Food Network Star 10 Final 5 Contestants Appear on Today’s Rachel Ray Show

Some twitter reactions to the show (which is airing now).

After the contestants have made their presentations, it’s time for the judges’ verdict.  The judges said the “boys did better than the girls”, but did not render a final verdict.  Lenny and Luca appear to be in good position and perhaps one or more of the ladies will be in trouble this week.  We’ll have to check out Sunday’s episode to get the full critique and see who had the best performance and which chef is leaving the show.




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Comic-Con: ‘Penny Dreadful’ Season 2 Villain Will Be a Familiar Face

Pure Fluff:

Some news on Season Two of #PennyDreadful – yeah!

Originally posted on Variety:

“Penny Dreadful” will be “very different” in season two, according to creator John Logan, who joined stars Josh Hartnett, Reeve Carney and Harry Treadaway for a Q&A at Comic-Con on Thursday evening.

“The cosmology, the theology of the show gets much larger [in season two] — they’re thrown into a much more threatening supernatural world,” Logan teased, admitting that the focus of season one was to “build a family and bring them together — the joy of writing the second season is building on those relationships in different patterns.”

SEE ALSO: More Photos from Comic-Con

To counterbalance season one’s vampiric villain, who couldn’t deliver long, verbose monologues, Logan revealed that season two’s antagonist will be a familiar face — Helen McCrory’s spiritualist, Madame Kali. The panel then ran a scene that was cut from the season one finale, which explained Kali’s motivations and “the challenge she was going to pose…

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Big Brother 16, Episode 14 – “All goes according to plan” – Recap

Bye Bye BrittanyBrittany Exit Interview

In another unanimous vote (it’s now three out of four) Brittany was sent packing from the house.  It’s clear that the Detonators  Alliance – Derrick, Frankie, Cody, Christine and Zach – holds a tight grip on the house.  Thus far, it’s been child’s play dispensing with one House Guest after another.  Now that Devin has been removed, it should be smooth sailing for a while.  They were also clever enough to leave Caleb and Amber out of the alliance.  It’s clear from Donny being put up, that he’s also on the outside looking in.

This week’s evictee, Brittany, did little to forestall the inevitable,  Once Donny was set up as the dummy, it was clear she was finished in the house.  The only question that remained was whether the vote would be 100% against her.  So now another woman has been voted out of the house and the Detonators have yet to face their inevitable implosion.  What’s next for the house?

With the election of Frankie and Zach as the dual Heads of Household for this week, we can expect more of the same.  The big losers in all of this will be the viewers, who will likely be treated to another ho-hum week, with four non-detonators being put on the block while the only alliance in the house continues to wipe out any resistance.  There are 11 House Guests remaining and 5 members of the Detonators.  Doing the simple math means that they have almost 50% of the votes and unless the entire rest of the house quickly figures this out, they will be picked off one by one.  Two more eliminations and their alliance will be an iron clad majority.

So let’s take a look at who likely be up for elimination.  First of all, the remaining women in the house will be targeted.  Easy targets include Jocasta and Victoria.  I would also expect the budding shomance of Hayden & Nicole to draw attention as well.  Is this the week that the Detonators finally put Donny up in a serious way?  With only 10 House Guests left, it’s not going to be long before he is perceived as the biggest threat.  That leaves only the frustrated Caleb and the flirty Amber as other possibilities.

Block Predictions: Hayden, Nicole, Jocasta and Victoria will be nominated for eviction this week.  Jocasta will be voted out.

So when will the 6 non-detonators wake up and realize that they are on their way out?  It’s hard to say.  Outside of Donny, I don’t see too many people willing to go against the herd.  Brittany was the only one who spoke out and she was quickly booted from the house. Victoria  will almost certainly be put up again.  It was only a stupid mistake by Caleb that kept her in the game this week (he chose the $5,000 prize over the Power of Veto) after winning the POV competition.  It is likely that the 6 non-detonators will be voted out before they grasp the truth of what is going on.

Donny is the last hope for some sort of entertaining Summer.  He asked Cody point blank about an alliance, but Cody refused to answer.  He has an inkling that something is up.  But the rest of the house remains entranced in blissful ignorance.  Does anyone think that Hayden, Nicole, Caleb, Jocasta or Amber will mount a challenge?  I think most of them are just happy to be in the house and aren’t playing the game.  I don’t think anything could possibly awaken them to force them into making it interesting,  The strongest players have banded together and are wiping out the rest.  Caleb, while potentially a strong player, has spent the bulk of his time in the house obsessing over Amber.  Amber is just a flirt who enjoys garnering the affection of all of the guys in the house.  He would not even go along Cody’s plan to grab the PoV and while Brittany chose him to compete, when he had the chance he chose the $5,000 over the PoV which sealed Brittany’s fate.

So let’s face the reality that is extremely likely to be a rather dull season, until the Detonators have removed all of the other House Guests.  Then it might actually get interesting.  Absent some sort of miraculous shakeup, the next few weeks should plod along.  Sure, CBS will try to inject drama with supposed Detonator infighting but it won’t work.  The real problem with this season is that half cast is dull and uninspiring and the other half is cunning and manipulative.  So the wolves will pick off the weakest members of the herd until they are forced to cannibalize their own pack.  The BB16 Power Rankings remain mostly unchanged.  Note, that the first 5 are the detonators members.

1. Derrick – Remains the brains behind the operation.  He’s running a smooth machine with Frankie as his bag boy.

2. Frankie – As Derrick’s number two, he’s wielding a lot of power and keeps his minions in line.  In spite of the loss of his beloved grandfather, he’s soldiering on.

3. Zach – In spite of his madcap demeanor he’s in the mix with the majority alliance.  He has potential to win challenges.

4. Cody – although just a pawn, he’s part of the Detonators and should be safe for a while.

5.  Christine – As the lone female member of the Detonators, she is in a great spot.  However, she is likely to be the first put up when the alliance cracks.  She is tight with other women in the house, too, so she may be a major player down the road.  Plays a good social game.

6.  Donny – He is on the edge of the power structure and friendly with the rest of the house.  Everyone likes him and as such he will be targeted by the majority alliance soon enough in a blindside.  Is it this week?  I would guess they will get rid of some of the dead weight first before shedding Donny.  He’s too popular to evict now.

7. Caleb – A potential challenge threat and a wildcard.  He could be the leader of the opposition if he ever pulled his head out of his ass and started playing the game.  His major flaw is clearly his obsession with Amber.

8.  Amber – She’s a flirt that will buy some time playing with Cody and others.

7.  Hayden – His budding showmance with Nicole could result in him being put on the block this week.

9. Nicole – Does she realize that this is a game that has to be played?  Her Hayden showmance could spell her doom.

10.  Jocasta –  Unlikely to do much and probably voted out this week.  Will it be unanimous again?


BB16 Episode 13 – Cody is just Derrick and Frankie’s pawn – Recap

By Alex Bates

In watching last night’s episode of Big Brother, one thing became rather clear – that Derrick is the mastermind of the show.  Frankie is his second in command and dutiful watch dog and the rest of the “Detonators” are just pawns in their game.

