10 Thoughts On The Next Food Network Star [Season 5, Episode 5]

1) This week is the Rachael Ray episode. Rachael does not show up for a half-episode. This week’s entire episode will be based around her. Rachael Ray apparently has a “Yum-O” organization that teaches people how to trick kids in to eating vegetables. In this challenge, the contestants will have to take an ingredient that kids traditionally don’t like and make it in to something they’ll eat. Their judges are Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray herself, and three kids. This is an individual challenge but each ingredient was given to two people.

2) Jamika/Jeffrey — Tofu. Jeffrey decides to make “tofu nuggets” with spaghetti and tomato sauce. Jamika decides to make a snack wrap and cut up the tofu to the size of corn and hide it. Jeffrey’s presentation is great, speaking to kids on their level and making them laugh with fun bits like tossing greens over his shoulder to get them out of his dish. Jamika gets a little too in to her presentation and runs out of time before presenting her dish. Even the little boy pointed out that she should have “gotten on with it.” Jeffrey made a dish that featured the ingredient and made it tasty. Jamika copped out and hid the tofu. Jeffrey’s presentation was much better. He wins round tofu.

3) Melissa/Michael — Brussels sprouts. Mommy Melissa knows how to fool kids in to eating vegetables and decides to smash the brussels sprouts in to mashed potatoes. In the confessional, she gives great tips that she forgets to give in the presentation like “hide vegetables with a texture they know”. Michael decides on a brussels sprouts grilled cheese sandwich but he doesn’t mention that in the presentation. He actually presents fried brussels sprout puppets and a tomato soup. Melissa’s dish hit the challenge a bit better. I mean — deep frying brussels sprouts does technically hide them and make kids want them, but I don’t know that they really still qualify as “healthy”. Melissa’s dish was also much easier to make. Puree brussels sprouts with cream cheese and mix them in with potatoes. Easy stuff. Unfortunately, she misjudges how quickly two minutes vanish and didn’t explain her dish very well or get in all her Mommy Tips. But, she was better than Michael who again went short and had to awkwardly stretch on top of getting jittery and repeating himself. Michael’s idea of “just winging it” in these presentations clearly doesn’t work and he really needs to reassess. Melissa wins round sprout.

4) Katie/Debbie — squid. Katie makes citrus marinated squid in a saute. Debbie makes calimari rings and sweet potato chips. For a second straight week, Katie nails the presentation to the kids over emphasizing things, comparing things to candy, and turning the presentation in to a lesson about the colors of the rainbow. I thought that using the pepper as a bowl (I hated peppers when I was kid) was a bad idea but the kids seemed to like it. She successfully spoke around the fact there was even calimari in it. Great. Superasian’s presentation falls apart but she does successfully mention that she’s Korean. Again. The kids also think her soy sauce sweet potatoes are much better than her calimari-rings. Round squid goes to Katie.

5) Rachel gave pretty positive presentation reviews to everyone except Jamika. There was no announced winner but in the official Ten Thoughts Power Rankings it was Jeffrey, Katie, Melissa, Michael, Debbie, Jamika. The kids loved Jeffrey’s tofu nuggets and his presentation was definitely the funniest and most kid-friendly. Katie would be a close second for getting every thing in under 2 minutes, hitting her mark at the end, and really communicating with kids on their level. Rachael presents their second challenge. The same “teams” will be on her show and they’ll have take dishes traditionally for kids and put an adult twist on them.

6) Katie/Debbie — mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. I call shenanigans on mac and cheese being a kid’s dish. We eat non-Kraft mac and cheese two or three times a month. Katie’s half of this dish is a marinated, baked chicken nugget. Superasian decides she’s going to put a Korean twist on mac and cheese. But she is Korean, you know. And FINALLY Bobby Flay recognizes that she says “Korean” in every presentation without actually doing anything Korean. There is no Korean twist to put on mac and cheese. It’s pasta and cheese. There is no Korean cheese. Katie had trouble engaging the camera and stared down at the dish. This is one of those things you don’t notice until someone is bad at it. Katie stares down at what she’s doing instead of engaging the camera. Superasian continues her “innocent” conspiracy to make everyone look bad as she takes the dish that will place her closest to Rachael while leaving the heavy mixing, marinating, and distracting stuff to Katie. Also, she leaves Katie with a dish, chicken, that’s much easier to screw up then mac and cheese — which involves melting cheese in a pan and pouring it over pasta. If anyone thinks I’m making this up and she’s not evil ask yourself the following: Why would the Superkorean take a dish, mac and cheese, that there is literally no way to fit in to her Asian style? Wouldn’t it have made much more sense for her to put a Korean twist on chicken nuggets (with some kind of panko/soy/ginger breading) while Katie tried to put a healthy twist on a traditionally fattening dish? At the same time, placing herself closer to Rachael so she can interact with her and banishing Katie off to the side? She is an evil genius.

