July 13, 2008 08:34 PM by Lisa Stauber
The Next Food Network Star contestants have been whittled to the final four, and they’re leaving the Big Apple and heading to Vegas. Bobby owns a restaurant there, Mesa Grill, and the chefs wonder if they’re going to have to cook for him.
The chefs are greeted by Caesar, and then the Queen of Southern Cooking, Paula
Deen. They have a private lunch with Paula, and hear about her rise to culinary fame. Lisa’s overwhelmed and words fail her, again.
The contestants are feeling the heat. “If I don’t put out amazing plates of food, I’m gone,” Adam says. “I’m just coming off a so-so evaluation,” Kelsey says. “I need to have a knock out challenge, or else I’m gone.” Everyone’s running a little bit scared.
Bobby challenges them to a throw down, with each other. They have an hour and fifteen minutes to outdo each other, and do a few quick interviews with Dayna Devon from Extra! while they’re at it.
The First Throwdown
Lisa and Adam will compete against each other first. Lisa’s Cassoulet will compete against Adam’s Macaroni and Cheese. Adam’s never even tried her dish, but Lisa’s pretty sure she can handle making some mac n’ cheese. Cassoulet is a white bean, spinach, and sausage dish.
Adam’s dish is saucy, and he uses lots of different cheeses, including processed American and Fontina. Lisa plans to spice hers up with goat cheese, topped with tomatoes and grilled poblanos. Adam one-ups her by announcing he’s going to make lobster mac.
Dayna shows up to interview, and Adam decides to keep cooking while she asks him questions. Dayna heads over to Lisa’s kitchen, and Lisa manages to look at the camera and cook at the same time. The judges are peppering the cooks with questions along the way, and Adam answers competently.
Paula Deen professes to dislike lobster mac, but she loves Adam’s version. The judges don’t care for the goat cheese version cooked up by Lisa. “In fact I hate it,” Paula tells her.
Lisa does better with the cassoulet. She cooked hers up with duck confit, and it’s a hit. “I think this is a masterful dish,” Bob says. “This could be the best cassoulet I’ve ever had,” Bobby tells her. Adam randomly threw a bunch of meats into it, and it doesn’t compare. “It looks like a beginner cooked this,” Susie says.
The Second Throwdown
Kelsey and Aaron are throwing down next. Aaron’s Stuffed Pork Loin goes up against Kelsey’s Chicken Parmesan. Kelsey decides to make small, dainty food because she doesn’t want to compete too directly against the king of Big Bold Flavors, Aaron.
Kelsey’s going to make a stacked, Napoleon style pork dish, instead of stuffing it the traditional way. Aaron doesn’t know what a chipotle pepper is, and Adam pipes up to show off his knowledge.
Dayna Devon arrives with a microphone, and Aaron’s nervous. Kelsey brings up her culinary school adventures, again. Aaron forgot to start the Chicken Parmesan, and Lisa gives him the stare to get him in gear. He’s got less than 20 minutes to make it fabulous.
Kelsey’s little food cooks a little too fast, and Dayna shows up to ask questions. “She nailed it, didn’t she!” Paula says of the interview.
The Chicken Parmesan is judged first. Kelsey puts her chicken on skewers like a satay. “I liked your sauce very much,” Bobby says. “I wish the chicken were a touch moister,” Bob says. The judges like Aaron’s hearty portion better, though, especially Paula.
Aaron nails the second dish, his signature pork loin. “I think this is really delicious,” Bobby says. “I’m struck by how different the plates looked,” Bob Tuschman says. “Aaron’s was the more inviting dish.”
Adam and Lisa are up first, and the judges are still raving about the lobster mac. “I thought it was the best thing he’s ever made,” Susie says. They are still di
sappointed by Lisa’s macaroni.
The judges loved Lisa’s cassoulet, and she clearly came out on top. They think Lisa was a bit too intense when working. “We don’t want to make viewers nervous,” Susie says. Bob thinks Adam was unwelcoming. “You can’t lose sight of the fact that personality is half of the package,” Bob says.
Moving on to Aaron and Kelsey, Bobby Flay raves about Aaron’s pork loin. “Kelsey, I was a little disappointed,” he tells her. “I got obsessed with that metropolitan twist,” Kelsey admits.
“We’re still struggling with your struggling to connect with the camera,” Susie tells Aaron. “You’ve got to cook and talk,” Bob says. “That’s what this whole network is about.”
“Kelsey, when Dayna was talking to you, you seemed to
be at ease, to be playful,” Bob says. He’s disappointed she brought up cooking school. Then he asks each of the contestants to evaluate themselves.
The judges haven’t made a decision, and ask all four to step out so they can talk about it. Bobby thinks Kelsey is great in front of the camera, but doesn’t have a depth of experience. Bob thinks Adam isn’t passionate enough.
Aaron’s safe, and he’ll be in the final three. Lisa also will staying for another round. Adam gets to stay, as well, and Kelsey is out the door.
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Photos courtesy Food Network.