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Food Network Star Review: Big Screen Bites

This week on Food Network Star, the mentors asked the finalists to take their presentations from the TV screen to the silver screen in a movie-themed team challenge.

The remaining 9 finalists:

Chad Rosenthal – 37, Restaurant owner and father from Pennsylvania.
Chris Hodgson – 27, Food truck and restaurant owner from Cleveland. Damaris Phillips – 32, Chef instructor from Louisville, Kentucky.
Lovely Jackson – 27, Private chef from Los Angeles.
Nikki Dinki – 29, Food blogger from New York City.
Rodney Henry – 47, Owner of Dangerously Delicious Pies and father of two from Baltimore.
Russell Jackson – 47, Underground supper club owner from San Francisco.
Stacey Poon-Kinney – 34, Restaurant owner and mother from San Diego.
Viet Pham – 34, Chef and restaurant owner from Salt Lake City.

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After asking the contestants to present their dishes in a typical Food Network fashion in previous challenges, here Bobby, Giada and Alton tasked the finalists with creating film genre-themed meals, presenting them in the style of a 30-second movie trailer.

An additional twist? This was a team challenge and this is a group of finalists who do not like working together.

First to present their trailer was Team Western, comprised of Stacey, Russell, and Nikki. In spite of Russell’s complete inability to explain to his own teammates what his dish was (a bit of a red flag for someone who wants to make a career of describing food to television audiences), the team’s presentation did very well with the focus group and their “Dials of Doom."

They did so well, in fact, that the focus group ordered enough of their meals to put them in first place, saving them from elimination – a godsend for Russell, who certainly did not impress with his mediocre pasta recipe.

Next up was Team Musical: Rodney, Chris, and Lovely. This unit had a hard time coming to an agreement about its menu, and Rodney and Chris never did convince Lovely that beignets, coming from New Orleans, were a more musical-inspired dish than her original idea of doughnuts.

But, as with everything else thus far, it was Lovely’s way or the highway: doughnuts or nothing. In spite of a somewhat odd menu and a mediocre, hard to understand trailer, the focus group ordered enough of their meals to put them comfortably in second place. Unfortunately, none of their dishes impressed the judges, and the meal ended on a particularly sour note with Lovely’s inedible doughnuts.

The last team to present was Team Romance. Viet, Damaris, and Chad attempted to serve up romantic dishes in a dating show-style trailer, but instead succeeded at creating what Alton called “50 Shades of Hot Sauce." To quote the mentors, no one wants to associate food with sleazy. In spite of their horrendous presentation, Viet was the only one on the team who truly disappointed with his dessert.

In the end, we saw Viet, Rodney, and Lovely in the bottom three. The only saving grace for Viet and Rodney was that they had both made edible food earlier in the competition; for Lovely, however, her bad food journey ended with her pizza dough doughnuts. The lesson here?

Do not enter a cooking competition if you cannot, in fact, actually cook. Personally, I think we are better off without her bizarre “Party on a Plate” culinary point of view and her rehearsed-feeling, overly dramatic presentation style. Now if we could just get rid of Russell and his bizarre “culinary sins," we might be down to a group of finalists who actually stand a chance at winning this competition.

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