The Next Food Network Star – Episode 6-8 Review

“Emotion” was the clear theme for this week, and a common one among the contestants was “fear” – of being eliminated. Except for Tom, everyone made some mistakes that could’ve easily sent them home.

At first, contestants thought they only had to make and present a “signature” dish that conveyed their point of view for the Camera Challenge. However, midway through their cooking time, Giada announces a twist where they have to use their least favorite ingredient…brought to them by their loved ones. Aria and Herb had been deeply  missing their children, so their emotion affected their presentation in different ways. Herb’s reaction caused him to stumble, but Aria went on to win the challenge. Personally, I thought Tom should’ve won this one. I liked his presentation best and the judges thought his dish was fantastic. Aria’s food impressed, but in my opinion she still came off as condescending and fake.

But, Aria did win, so she had an advantage in the Star Challenge. The contestants were given an emotion they had to convey in their dish, then explain the connection in their presentation at Beso restaurant. Aria was given the option of switching her emotion with someone else, so she switched her “melancholy” with Herb’s “joy” (the move worked against her since the judges didn’t get the “joy” in her presentation). Contestants then had the extra pressure of presenting to guest judges Chef Todd English and Desperate Housewives actress Eva Longoria.

Side note – this marks Giada’s departure from the competition until a winner is picked. So I guess there won’t be any more one-on-one sessions. Oh well. Honestly, I’m not sure what she added to the season other than that one session a few weeks ago – and hosting the Camera Challenges, which any one of the other judges could have done.

Ranking the contestants is getting progressively harder. Brad, who ended up going home this week, wasn’t even in my bottom two last week. So keep in mind that since we’re getting to the end, the judges’ decision is based more and more on the contestants’ most recent performance. I have no choice but to base my rankings on what the contestants have done so far, so keep in mind that, really, anyone could go home at this point.

1st Place

Still Aarti Sequeira. Yeah, yeah, she stumbled a little this week, the judges are fed up with her lack of confidence, whatever. We all know and the judges know that she’s already won this thing. The only way she could possibly lose is if she steadily declines, and someone else steadily improves, from now until the finale.

2nd Place

I really hesitate to put Herb Mesa here. Every episode he seems to take one step forward and one step back. This week, his Camera Challenge dish disappointed, but he aced the Star Challenge. He could either make it to the end, or be sent home if next week is one of his off weeks.

3rd Place

Definitely Tom Pizzica…unless he has another bad week. He’s another unpredictable one. This week, he was totally amazing, and his tuna story was incredibly creative. As I’ve said before, he’s my favorite contestant and I hope he makes the top two. Heck, if I’m hoping for stuff, I hope he wins. But he’ll only get to the top two if Herb and Aarti have a couple of bad weeks.

4th Place

If nobody else completely messes up next week, Aria Kagan should be going home. At this point, her clearly fake on-camera persona and mediocre at best food needs to go.

Who Went Home

While it was a little bit of a shock than Brad Sorenson went home, at the same time it’s been coming for a while. The guy just settled on a show concept this episode. And sure, he got a bunch of fans after the Sinatra challenge, but to be honest I wasn’t so quick to join the Brad-wagon (hehe, Brad-wagon, bandwagon, get it…yeah, okay). Though he aced that presentation, he still had yet to relax and be interesting on camera. And think of it this way  Brianna delivered excellent food every single week, but get sent home before him only because of her on camera personality. Brad’s made a few culinary mistakes, and his on-camera presentations were consistently lacking. It was his time to go home.