The Next Food Network Star – Episode 6-9 Review

This week, the top four were flown to New York City, then thrown into Iron Chef America’s Kitchen Stadium. However, they weren’t there to take on an Iron Chef of their choosing – instead, they had to battle each other. And take a turn as battle commentator.

The remaining contestants were brought into Kitchen Stadium, then given a good dose of intimidation as the Iron Chefs and Alton Brown stood in a line before them. More surprise, and less intimidating guests were brought in – the last four eliminated contestants, Brad, Serena, Brianna, and Paul, who would be serving as the current contestants’ sous chefs. Since Tom won last week, he was allowed to pick his sous chef, and wisely chose excellent chef Brianna. The others were paired up based on names pulled out of a bucket – Aarti/Brad, Aria/Serena, and Herb/Paul.

Herb and Aarti were paired for a head-to-head battle over shrimp, then Tom and Aria had to fight it out with bacon. Come on now, how is that fair? Shrimp can easily be made into a main dish, while bacon is usually always a side. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it seems that they wanted to make sure that Herb and Aarti did well, and that Tom and/or Aria tripped up. But those are just my thoughts.

If my theory is right, then as expected, Aria’s downfall soon followed. Granted, she was going home this episode no matter what, but she spectacularly tanked this challenge. While Aarti and Herb were the first to square off over battle shrimp, Aria struggled to come up with something to say every time Alton addressed her.  Then, while her dishes weren’t as disastrous as Tom’s experiments,  they weren’t Iron Chef caliber either. Since she and Tom got battle bacon, and was determined to show her POV, she served a “family style” breakfast. While it did look like something you’d see on an average family breakfast table (French toast, omelets, etc.) her meal was just that – average, with no creativity whatsoever.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that Tom took the spirit of Iron Chef head on. Okay, so none of his dishes worked out. But man, if he perfected that Bacon Cake, I swear I’d try it. They all sounded good in theory and deserve to be experimented with later, which speaks volumes about Tom’s creative potential. And that, paired with his excellent commentary, was what convinced the judges to keep him on for the finale.

Since next week is the finale, I’ll just give you my thoughts on each contestant’s chance to take the title.

Aarti Sequeira: The Iron Chefs and the judges just about gushed over her shrimp dishes. Her commentary wasn’t great, but as I’ve said before, we all know she’s going to win. The judges have been in love with her for a while now.  It’ll be a huge shock if either of the other two win. Which is a shame because honestly, I wouldn’t watch her show. She hasn’t interested me once since the beginning. And just wearing a different flower in her hair every episode will be enough to turn me off.

Herb Mesa: Despite his screw ups here and there, he’s bound to be second place. His commentary and his food were decent (or at least, his food was more tasty than Tom’s), and the judges are in love with his healthy Spanish food POV. Unless of course he messes up his pilot, in which case he could easily be bumped down to third.

Tom Pizzica: I feel like I’m repeating myself, but I really want this guy to win. It won’t happen, though, because in order to do that, he needs to knock his pilot out of the park, and even that might not be enough. Contestants’ dishes made in the pilot will probably be judged as much as presentation, so he doesn’t have an advantage there. Unfortunately, his only chances are for both Aarti and Herb to have a really bad day. Hopefully he’ll end up as a regular FN special host, like Adam Gertler.

Who Went Home

Finally, Aria Kagan was sent home this week after the aforementioned disastrous challenge performance. Can’t think of anything else to add, other than I’m happy we no longer have to hear her annoyingly fake excitement and condescending tone.