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Food Network Star Power Rankings, Week 7: Food Trucks, Sex Puns, And Quitters

This week’s Food Network Star began with a brunch challenge, which Bobby Flay introduced using the incredible line, “One of the things you might know about me is that Food Network lets me explore my passion for brunch.”

Ah yes, Bobby Flay is a very passionate man, you see, and he channels it into every avocado-crema croque monsieur. There’s a twinkle in his eye with every spoon of chile de arbol hollandaise onto poblano johnnycakes. A passionate, passionate man.

Then Giada asks the gang about their favorite brunch, starting with Staten Island Dom. Who, true to form, answers, “Ayo, I like dis friggin brunch on Mulbry street where dey put da friggin egg onna friggin smashed meatbawl. Ain’t no food dat don’t taste bettah onna meatbawl, you axe me.”

So then the gang had to make the favorite brunch they’d just mentioned, but SWITCHEROO, it has to be street food (no utensils!). This was a segue into the second challenge, where the contestants split into pairs to run food trucks. Arnold and Jay got the burger truck, Eddie and Michelle the grilled cheese, and Alex and Dom the tacos. But that’s not all! They also had to record “a video for social media” to advertise their truck. You know, for the kids. Why, it’s just like that movie Chef, which strangely wasn’t mentioned at all! Also, none of the trucks had pun titles. Really? No Phok Me And Suck My Balls noodle soup and boba? No To Grill A Mockingbird? No Lawrence of Arugula? What’s the point of having a food truck if it doesn’t have a terrible pun?

This Week’s Thing That Made Me Ashamed To Be Watching The Food Network

All the promos for Camp Cutthroat.

I know, I know, I keep harping on Alton Brown and Cutthroat Kitchen in this segment, but just when I think it can’t get any worse, it does. As if Cutthroat Kitchen couldn’t feel any more Fall of the Roman Empire, now there’s a new five-part series with a Summer Camp theme. Which looks suspiciously like the now-defunct series, “Extreme Chef.”

Food Network has wisely kept its Camp Cutthroat promos off the web, but if I could summarize…

  • One chef cooking in mini rainstorm, followed by Simon Majumdar (one of Food Network’s least likable personalities) saying “This doesn’t work. It’s a mess!” (Oh really, you mean the food that got rained on?)
  • One chef trying to cook while someone aims a wind machine at her.
  • A fake bear.
  • Another chef trying to chop asparagus with a Paul Bunyon axe.
  • Cooking blindfolded.
  • Obstacle course.

I guess Food Network figured that Extreme Chef was great, it just didn’t have enough of Alton Brown wearing stupid outfits and doing bad Carmen Sandiego bits. Someone at Food Network is holding onto Alton Brown’s bad public access aesthetic like it was the reason for his success all along. It’s the Food Network’s answer to the Weird Science guys wearing bras on their heads. Don’t screw with what works!

I mean look at this sh*t:

This is a show for people who like seeing those high-falutin’ chefs shamed. Will they touch actual animal feces this season?? I’d say the odds are about 50/50. They should just go full Victorian era and stage a rat baiting contest, and then have the chefs cook the dead animals for the commons. At least that wouldn’t be a tremendous waste.

RANKINGS

1. Jay (+1)

This week, Jay cooked an andouille hash breakfast taco in the opening challenge (“Another win for Jay,”) and a Cajun-spiced burger for the food truck challenge (he and Arnold were “The Asian-Cajun Burger Boys”). I don’t know how anyone beats Jay at this point. A lovable fat guy cooking food Middle America already loves (with the tiniest spicy twist) is just a winning schtick. Even Bob and Susie would approve, once they got the focus group numbers back. At this point, Jay can just cook some more hot dogs and mac and cheese and beanie weenies, maybe throw in an anecdote about his meemaw, and coast to an easy victory. When it comes down to it, this really isn’t that complicated.

2. Arnold (+1)

You’d think it’d be hard to make a beautiful plate of food on a food truck hamburger challenge, but not for Mary Poppins, the cocktail party genie. Arnold came up huge this week, actually pulling off his hamburger bun made out of ramen noodles (sorcery!). Then he and Jay’s presentation video displayed a Rockettes-level of synchronization.

Arnold’s limitation is that the same thing that makes him so likable also seems to terrify the Food Network producers. The first take of Arnold and Jay’s food truck presentation began with Arnold saying “We may look different, but we have one thing in common: we love meat and buns.” Jay went with it at first, saying “I’m gonna bring that Cajun flavor between my two buns,” but then the show had to follow it with the requisite 30 seconds of aghast reaction shots (OMG, GAY STUFF). Culminating with Jay acting like Arnold had hypnotized him into talking about gay sex, with one sashay of his fabulous scarf.