How pathetic is Cody?  Caleb aka the “Stalker Cowboy” made a complete and utter fool of him in the Power of Veto (POV) challenge by not grabbing the POV from Victoria after he won the challenge.  No, bad boy Caleb snatched the $5,000 from Nicole who had acquired it via her middling finish in the soccer kick competition.  The result was that Victoria kept the POV for herself.  Ultimately, this allowed her to take herself off of the chopping block for this week’s vote.  Cody then wanted to put Caleb up for his many transgressions (his actions in the POV Challenge, his obsession with Amber).  It is possible that Caleb would have been voted out.  At the very least, it would have made Thursday’s vote interesting.  Instead, Frankie and Derrick intervened and forced Cody’s hand.  He was told to put up Donny which he dutifully did.  So now this week’s elimination vote is between the beloved Donny and Brittany, who is not well like but does not represent a tangible threat to the majority alliance.

frankie speech7 frankie speech2

As an aside, I would like to offer my condolences to Frankie and his family.  It’s a very sad for them.  For a more detailed look at Frankie’s discovery of his grand father’s death see Gossip Chick’s excellent post about this with screen caps from the live feeds.

So is this the best strategy for the Detonators?  First of all, I hate the name the detonators.  But in the end it is really an ironic nickname because this group of idiots will implode at some point.  Unfortunately for the viewers of this debacle, however, the rest of the house is chock full of morons who appear to be sitting ducks.  At this point there is no opposition to this alliance and the threat will come from within.  Caleb and Cody will have a serious falling out over Amber before too long which will lead to the collapse of this aptly named group.  Then,  a rogue group will splinter off and start by backdooring Cody, Frankie or Derrick. Then the game will really start.  Until then, we will have to watch the parade of idiots robotically shuffling along to the orders of Derrick and his number two, Frankie.

After Brittany is inevitably voted out (by unanimous vote, no doubt) what’s next?  Brittany was basically the only person voicing discontent with the way things are going in the house.  No one else appears ready to rise up.  So for the next 3-4 weeks, barring a miracle, the detonators will continue to cull the herd.  There remains a lot of dead weight in the house starting with Victoria.  She has done nothing and will continue to do nothing.  Caleb is an obsessive stalker, Hayden is still in full surfer dude mode, Nicole is a cute non-entity, Christine and Jocasta are just along for the ride and Donny, although kind and lovable has yet to assert himself as a dominant player in the house.  At some point, Donny will become a huge threat to the house and will be summarily dismissed.

So let’s take a look at this week’s power rankings.  It remains Detonator domination:

1. Derrick – Remains the brains behind the operation.  He’s running a smooth machine with Frankie as his bag boy.  Cody, Caleb and the others are just following orders.

2. Frankie – As Derrick’s number two, he’s wielding a lot of power and keeps his minions in line.  Not a very smart or talented player but is on the winning team.  Wants to be a leader but is really a follower.

3. Zach – In spite of his madcap demeanor he’s in the mix with the majority alliance.  He has potential to win challenges.  Is his goofball act legit or is it all an act?  Either way he will probably stick around for a while as he seems always be agreeing with everyone while not getting any blood on his hands, yet.

4. Caleb – A potential challenge threat and a wildcard.  He could be the leader of the opposition if he ever pulled his head out of his ass and started playing the game.  His major flaw is clearly his obsession with Amber.

5.  Donny – He is on the edge of the power structure and friendly with the rest of the house.  Everyone likes him and as such he will be targeted by the majority alliance soon enough in a blindside.  Although they have put him up this week, their focus is to get Brittany out.  I give Donny another 2-3 weeks before the Detonators realize what a huge threat he is.

6.  Amber – Although she is constantly being put up on the block, she is a manipulative model who flirts easily and has most of the men wrapped around her finger (except Derrick and Frankie).  Cody and Caleb are headed for a war over her affections.

7.  Hayden – Although he has done little to this point, it is currently working in his favor.  Kind of the like the Fabio of Survivor fame, he’s taken the non-threatening surfer dude approach.  Is there more to this story or is he just along for the ride?  Either way he seems to be safe for a while.

8.  Christine – She is in the Detonators, so should be safe for a while.

9.Nicole – Cute and non-threatening, she has yet to distinguish herself as a serious game player.  It doesn’t seem like she is anything but a pawn in someone else’s game.

10.  Jocasta – Nice enough and soulful but not sure she is doing anything but filling up space in the house at this point.  I’d like to see her rally and pull it together but it’s hard to see her making a serious play.

11. Cody – has lost all credibility in the game.  He’s proven to be completely controlled by Derrick and Frankie.  His game ranking dropped massively this week due to his failure to put up Caleb.  He has the ability to make interesting moves but at this point he is just an expendable piece in Derrick’s game.  Until he shows otherwise, he is the obvious choice for a blindside by Caleb if he gets HoH or someone else who gets tired of the Caleb/Amber/Cody triangle drama.  His decision not put Caleb up likely cost him any chance of winning Big Brother.  It certainly did not go over well with the fans.

© Copyright 2014    Photos courtesy of CBS

Master Chef Season 5, Episode 9, Top 13 Compete, “How to Filet a Salmon” – Recap & Analysis

By Alex Bates


This week’s episode is a straight in the studio cooking show, with two rounds of competition and one home cook turning in their apron at the end of the show.  First up is the Mystery Box Challenge where one winner will make some critical decisions regarding the Elimination Challenge.

Each chef has a mystery box at their station.  They are asked to remove it, and underneath the crate is a large chef’s knife (with the M@ster Chef logo on it of course).  Next, contestants are told to look up to the front of the room at the giant metallic mystery box.  The box is lifted by wires to reveal a series of whole salmon, one for each chef.  The will use their knives to prepare the salmon.  It’s wild King Salmon, line caught from the pristine waters of Alaska.  It is given a somewhat dubious value of $450 which impresses the home cooks.  Up front, Gordon Ramsay gives a clinic on how to properly fillet the fish, but almost none of the cooks watch; they are too busy attacking their own fish.  Graham Elliot will cook it and Joe will eat it.

Mystery Challenge:  The 13 remaining cooks will have 60 minutes to prepare an amazing Salmon dish.  Each cook must start with a whole Salmon and fillet it with their special Master Chef knife.

Most of the cooks have never filleted a fish before but Christian has and it shows. He works on the salmon like an expert, pulling out the bones.  Courtney wants to win so she will “never have to work in a gentleman’s club again” and make her family proud.  Christian is going with a creole inspired dish.  Christine appears to have butchered the fish and Elizabeth seems to be doing well.

In the middle of the competition, Elise calls out “medic” in the midst of what seems like a panic attack.  Her hands tremble and she leans on the medical staff as they carry her out of the room.  She returns to the with 20 minutes left to “get something onto the plate”.  She admits that she “folded under the pressure”.  She’s embarrassed but “ready to cook”.

