Food Network Star Recap: Sellin’ Salsa on the Moon (no, really)

Hi, Trashies! Welcome to Episode 6 of Food Network Star, where the network has just learned about the concept of green screens. And they are VERY excited. (FYI? If you Google “green screen,” there are YouTube videos from 2008 explaining how to make one for your home videos. So never let it be said that FNS is not on the cutting edge of new technology.)

Seven chefs left. And only two judges, apparently, as the contestants stroll in to see only Bobby and Giada waiting for them. Well, Bobby, Giada, and Giada’s cleavage, which is practically a separate entity. Giada is telling the chefs that they need to think about what will make them stand out in the food world. Better not pick “breasts,” I think she’s got a trademark on those puppies.

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Is she showing nipple?  Don’t look, don’t look . . .

Bobby clarifies that this episode is the one where each contestant has to create, package and sell a product in their “brand.” I always enjoy seeing what they come up with, although nothing will ever beat the “Pie Style” mess Rodney developed Season 9, which included a wire hanger wrapped around a mason jar as decorative handles.

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The final product looked almost exactly like his design.

Ruben tells us he actually already has a product which he sells to other restaurants — a flan line. But here, he’s decided to go the hot sauce route. I strongly suspect that the Network takes ownership of anything they produce for the show, so if you already have a thriving business, you don’t want to hand it over to Susie Fogelson.

Before we can get to the actual product development stage, we have to sit through a ridiculous TV demonstration with Alton showing us how green screens can create a background to make it look like you and your props are anywhere in the world. Revolutionary! It is to Crazy Eyes Sarah, anyway, who keeps making these exaggerated gasps and clapping her hands like a child. It must be the pageant background that has drilled these over-the-top, fake-seeking reactions into her. Alton tells the contestants that they will be assigned their green screen backgrounds, and that if they believe in their product, they should be able to sell it anywhere. I think they should test that theory by green-screening Giada and her breasts to somewhere the women wear burkas.

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Y’all are just jealous of these puppies.

Sixty minutes to develop and cook the product. Chris decides on butter medallions — mixing in flavors of black truffle and chervil, and creating little “coins” of the flavored butter. That is an awesome idea. I once bought a roasted garlic-infused butter at a specialty food shop, and used it as a dipping sauce for cold artichoke. Amazing, and — my favorite kind of meal — looked like it took a lot more effort than it actually did. Then again, I am eating Cheetos as I write this recap, so I am perhaps not the Food Network’s target market. Still, the judges seem to agree with me that the product is good, and focus their advice on telling him he needs to not ramble in the commercial.

Giada and Bobby next move on to Lenny, who is (of course) creating a roasted chili hot sauce. Bobby made his name on Southwestern food, so he is all over this idea, and starts giving Lenny advice on the various chiles Lenny is roasting. As they move on to the next station, Giada whispers to Lenny that he should be tasting the chiles before he puts them in, so he can speak about them. I can’t imagine Lenny doesn’t know what his own ingredients taste like, but maybe he doesn’t, since he starts popping anchos, serranos, habaneros, etc. He starts looking nauseous, begins to sweat, and ends up guzzling milk. It’s hysterical. I kind of hope Giada was screwing with him on purpose.

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A real cowboy would have been able to drink this straight.

Crazy Eyes has decided to make baby food, which seems to have zero connection to either her Date Night or I’m From Texas points of view. She tells us in an interview that her favorite thing about herself is that she’s a mom. And doesn’t Sarah seem like the kind of girl who would look into a mirror every morning and recite out loud all the things she likes about herself?

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And my eyes are NOT crazy.

The baby food involves black beans, lime and roasted red pepper in coconut milk. I think she should take a page from Lenny and start tossing in habaneros and jalapeños as well. She gets very little feedback from the judges because Giada is too involved in squealing over the fact that Sarah has two little babies of her own.

Loreal is creating some kind of tomato-based sauce that she says can be used as both a hot sauce and a meat marinade. Bobby expresses trepidation about her plan to include pickled peppers and watermelon in the sauce itself, and I would have to agree. Pickled watermelon rind is tasty, but not smothered in hot sauce. Not would I want ot marinate my red meat in it.

