FOOD NETWORK STAR recap: "Dish of a Lifetime and Pilots"

We’re down to the final three and so, of course, that means we’re NOT down to the final three. Those who’ve been watching online may have been following the Star Salvation episodes on The winner of that series was revealed to be…


No. How the hell’d that happen? I haven’t been watching this online show so clearly Star Salvation was more about cooking food, which Dom could do, and completely nothing to do with presentation. So… the final four were given 45-minutes to cook the “dish of their lives” and they got to choose among the eliminated finalists to join them: Rosa, Christina, Rue, Sita, Matthew, Emilia, Alex. By random draw the finalists chose their Sous Chef for this competition, and it started with Eddie (who chose Alex), then Dom (Matthew), Jay (Emilia) and finally Arnold (Rue). The remaining three were sent home… again. And then they were off!

Eddie (with Alex) – spiced meatball with ginger carrot puree.

Jay (with Emilia) – fried catfish and crawfish Etouffee.

Arnold (with Rue) – lamb sausage with tabbouleh.

Dom (with Matthew) – Agnolotti Bolognese.

The biggest news during this cooking segment was Dom. Personally he struggled to make the pasta, which he claimed both that he’d cooked more than any of us had eaten and that he’d waited the entire competition to do. And of course Matthew was a concern: Dom suggested he use just half an onion but, as he walked away, Matthew revealed to us viewers that he felt it necessary to use fully four onions.

Once the food was cooked and the sous chefs sent on their way, the finalists were instructed to then shoot “the video of your life to go with it,” which will be evaluated by Bobby, Giada, as well as the executives from Food Network, Bob and Susie. They were given 1-minute for one take.

At this point, I really need for Dom to (reliably) mess this up. For the past few episodes we’ve been headed toward a Jay/Eddie finale and so Arnold’s best chance for a miracle is this upcoming Pilot challenge. The Star Salvation challenges, while impressive, should’ve suggested to viewers like me – who didn’t watch any part of them – that an overlooked competitor who, say, slipped through the cracks during the season had fought his or her way back into the competition and should have really enlivened this segment up. When the hosts announced that one was returning earlier this episode, I sat in front of my TV whispering “Rue. Rue. Rue. Rue” because it was forgone. I don’t know about you, but she seemed like the one exiled contestant who had a solid personality, in the sense that she knew already what her potential Food Network TV show would be all about (remember all those Jamaican dishes?). Seemingly the one who could compete with Eddie’s Caribbean flavored pilot – I’m guessing – and Jay’s no-brainer at this point New Orleans/Cajun styled TV show. Much as I’d love to see Arnold win, “cooking at home” isn’t wowing me, neither is whatever Dom might come up with these next 45 minutes. That is, if he’s the one who makes it through to the Top 3.

After a commercial, the finalists each took their turn before the judges. Arnold went first where, after the first 30-seconds, the presentation “took a turn,” according to Giada. He said he was intent to slow down after last week’s criticism but both Bob and Susie agreed he’d lost the spark and joy that they had seen previously. So, uh… he’s pretty much in a catch-22 here, a human pinball for the criticism from multiple guest judges.

Judges found Jay’s presentation “flawless” according to Bob. Food was “a very good dish. Excellent.” For his presentation, Dom overcame an early stumble to impress everyone from the judges to his co-finalists. Judges loved his food as well. Giada was glowing, clutching the pearls, as he walked away. Though Eddie’s presentation was really quite bad, with too much background talk and not enough references to the food, the judges glossed over it and rushed to the food, which they also found lacking, that it wasn’t as spicy or hot as it had promised.

This really was a nail-biter. At this point, it was clear that Jay would hands-down make it to the Pilot segment of this episode. Everything else was up in the air. Dom was not exceptional, except when compared to his previous performances, and both Bobby and Giada clearly (for some reason) love him. Though he changed it up a bit, Arnold did not markedly improve his presentation skills, though the food was well done. And Eddie, who like Jay should’ve been a no-brainer, provided lackluster presentation and food. I’m sure Bob and Susie were thinking, “Ok, let’s call it a day right now. C’mon down, Jay! You’re the next Food Network Star!”

With the finalists all lined up in front of the judges, we all heard the news. Jay was awarded a pilot, hands down the winner of this challenge. The judges then went down the line, outlining the good and bad points of each’s food and presentation, before awarding a pilot next to…


No. And, for Arnold fans, let’s be real: there’s no way Eddie’s food was that bad. And I think even he saw the writing on the wall.

Bobby: “Arnold… I’m sorry you’ll be leaving us today.”

He was gracious, of course. Y’all, I’d have been pissed.

Arnold: “this has been such a magical experience. I got to cook for almost the entire gamut of food network chef celebrities, and I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from the selection committee. I mean, it’s a dream, so I’ll keep being Arnold and I’ll keep doing this until I get my moment.”

One can’t help but wonder if Suzy Wong was intended to make an appearance during his proposed Pilot. Inserting a drag queen into “cooking at home” doesn’t seem entirely logical for a TV show, but you can’t help but wonder only because there were subtle references to this drag personae way back during the first couple episodes this season. In fact, it’s was an essential element of Emilia’s takedown (breakdown!) the episode when she was sent home.

Ah, the shame of it all.

Carrying on…

Susie: “Jay, Eddie, Dom. Each one of you has won the opportunity to shoot a pilot for the show that you would do for Food Network.”

Bob: “So for your pilots the three of you are headed to New York City where a special guest will meet you there to direct you.”

Once in New York, the finalists met one-on-one with Rachael Ray who literally directed their pilots. The remaining twenty minutes or so in this episode were spent with clips from the recording of the pilots of the three finalists. No drama, a few blips here and there, nothing noteworthy. And then… an invitation to join them and the hosts and (it appears) the entire cast this season for the finale next week!




See also:

FOOD NETWORK STAR recap: "Live TV" (season 11 episode 9)

FOOD NETWORK STAR recap: "Dish of a Lifetime and Pilots" (season 11 episode 10)

FOOD NETWORK STAR recap: "We Have a Winner" (season 11, episode 11, finale)



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