Results:  The judges identify three standout dishes. First Christian has prepared Blackened Salmon with Tomato Puree and Vegetables.  It’s cooked beautifully and the judges love it.  He tells Chef Ramsay, “This is me on a plate”.  Second up is Courtney.  She has made Seared Salmon with Broccolini and Couscous.  She emphasizes the flavor of the salmon in her light, pan seared and restaurant quality dish.  Last up is Elizabeth who did an excellent job with the plating of her Baked Salmon with Cauliflower Steak and Relish (pine nut, capers and raisins).  The winner, after much deliberation is Christian and his spicy blackened salmon.  He will get several advantages for his first Mystery Box Challenge victory.

As a reward, Christian will not have to cook in the Elimination Challenge and will select which judge’s basket the rest of the cooks will have to use to prepare their dishes. Joe picks out an Italian themed basket, a refined basket filled wine and gourmet Italian components.  Graham’s dish is fresh food from a farmer’s market.  Gordon’s basket is inspired by his UK upbringing.  Christian chooses Joe’s basket; each cook must then retrieve their basket filled from the pantry.  Christian gets one more advantage – he gets to pick one chef who will have only 30 minutes to prepare their plate.

Elimination Challenge:  Cooks have one hour to prepare their dish using Joe’s basket, filled with gourmet Italian ingredients like wine, olive oil, garlic and special Grana Padano cheese.  Courtney will have to watch the other home cooks for 30 minutes before starting to prepare her meal.

Cutter is once again making a questionable choice, preparing a pizza.  Ahran is making a Tiramisu which astounds the judges; they’re not sure what to make of it.  Courtney begins at the 30 minute mark and the judges are worried she may not be able to rise to the occasion.  Elise appears to be in trouble from the start.  She cannot make her pasta correctly and Gordon Ramsay pities her and helps her roll her pasta out.  She feels like quitting as her dish implodes.  Chef Ramsay implores her not give up.  Courtney is making a “beautiful mushroom ragu’.  Elizabeth is making breakfast lasagna, which Joe really likes.  Big Willie makes a tomato soup with a fried egg on top with a side of crispy flatbread.  Ahran’s dish could either be amazing or a total disaster.  The time ticks off as the home cooks finalize their efforts.  The judges will now review their work.

Courtney:  She offers Spaghetti with Mushroom Ragu and Artichokes.  With only half an hour, she plays it safe by going with a savory ragu over pasta with a clump of prosciutto on top.  The chefs breathe a collective sigh of relief as they realize her dish is really good.  It looks like Christian picked the wrong victim for his advantage.  She says she used this curveball as a chance to shine.

Cutter:  He presents a small, odd looking pizza to Gordon Ramsay.  Cutter says it’s “artisan” to which Ramsay replies “I’m Gordon Ramsay not Stevie Wonder”.  It looks like he’s in trouble.  It’s an Artisan Pizza with Artichokes and Mushrooms.  The judges all hate and it and Cutter appears to be on the bottom again.  Chef Ramsay says it’s “not good enough” and “not Master Chef”.  Joe is angry when Cutter cannot answer simple questions about the refined basket ingredients.  Joe once again tosses Cutter’s food into the trash.

Leslie:  He has prepared Artichoke Ravioli with Prosciutto and Mushrooms filled with Grana Padano Cheese.  While it’s not a home run, the judges find it more than passable.  His plating is an issue but he likely survives another week, especially given the disastrous performances of Cutter and Elise.

Big Willie:  He presents his Tomato Soup with Fried and Egg and flatbread.  Judge Ramsay pans it and says he might be going home.

Christine:  She has made Mushroom Caramelle with Brown Butter Sage Gravy, with crispy Sage and Prosciutto on top.  Joe likes it and says he has “delivered a lot”.

Ahran:  She presents Savory Tiramisu with Mushroom Prosciutto Sauce which the judges aren’t quite sure about initially.  But once they try it, they are bowled over.  Her risk has paid off with a tremendous dish.

Elizabeth: She offers her Breakfast Lasagna with Artichoke Heart Salad.  Joe, the Italian food expert, absolutely loves it.  It has five layers with béchamel and Grana Padano cheese.  Joe calls it like ‘taking a trip it Italy”.

Elise:  She brings up her awful ravioli.  She’s disappointed because she fell flat in both challenges.  Gordon Ramsay asks why she gave up so quickly, she says she lost her confidence.  They taste her “sad ravioli”.  Ramsay calls it bland.  She agrees it’s a failure but that she hasn’t given up.  He says it’s “just tastes” like she has.

Results:  Christian returns from the balcony to hear the judges’ verdict.  Ahran and Elizabeth are the top two and Elizabeth the outright winner.  They will be the team captains in next week’s group challenge. The bottom two are Cutter and Elise.  As bad as Cutter has been, Elise was even worse this week, according to the judges.  Elise seems to know she’s in trouble.  She is unsurprisingly sent home, although it seems miraculous that Cutter and his horrible attitude have squeaked through again.   Chef Ramsay tells her every time he sees a pie he will think of her.   They judges give her a kind send off.  She’s grateful for her experience and the chance to reinvent herself as a chef.


Christian emerged as a strong player while Ahran and Elizabeth confirmed their status as major competitors. Leslie and Big Willie didn’t do much this week, with Will barely avoiding elimination.  Courtney dodged the bullet fired by Christian with grace.  For the rest of the chefs besides Willie, Cutter and Elise it was a fairly ho-hum week.  Next week’s group challenge promises to provide more fireworks.

There are changes brewing in this week’s rankings.  Several of the former leaders have slipped into the middle of the pack while others are rising to the top.

First Tier – Likely Final 4

1. Courtney – She survived Christian’s throw down with ease.  She remains a target for the rest of the home cooks.

2. Ahran – A strong competitor who is almost always on top and continues to shine with her unique, expertly prepared dishes.

3. Elizabeth – She seems to be hitting her stride with several recent strong performances.

4. Francis – He’s been quiet but is likely to rise to again.

The Second Tier – Potential Threats

5. Christian – He nailed it this week and seems to be coming on strong.  He still has a few bad moments but his victory in the Salmon Mystery Box challenge bumps him up a few spots.

6. Leslie – He has muddled through the past couple of weeks without distinguishing himself but has a pretty big bag of tricks.

Third Tier – Middle of the Pack

7. Daniel – Daniel is a solid performer but hasn’t really put it all together yet.

8. Christine – She seems to be hanging in there, although she has to break through with a knockout performance.

  1. Victoria – She is also a solid performer with some strong work to date.

Fourth Tier – Most in Danger of Elimination

  1. Big Willie- Oh how the mighty have fallen!  His red velvet cake staved off elimination last week but he threw up a stinker with his tomato soup with egg.  While I might enjoy eating this, the judges hated it.  He has made some amazing dishes but also some real head scratchers.  He’s a fan favorite and I’d like to see him stick around but the judges have him on their radar now.  It’s looking less and less likely he will make it to the end.
  2. Jaimee – She can bake but she’s young and lacks ability in other areas.  She won’t win Master Chef and her demise is likely to be sooner rather than later.
  3. Cutter – Once the judges are done mocking and belittling him and his stubbornly out of touch cooking, he will be sent packing.  Unless someone else really screws up this week, he should be a goner.


