping Week 6 of Food Network Star until now, more than a week after the fact. Bad blogger! Let's fix that.

First challenge this week is kitchen hacks. Giada explains by giving the example of using an iron as a panini press. Rob has done online videos about kitchen hacks, like using a knife to open a beer, so he's thrilled. In addition to hacking, the chefs will also have to shoot a one minute Snapchat video about said hacks. Aaaand go!

Erin grabs the muffin tin, which she's used in the past to make dehydrated pineapple flower decorations. Thinking girl is gonna nail this challenge. She's going to make Pineapple Pie Pockets with dehydrated pineapple.

Rob's got himself a waffle iron, which he is going to use as both a grill and panini press to make German Reuben Cuban Burgers. He says he's won with this dish in the past. Joy is using a smoothie maker to make Hot Crab Dip. Ana is making a Cuban Natilla Custard in a Mason jar. Usually this is made in a double boiler, so hopefully it will work out. And I have a bad feeling about this.

Damiano snagged a turkey baster, which he says he has never used before. He makes Frittelle, a deep fried pastry. He wants to use the baster, which reminds him of a syringe, to fill the pastries with cream, but the baster isn't cooperating. He eventually decides to go with something more amenable to piping, a berry puree. Tregaye is using a saute pan as a meat mallet, which is actually what we used in culinary school. In other words, it's not really a reach and I'm not sure it counts as a hack. Either way, she's making a Country Fried Steak Sandwich.

Monterey is using her French Press as a filter to make a marinade for her Moroccan Spiced Chicken. It sounds ambitious. I hope she makes it. Jernard is making Cajun BBQ Fried Chicken. He's using his martini shaker to make the sauce.

As time winds down, Joy is concerned a one minute Snapchat won't give her enough time to explain her dish and herself. Monterey's chicken isn't cooking so she throws it into the deep fryer. Erin's pineapple flowers are charred, so they become garnish instead of part of the dish. Tregaye is supremely confident about appearing on camera.

We welcome our guest judge, Billy Joel's ex-wife who isn't Christie Brinkley. Erin goes first and even Tregaye is impressed. Unfortunately the judges want to eat the pineapple garnish and things get awkward when Erin tries to discourage them from doing so. Joy is up next and her large number of ingredients is met with derision from Damiano and Jernard. The judges are equally unimpressed, but they like her crab dip.

Rob's Snapchat is uncharacteristically reserved. Katie Lee thought it was a great hack and Bobby tells him to stop overthinking things. His food goes over well. Ana does well, but is also somewhat reserved, and Bobby tells her to go for it. The judges love her custard and Giada can't help being frustrated by Ana's untapped potential: "I don't understand it. You cook so well. Why can't you get more excited about it?" Ana says she will.

Next up, Tregaye is going to show everyone how it's done. And she does, nailing the steak-pounding. Unfortunately her dish is a lot less impressive than her Snapchat. Giada describes it as too salty and too heavy.

Monterey nails her Snapchat, and using a french press to make marinade really is a hack. I would never have thought of it. Even Bobby is impressed: "I feel like you had a show on Food Network." That's the good news. The bad news is that her chicken is still raw. Talk about going from one extreme to the other.

Jernard wants to make up for his poor presentation last week and busts out the Chef of Love card and nails it. Bobby congratulates him on getting his swagger back. His chicken is cooked perfectly. Damiano also scores on his Snapchat and his dish. Bobby wants ten of his pastries.

Now on to crown a winner: My choice: Jernard. The judges choice: Damiano (much to Giada's delight, and I'm officially tired of the token, heavy-accented Italian contestant).

For the main challenge, we get an actual chef: Robert Irvine. The contestants are thrilled. He introduces their theme: Tailgate Party. They will each be given a protein to use and one of them is tofu, which Ana describes as something she avoids when it's in her food. Just to really screw with them, they have to play a car race video game, where their finish will determine the order they get to choose their protein. Loser gets tofu!

And they're off! The finish (after Damiano rear ends Erin and knocks her out of the lead): Damiano, Jernard, Erin, Tregaye, Joy, Monterey, Rob and Ana. And they start choosing their proteins:

Damiano: Skirt steak
Jernard: Chicken wings
Erin: Bratwurst
Tregaye: Ground meat
Joy: Prawns
Monterey: Bone-in Pork Chops
Rob: Turkey Dogs
Ana: Tofu

Poor Ana.

The contestants have an hour before the tailgaters arrive. Joy goes for the hamburger buns, much to the displeasure of Tregaye, who is going to have to use hot dog buns for her burgers. Ana is making the best of her bad situation, reasoning that tofu works with Asian flavors, and her grandfather was Chinese (who knew?) so she's making Chino-Latino Tofu Fried Rice, putting a wok on the grill. Rob isn't loving his turkey dogs. "Turkey dogs are blah. They have a fake smoke taste to them, so gonna wrap it in bacon..." He's also making a root beer barbeque sauce to go with them. Sounds really good, actually.

Tailgate is a new, foreign word to Damiano, but I'm not worried because Giada obviously has his back. It reminds him of a food truck, so he's making a Skirt Steak Sandwich, which sounds great. He's also using Burrata, wild mushrooms and arugala, which doesn't sound especially tailgate-ish. Monterey is making pork tacos. She notes that her time management is on point, so she has no excuse for not finishing her dish this time. Foreshadowing?

Tregaye is making Inside-Out Cheeseburgers, which she says she makes all the time for her family. But she's still going to have to serve them on hot dog buns. Also, some of her cheese-filled burgers are falling apart on the grill.

