This week's mentor's challenge hit close to home because I've participated in something similar: to create and market a food product that would reflect each finalists brand - and as they all got cooking and creating it was fun to see how they conceptualized their products.
One of my favourites this episode was Russell, and Giada's comment, "C'mon, give it to me," in response to his ice cream seemed like poetic justice, given that Russell has run in the middle and bottom of the pack for much of this competition - but it was his candied bacon idea that caught the attention of the mentors. It reminds me a bit of a Vancouver Island treat called "Candied Salmon" - a sweet, savoury, smoky concoction that's difficult to stop eating once you start. The only difference being, candied salmon is heart healthy and candied bacon, not so much.
Some other notable ideas: Rodney created easy to assemble "pie kits" for baking "from scratch" style pies at home, and Demaris, who I'm falling more and more in love with each week, made a spicy, chili infused peach jam that I'm totally going to copy this year during peach season.
The Marketing Challenge
From there the finalists went to work with a marketing team in order to come up with a name and strategy for their products. I'm struck as I write this how much the world of food related entertainment has become about branded content. I guess, though, it's really no different than the good old days when a radio show would be "brought to you by Ovaltine" or why soap operas were thusly named because they were vehicles to sell laundry soap.
Today's brands included executives from Kellogg's, Kraft, and Target and as the finalists put together strategies to market their products, I felt for Nikki and Chad who weren't quite hitting it out of the park the way they normally do. This stage of the competition, I would think, must be hard. Away from home, out of your element, and subjected to constant critique, Nikki and Chad seemed lower energy this episode than usual and I hope they'll both have their mojo back next week.
Here is a list of the offerings the finalists came up with.
Rodney: Pie kits featuring the makings of a spinach and goat cheese quiche in a sealer jar with coat hanger handles attached to the jar with gaff tape.
Demaris: Peach jam in old fashioned sealer jars with raffia and an attached recipe.
Russell: Candied Bacon with a flying pig on the label
Chris: Smoked Apple Ketchup
Nikki: Roasted Pepper Sauce
Chad: Big Boys BBQ Beans in a clear glass jar
Stacey: Hot Mama Butterscotch to reflect her modern vintage point of view.
When the finalists made their pitches, the executives found Russell endearing and seemed to love his concept, Stacey came off as being too practiced, and Demaris, who went in using Stacey's idea to script herself, fell a bit flat. The execs, however, loved her packaging. Not so much for Rodney and his gaff taped jars, though - but they did, however, love his crust (and I still think it's a really good idea).
In the end Demaris, Stacey, and Russell were the favourites and were sent to safety. Chad, Nikki, and Rodney lived to cook another day, and Chris was sent home.
Stay tuned next Tuesday for more Food Network fun and come back tomorrow for another fabulous, easy, and tasty Weekday Wednesday dish!
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