© Copyright 2014    Photos courtesy of Fox

The Next Food Network Star, Season 10, Episode 8 “One-of-a-Kind Experience”

By Alex Bates


The contestants are at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.  The six remaining chefs are brought into a large conference room, standing in a row across from judges Giada and Alton (Bobby is out again) with a Caesar’s Palace card dealer.  Next, the judges inform them that they will each be treated to an elaborate meal in one of the finest Restaurants in Las Vegas.

First Task:  Contestants will individually enjoy some of the finest meals in Las Vegas, all of which can be found at Caesar’s Palace.  The Caesar’s poker dealer then presents a card for each chef.   Lenny will be treated to a deluxe tasting menu at Guy Savoy; Nicole will gorge on the Serendipity 3′s $1,000 sundae; Sarah will feast on a rib eye lollipop at the Old Homestead Steakhouse; Loreal will enjoy the The $777 Burger at Le Burger Brasserie; Luca will enjoy the gourmet handmade noodles at Beijing Noodle No. 9 and Emma will experience the awesome Nobu hibachi.  This journey is designed to inspire the chefs in preparation for the second half of the challenge (and to advertise these elegant Casear’s Palace restaurants).

The remaining six cooks will be divided into two teams and must prepare a lavish feast for the judges.  Giada and Alton will be joined by Bob Tuschman, Susie Fogelman of the Food Network and Las Vegas fixture and former Food Network Chopped and Rachel and Guy’s Celebrity Challenge contestant Penn Gillette (“The Selection Committee”).  Sarah and Emma, as the remaining members of the Bottom three from episode 7 are given the chance to choose the teams.  A large gold coin is flipped and Emma calls “tails”.  The coin is read and it’s tails; Emma will get the first pick.

Second Task:  Teams must present a “360 degree” culinary experience fit for Las Vegas to the judges. Emma picks Lenny and Loreal; Sarah chooses Nicole and Luca.  Both teams appear pretty strong as there only 6 chefs remaining.  Drawing from their earlier individual experiences at the restaurants for ideas, teams must prepare an elegant three course Las Vegas meal.  Each team leader is dealt another three cards and gets to decide which team member gets each of the sophisticated main ingredients.  Sarah draws the Wagyu Beef first and keeps it.  She then gives Luca the Muscovy Duck and Nicole the frogs legs.  Emma chooses the Mangalitsa pork loin (she’s never heard of it but it seems the most accessible); Lenny is given the sea urchin (he’s unfamiliar with it) and Loreal gets the langoustine (a cross between crawfish and lobster).  Teams are then dispatched en masse to the food market purchase items for their menu items.

Sarah is a bit worried when she notices Lenny and Emma are buying wine to match each course of their meal.  Emma’s team is going with an esoteric feast of the gods theme, while Sarah’s team plans a more down to earth foods of the world motif.

First up is Team Sarah.  They work very well together and seamlessly prepare their feast.  Nicole, inspired by the over the top Serendipity 3 $1,000 sundae, in addition to her assigned ingredient, she prepares a delicious, upscale version of s’mores with a candle and fresh marsh mellows for the judges to melt with their dessert.  Sarah’s steak – a generous cut of the Wagyu –  replete with elegant marbling –  is Texas sized.  She also prepares potato and corn side dishes.  She knows after her flop last week that she will have to pour it on.  She will also need to integrate her Texas POV into her food and presentation.  The massive steak, which she expertly seasons and grills, shows that she’s off to a strong start.  Luca, prepares the Moscovy Duck with his typical Italian flair.  He uses a recipe that his grandmother taught him (although originally for pheasant) and he adds the special gravy that she would add to the dish.  Luca is familiar with duck and he prepares it flawlessly.  Nicole prepares her frog legs with tamarind in a Thai inspired dish.  She prepares the frogs legs in a similar manner to chicken wings, dropping them into the deep fryer.

Next Team Sarah must present each dish and serve the judges, seated at long banquet table facing the cooks.  The first to present is Nicole and she does a decent job tying her dish to Thailand, although Susie Fogelman indicates that the link to her fireman husband is somewhat tenuous.  They love her Thai style frog legs and its dipping sauce.  Luca then presents his dish and he’s nervous.  His hands shake as he pours the gravy into each judge’s bowl containing the duck and risotto.  He pulls himself together enough to make a strong presentation, linking the recipe to his grandmother.  Sarah then wows the judges with her giant steak and tasty potato and corn side dishes.  As a bonus, she finally meshes her Texas POV into her presentation and food.  She does an excellent job.  Next up, Nicole presents their dessert.  The judges like the elevated presentation of the s’mores ice cream.  Overall, the judges given them high marks; they feel they have provided an excellent Las Vegas style feast.  Penn Gillette confesses that he thinks Luca has the most star power of the group.

Team Emma next takes to the kitchen to prepare their feast.  While at first it seemed they were in a strong position, their confidence quickly dissipates.  Emma has never prepared this elegant Mangalitsa pork loin and she stuffs it with sweet fruit and herbs, as one might do with a more pedestrian cut of pork.  Lenny is also a bit over his head in preparing the sea urchin, which he places on a bed of pureed cauliflower (he jokes that his buddies would laugh if he went to a sushi restaurant, never mind eat sea urchin).  Loreal readies her lackluster langoustine dish and burnt marsh mellow dessert.

Team Emma’s presentation immediately lapses into the bizarre, with vague references to  ancient deities or gods and goddesses.  Lenny is uncomfortable and brings his usual zealous delivery, which in this intimate setting, is too much.  Loreal at one point tosses fresh rose petals onto the judges table.  Loreal is out of her depth, professing no knowledge of Greek Myths.  Emma gives a pleasant introduction but her food reflects her inexperience; the judges don’t like it.  They refer to this experience as “bizarre” and “uncomfortable”.  It becomes clear that Team Emma is in trouble and that one of its members will be going home.


Both teams appear before the judges after Team Emma’s meal service is complete.  The Select Committee tells the contestants that those that survive elimination  will be headed to New York City. They are generally pleased with Team Sarah, although, there are a few criticisms of Luca’s nervousness and Nicole’s difficulty tying her POV to her Thai inspired dish.

Team Emma was a disaster by comparison. The judges did note that Team Emma did some good things including the wine pairings.  But the ancient deity theme seemed confused and the difficult to prepare dishes like sea urchin failed to impress.  Even Lenny had a down week, although he is the first to be told he is safe.  The Food Network executives noticed Loreal’s regression from earlier in Season 10.  Emma’s poor cooking and role as team leader for the losing team, however, tilted the balance towards her elimination.  The judges announce that it’s Emma’s time to go.  She hugs her new friends and is sad that she won’t be going the New York with the group.