7) Michael/Melissa — tomato soup and grilled cheese skewers. I didn’t really love the idea of the grilled cheese skewers. They also do a jazzed up tomato-and-basil soup. This presentation alternated between high and low points. Melissa opened with a great “I have four toddlers at home so I promise this will be easy” and then went in to this super-intense lesson where she hardly engaged the camera and, when she did, looked severe and angry. Michael barely said anything at all. But, they pulled everything together in the last thirty seconds and closed well after realizing they should be playing off each other and having fun.

8) Jeffrey/Jamika — hot dogs and baked beans. These two were a terrible team right from the start. Neither of them could work with the other. Instead of sitting down and planning a menu, they each had their own idea and wouldn’t compromise in to a good dish. They settled on a chorizo and shrimp hot dog with rice and beans. Jeffrey tries to tell her that rice and beans are not in any way, shape, or form baked beans. So, she does the grown-up thing and complains to Melissa and Katie instead of talking to Jeffrey. Their presentation was terrible as Jeffrey opens it and Jamika refuses to jump in at any point. This has the effect of making Jeffrey look like he’s dominating the entire thing when it’s really because she isn’t offering anything. She’s totally checked out of this challenge after not getting her own way on the dish and sulks through the presentation and the confessional. This was, by far, the worst presentation of anything we’ve seen on this episode and it will actually be an arrestable offense if Jamika doesn’t get sent home.

9) In the elimination room, the judging takes an unexpected turn as the committee laces in to Katie for being condescending during the children’s presentation and not being engaging in the Rachael challenge. So, even though her children’s presentation was the only one that fit in to the given time, hit all the high points, and was genuinely good, Susie and Bob are complaining that they found her presentation to children too condescending. Have they ever watched a children’s show? Being overly excited and explaining things like you’d explain them to a ten-year-old is pretty much OK when you are, in fact, EXPLAINING THINGS TO TEN-YEAR-OLDS. Both Rachael and Bobby disagree with the marketing people (uh-oh) because apparently neither of them can detach enough to see that presenting to a child is an entirely different skill than presenting to adults. Tuschman makes excuses for Jamika (double uh-oh) but Susie says she doesn’t feel bad for her because she could have asserted herself at any time. Amazingly, Superasian is ranked ahead of her teammate Katie (triple uh-oh) even though Katie had a better two weeks by every single possible measure except “having a conversation with Rachael Ray while making cheese sauce” and “setting up everyone she’s worked with in the last three weeks to fail while being carefully edited to make it not appear that way”.

10) And they decide to eliminate Katie over Jamika which is why, by and large, this show is a joke. My predicted elimination order is still fully intact but Jamika had an insultingly bad week to still be in the competition. She didn’t fit the her presentation in to the first challenge. She didn’t make a kid-friendly dish out of tofu. She was a child with Jeffrey when it came to planning their meal. She refused to engage the live camera. She refused to stand up for herself and, by extension, planned a terrible meal. In addition, she made an almost inedible dish on the USS Intrepid and blew Bobby’s Burger Challenge. Over the last two weeks, Katie presented well, has shown a world of growth since the first episodes instead of weekly regression like Jamika, could present to kids, made a dish the kids liked, and actually did something in her Rachael Ray presentation gets sent home. For two consecutive weeks, Katie has run circles around Jamika. Katie’s final confessional of “the judges are looking to fit a certain profile and I’m not it” is more cutting then I think she even intended.

I occasionally wonder if the Tuschman and Fogelson realize exactly how transparent their decisions are to the viewing audience or if they are largely ignorant of it. As I watched this through again, I’m almost convinced they made up the entire thing about Katie’s “condescending presentation” to create some sort of justification other than “profiling.” She had one issue in Rachael’s presentation — failing to look up at the audience. This is what eliminated her? Apparently, they learned no lesson last season and Debbie is going to be handed the title this year, regardless of who deserves it.

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