Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Lovely Returns for Redemption - Next Food Network Star Season 9, Episode 8

This week's episode opened with Russell's decision to go with sin as his main culinary point of view - this after the mentors expressed confusion last week over whether he was a rebel or a sinner because, apparently, you can't be both.

As a professed sinner (and lover of bourbon), his decision to stick with the devil made me happy. In today's dairy free, scent free, wheat free, sugar free, sanity free world, I relish the idea of lascivious culinary indulgence and hope Russell will go all in with it as the competition continues. Horseradish ice cream? I think so!

Next came the announcement I've been waiting for all season: Seven departed finalists have been competing under the stewardship of Robert Irvine in something called "Star Salvation." If you've been following along from the beginning, you know I've been waiting for this ever since Viet was sent home - so imagine my disappointment when Lovely walked back into the kitchen.

Nothing against her, as I'm sure she's, well, lovely. It's just that I really wanted to see Viet or Chad return - but that's life in the reality food zone. You never know what you're going to get.

Speaking of which, tonight's mentor's challenge, which required the finalists take pasta and whip it up into their best Italian dish, came with a surprise. Part of the challenge involved the chefs giving their dishes a mouth watering description that would make the mentors hungry; but the twist was that they would not be describing their own dishes. Instead they were tasked with describing the dish of one of the other finalists.

Though some of the finalists did well with describing the dishes of their fellow contestants, Nikki hit it out of the park with her description of Russell's sinful concoction of Veal Sugo and as challenge winner had an advantage going into the star challenge.

As an aside, not only did I love Nikki's dish this week, it inspired a new recipe from me. Shrimp Linguini with Burst Tomatoes and Fresh Basil.

The Star Challenge

The finalists were divided into two teams of three, and Nikki's advantage was that she got to choose who would be with her. She went with girl power and chose Damaris and Stacey - leaving Russell, Rodney and Lovely on the other team. Each group would be going on the road to write, produce, and direct a segment about a popular eating establishment.

The women got a donut shop called The Donut Man, and the other team got Vito's Pizzaeria featuring pizza dough made with 500 year old home made yeast.

Russell did a great job with his presentation and even though he referred to the 500 year old yeast as a culinary sin, he was still engaging. I also really enjoyed Rodney's presentation this episode and can see now that this is where he shines - one on one with people, making conversation, and flying off the cuff. To me, this was Rodney at hist best - just being himself.  I would also like to go on record one more time, by saying that I still think his pie kits are a genius idea.

Gaff tape notwithstanding.

On the other team, Nikki kept everyone organized and focused and we saw Damaris shine - which is nothing new. She's amazing. The end.

Not so much for Stacey, though, who is also amazing - just not this episode. She got too caught up in her head about wanting to get everything right and one of the things she's going to need to be careful about is to trust the process. This can be difficult for a planner - to just let things flow - and the interesting thing is that where she tripped up, Rodney and Damaris excelled. Conversely, in past challenges where Stacey shined, Rodney and Damaris struggled. I think this gives us a really good indication of the level of skill (and emotional fortitude) it takes to make it on a show like this.

In the end, the challenge winners were Nikki, Damaris, and Stacey. Though the other team did a good job all the way around, Lovely didn't make enough of a connection with the people she interviewed in her piece and for that reason, was sent home.

I would like to say, however, that she deserves many kudos for fighting her way back. There is no doubt she is a great cook and an engaging person.


If you enjoy reading food related fiction, pop by and check out my hilarious new web series "Starring Samantha."

Samantha Wentworth's catering business goes belly up along with her marriage to cut throat divorce attorney Alan Wentworth. To recoup her losses she applies to be on a reality TV show, falls in love with the married producer, just about kills the pompous chef host, and gets herself into all kinds of other interesting predicaments. 

Stay tuned Saturdays for this brand new serial on The Kitchen Witch! I'll be basing the characters off of well known food world celebs to keep you guessing! Each installment will come with a signature cocktail, recipes, and a fun question and answer to include you in the plot twists - so be sure to bookmark The Kitchen Witch and come along for a fun, food related, romantic romp through the world of reality TV!

Click here to read Episode 1: Samantha Drowns her Sorrows in a Vodka Gimlet 



Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

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