Team Emma was the clear loser this week.  Unfortunately for Emma she took the fall for her team.  She had been in trouble the two prior weeks and this was the culmination of her slide into oblivion.  Emma is clearly talented and should be on camera somewhere.  She has a confident easy going demeanor.  I think her downfall was her relative lack of cooking experience (this week it was the poorly executed pork loin).  She also made questionable decisions.  In Episode 6 she did the French accent for her product commercial; last week she made visitors to her station at the pool party construct and prepare their own dishes and this week she came up with the confusing ancient deity theme.  It seems she was trying to fit into the Caesar’s Palace concept but her plan was never fully realized and it handcuffed both Lenny and Loreal.  As a byproduct, it sapped their usual confidence and left them looking confused and lacking confidence.  Make no mistake, Emma is young and talented and we should expect to see more of her in the future.  I would imagine that being on a show like Food Network Star is a turbo charged learning experience, which may take several months to fully process.  She will learn from her mistakes and be better for it.  Much like Chris Kyler, last week’s eliminee, she is great on camera but needs to work on her culinary expertise.

Of the remaining 5 contestants, Lenny is still the favorite.  I think that any of the other 4 can still win it, but they don’t have much room for error.  Sarah was finally able to connect her POV to her food and presentation.  Nicole and Luca, despite some shaky moments did a great job as well.  That leads to this week’s rankings

1. Lenny – still the one to beat, in spite of his underwhelming performance.  Can he dial back the Lenny Show for a smaller audience?

2. Nicole – She has a solid POV and has proven to be a good cook and solid on camera.

3. Luca – Although already eliminated once, he has regained his footing.  But can he conquer his nerves and keep progressing quickly enough?

4. Sarah – She rallied this week and delivered perhaps her finest performance to date.  Can she continue to weave her POV into her presentations and food?

5. Loreal – The Butcher Babe can still bring it in the solo competitions, particularly with her presentations.  She’s by no means out of this but she appeared to regress this week on Team Emma.


© Copyright 2014     Photos courtesy of Food Network.

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J.J. Abrams Reveals X-Wing in ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’

Pure Fluff:

Not sure about this one….but will have to wait and see.

Originally posted on Variety:

In a new video from the set of “Star Wars: Episode VII,” director J.J. Abrams showed off a first look at the X-Wing starfighter that will appear in the film.

The teaser gives a good look at the spacecraft well-known from George Lucas’ first trilogy of films, with Abrams’ version clearly meant to reference the existing sci-fi franchise’s universe. It’s already been revealed that Han Solo’s Millennial Falcon also appears in the seventh film.

The introduction of the X-Wing is the second video from the set of Abrams’ “Star Wars: Episode VII.”

In announcing “Force for Change,” Abrams provided a look at a creature from Tatooine, the desert home of Anakin and Luke Skywalker’s dusty home planet, recreated in Abu Dhabi for “Episode VII.”

SEE ALSO: J.J. Abrams Teases ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ with UNICEF Charity Initiative Video

The introduction of the X-Wing is the final push in Disney, Lucasfilm…

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The Next Food Network Star Season 10, Episode 7 “Vegas Pool Party” – Recap and Analysis



The contestants arrive in Las Vegas by van and notice their faces on the marquis of Caesar’s Palace.  They are excited to arrive at the plaza outside of the casino.  Giada and Alton greet them but Bobby is back in New York.  Alton announces that one contestant has earned their way back into the competition in the Star Salvation competition.  Emerging from behind the curtain is Luca the Italian chef eliminated early in the competition. Giada then asks them to meet her at the Caesar’s Palace Buffet.  The contestants assemble there and Giada introduces their first task of this episode.

First Task:  The chefs must describe three dishes that Giada has selected from buffet.  They must describe each dish in mouthwatering detail in order to move onto the next dish.  They have only 90 seconds to describe up to three dishes.

Chris goes first and fails to get past the first of the three Italian dishes.  Nicole is up next and struggles with the proper words to describe the broth she tastes.  She uses words like “viscosity” and “unctuous” and falls flat.  Sarah then cannot describe a pepper gazpacho.  She tells Giada that is difficult to describe.  Emma is up next and ties each dish to her personal experience using lively language.  She nails it and is allowed to describe all three dishes, while the others are stuck on one.  Loreal is given Mexican food and lacks the passion to describe it eloquently.  Luca must next describe seafood.  First up is ceviche, which he aptly describes and Giada is impressed enough to allow him to describe the second dish.  He’s really grown in his absence.  Lenny is up next with polenta and a meatball.  Lenny cracks jokes and is able to get through one dish and Giada says “you got me”.

Overall Giada is unimpressed as only Emma got through all three dishes.  Giada tells them to meet her at the Venus Pool the following day for the next challenge which will require a better performance from most of them.

Second Task:  The chefs will have 60 minutes to prepare a dish for a 100 person pool party.  They will then have 3 minutes to present their dish to the crowd assembled at the pool and convince them to visit their station and leave a casino chip in exchange for their dish.  Each member of the crowd will have 3 tokens to give out, one for each chef.  The audience members will also be given a meter to turn up or down during each presentation.  The farther up the meter goes, the more buzzworthy the presentation.

The drama starts immediately when Chris beats Sarah to the beef tenderloin.  Sarah wanted to prepare beef to present her Texas POV.  She is forced to choose pork to go with her grits instead when Chris refuses to share the beef with her.  Loreal prepares a Louisiana Surf and Turf while Emma goes with a Thai calamari and mango satay.  She decides to setup a self-serve area at her station.  Lenny is making coffee crusted lamb burger sliders with curry ketchup.  He combines the cowboy elements of coffee and meat into a zesty burger.  Luca goes with an Italian seafood salad or insalata di mare.  Nicole sticks with her POV by offering a scallop with prosciutto, although she tells everyone its Serrano Ham.

Chris is the first to present and once again he provides an entertaining, energetic performance but once again is unfocused. Alton notes that he fails to describe his food.  Sarah has a decent presentation but doesn’t truly describe her POV (Texas); she just mentions Texas over and over.  It fails to inspire the judges or the crowd.  Nicole does a good job describing her POV her scallop and Serrano ham.  Loreal is bubbly but doesn’t really describe the food.  Emma does another lavish description of the food and how it fits into her life and POV.  The judges love it.  Lenny is up next and delivers a power packed performance.  He promises to do a belly flop into the pool if he gets enough chips.  The judges like his presentation.  Luca wants to impress the judges after his early failures.  He does a great job and all of the women in the crowd love him.  Alton is also impressed.

Now the partygoers will have to select the food they would like to eat.  Lenny is the big winner but his neighbor Sarah has virtually no visitors to her booth.  She’s frustrated looking over at Lenny’s successful performance while she lounges in anonymity.