Nicole is back on the Jersey Shore with a tomato-onion jam, using Jersey tomatoes. And it is true, Jersey residents are extremely proud of their tomatoes. I guess you need something to compensate for the fact that the rest of the country thinks of you as diners and waste-disposal sites filled with bodies of Mafioso. Very little feedback from the judges, who don’t see how it fits with “coastal cuisine.”

On to Ruben and the third hot sauce of the seven contestants. His is going to encompass the flavors of Miami. Personally, I don’t think cocaine and coconut oil is something I’d want to dip my ships in, but to each their own. Giada tastes the hot sauce and squeal over how spicy it is.

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And just a sprinkle of sand for that authentic South Beach taste.

Emma’s station looks like a murder scene. She is chopping up beets, which she will then pickle with cardamom. She and Bobby bond over the fact that they both use pickling juice in their salad dressings.

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Hmmm.  Looks like the scene after my last boyfriend tried to break up with me.

Time to assign the settings for the commercials! Isn’t this exciting? And not artificial at all, because companies who spend hundreds of thousands on branding just love to show up to shoot, say a commercial for kids’ cereal, and be told they have to sell it in the Australian outback or something. So. Nicole and her tomato jam are going to the Old West. Perhaps she can use the relish in a food fight at the OK Corral. Loreal is being sent to a tomato garden — which works pretty well for her tomato-based sauce. These assignments are totally unfair. Ruben is sent to the moon. Again, what the hell? Lenny is being sent to the Great Wall of China. Emma and her beets are going to Paris. Sarah is going to a tropical island, and since she has coconut milk in her baby food, she is immediately psyched. Chris and his butter are going to the desert.

Before the commercials are shot, each contestant meets with a designer to create their packaging. I find this kind of stuff really interesting — it’s too bad the judges apparently don’t, and treat it like an afterthought. Chris has decided to package his butter coins like treasure, in the kind of burlap bag a cartoon pirate would use to carry away booty. It’s a cute idea. Emma is of course going mason jar. She is definitely the mason jar type. But her best idea is to put the salad dressing recipe using her pickling juice on the back of the jar.

Sarah’s main interest is in making sure that her font is cute. Moms like cute. Loreal decides to call her hot sauce “Dang!” and that is a decent idea — except that interesting/funny names are completely overdone in the hot sauce market. Slap Yo’ Mama? Colon Cleanser? All on the market. Dang! is not even going to register.

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“Dang!” doesn’t even have the Grim  Reaper.  Weaksauce.

Niclle puts her jam in the kind of round small tin that would hold a candle from Bath and Body Shop. It doesn’t make the product look edible, much less enticing. As for Ruben, he has apparently decided his whole commercial needs to be printed on the label itself: “MIamiSpiceisbringingtheauthenticflavorsofMiami,onebottleatatime.” It’s a rustic looking label, that doesn’t say Miami to me at all. Miami should be bright colors, sun, etc.

And now we’re off to shoot commercials. Is anyone the least bit surprised that Sarah has way too many words for the time allotted? This must be what it’s actually like in her head, which she babbles on about sourcing coconuts for her Texas baby food to be used at date night, or something like that. And she’s wearing pink and ruffles. Of course she is.

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So totally Texas.  And date night.  And babies.

Nicole is completely thrown off by her Wild West setting. Her theme is, “you don’t need to live by the beach to experience coastal cuisine,” and that’s a good one. And she looks adorable in her cowboy hat, braids and tight jeans. But she doesn’t seem able to get a clear message out.

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Well, howdy, coastal cuisine!

Loreal decides to just wing her commercial. She’s in a giant tomato garden, kind of Alice-in-Wonderland-y, and it totally suit her. She has fun playing with the giant tomato props and yelling “Dang!” at the end.

Poor Ruben has been stuffed into a spacesuit and helmet, but has no idea what to do with his commercial. he could have gone with an “out of this world” kind of goofiness, or riffed off of Nicole’s idea and said something like, “Even here on the moon, I can bring a little taste of Miami home to my table. If only gravity would keep my chips on the table!” But he appears to do nothing but stand in front of his table of product and talk about what ingredients are in it. Oh, Ruben. Bad decision.

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This is NOT what I meant by Moon over Miami.

