Nothing like being thrown into the fire. On episode 3 of “The Next Food Network Star” last night, the contestants were again given very difficult challenges that asked them to show their stuff on camera. Being that the show is being filmed in Hollywood this season, it makes sense, but they are really going to make someone earn it this time around.

The episode began with Guy Fieri, who won Season 2 of this show and has seen his career launch into the stratosphere, introduced as guest judge this week, filling in for Bobby Flay. He and mentor Giada Di Laurentiis asked each chef to pick from a box of popcorn in front of them, a movie genre that they would then have to create a dish around and present to an audience.

The best was Aarti, who had the horror genre, and made a “tacky meatloaf,” with a fake eyeball and everything. She also presented it brilliantly, showing she is going to be a contender in this thing. The worst were DAS and Paul. DAS had the foreign film theme, and made tacos that were too dry and delivered his dish too tentatively on camera; and Paul had the drama genre, and made pepper crusted steak with truffle oil, but couldn’t give a good reason why that dish represented drama. Nice.

Next up was their elimination challenge, and for this they would have a red carpet set up at the Highlands Club, complete with paparazzi and everything. There would be a party held for Grammy winning recording artist Colbie Caillat, and the chefs would be catering the party. They would be broken into pairs–with each being given one ingredient at random. Each chef would make one dish, and they would have to collaborate on a third dish with their teammate based on their ingredients. Of course, they would be judged both on the food and the delivery.

The best of the night was Brianna and Herb. Brianna made a pork with fennel chutney, and Herb made a beer marinated flank steak. Their mutual dish was bruschetta with beer fondue. They also called themselves Team Sexy, which was mildly amusing but mostly annoying. Anyway, the judges liked Brianna and Herb the best overall.

Next was Brad and Aarti. Brad made a chocolate seared pork and Aarti a talleggio cheese toast. Their shared dish was a beef skewer with cheese and chocolate sauce. As always, Brad wasn’t great on camera and his food wasn’t the best, but he was carried by Aarti a bit.

Tom and DAS were third best according to the judges. Tom made a banana and avocado mousse, and DAS made a fried pancetta cabbage. Their team dish was tempura battered banana with jerk cabbage, and unfortunately this was deemed the worst dish of the night by the judges. However, these two guys did well on their individual dishes and were decent at presenting them.

The bottom two teams were Dzintra/Aria, and Paul/Serena. Does anyone else think Serena seems more Russian than Italian? Anyway, Dzintra made a beef with mushroom gravy, and Aria a blueberry napoleon. Their combined dish was a salad with mushrooms and blueberry vinaigrette. But it got ugly when, while Aria was talking, Dzintra shushed her like she was a 5-year old. Nice. But not good in the eyes of the judges at all.

Paul made a parsnip slaw with shrimp, and Serena a crusted mozzarella. Their team dish was a tenderloin with parsnip slaw and peanut sauce. Just like with Dzintra and Aarti, the judges felt Paul was condescending to Serena at one point. Also, Serena had had her foot stepped on by Brianna by accident and was in pain.

So it was down to Aria, Dzintra, Paul and Serena. The first two to safety were Aria and Serena, probably based on their overall body of work so far. So it was between Paul and Dzintra. Paul was safe, Dzintra was going home. Man, this woman is weird. And it finally caught up to her and blew up in her face. It might have helped if she was a better cook, but even that was lacking most of the time.

Okay, we’re now down to nine contestants and rolling right along. More drama and fun to follow! See you guys back here next week….