Oh sure, people call their food “sexy” and “sensual” all day, but God forbid there be any butt and wiener puns. Bottom line, I don’t think this is going to happen for Arnold. Which is a bummer, because I’d be happy to watch him on a less uptight channel (preferably one with no Alton Brown promos).

3. Eddie (-2)

Johnny Football made a “grit-crusted steak” for brunch (an attempt to turn steak and grits into finger food) which didn’t really work. He should’ve just put grilled polenta cubes on the skewer between the steaks, but that’s just me Monday Morning Quarterbacking. He also made more creepy references to his muscles, suggesting a “protein-packed brunch” was the quickest way to “six-pack abs.” Personally, I like to squirt the protein directly onto my six pack, but that’s just me.

Later, Eddie got dinged for his BBQ pork grilled cheeses for using a too-sweet store-bought BBQ sauce. So it was an off week for Eddie’s food. But even when his food looks good (and it usually does), Eddie seems just a tad too dumb for this competition. I don’t want to fall into easy “dumb jock” generalizations, but in order to break it, we’re going to need to see a little more of this guy’s personality than “Hey, y’all, I like grits n’ football!”

4. Dom (+1)

Dom continues to get more likable, which is not so surprising since the editors have been trying to paint him as the secretly-likable dark horse since episode one. I call his schtick “the self-aware knucklehead.” It’s surprisingly enjoyable, notably when Dom talks about he and his boys (“the tunnel and bridge posse”) taking a trip to Manhattan when they heard tale of the smashed meatball eggs benedict brunch. That’s just an amazing visual right there. “Eh, Tony, you heah about dis smashed meatball wid a friggin egg onna top? Mama mia, dat’s my kinna friggin brunch, fuhgeddaboudit. Put on ya finest tank top, we’s goin’ to da city.”

Of course, in order to win, Dom is going to have get over that classic hurdle, the accidentally-funny-guy-doesn’t-quite-know-why-he’s-funny. I mean, Dom isn’t Tommy Wiseau or anything, but he doesn’t quite know how to turn his charm on and off yet, and that’s a hard thing to do.

5. Alex (-1)

Asked to name his favorite brunch this week, Alex went with “chipped beef on toast.” Amazingly, Alex managed to win over the judges with his presentation of same, by saying that the meal meant so much to him because of his Navy vet dad and grandfather. As I’ve said, a hokey touching story beats all, so much so that none of the judges even pointed out that “brunch” typically isn’t a meal served in military mess halls.

Side note, how did they get through this entire segment without anyone talking about how chipped beef on toast is generally called “sh*t on a shingle?” Literally the only thing I know about chipped beef on toast is that it’s called “sh*t on a shingle” (my dad and grandfather are also Navy vets, incidentally).

Anyway, Alex usually cooks great food, but he seems… just a little too simple for this world. He finally figured out how to present with a cheesy story this week (instead of just listing ingredients), and they were about to kick him off anyway. That is, at least, until Michelle showed up. Which brings us to…

6. Michelle (even) ((resigned))

Michelle opened this week by making quiche two ways (ricotta leek and bacon spinach), but forgetting the salt. Then she hilariously botched the presentation, telling an awesomely convoluted story about picking her kids up from school on Sunday (?) and then taking them out for mimosas on the way home (??). The perfect brunch! I dunno, maybe Michelle’s kids are just really chill. On that note, she blames her screw-up on “my head is still with my kids.”

Dammit, Michelle! You have to use the teary story while you’re presenting, to give your food a false sentimental value, not afterwards. That way the judges aren’t just criticizing your gross sh*t on a shingle, they’re criticizing you, fatherhood, and the entire US military! Jesus Christ, haven’t you seen a food show before?

For the food truck challenge, Michelle’s journey began with the awesome soundbite, “I’ve never cooked in a food truck before. I’ve never even been on a food truck before.” Which is funny, because why would you be on a food truck if not to cook? Like, to take a tour?

Then the editors went straight middle school bully on Michelle for the entire second half of the show, devoting three full minutes to her being bad at dancing. (Personally, I found Michelle’s Elaine Benes-esque finger snaps to be charming). Whereas the other teams’ social media videos got critiqued by supportive groups of women, Michelle got a stylish gay couple in matching shades throwing more shade at her dancing. To top it all off, her tomato soup became the butt of this week’s bitchiest soundbite: “It honestly made the grilled cheese worse.”

Even after all of that, it looked like Alex was going to go home until Michelle took herself out of the competition. When Michelle first brought up missing her kids, Giada went to “This job’s not for everyone” pep talk #408, but of course as soon as Michelle actually quit everyone went straight to “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE QUITTING WHY ARE YOU QUITTING YOURSELF QUITTER!”

Jesus, which one is it? If a job’s too hard, there’s no shame in quitting, that’s what my parents always taught me.

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