Speaking of bad decisions, Emma has decided that a Paris setting requires a beret, red neckerchief and boatneck striped shirt, which she has accessorized with a terrible French accent. Emma, honey, just looking like Pepe LePew is not going to magically create a connection between your beets and Paris — not that I have a better idea.

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And ooh-la-la to you, too.

Chris, on the other hand, has come up with a really clever idea — outfitting himself like an Indiana Jones -type explorer, searching across the desert to find the real treasure — his butter coins. That is a winner, although i don’t quite understand the “Taste the Evolution!” tagline.

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Chervil butter in the desert.  Totally normal.

Lenny is completely thrown off by the Great Wall theme — or, to be more accurate, by the green screen. I don’t think Lenny has a huge amount of imagination. He needs people and props around him to play off of.

Into the screening room! Rather than a vagina table, Giada and Bobby (I first typed “Booby” which is also accurate, given Giada’s dress), sit in giant white leather chairs together with Bob and Susie, to watch the commercials. Giada calls Ema up first, making sure to tell her that Paris is one of Giada’s favorite cities, because that’s totally relevant here. The judges seem disturbed by the accent, calling it cheesy. But they love her beets, and they love the recipe on the back.

Lenny’s commercial falls apart. He does not even acknowledge his location, and Chris (cruelly but accurately) notes that he sounds like a used car salesman. But the sauce gets high marks for being smoky and fiery.

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Looks like he’s got a lasso stuck somewhere uncomfortable.

Poor Chris. His commercial concept was great, but — in a 30-second commercial — we end up with 15 seconds of dead air, just watching him spread the butter. he doesn’t tell us anything about the product. Maybe this is because Bobby told him not to babble? But Bob Tuschman loves the product and the packaging, and Susie calls it “one of the best things I’ve seen on this show ever.” Chris, I hope you get royalties when Susie steals this and rebrands it as an FN product.

Nicole’s commercial fails. She seems uncomfortable. But Bob practically inhales her jam. I think Bob has not been fed for a week; he is inhaling everything being offered.

Whoops, spoke too soon. Tuschman does not care for Loreal’s marinade/sauce concoction, nor do Giada or Susie. Bobby Flay disagrees, thinking it’s okay. And, to no-one’s surprise, the judges uniformly love her cutesy commercial. Susie loves her personality and tells her her brand is gelling. Coming from the Queen of Branding, that is high praise indeed.

The judges enjoy Sarah’s commercial. In fact, Bobby calls it the best that he’s seen her. I guess I’m the only one who sees her as fake. Giada criticizes her, but only for failing to mention she has children, and Susie mentions that baby food and Texas are not naturally-meshing points of view. But I guess they are grading her on a curve compared to her beginning performance. And they do compliment her baby food, not mentioning that, visually, it looks like something that comes out the other end of a baby.

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But I still look cute, right?  RIGHT?

Ruben does not sell his product particularly well. Bobby calls it flat and, when Ruben tries to respond about the difficulties, Giada accuses him of being full of excuses. They compliment that taste of his salsa, though, and the packaging.

Here’s the vagina table! The contestants, Bobby, Giada, Bob and Susie retreat to that room for final judging, which makes no sense. Why not just combine the judging with the feedback they were just giving in the screening room? But I guess Food Network needs to show off how many sets they have. Loreal — as the contestant with the best commercial, and Chris — as the contestant with the best product, are sent out of the room first. Lenny and Sarah are also safe, leaving Nicole, Emma and Ruben in the bottom.

Susie argues for keeping Nicole, based on Bobby’s representation that she has grown in the competition. Susie loves Ruben’s point of view, but Bob and Bobby both point out that he can’t bring a personality in front of the camera. Emma comes under fire for her risky beets and risky fake accent. But ultimately, the decision is made that Ruben is not enough of a personality for Food Network, and he is sent home. Poor Ruben. At least the rest of the contestants send him out with a rolling r’ed “Rrrrrubenn!”

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Back to Miami.

Next week! The remaining six contestants got to Vegas, where they will be joined by the Star Salvation winner. Do you think it will be Luca? Giada is picking out her most breastacular dress in anticipation of seeing her Italian Stallion again.

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See all of you (and both of them) next week!