Sunday night’s episode of “The Next Food Network Star” (seriously, is this season dragging on a bit) featured cereal and foodies. The first challenge, announced by “mentor” Giada Di Laurentiis, was one in which they had to make a dish using Kellogg’s cereals, and the chefs each drew knives to determine which cereal they would be using. They would have just 20 minutes to prepare a dish and 30 seconds to present it on camera. And oh yeah, last season’s winner, Melissa D’Arabian, was on hand to help judge.

Random thought….the little name thingy on the screen presented Tom as “unemployed chef”…ha! Dude is using this show as his job interview, not because he wants to be a star, but because he needs a job!

Herb had Fruit Loops and made French toast with it…Aarti made a quinoa pilaf with All Bran (holy make-sure-you-have-a-toilet-nearby Batman!)…Serena made pork “meat loaf” with Cocoa Krispies…Aria made something called hopple popple (what?) with Crispix…Tom made a Corn Flake crusted pork sandwich…and Brad made Rice Krispies crusted tuna. The worst of the bunch were Serena, who didn’t say the name of the cereal correctly and also called these little patties meat loaves. Oh, and she started singing and it was really bad! Aria made a dish that no one had ever heard of, and it didn’t look or taste good. She’s losing it on camera suddenly as well. Finally, they didn’t like Tom’s lackluster presentation but loved his sandwich.

Aarti was declared the winner for taste and presentation, and her prize was to lead the team in the elimination challenge. That challenge was to serve 40 foodies at a supper club. Each person was responsible for one part of the meal and they had to present that dish to the foodies one at a time. Aarti’s idea was to have the dishes represent different parts of Los Angeles. Pretty good idea if it could be executed properly.

Anyway, Aria made carrot soup with spices but while Aarti introduced her, Aria stepped in and interrupted her, trying to sabotage Aarti but looking like a fool in the process. And wow, these foodies… could cut the collective ego with a knife through the TV. Anyway, they weren’t crazy about the soup or with Serena’s pasta and eggplant. Tom’s pan seared black cod with Asian veggies and flavors fell very flat and his presentation sucked just as it did in the first challenge.

Brad made spice rubbed lamb chops that he couldn’t get cooked properly until he threw them on the grill, and his food was well-liked, but he stumbled on his presentation a bit. Aarti made green curry chicken which Bobby Flay especially loved, and her presentation was pretty good. Herb finished with a flan but it was overcooked despite a good presentation.

Aarti was the winner of the night, and the judges appreciated her leadership ability as well. What, is this “The Apprentice” now? Brad was also commended and both he and Aarti were safe. The judges sent Tom, Serena, Herb and Aria away so they could deliberate. They told Herb he shouldn’t skimp on cooking equipment, and told Aria she shouldn’t try and sabotage another chef and also to get off the mediocrity train. But they were both safe.

So down to Tom and Serena. Tom did great the last few challenges but fell very flat this time, and he is just too scattered at times. But Serena kept making the same mistakes–she didn’t come across as an expert and she kept trying to overcompensate by flying through her presentations and “acting”…..making all of us uncomfortable. The singing was probably the last straw. Remember when Bob Tuschman heard Lisa Garza sing and looked like the president of Atlantic Records finding a star? This time, he made a face like he had just drank some sour milk. So Serena was sent home, to Italy, or Russia, or wherever she’s from.

Anyway, we’re now down to five–Tom, Aarti, Aria, Brad and Herb. I think Aarti has jumped way out in front of everyone else, and the other four are all probably also-rans. But we’ll see how it all shakes out in the next few weeks! Thanks for reading and see you all next week….