Tonight's episode began with another invitation to the South Beach Wine and Food Festival for our Food Network hopefuls along with more ruminations from Martita regarding her great story telling ability and her apparent need to step things up. Now that they are all in the top seven there is going to be far less room for error, and if Martita is going to bring it, this is the week to do so!
Live cooking demo's from some of the Food Network's biggest stars are a huge draw at this festival and for today's Star Challenge the finalists were charged with doing their own three minute long live cooking demo's for a packed audience of Food Network fans.
Martita's signature dish was Sweet Por Cito Rellenos that featured ground pork, plantains, peaches and beautiful charred peppers, and as I watched I realized this was not only a dish I would like to learn more about, it made me want to know Martita. She was advised by Giada, once again, to share the story behind her dish - a sentiment that was echoed by Yvan, who referred to her as a warm person who needed to dig deeper.
As for Yvan, his plan was to prepare "Love Bites" featuring sea urchin, fried oyster, pomegranate seeds, chipotle mayonnaise, and spicy pickles - a combo that I must admit, seemed a little unusual - and I was super curious to see what the judges thought of it. He was advised by Giada to watch his energy, try to keep his speech confident and level without losing any of his Yvanesque appeal.
Ippy, whose challenge - opposite to Yvan - has always been to bring his energy up planned to prepare Pink Miso Sauce with a Seared Scallop and I can already tell you, that is a dish I want to learn how to make!
Nikki from Team Bobby decided on a grilled lamb chop with red pepper jelly and a vegetable escabeche or escoveitch which I am assuming would feature a variety of vegetables "cooked"in an acidic marinade. Her challenge, as always, was going to be to come across as sincere and real as opposed to scripted and stiff whereas the, always real Michelle, was going to have to (in my opinion) get far more organized with her point of view.
Michelle's dish idea was promising as it seemed to reflect the point of view she brought last week for "every man's New England" and I was excited to see what she would do with a dish she calls "Clams Mimmie" her take on Clams Casino that she named after her dad. But at the 11th hour, Michelle discovered that the kitchen had stocked the wrong clams - tiny sweet manila clams instead of the heartier little necks she was hoping for.
Meanwhile, over at Team Alton Justin was making WonTon Nachos - which sounded absolutely amazing to me - and his challenge was to come across as good natured and warm and not as a smart alek.
Finally, the ever talkative Martie decided to cook en papillote - though she didn't actually identify her fish cooked in parchment as such - but got tripped up over fear of bones while Alton stood behind them both drill sargeant style and asked "What's the worst thing that could happen?"
Though Justin felt passing out on stage was the pinnacle, Alton Brown schooled them Iron Chef style by saying "The worst thing that could happen is if you said um followed by nothing."
People, we're talking about Martie, dead air with this woman is not going to be an issue.
Onward to the live demos where those crazy kids from the Food Network had all kinds of challenging things up their sleeves for the contestants based on their perceived weaknesses.
Justin, who can come across as cocky, was treated to hecklers, and though he did a good job in the beginning, he got a little defensive toward the end which detracted from his demo. The judges, however, all agreed that his wontons were delicious.
Nikki was next and with her challenge to not be scripted, the network rigged her blender to see how she would react with something completely unplanned. To put it mildly, she did not do well.
Yvan was next and was faced with the challenge of his audio going out for 30 seconds. He rocked it. According to Suzi, his unusual dish was sophisticated and elegant.
Ippy's challenge was going to be to see how people would react if the audience stopped paying attention - could he charge up his relaxed style to recapture the crowd? Unfortunately, he let the challenging crowd get the better of him and came across as angry for the better part of his demo.
Martita was next and she was given the wrong ingredients. Though I was rooting for her, she was just not able to get past the challenge and completely lost her spark. Again, there was a lack of story telling andher ability to entertain a crowd was just not there.
Next up was Martie, who Alton said gets derailed when things get misplaced or are out of control - and so he misplaced a few items just for her and to her credit she was unflappable and fearless.
Timing has been an issue for Michelle and so those sneaky Food Network folks decided to give her the wrong time cues, because as Bobby Flay said, she was in need of a big performance - and YAHOO!!!!!!!!!!!! she delivered!!!
In the end Martie and Yvan became the challenge winners and the two going into the Producer's Challenge were Martita and Ippy who were given a mystery dome. With no chance to rehearse, they were to lift the dome to reveal a mystery ingredient and then do an on camera presentation about it.
In the end, the judges we perplexed by why Martita didn't share any of her personal story in her demo and because of that, it was her time to go home.
As always, I like to challenge myself with what I might have cooked in such a challenge and have come back to Martie's parchment bundles. I have a recipe for these that is simply to die for - healthy, fresh, and easy that I know you will enjoy!
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