Sunday’s episode of “The Next Food Network Star” featured two instances of “Too Much Information (TMI),” and one of them was the reason for a contestant to be eliminated. The final five chefs gathered at the Jet Blue terminal at JFK Airport, feeling good and excited about their trip to Miami, where they would participate in a larger Food Network celebration of sun and decadence. But of course, there was a challenge attached to their airport experience, and along with network star Ted Allen, chef Michael Coury from OTG, the company that runs the restaurants in the terminal, was on hand to help assist and judge. There are a few different cuisines available in the terminal, and each contestant was assigned a cuisine to re-create their own dish. Jeffrey had Italian, Melissa had tapas, Michael French, Jamika sushi and Debbie steakhouse.
Jamika went first and she made a seared tuna salad with a miso vinaigrette. It looked like a decent salad but the judges were a bit underwhelmed and not impressed with a lack of creativity. She also made a comment in her presentation about airline food and “the toilet not being your friend” on flights. Are you kidding me? Ted Allen called it TMI and he was correct.
Debbie went next and while she had the steakhouse fare, she instead copped out by making a spinach salad. I was feeling like this would backfire, and her biggest advocate, Susie Fogelson, asked point blank, “where’s the steak?”
Jeffrey made a bruschetta with basil and a poached egg that looked pretty awesome. The judges loved his dish and his presentation.
Melissa made some sort of chicken/chorizo/potato dish that, frankly, looked amazing. I had that same feeling as I did last season when Aaron McCargo Jr. made those bacon wrapped potatoes, that I wanted to jump through the TV and eat it. Melissa gave an interesting presentation in which she mentioned that she grew up in a Spanish-speaking household and they loved her food too.
Michael tried making oysters but since they basically can only use small or butter knives in airports, he couldn’t shuck them. So he instead made a shrimp and clam dish with a frisee salad. The judges didn’t like the execution or his presentation, and Michael was named the worst of the five. Yikes.
Jeffrey, meanwhile, won the challenge and his prizes were 1) to have his item on the menu at the Italian restaurant in the terminal, and 2) to assign tasks at the main challenge.
After landing and seeing their awesome digs at the Eden Roc Hotel in Miami, they met Ted Allen in the lobby, where he assigned the main challenge. They would have to work as a team to cater a cocktail party at club Nikki Beach for a bunch of random guests as well as Allen and the show’s judges Bobby Flay, Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson. They had a $1500 budget and each chef had to create two appetizers, and the team had to come up with a cocktail. Jeffrey assigned Michael to tend bar, himself to greet guests and Debbie, who is a caterer, to run the kitchen with Jamika and Melissa helping.
Debbie was in her own world, only focusing on her own two dishes, while Michael was having a great time behind the bar and Jeffrey was right at home greeting guests. But the food wasn’t coming out fast enough, and the overall service suffered.
Debbie, despite bringing her team down and not taking responsibility for the poor service, had the best food of the night, according to the judges, with her passion fruit chicken kabobs and Korean beef torta with daikon radishes. Did I mention Debbie is Korean? She didn’t but she mentioned it enough the first few weeks so that we would remember, and then made another Korean dish in the episode.
Jeffrey made crab tostadas but used store-bought tortilla chips. Big no-no, and Allen called him out on it. He also made Cuban bites, which the judges were okay with but not bowled over by. Jeffrey did a nice job serving and greeting but it wasn’t enough to overcome a slow kitchen.
Melissa made three dishes–chicken bites, some sort of seafood “shooters,” and a grilled vegetable appetizer. She made reference to the fact that someone should have a vegetarian dish, and that one was a big hit with the judges and guests. Allen commended her on having a veggie option, and while making three dishes was maybe too ambitiious, she claimed that the third one was the veggie option, and was worthwhile.
Jamika made jerk chicken and Flay called her out on it not being spicy enough…she also made a mango shrimp with slaw on top that everyone loved.
Michael’s dishes could not match his intensity. He made a margarita marinated salmon tartare that the judges said was flavorless, and a fried shrimp that also didn’t go over well. All this from a guy who has wowed everyone with his food so far. Michael also made a comment to the judges about not liking being in front of a camera. Oops….there is the second instance of TMI. Dude, you’re fighting for a job that pits you in front of a FREAKING CAMERA for a living.
Anyway, the group drink was a chile margarita, but again Flay complained about the lack of spice, saying that Miami folks can handle more heat. At the chopping block, Jeffrey complained that the dishes everyone came up with were too complicated, and that created chaos in the kitchen. He also said that he thought Debbie would do a better job running the kitchen with her catering experience. Debbie then proceeded to say she was doing too much, but everyone else pointed out that Debbie was only concerned with Debbie. And that was accurate. Tuschman called her out because Jamika and Melissa helped with Jeffrey and Michael’s dishes and Debbie didn’t. In all, the judges though there was too much “overpromising.”
Jamika was the first one to safety, as the judges said her dishes were well-liked even though the chicken wasn’t spicy enough. Melissa was also safe, and she is a strong contender week after week. Jeffrey was next, and he is also a contender.
So it was down to Michael and Debbie. Debbie, who has been championed by Susie each week, made killer dishes that everyone loved, but she once again showed a dark side–that of a liar and manipulator, and it made everyone uncomfortable. I’m seeing shades of JAG from two seasons ago. Michael, meanwhile, made a critical error with his “camera” admission and for that, as well as for his flavorless salmon, got him booted off this week. I think Michael had this coming, though he could do really well with his own show and I think he’d be extremely entertaining. He agrees with me, because he said so on his way out, but dude needs to take some lessons on how to make nice with the camera. Meanwhile, Debbie dodged a bullet and the judges have basically warned her of that. Being Korean and being up Susie’s butt can only take you so far, so she and Jamika will likely be the next to exit.
What do you all think? We’re down to the final four, yo!