Food Network Star – Week 8

I’ll admit it’s been hard for me to organize my thoughts and write about this week’s competition. It was simply put, weird. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the contestants or the challenges.

First the contestants were given the arduous task of eating a luxurious, over the top dish at a famous Las Vegas restaurant. A $777 burger, a $1000 ice cream sundae, etc. Once the finalists were back from their decadent meals they were split into two teams and had to create a four course meal, including dessert. Apparently it isn’t enough to cook food, you must provide the “whole 360”, think extreme dining experience. The bottom two from last week got to be team captains. So I did have a “huh?” moment there. The losers get to pick the teams? Emma chose Lenny and Loreal because she thought they were willing to put themselves out there.  Sarah had Nicole and Luca.

Caesar walks out with his wife/slave, who knows, holding a tray with little scrolls. As Alton calls out a name Caesar picks up a scroll and shows it to the contestants. All are a protein of some sort. The team captain got to choose if they were going to keep that protein for themselves or give it to one of their team mates. Sarah kept the Wagyu beef, she gave Luca duck and Nicole frog legs. Emma gave Lenny sea urchin (uni) because she figured he would know what to do with it, she gave Loreal langoustine and then had a nice hunk of Mangalitsa pork. I have no idea what is so special about this pork and neither did Emma. It was obvious she didn’t know what to do with any of the ingredients otherwise she would have kept one for herself.

Team Emma was doomed from the start. She didn’t play to her teammates’ strengths. She expected them to come to her level instead of meeting somewhere in the middle. Her idea was a feast from the gods but neither Lenny or Loreal were comfortable with the whole concept, but it doesn’t seem like they tried to offer up any other suggestions.

I think Lenny was trying to portray himself like he was in a Greek tragedy, unfortunately the results were tragic. I’m not sure what the heck he was trying to do. Loreal was trying to be serene, sorry, Loreal and serene don’t make a good combination, she failed. Her face didn’t move, it was like she was frozen in time or something and she spoke in a very weird, monotone voice. The judges were simply weirded out by the whole concept.

Their presentations were terrible and the food pretty unspectacular. In Lenny’s case his uni and cauliflower just didn’t make a good combination. Loreal didn’t do anything with the langoustines but boil them. She did make something she called a chicken “skinarette” for a salad, just not sure what that was. It might have been some sort of chicken skin vinaigrette.

Emma was Emma. She did her calm, soothing voice that really wants to put you to sleep, until she started talking about how people discovered that roasted pork was tasty. She started going off about barns burning with pigs inside and that’s when people figured out that pig tasted good. I didn’t have a problem with that really, it just felt out of place. If she thought that needed to be added fine, but she really needed to work it in better with the rest of her calm, relaxing story. Instead she sounded like she was excited about it all. It just hit a wrong note.

Sarah was the star. Yeah, it was a hunk of steak which is easy enough to throw on the grill and cook, but it is also very easy to ruin but she didn’t. She called it a Texas sized hunk, I call it a Flintstones size hunk it was H-U-G-E.  She made a tasty looking potato side and a lobster cream corn.

Luca did fine but his nerves were showing when he was attempting to pour his sauce, his hands were shaking so bad. But when he started presenting his voice was calm and even toned. He made you really want to eat his dish. Unfortunately the judges didn’t think it really lived up to the hype.

Nicole had never cooked frog legs before but she nailed it. The judges loved her dish, just not her presentation. She started out talking about her husband and then ended up in Thailand so she could get the coastal cooking in there, but they weren’t tied together. Just two separate stories. She also made a pretty good looking dessert, taking a simple bonfire snack like s’mores and turning it in to a decadent dessert perfect for fine dining.

It was obvious that team Sarah was going to be the winner. They really did a much better job all around than team Emma. So that left Emma, Lenny and Loreal in the bottom. I have to admit that this time around I figured Loreal would go home, at this point I think she has more misses than hits. But then again Emma hasn’t had too many hits, so she ended up going home. I’m not sure if they decided it was because she was a team captain and the theme she chose just didn’t work with her team mates, or if it was because week after week she is exactly the same. She doesn’t appear to have grown at all.

I know lots of people are upset that Emma left. I can’t say I’m sad to see her go, she simply has no range which could prove to be boring. I’m sure there is a place for her where she would be absolutely perfect, but Food Network is not it.

Even Lenny is starting to leave me feeling flat. I want to see some good cooking, I want him to smile and engage me, but not so over the top that it is irritating. I honestly believe he could be the next Food Network star if he could just stop trying so hard to be an entertainer and just be Lenny. He’s constantly putting on a show and I’ll be honest, I’m getting tired of it. I really loved him in the beginning. He was so engaging and he was great in the kitchen, now I’m just not so sure any more. Then again I went and checked out his website. Pretty lame and I’m not sure what type of show he would have.

I’ve definitely changed my mind about Loreal. She says she’s the butcher babe, well then let’s see some butchering and good cooking of meat. She must have some great tips she could pass on about cuts of meat. But you know, just because you can butcher the meat doesn’t mean you can cook it. In her defense she didn’t have actual meat this week, she had langoustines which need to be handled just right.

Nicole is just being Nicole. She keeps putting out respectable plates. Her presentation has been off way more than her food, but I don’t know if she can win in the end unless she can really do something to pump up her POV a bit, just give it a little bit more of something. I just started following her blog and she sounds like such a fun person to be around. Friendly, sweet and sincere. That’s what she needs to add to her demonstrations. Give it a little more of who she is and she could go all the way.

I’m still not a Sarah fan even though she hit a home run last night. One home run a Food Network star does not make. I think she is about 50/50 with people who dislike her and those who like her. I haven’t seen her do anything with her POV either. Throwing a steak on the grill does not mean you’re from Texas.

I’m honestly starting to lean pretty heavily in Nicole’s favor right now. Funny how things have changed since week 1. How my opinions change the more I see of the contestants. Nicole definitely has been the most consistent throughout the competition and I’ve liked Lenny and Loreal less and less as the weeks move on.