Nicole does a good job attracting visitors but Alton and Giada see that she is using prosciutto.  They call her out on it and she’s embarrassed.  They like her scallop and romesko sauce but don’t like the prosciutto.  Loreal is getting a healthy number of chips and the judges enjoy her food.  Luca’s station is full of women.  The judges enjoy his seafood dish as well.  He seems to be on the right track.  Chris is getting visitors but his dish is disappointing.  The judges like the mushroom chip but the beef tenderloin is massively overcooked.  The judges like Sarah’s grits better than her pork, which they don’t feel fits her POV.  Emma’s do it yourself station is a big flop.  She is concerned with the dearth of traffic.  The judges think her presentation is off putting and poorly thought out.  The judges love Lenny’s dish and it’s a hit with the crowd as well.  He has the most tokens by far.  In celebration of his obvious victory, Lenny unbuttons his shirt and belly flops into the pool.


Giada and Alton now assemble the chefs to render judgment.  Giada tells them at this point you either have it or you don’t.  Alton tells Emma that she gave too much power over to the client; she should not do that but rather prepare the food herself.  Giada tells Chris his presentation was decent but his food was awful. They loved the mushroom chip, though.  He must deliver on his promise to elevate everyday food.  Loreal’s food was good but she did not connect it with her Butcher Babe POV.  Giada tells Nicole not to mislead her audience otherwise they won’t trust her.  Sarah’s POV was not properly connected to her pork.  Luca was the “comeback kid” according to Giada and he did a great job.  Alton gives Lenny a lot of praise for his dish and performance; he’s the winner.  Luca, Nicole and Loreal performed well enough to avoid elimination.

That means Emma, Sarah and Chris are in the bottom three.  Emma did well in 2/3 of the challenges but flopped in her food delivery.  Sarah and Chris have both failed to define their POVs and the food has underwhelmed.   The judges now make their final decision.  Emma’s food description ability saves her for the week.  Chris is a charismatic and entertaining guy but he has not delivered on his promise to elevate food.  Sarah’s Texas POV is weak and she hasn’t gelled yet.  The judges then deliver the bad news, Chris is going home.  Chris is philosophical about it, saying he used to be homeless.  He’s happy to have gotten this far but obviously badly wanted to win.  Still, he takes a lot of good from the experience.


This week offered another knockout performance by Lenny.  Luca, Nicole and Loreal were able to connect with the judges enough to impress them.  Emma did well describing her food, but her food station was so poorly executed she got the fewest tokens.  Sarah barely hung on after failing once again to define her POV and connect it to her personal experience.  There are six chefs remaining.

It’s easy to see why these six remaining chefs were chose as contestants for season.  They all have some level of ability.  But it’s becoming clearer which chefs are the most able to put it all together – combing their POV, on camera charisma and cooking skills.  Lenny clearly has delivered the best overall performance, alhough not without mistake.  The rest have had more ups and downs. All have shown flashes but in order to win you have prove that can deliver the whole package.  It’s hard to bet against Lenny at this point.  I think Luca, Loreal and Nicole are still in it and have an outside chance if Lenny stumbles.  I don’t think Sarah or Emma and can make up lost ground, absent a miracle (but I’m rooting for them).

Time for this week’s power rankings:

1. Lenny – He’s back on top and is the clear winner.

2. Loreal – She continues to impress with her cooking, although her presentation was a bit flawed.

3. Luca – He’s back with a vengeance and is now a real threat to win this competition.

4. Nicole – She steadied herself with a solid performance.  She will be tough to eliminate if she competes like this each week.

5. Emma – She did an amazing job describing the food but fell flat with her food station.  This was just poor planning and is a mistake that probably won’t be repeated. Still, for the second week in a row her bad decisions have put her on the bottom.

6. Sarah – She’s very likeable but keeps making the same mistakes.  She needs to clearly define her POV and connect it to her own life.  If she can finally get this she might have a chance.  Otherwise, she will be the next to go.

© Copyright 2014     Photos courtesy of Food Network.

The Next Food Network Star Season 10, Episode 6 – “Product Commercial” – Recap & Analysis


Giada instructs the chefs that the judges are trying to guide them to finding their Point of view (POV), their unique angle that will make them stand out.  Towards this end, this week, the remaining 7 contestants each must develop a packaged food product that personifies their POV and produce a 30 commercial to market it.   Alton is not in the studio with them but rather at Zoot Studios where they have an advanced stage which allows for the contestants to pitch their product in any place around the world.

Task:  Contestants have 60 minutes to prepare their product.  They will then consult a packaging expert who will help them create an attractively constructed product which they can sell in their commercials.  They will then head to a modern digital Hollywood studio to film their commercials.

Chris makes innovative butter coins called Culinary Treasures. Lenny is making a hot sauce which includes several hot peppers.  He calls it Black Mamba’s Brandin’ Iron Hot Sauce.  Lenny, per Giada’s advice, tries all of the peppers as he selects them for inclusion in his sauce.  He begins to sweat and gulps down a carton of milk.  Sarah Penrod makes Little Chef’s Baby Food with Texas South Western Flavors.  She uses black beans, lime, coconut and roasted baby bell peppers.  Sarah has two young boys, aged 1 and 2.  The judges like the Caribbean flavors of the baby food.  Loreal also makes a hot sauce, with peppers and watermelon, bourbon rind pickles.  She calls it simply, “Dang”.  Nicole makes New Jersey Tomato and Onion jam in a nod to her New Jersey roots and Coastal Cuisine POV.  Reuben also makes a hot sauce.  His sauce is raw and very spicy.  Giada finds it too hot so he adds sugar.  Emma is making pickled beets, which celebrates her heritage farming Point of View.  Giada says she needs to find a way to make it stand out, as beets can scare people.

Next, chefs are assigned different backdrops which they must use in their commercials.  Loreal gets a tomato patch;  Rueben gets the moon;  Lenny the Great Wall of China; Emma Paris; Chris gets the desert; Nicole gets a tough test for her in the Old West and Sarah a laid back tropical island.

The contestants consult with the packaging expert, a graphic designer named Mercedes.  They have varying levels of success.  Chris Kyler wraps his coin shaped butter in tin foil which is the most eye catching and marketable; he could put this product in stores now.  The rest look decent enough given the time constraints, with simple labels on jars.  Reuben makes “Miami Spice”; Nicole makes “Coley’s Tomato Jam”.

The chefs then head to the studios to make their commercials.  It’s just a giant green arena with a virtual set – the background will be added later.  They are met by Mike and Sal from Zoic studios and John Dexter from Niant Studios.  They are at the only 360 degree green studio in the world.

Teams work with an experienced director who guides them through the production of their commercials in the overwhelming green set, which contains only a small screen with each contestant’s background on it.