Halfway through their hour, Robert Irvine shows up and tells them he wants to see how well they do at high speeds, and promptly takes ten minutes off the clock. Weak, dude. Just let them cook. Ana's rice isn't cooking and she's reduced to bargaining with God: let her rice cook and he can take ten years off her life. She really wanted those ten minutes.

Erin has a serious case of hero worship when it comes to Robert. She tries to chat him up, but it was, as she describes it, awkward. I hope her dish blows him out of his seat. She is so sweet. Jernard is making Tipsy Tequila Wings, with an emphasis on tequila. I want. Joy is making Grilled Prawn Po'boys with Jalapeno Pineapple Slaw. She describes it as "Great beer food, which of course is tailgating." And Ana may have just lost ten years, because her rice is done.

The tailgaters arrive while the chefs are still plating. Joy is selling the heck out of her dish to the judges. Jernard: "Hello, Southern queen." Bobby likes the sandwich, although Robert thinks it's a little too sweet. Bobby also notes how exuberant Joy was about her dish.

Tregaye still isn't thrilled with getting stuck with hot dog buns, but wisely decides to, "Sell it as if I meant to do it." Bobby calls her on it, but she doesn't back down and eventually he does. They like the burger and even the "hot dog bun idea". Tregaye really scored with this one.

Erin is her relentlessly adorable self, wrangling in the tailgaters with, "I feel like I have some beer lovers right here." She also doesn't want to go the "spastic, star-struck Erin" route with Robert this time around. It doesn't go as smoothly as planned, and Tregaye wipes out any goodwill she earned with me by making fun of her for it. No matter, her mini bratwurst burgers are a big hit with the judges.

One of the tailgaters asks Jernard how he got the name "The Love Chef". He tells her he has nine kids. He also jokes that he only blames a few of them on the tequila. Nice segue into his dish. He chats up the judges about his wife, who is working on her doctorate (in what, he doesn't say, but still I found that damn fascinating - she works that around nine kids?) and they love his wings. Giada comments that Jernard radiates happiness and it draws you in. He does seem like a nice guy. I'd love to see him with his family. If there's one thing women like, it's guys who are really into their families.

Rob's bacon-wrapped turkey dogs look great, but he's strangely not doing a great job of selling them. Not sure where the Rob from weeks one and two has gone. The judges seem to agree, wishing he'd done a better job explaining his dish.

Poor Monterey. She hasn't even gotten started when Giada asks if the meat is cooked this time, forcing Monterey to explain her earlier faux pas in front of Robert. I love that Monterey states that after that disaster, "I need to show them the chef and not the ex-model." Unfortunately she stumbles in her presentation - I don't think she thinks well on her feet, something I can sympathize with. Erin observes that Monterey is succumbing to nerves and when that happens, "She makes no sense and she starts falling apart." Robert suggests she take a deep breath. Monterey herself describes it as a train wreck. Luckily, they like her tacos.

Damiano introduces himself to the tailgaters, being sure to mention he's from Tuscany. I'm beginning to think he's going to win simply because of the Italian thing. Although he's a smooth operator when selling his dish to the judges, Bobby thinks the steak is lacking flavor. Giada promptly comes to Damiano's defense with the explanation that Italians don't season the way Southerners do, and advises Robert that compared to some of the other dishes, this one is "very simple". Stop making excuses for him. This isn't Food Network Italia.

When the judges arrive at Ana's station, she jokes that, "I was lucky enough to get the tofu." Bobby: "Good attitude." She's still a bit shaky in her presentation and Bobby tells her to work on her self-esteem. Bobby and Giada are a bit frustrated with Ana's tendency to go negative, but her dish is a hit. Even Robert, who says he's not a tofu guy, likes it. Bobby notes that Ana's food is always good.

My choice for bottom three is hard, because it seemed like all the food was good, so we're going to have to go with presentation. Rob, Monterey and Ana seemed to be the ones who had problems with that, so I'm going with them. Besides, everyone else just seems safe, although I'd like to see Damiano get dinged for serving an unseasoned dish to professional chefs. And if it was anyone else I think I would have gotten my wish.

The judges choice for top three: Tregaye, Joy and Jernard. Damiano is also safe, despite the fact that Bobby and Robert thought his dish was bland. Yeah, the fix is in. I won't be at all surprised if he wins. Robert dings Erin for not mentioning she's a baker in her presentation, but praises her dish. And those five are safe for the week, meaning Rob, Monterey and Ana are looking at the chopping block.

My choice for elimination: I want to say Rob, because the last couple of weeks I've noticed that if a challenge or ingredient isn't right up his alley, he doesn't seem to be able to be bothered to show any enthusiasm for it, but I'm thinking the uncooked chicken is going to haunt Monterey. It's a shame because I really like her. I think the judges see a lot of untapped potential in Ana and will keep her on as long as possible, and I don't disagree with that.

Giada wants Ana to show more enthusiasm. Robert loved Monterey's food, but her presentation was disorganized. Bobby liked how Rob brought a lot of flavor to the turkey dogs, but wonders why he didn't make more of a show about his root beer barbeque sauce. They're sent off while the judges make their decision and Monterey is frustrated because, "It seems like when my food's awful I do a better presentation and then when I feel like my food's alright my presentation is bad."

The judges choice for elimination: Monterey. She's gracious in defeat, stating that it just isn't her time, but that she will take away a lot of advice from the judges. I'm really sorry to see her go, but as mentioned here, she's still alive on Star Redemption.