FOOD NETWORK STAR recap: "4th of July Cookout"

The challenge this week is a 4th of July cookout competition. The nine remaining competitors were divided into teams of three. Nine colored napkins were placed in a picnic basket, and one of the three colors decided which team they were on. Once they chose a napkin, the teams looked like this:

Dom, Rue, Emilia

Jay, Michelle, Rosa

Arnold, Eddie, Alex


They were told they had 30 minutes and $750 to shop for supplies. They’re given one of three VW vehicles and headed out to Whole Foods, which was a nice one-two punch for product placement. The judges didn’t really go into detail as to how many people they’re cooking for, but with a $750 budget let’s hope it was for a really big number of people. (Insert Whole Foods $25 banana joke here).

On the red team

Dom — steak w/ panzanella salad

Rue — Portobello mushroom w/ okra

Emilia — tandoori chicken skewers

On the white team

Jay — grilled pork loin

Michelle — shrimp kabobs

Rosa — chicken parmigiana

On the blue team

Arnold — flank steak w/ Asian curry

Eddie — chicken skewers w/ Caribbean curry

Alex — curried shrimp salad sandwich

Arnold ran into an issue at the register where his meat alone added up to $250 and sent Eddie back to the butcher to deduct $100 worth of it. Some fun drama, which we’ll find out soon enough wouldn’t have been quite so devastating, at least for that team and Arnold specifically.


At the cookout location, we’re told that Bobby Dean is the third judge for this challenge. There, Giada says to the competitors: “You will not be working with the groceries that you purchased.” Boom.

So after a quick switcheroo, we’re left with this configuration:

The red team is left with the groceries of the blue team.

Dom — steak fiorentina and Asian panzanella salad, which is a salad made of bread and tomatoes

Rue — grilled shrimp and mango chutney

Emilia — tandoori chicken and pea puree

Before we cut to commercial, Emilia drops a “holy schnikes,” a 20-year-old pop culture reference that made me want to check and see if Tommy Boy is on Netflix. (It is!)


Team White is now using the groceries purchased by the red team.

Jay — grilled ribeye and stewed okra

Michelle — chicken kabob and baby carrots

Rosa — Portobello mushroom sandwich and cucumber tomato salad


And the blue team is working with the white team’s groceries.

Arnold — shrimp lollipop w/ fennel salad

Eddie — grilled pork loin and potato salad

Alex — chicken katsu sando and sesame slaw. What’s katsu sando? A sandwich. More on that later.


The teams had one hour to prepare a picnic. Once the guests arrived each team got three minutes to describe their food. And each diner was instructed to pick just one team’s food to eat. Cooking madness ensued.

Just before the presentations of their meals, Bobby Flay whipped out the “Dial of Doom.” Introduced last season, the dial allows members of the audience to share reactions to the presentations in real time. He told the crowd, “If you like what you’re hearing, dial to the right. If you don’t like it, dial to the left.”

Red team began (Emilia, Rue, Dom). Emilia busted out of the gates and immediately won the crowd over, then proceeded to tell viewers, directly into the camera, how poorly Dom and Rue performed. She always seemed so stiff in the previous episodes, it’s a delightful surprise to see her really show out here. Dom and Rue must’ve done terribly — again, viewers at home aren’t privy to the actual three minutes each team was allotted — even though it’s only THREE MINUTES – so we’ll just trust the judges critiques. They didn’t appear to like them.

Blue team next (Arnold, Eddie, Alex). Arnold starts and hit it out of the park. Alex didn’t “make international accessible,” going on and on about Tokyo and katsu sando to what appears to be a crowd full of teens and twenty-somethings – and stole so much time that Eddie was rushed for it with just 30 seconds remaining.

White team went last (Rosa, Michelle, Jay) describing a “fireworks display of food.” All three of them sold it masterfully.


Long story short. Almost nobody showed up at the red team booth. Judges enjoyed Rue’s grilled shrimp and mango chutney more than the others.

Team blue: the judges loved Alex’s katsu sando, and felt that Eddie is capable of more. Arnold’s shrimp was undercooked.

Team white: Judges liked Jay’s steak but not so much the other two. As for the excitement they appeared to have built among the crowd, I’ll leave you this quote from Arnold: “Their line is long because their line isn’t moving... so they must be in the weeds.”

We head to commercial with Eddie predicting someone from team red may be going home.


Remember, the crowd was given a token that they used to vote for each team. When they chose the booth where they’d eat, they were to leave that token at the booth. The members of the team with the most tokens was saved from elimination.

Blue team: 35 tokens

White team: 32

Red team: 16

So Arnold, Eddie and Alex were safe at the completion of this challenge.


Bobby: “The people we thought did the best among the rest of you are…”





In the bottom three, with judges comments here, were:

Dom – “this week was a step back for you. We are storytellers as well as cooks. If you can’t get that through your head, you ain’t gonna make it.”

Rosa – “Out of the three of you standing here, you own the spotlight and that’s a big deal. But we’ve obviously had some issues with authority on your cooking and that’s a big deal too.”

Michelle – “You’ve consistently shown that you have an ability to connect with people but we also need the food, consistently, every week.”


The person leaving: Rosa, who ended the show with this delightful tribute to family. “No matter who you are and what you do for a living, you always want to make your parents proud. They’re the reason why I’m here. Because they believe that much in me. My family will always be proud of me."

After the last two weeks, it seemed it was Rosa’s time. Which is too bad because her personality and energy were there all along. This episode in particular seemed to focus on her “food authority” which I’m interpreting to mean the degree to which she’s positive that what she’s making is fabulous.

My bet for next week: Dom's leaving. His inability to perform on cue is catching up to him. In order to survive beyond next week, he'll have to outright win the challenge. By this point in the competition, a significant portion of the weekly "grade" will have to include "storytelling," and so, if I were a gambler, I'd predict it'll be his turn to leave.


The dish I’d love to try: Alex’s katsu sando sandwich. Everyone, the judges, the crowd, everyone loved it so even though I know little more than that it’s chicken based, it must be delicious.


The dish I’m glad I can’t try: Michelle’s yogurt-marinated chicken skewers. The idea was awesome and I’m sure in the right circumstance, without the time limits, they’re superb. Here, though, they really looked quite BADLY.



See also:

FOOD NETWORK STAR recap: "Trendy Dinner" (season 11 episode 3)

FOOD NETWORK STAR recap: "4th of July Cookout" (season 11 episode 4)

FOOD NETWORK STAR recap: "The Perfect Match" (season 11 episode 5)



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