Sarah films her beach scene where she will harvest the coconuts for her baby food.  Unfortunately she has written too much for her 30 second spot.  She decides to freestyle and keep it natural.  She finds it a bit frightening.  Nicole is overwhelmed by her surroundings and the giant green screen.  She cannot pull herself together and can’t quite navigate the Western Theme.  Loreal is jazzed to be in her set with a giant tomato garden.  She decides to wing it and feels comfortable and happy in her tomato world.  Reuben seems a bit out of his depth on the moon set.  He fails to tie the moon to his Miami Spice hot sauce.  Emma creates a French character to sell her product in the Paris scene.  Chris Kyler goes with an Indiana Jones theme for his “Culinary Treasure” Butter Coins.  Lenny is a bit confused by the green set which contains just a couple of rocks.  He doesn’t feel comfortable in the middle of the green set and overcompensates by laying the cowboy charm on too thick.

The chefs will be judged for their performance in both parts of the challenge. Food Network Executives, Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson are brought in to help bobby and Giada decide the winners and losers and assess their progress.

Emma is up first and her overzealous French accent is unintelligible.  The judges didn’t enjoy it at all and she didn’t present her POV.  She should have been an American in Paris.  The judges love her beets, though.  She seems to be safe, in spite of her French faux pas.

Lenny blazes through his cowboy shtick and fails to reference the Great Wall of China, where he is standing.  He oversells the product and doesn’t integrate the Great Wall in any way.  They love his spicy sauce, though.  Lenny is probably safe as well.

Chris Kyler’s commercial rambles.  He doesn’t present his POV or the product well.  He gets lost in the Indiana Jones theme.  Giada tells him to focus “all the way through”.   Bob and Susie love his product but his commercial weighs him down.  His product should bail him out, though.

Nicole tightens up and offers a tepid product endorsement amidst the Western Theme.  She seems out of sorts and lacks star power.  Her Tomato and Onion Jam wows the judges though.  It’s hard to say if she’s going to squeak through or not.

Loreal hits a home run.  Her giant tomato garden is a perfect fit for her personality and POV.  They love her sauce too.  It all seems to fit and her brand is beginning to gel.

Sarah does a great job on her commercial but fails to tie her product to any of her personal experiences.  Bobby says it is the best they’ve seen from her yet.  Giada feels this is a big miss for her, not bringing in her sons.  The judges like her baby food, including the underlying coconut flavor.

Reuben’s moon shot falls flat.  He flatly describes his product and doesn’t use the moon at all.  He gives “a bunch of excuses” according to Giada.  They like the flavor of his product but his on camera performance has regressed and once again underwhelms.  He could be in trouble.

Bob announces that the 6 remaining contestants will be heading to Las Vegas for next week’s episode.  The chefs celebrate chances of going to Vegas.


Emma, as usual shows a lot of spirit, but her POV is relatively generic and tough to bring out; she leaves a lot of room for improvement.  Reuben did not do well and continues to make excuses and he says, “No more excuses”.  Giada tells Nicole to believe in herself and that her product was great.  Lenny did not integrate the Great Wall of China.  Sarah did not effectively combine her POV with baby food.  Chris did not plan his commercial well and did not sell his excellent product.

According to the judges, Loreal made the best commercial and Chris the best product.  So they are the first chefs to earn their trip to Las Vegas.  Lenny and Sarah also did well enough to avoid elimination and they will join Chris and Loreal in Las Vegas.  That leaves Reuben, Nicole and Emma on the block.

Nicole, according to Giada and Bobby has done a good job overall but this was a big step back.  The judges are concerned that Reuben looked small on camera.  Emma made a good product but had a big miss with her French accent.  The judges have made their decision, as two of the cooks have more potential.

Emma gets the good news first and she is spared elimination.  It’s down to Nicole and Reuben.  Bobby Flay announces that it’s Reuben’s time to go home.  He just didn’t deliver on camera.


It was sad to see Reuben go, but he seemed to make the same mistakes week after week.  His on camera performance never really evolved into a coherent identity that reflected his naturally upbeat personality and fun POV.  It’s always an unhappy moment when you see someone’s dreams disappear before your eyes, but it’s competition and the rest of the group is off to Vegas.

The big losers this week were Nicole and Emma.  Both had gained some momentum in prior weeks but clearly lost it in on camera performances (although their products were good).  Emma’s energy was great but her French accent was not well conceived or received. Nicole’s product was solid but her time in the green zone left her flustered and a hot mess.  There’s still time to recover though, as every week presents new challenges as long as you don’t eliminated.

Loreal took the favorable setup and crushed it in the tomato patch.  She seems to be up and down though, like many of the competitors.  Chris has great camera presence but is too scattered in his presentations; he’s likable but fails to deliver a focused POV.  But his product was so good it gave him a pass until next week.

Sarah and Lenny muddled through with solid products and middling presentations.  Sarah seems to have a lot of potential but has not yet been able to combine her POV and personal experience into a compelling narrative.  Lenny had a bit of an off week but should be back at ‘em next time.  Until next week’s addition of the Star Salvation winner, we are down to six contestants.  This leads to this week’s power rankings.

1. Lenny – had a bit of a tough week, but managed to keep moving along.

2. Loreal – She hit on all cylinders this week and had a positive impact on the judges.

3. Nicole – She had a tough week and fell into the bottom three but she still remains a natural talent that needs to keep her confidence up.  She is attractive, can cook and generally does well on camera.

4. Sarah – She had a solid performance this week but hasn’t put it all together yet.  While she remains a photogenic, compelling on camera performer her POV is still not quite congealed.

5. Chris – Although his product was a home run, he struggled to develop a coherent on camera message, in spite of his on camera charm.  He has the problem week after week.

6. Emma – She has a bubbly personality and does well in challenges, but her POV is weak and she is prone to making blunders, like this week’s French accent debacle.  She has talent but will she put it together before it’s too late?

© Copyright 2014    Photos courtesy of Food Network

Master Chef Season 5, Episode 8, Top 14 Compete, “Cutting it Close, Again” – Recap and Analysis


This episode begins with the home cooks on a bus, headed for their next challenge.  Led by Chef Elliot, they are dropped off at Dinah’s the iconic Culver City, CA diner.  Given its signage and décor it appears to have been opened in the early 1960s.  Judges Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich greet the home cooks.  Dinah’s serves over 1,000 plates of food per day and it will be the home cooks’ task to prepare this famous menu for a group of loyal Dinah’s patrons.

The All American Diner Challenge:  Teams are divided into two teams of seven; each team is responsible for cooking for one half of the diner during its busy time of day.  The judges decide to pick the team captains who will lead their respective teams during the competition.  Teams are divided into boys and girls.  Each team selects one member from the opposite team.  The women select Christian and the men select Victoria.  Diners will be given a blue or red colored dollar to tip for their meal if they enjoyed it.  If the service or food was bad, they won’t tip.  The team that collects the most tips will win the challenge and have immunity.  The losers will face the dreaded Pressure Challenge.  Christine will lead the all women team and Big Willie will lead the all guy team.

