June 22, 2008 09:47 PM by Lisa Stauber
The Next Food Network Star has not been determined yet, but the field is narrowing. Last week, Jeffrey was eliminated because of bland soul food. This week, the chefs will be challenged with fish and seafood.
The First Challenge
Tyler Florence is on hand to put the chefs through their paces. The assignment? Show America how to cook, with each contestant drawing a distinct task. Lisa trusses a chicken, and she’s competent,if not engaging. Nipa is supposed to clean a fresh squid, and she has no idea what she’s doing. She’s giggly but more alive than last week, even as she butchers the poor thing.
Shane’s in charge of cracking a coconut, and he’s clueless, as well. He fakes it though and comes off as an expert, of sorts. Adams preps artichokes, and Aaron cuts up a pineapple. Jennifer can’t figure out how to shuck an oyster. Tyler gives her the same advice she’s heard all season – don’t apologize! She breaks down backstage. Kelsey frenches a rack of lamb beautifully, and she gets her video put on the Food Network website, which gets 12 million hits a month.
The Main Challenge
Chef Michael Symon, an Iron Chef, is filling in for Bobby Flay this week. Chef Michael LaDuke from Red Lobster is on hand as well, looking for a new dish to serve up in his restaurants. The contestants must choose a fresh fish, filet it, cook for 30 Coast Guard recruits… and use one of the “uncommon ingredients.” The uncommon ingredients aren’t exactly traditional fish fixin’s, and include coffee beans, fruity kid cereal, caramels, and marshmallow fluff.
The chefs are grabbing up the seafood and laughing about the side items, except for Nipa. She’s squeamish and has never cleaned a fish. “I’ve never touched a dead fish before,” she says. “Being afraid of the fresh fish is not the way to impress the selection committee,” Kelsey informs us.
Lisa chose arctic char and coffee beans, and she decides to make a tartare. Tartare isn’t exactly cooking, and it’s not exactly a mainstream dish but she is creative! Adam is making a garlic caramel sauce, and Kelsey’s making a white chocolate buerre blanc.
“I’ve never cooked with grape jelly before,” Nipa says, and she barely manages to scrape off a filet to cook. Aaron’s making cod and cola, but he forgets to check the grill. It’s not hot enough, and he has to scrape his fish off and recook it.
The contestants are driven to the pier. “We see this huge boat,” Adam says. “A really, really, big, big, boat!” They have 45 minutes to prepare their dish in the galley kitchen. Kelsey’s up first and struggles to be endearing and not annoying, serving up tilapia with a sweet story about her dad. “I think she showed a good amount of finesse,” Chef Symon says.
Adam’s up next and decides to open with a pratfall. The men on board the ship just stare at him like he’s an idiot, not exactly the laugh riot he expected! He’s serving up halibut, but the judges can’t stop talking about his bad presentation. “I think it was miscooked,” Chef LaDuke says. “I think it was a train wreck,” Chef Symon replies.
Jennifer thinks her fish is a tad too sweet, but she did have to use fruity cereal. She lacks confidence, again, and then she apologizes for using cereal on the fish. Nipa presents a Tandoori trout and grape jelly marinated filet. She also gives them a crash course in Bollywood dancing. “She tried too hard on that one,” one of the Coast Guardsmen says. “She’s just not comfortable with the seafood,” Chef Symon says.
Lisa’s racing around the kitchen in her high heels, and takes a fall. She’s covered in sauce. “All I care out is putting out my food,” she says, and cracks a few jokes about her appearance in front of the judges. She thanks the men for their job, mentioning that it honors her brother who is serving in Iraq. Chef LaDuke doesn’t think her dish has a very big audience, though.
Shane shows up with marshmallow creme and parsnip, served up with sole. “Definitely one of the better tasting courses,” Chef Symon says. “I think either one of these could go a number of menus,” Chef LaDuke says. He’s a child star and star chef!
Aaron tries to salvage his dry fish, and cooking it up in cola isn’t improving the flavor. Bob Tuschman complains that he doesn’t share enough of his personal story with the audience. Everybody thinks the fish is too dry.
Lisa is told to connect with the camera, and she’s called out on her choice of dish. They loved her presentation, though. Shane is complimented on his dish by the Iron Chef, and Adam had a good technique video. Nipa doesn’t act like an expert, the judges say. “From the very beginning, you were giggling through it,” Bob says. Chef Symon is offended that she threw away almost the whole fish. Susie liked the dancing, but the Coast Guardsmen didn’t.
Kelsey was a star this week, too. “You found a great energy here,” Bob says. “Good flavors,” Chef Symon notes. Aaron didn’t do so well prepping his pineapple for the video, but that’s not his only problem. “The food was very disappointing today,” Susie Fogelson says.
Jennifer is scolded for her lack of confidence, again. “You made it seem like it was going to be unpleasant to eat,” Bob says. The beer battered fish was good, but the cereal fish was overpoweringly sweet.
The winner, who will have their dish featured at Red Lobster across the nation, was Kelsey and her white chocolate buerre blanc. Lisa and Shane are also safe for the week.
“The camera really loves you, and you shouldn’t let it go to waste,” Chef Symon tells Jennifer. She’s safe for this week. “This was not a good week for you,” Bob tells Aaron, but he gets to move on. Aaron breaks down and reveals that his son has run away. Aaron wants his son to come home to the Next Food Network Star, and tells his son he loves him.
One contestant has to go home, and this week the judges come downhard on Adam and Nipa. Nipa claims she’s an excellent cook. Adam admits that he’s a little out of control, but promises to impress the judges. Nipa is out the door, and Adam gets another chance. “I’m not sure that I wanted to win this,” Nipa admits.
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Photos courtesy Food Network