Finally, finally, there was some drama last night on The Next Food Network Star. Dallas/Keller Mel? Her star keeps getting shinier. Crockett and Tubbs? Less so, but that picture is still fun to look at. Jump for it.
I’m not sure if any of you have ever missed the first three minutes of TNFNS. If you have, then you realize how quickly this show moves. Before I have the chance to switch over from VH-1 or whatever other educational program I was watching, almost the entire plot line has developed. This show moves quick. Anyway, they show the establishing shot of the house where the contestants live, and then whoosh! It’s off to the airport. Goin’ to Miami (bienvenedos a Miami, yep, you’re welcome for the Will Smith afternoon you will now endure). Our little group of five hop-skips it to JFK, where–gasp of unsurprise–there’s a challenge. Ted Allen is there, and he tells them about Jet Blue’s new T5 Terminal at JFK, and how the restaurants are totally awesome and better than Chili’s. TA tells us that each chef gets a restaurant and they have to create a dish that would fit with the theme. If they win, their dish will (probably) appear on the menu at that restaurant. And of course, they only get 30 minutes to do it. (I really don’t see how they do things so quickly. I would still be scratching my forehead with my pencil eraser and scribbling the word “chicken?” when the timer ran out.)
So, Jeff gets the Italian restaurant and he makes a poached egg bruschetta that everyone loves. His presentation includes a tidbit about his Lebanese heritage and his wife’s Iranian heritage and his wild-and-out lifestyle, which everyone loves (judges are Ted Allen, Bob, Suse, and a Jet Blue pilot and flight attendant). Mash-up Michael gets the French restaurant and wants to do oysters but can’t shuck them with the knives provided so switches to clams and shrimp and calls it “surf and surf.” Ted Allen finds a vein in his and does his best icky-poo face. Bob thought his presentation was dull. Next up is Dallas/Keller Mel. She has a little story waiting for us, too. Turns out she was raised by a Spanish nanny and only spoke Spanish until age 3 (!). So she is very comfy with the tapas restaurant she’s assigned and makes chicken a la plancha with one hand tied around her back. She even throws in a time-saving tip (slice up the chicken breast when it’s still frozen and it’s much easier to cut) just to make everyone else look bad. Jam/Tam comes out swinging after the previous ep’s Imitation of a Mute Person on the Rachael Ray Show. She gets the Japanese restaurant and makes a seared tuna salad, which is fine, until she makes a joke about the airplane bathroom not being anyone’s friend. True, people, this is TRUE! And Susie gets all huffy puffy and grossed out, I mean, come awn. Lastly, Deb gets a steakhouse and punts with a spinach salad for the “ladies who might be watching their weight.” Susie’s head just about pops off here as she SCREAMS THAT MEN ARE WATCHING THEIR WEIGHT TOOO!!! Which is actually a good point.
Finally it’s over and Jeff is awarded the winner. They “run” to catch their flight. Miami awaits. Mel sees palm trees and realizes she’s close to the beach (brilliant, guhl!). The Eden Roc hotel is the destination, and the contestants run upstairs to check out their suite like the cast of the Real World’s 20 year reunion. But there’s no free time, not even a second. Ted is there and he tells them that they will be cooking for a cocktail party that very evening, as a team (dun dun dun). They will each make two appetizers each and the group will be in charge of a specialty cocktail. Since Jeff won the airport challenge he will make assignments for everyone. He decides that Deb will be in charge of the people in the kitchen, since she’s a caterer with plenty of experience (as she is quick to remind us). Mike will do the bartending, Jeff will host, and Mel and Jam/Tam will cook. They throw a few ideas around and no one says boo about any of it, except Mel who decides to make three apps after she realizes there isn’t a vegetarian option.
So. They run off to Whole Foods to grab ingredients, and then head to Nikki Beach to start cooking. For the next two hours, everyone scrambles to get their cooking done, except Jeff, who is cool-as-a-cuc as usual. You see, he has chosen appetizers that are easy to assemble, because he is smart. They might not be the yummiest ones, but they are pretty and easy to put together and he’s got hosting duties to do. Dallas Mel is in the weeds the entire time, as is Jam/Tam and Deb. Michael keeps trying to grab Deb so he can tell her how to make his food but she’s not really listening so he tells Jam. Ever so wisely, Jeff gives Mel his instructions.
Bobby, Susie, Bob, and TA show up in their Miami finest to judge this one. Jeff does a little bilingual intro and the crowd swoons. Everyone runs back to the kitchen, and Jeff grabs his trays to take out to the judges. He made a crab nacho thingy and a little cuban “bite,” and Ted says he didn’t put enough effort it. Bobby says they are “flat.” Jam/Tam comes out with hers, drops them on the table and runs off. Everyone is all up in arms about this. Also, her jerk chicken is missing it’s jerk, and I didn’t have time to write down the other appetizer she made. At this point, we go back in the kitchen and see that everyone is working double-time, except Deb, who is still just doing her own thing. Also, she’s not helping plate, or making sure there is any order in the back, as she was tasked to do. Okay, back to the party. Mash-up Michael is working the crowd, screaming “who loves you?” at the top of his lungs and serving shots. The owner of Nikki Beach pretty much hates his guts. Then, Mel comes out with her trays. She’s got roasted veggies on a tortilla, something with chicken and raw onion, and one other dish they moved too fast for me to write down. Bob says she’s “bubbly and fun,” but Bobby doesn’t want a raw onion on his food. Out come the drinks, and the hot chili margarita fizzles like Jessica Simpson and Tony Romo’s relationship. Now, Bobby has had it. He heads back to the kitchen to kick some booty. “Oh, hello Jam/Tam,” he says, grabbing an app of her tray. “LET’S HURRY UP BACK HERE!”‘ he screams. Not really. But in his head, he did. Michael’s wimpy pieces of salmon marinated in a “margarita” have everyone wincing. It’s only Deb’s Korean torta and jicama/shrimp that save the day. Everyone says hers is the best so far. But! She was a selfy-selfish girl and didn’t help out, so it’s no wonder her’s tasted great, she spent, what, four hours on them?
Time for judging. “I was starving,” says Bobby, with furrowed brow. Mike was not the crowd favorite, and they hated his salmon. Jam/Tam was a crowd pleaser but her jerk needed work (ohhhhhh!). They liked Mel’s veg dish and appreicated the fact that she wanted to do three apps, but next time, just stick to two and make ’em good, m’kay? Next, Deb tells the judges she was working in the kitchen alone and “being selfless.” Whaaaa? Susie calls her out COLD and tells her she’s a martyr (oohhhhhh snap!). And then Mel’s like, um, EXCUSE ME? I was doing three, plus Jeff’s two, and Jam/Tam was doing two, plus Mike’s.” And then Bob starts to put the pieces together…and he’s like…”so….Deb, you were only doing two? Your own? JUST GETTING THE MATH RIGHT.” Oh ya, take that Deb! The contestants go away and Deb starts crying immediately saying, “it’s me, it’s meeeee!” Yeah, you’re darn right, is what Mel is thinking. They bring them back in. The judges love love love Mel. She, Jeff, and Jam/Tam are safe. It’s down to “Who loves you?” Mike and “I was doing everyone’s work/whoops I was only doing my own” Deb. Bob says what she did was “shameful,” but they still send Mike home. I was expecting waterworks, but he surprised me by really handling the situation well. But man, I wish they both would have just gone. Unfortunately it seems like the producers/judges really like Deb, but she just grates on my nerves more and more. Hopefully she’ll get the Miami heat and be out next week.