The competition starts as the customers begin arriving.  Christine is calling out orders for the Red Team and Willie for the Blue.  Willie struggles keeping track of the orders. Leslie is also having trouble cooking the eggs in an expedient manner.  Their service is unbearably slow.  Daniel asks Willie if he wants him take over but Willie says no.  A true home cook, Willie has never worked in a professional kitchen and is in the weeds. Graham Elliot gives Willie a few pointers.  Daniel is the quality control chef and he keeps pushing back against Leslie’s inconsistent eggs.  Willie replaces Leslie with Victoria on the egg station.  Leslie is demoted to toast.  Unfortunately for the Blue Team, the orders have backed up.  Eight diners walk out before being served and others finish their meals without tipping.  Advantage Red Team.

The Red Team is operating more efficiently for the most part but Elise is having trouble making the bread for her club sandwiches crispy enough.  Elizabeth jumps in to help her out.  The Red Team is falling behind now but catches up amidst the Blue Team’s meltdown.  It looks like the Red Team will be spared the Pressure Test but they have issues with the fried chicken that Christian is preparing – it’s rather raw.  This problem is fixed, although some diners don’t like the chicken.  Christine pushes her team to get every tip possible.  The competition ends as the last diners deposit their tips.

The following day the teams reassemble in the Master Chef Kitchen.  The other cooks continue to abuse Leslie, but he takes the high road as usual.  The final tally is in and one team made just $5 more.  The Red Team wins with $87 dollars, the Blue Team $82.  The 8 diners that walked out had a giant impact on the results.  Too bad to for the guys team – they must face the dreaded Pressure Test!

Before the Pressure Test, however, Willie is given the choice of whether to take immunity for himself or save three members of his team.  He offers to save three members of his team instead of being selfish.  He led the team and takes responsibility for its failures.  He saves Daniel, Scottish Francis and Victoria.  The rest of the Blue must cook for their aprons.

Pressure Test:  The home cooks will have 90 minutes to prepare red velvet cake, a “Southern Classic”.  It has cream cheese frosting with a dense cake with at least three delectable layers.  At their stations they will have the all the ingredients required.  The key will be the density of the batter and the cream cheese will have to be tangy and thick enough to act like glue.  The cake will need at least 25 minutes to cook and the contestants will have to prepare this first and get this going first.  One of the four home cooks, Willie, Leslie, Dan Wu and Cutter will be going home.

Big Willies feels at home at this challenge, he has made red velvet cake many times.  The key, Willie says, is not to overwork the batter.  He seems to be well on his way to immunity and adds roasted pecans to his cake.  Leslie also seems on top of it.  Dan Wu and Cutter, on the other hand, are having trouble (no surprise here).  Dan Wu is taking far too long to finish the batter and it’s too thick.  This is Leslie’s third pressure test, while many others have not even had one.  Dan Wu’s cake appears to be in trouble and Cutter tries to decorate his cake (but it looks fur that fell off of Sesame Street’s Elmo).

The home cooks finish their cakes and it’s time for the Judges taste them.  Chef Ramsay says Willie’s cake is slightly off visually, but his layer ratios and taste are spot on.  The batter and frosting are perfect, the judges agree.  Next up, Leslie has prepared another knockout dish for a Pressure Test.  He adds pistachios to the outside and uses vanilla in his icing and the judges agree it’s great.  Even though the other contestants dislike Leslie, he says that he only needs to impress the judges.

Dan Wu’s cake is overcooked.  The red velvet cake has a wooly texture and Joe says it seems homemade.  Chef Ramsay says the outside of his cake looks like a “hairy back”.  He has put too much frosting on his cake.  It is moist and delicious but it’s far too sweet.  His ratios are off though with too much sweetness.  Cutter disagrees with Chef Ramsay that his cake is too sweet.  Chef Elliot tells him that he should know that the judges have the better palate and can better judge the level of sweetness.  Joe then accosts Cutter, who continues to defend himself.  Cutter is getting extremely defensive.  Chef Joe continues to push him and Cutter flounders.  Joe asks Cutter who he thinks should be sent home and says “Leslie”.  Leslie laughs at Cutter and says, “Are you still here”.  The judges confer in order to decide who is going home.

Big Willie is the first to be safe from elimination.  Leslie’s excellent cake also has earned him a spot on the balcony.  The bottom two once again are Cutter and Dan Wu.  Cutter squeaks through and Dan Wu has cooked his final dish.  His cake was too dry with the texture of a biscuit, so it’s time to turn in his apron.  There are now 13 Chefs remaining.

Once again Cutter slides by in a Pressure Test.  But to be fair, many of the cooks have not been forced into even one such task.  Chefs like Elise and Jaimee have skipped through largely unscathed.  The way the competition unfolds, it allows for the less talented to survive by being on the winning team. The Pressure Tests reveal the top competitors.  Leslie is a beast in these tests and has given the judges a lot of good work.  Other talented cooks (Elizabeth, Victoria, Frances, Christine) have not had as many chances to show their skills.  Now that we are down to 13 contestants it will be harder for Elise and Jaimee to hide.  Judging from the preview for next week’s episode, Elise has some sort of medical issue which may be due to the stress of actually having to cook under pressure.   We’ll have to wait and see what that is all about.

Predictably Dan Wu was sent packing.  He seems like a nice guy and a decent chef and not everyone can successfully prepare new dishes under pressure.  It was clear the Dan Wu had not ever prepared anything similar to the red velvet cake in this week’s challenge.  Leslie contines his success in the challenges and remains in the upper tier of competitors.  That brings us to this week’s rankings….

First Tier – Likely Final 4

1. Leslie – Despite the other contestants that want to do him in, he remains the King of the Pressure Tests.

2. Courtney – She didn’t do much this week but remains a viable competitor.

3. Ahran – She was also on the winning Red Team this week so we didn’t see much from her.

4. Francis – He was on the losing team but spared the Pressure Test by Willie.

The Second Tier – Potential Threats

5. Christine – She showed the ability to lead her team and emerged from the pack.

6. Big Willie – He did not shine as the team leader but his red velvet cake wowed the judges.

7. Daniel – He stepped up for the Blue Team, although in a losing effort.

Third Tier – Middle of the Pack

8. Elizabeth – Did well a couple episodes ago but largely invisible this week.

9. Victoria – She pitched in for the Blue Team in a close loss.

10. Christian – He undercooked chicken for the second time.  He seems to be overrated as a chef.

11. Jaimee – Has proven little beyond her ability to bake blueberry pie.

Fourth Tier – Most in Danger of Elimination

12.  Cutter – He had a major meltdown trying to defend his overly sweet cake.  His days are likely numbered unless his attitude improves. Strangely though, his cake was not that bad.  Is his cooking actually improving?

13.  Elise – She was almost eliminated in first episode and has managed to slide through without having to perform a solo Pressure Test in recent weeks.  She is likely a goner when she does.

© Copyright 2014    Photos courtesy of Fox