The next installment of The Next Food Network Star took a decidedly dramatic turn for our girl Orchid. After dominating the first show, Orchid basically grew a target on her back –with one fellow contestant, Penny, ready to take her out as the front-runner. This episode was a surprise double-elimination (actually not that surprising since they have so many contestants this season) starting with a pizza challenge. And oh yes, this challenge included an on-the–fly presentation with each contestant explaining on camera how their pizza creation showcases their “culinary point of view.” Needless to say, several contestants had their tongues twisted or were so walloped with stage fright they froze on camera. Orchid was not one of them however, and she did well, but poor Juba was sent packing. Orchid’s pizza – a deep dish pie with chicken, spinach, mozzarella and BBQ sauce passed muster with the fussy judges.
After the pizza pallooza, which Penny won with an interesting Middle Eastern pie, the setup was complete for the “Star Challenge” pitting the would-be culinary luminaries against each other to recreate accessible renditions of three fancy fine-dining dishes for the home cook. The three recipes included a braised short rib, an abalone & caviar concoction and a pork belly dish.
Penny was allowed to select which of the three dishes her fellow contestants would
prepare. She surmised that Orchid was the one to beat so she assigned Orchid to the abalone – the most difficult dish to interpret of the three due to the main ingredient’s obscurity. Penny even admitted (on camera) her strategy was to knock out Orchid by not only putting her on the toughest dish but to team her with the three loudest, most obnoxious contestants: Justin B., Vic and Chris so she would become stressed out and be off her game.
This Star Challenge was also defined by those in attendance including several Food Network Superstars: Scott Conant, Anne Burrell and Pat and Gina Neely, as well as regular judges Giada, Bobby, Susie and Bob. The entire panel was allowed to question the contestants while they worked leading some contestants to shine (like Mary Beth), some to attempt to show off (Chris) and some to embarrass themselves by their lack of skill (Katy). And even though Orchid’s dish was not chosen the winner (mainly because she had to use canned oysters), she held her own with the judges (Side note to Ann Burrell: it was not necessary use the word ‘hairball”) and was spared even being relegated to the bottom three.
Next time, I hope Orchid will put her game face on with the other contestants – in the kitchen and otherwise. She definitely has the judges and the fans favor both in front of the camera and with the recipes she has created so far. With Katy’s departure and a win for Justin B. in the last star challenge it looks like the contest will be wide open next week. The preview showed an excited Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes (and Ace of Cakes fame) and the always entertaining Hilton Head Island restaurateur (and Food Network Star) Robert Irvine busting onto the set with a dessert themed challenge. This should be quite good because as foodies realize, baking and dessert making are for most chefs a whole distinct cooking genre unto themselves. For most culinary professionals, never the two shall meet so we’ll see how Orchid fares in this exciting challenge. I’m sure she’ll be able to reach beyond her comfort zone and step out the box with a winning entry. Go Orchid – we believe in you! Orchid is still the fan favorite and you can vote for her online on the Food Network website.