The “Orchinator” Proves Even Cougars love Collard Greens!

Orchid’s Chicken and Kellogg's® Eggo® Waffle Appetizer Bites. Photo Credit: Food Network

First up in this past week’s episode of the Next Food Network Star was the camera challenge and a menagerie of Kellogg’s products that are destined to be the featured ingredient in “an impressive and sophisticated bite-size hors d’oeuvre.” Past winner (Season 5) Melissa d’Arabian also told the group that their creation was for a ‘special guest’ who would arrive in 45 minutes. The Kellogg’s products ranged from crackers and cereals to waffles, which was our girl Orchid’s selected product. She hit a home run with her recipe for Chicken and Kellogg’s® Eggo® Waffle Appetizer Bites. Believe me, I am hankering to make this tasty recipe that includes a flavor explosion of cumin, garlic, paprika and even maple syrup and Sriracha hot sauce. Special guest judge and Iron Chef Michael Symon seemed to really relish his role and meeting all the contestants, however, our Orchid’s presentation and critique was not aired so I assume she did quite well, although Jyll won this challenge with her Rice Krispies® crab fritter with Sriracha aioli.

Next up, the contestants were introduced to Bill Lawrence, executive producer of the television show “Cougar Town” as well as Busy Phillips, one of the stars of the show, and are told they would be preparing lunch for the show with criteria based on the likings of the crew and cast. Orchid was teamed with crazy man Chris to cook for the writers (yeah! close to my own heart Orchid!).

Orchid took charge with her wonderfully positive attitude stating that “my goal is to do whatever I can to make sure my team wins.” She set about supporting Chris in settling down and focusing on the task at hand. She even came up with the code phrase “code blue” to use whenever she feels Chris is losing concentration. Chris headed out to get ingredients for himself and Orchid, deciding to create an apple cider and rosemary braised lamb shank with apple demi-glace, marinated Asian pears and a “hard iced tea” to compliment Orchid’s southern inspired dirty rice and collard greens. Since the writers tend to eat “a lot of take out” according to Mr. Lawrence, the Orchid/Chris team has come up with two innovative and delicious dishes to satisfy the writer’s yearning for a real home-cooked meal. Meanwhile the other contestants compete their shopping and the Star Challenge begins. Orchid and Chris are excited about their recipes and ingredients. Orchid’s team confidence shines.

Repeat after me: Code Blue! After a frozen-lamb fiasco in the kitchen, Chris and Orchid's team — tasked with cooking for the writers — remains cool and collected. Photo credit: Food Network.

As team Orchid/Chris begin their recipes, Chris is surprised that his lamb is still partially frozen but before he panics, Orchid gives him a “code blue’ and Chris settles down, calling Orchid his “Orchinator.” Even though this is a tough competition Orchid rises above the drama, demonstrating both terrific management skills and a sense of calm – all the while on camera and under the pressure of getting her recipe completed on time. She even has a moment to wonder who the “special guest” will be – and who strolls in but current Southern cooking queen, Paula Deen.

Over at the Cougar Town set, the contestants set up their stations and the tasting begins. Paula and Bobby Flay take a first look with each team and Paula jokes that the only thing missing from Orchid’s collards may be “some butter.” Of course they all laugh (Paula is known for her love of butter). Next up the official tasting and then the presentations begin. Orchid and Chris were up first and although Orchid “got starstruck” (her exact words) at first, Chris jumped on in and Orchid followed up describing her dirty rice and collards. Paula Deen even commented how good the collards tasted and Giada chimed in that Orchid “can certainly cook some Southern food” and they all agreed it was delicious. Even Courtney Cox (she’s from Alabama…who knew?) said that they were “amazing.”

All in all Orchid did very well and after all the other presentations, which included meatloaf, tofu and a slightly burnt mac-n-cheese compliments of Penny, Justin B. was eliminated due to his surprisingly lackluster tuna dish and poor presentation skills. Those delicious collards put Orchid in the winners circle (again!) so she heads to next week’s competition which, from the previews, includes a July 4th holiday theme, Guy Fieri and some Penny versus Mary Beth fireworks as well. Being July 4th perhaps there will some barbeque too – another opportunity for Team Orchid to sparkle. Be sure to support Orchid by voting for her on the fan favorite page!