Food Network Star Comeback Kitchen: Retro dinner downfalls


Another chance at stardom vanishes in this week’s episode of Food Network Star Comeback Kitchen. Retro dinner remakes prove to be a dream destroyer.

To become a celebrity chef or a food television personality, a chef needs more than just cooking talent. A strong culinary point of view, a vivacious personality and an ability to cook combined make a Food Network Star. The chef-testants of Food Network Star Comeback Kitchen lacked the complete package in previous season. Retro dinner remakes stand in their way for another chance at stardom.

In last week’s episode, the chef-testants sought to overcome their Achilles heel. Jamika and Matthew appeared to soar ahead of the competition. In addition to creating amazing dishes, both chef-testants’s on-air personas shined. As two of the top contenders, this week’s episode set up a fierce competition.

Retro is back in

In the Mentor Challenge, the chefs-testants took on retro ingredients. From grape jelly to deviled ham, these ingredients often remain in a pantry for good reason. Transforming these old-school ingredients into a modern, delicious dish takes ingenuity. A few excelled and others were left in the previous decades.

Food Network Star Comeback Kitchen, photo from Food Network

Overall, most of the chefs created good dishes. From an interesting way to use lemon gelatin to bologna in a meatball, the new spin on retro ingredients was mostly successful. Who knew you could use the lemon gelatin in a crust for a flavor enhancer?

On air performances set the chef-testants apart. Matthew and Jamika continued to shine on camera. Their presentations were vivacious and informative. Unfortunately, Emilia ran out of time and Rob was confusing. The separation between top and bottom was clear.

Matthew won the Mentor Challenge. As the winner, he earned an advantage in the Star Challenge: Picking the teammate pairs for the Star Challenge.

Dinners of the decades stump the chef-testants

The Star Challenge had chef-testants take on dinners of the decades. Representing the 60s, 70s and 80s, these dinners of the decades created a head to head challenge. Cooking in pairs, each decade dish would have a winner and a loser. One of the losing dishes would face elimination.

Putting a spin on classic ingredients is a popular cooking show challenge. In this week’s Star Challenge, the chefs took on old school ingredients and vintage cooking utensils. For most of the chefs, the biggest challenge was cooking in unusual ways. From tea kettles to fondue pots, these small appliances had to get the job done. In most cases, the chef-testants survived the small appliance portion of the challenge.

Since this cooking show is both cooking and on-air personality, the chefs had to present their dishes too. Most of the chef-testants can cook well. The presentation aspect separates the contenders from the failures.

With two chefs facing a head to head battle, the littlest differences separated winners and losers. The biggest head to head challenge was Matthew versus Jamika in battle beef bourguignon. One of Julia Child’s infamous dishes, the hearty beef and wine meal can be a little heavy for today’s dinners.

Jamika successfully made a flatbread. The dish used all the classic ingredients in a new way. The appetizer-style dish paired well with her culinary point of view.

Matthew also excelled in this challenge. His seared steak with a delicate sauce was a huge success. But, Matthew’s presentation was nearly perfect. The combination of beautiful food and engaging presentation gave him the victory.

The other two head to head battles were slightly less impressive. Rob took on Emilia and Joy took on Danushka. Chicken teriyaki and blackened fish represented these decade dinners. Overall, all four dishes were appetizing. Again, the biggest difference was the presentation.

Food Network Star Comeback Kitchen, photo from Food Network

Chef-testants stuck in the past

Emilia and Danushka were the bottom two chefs. Jamika lost to Matthew, but she definitely wasn’t going home. The bottom two women chefs were quite difficult to watch on camera, both for different reasons.

Danushka draws people in to watch, but I can’t figure out why. Maybe like watching the world’s worst dancer, you continue to watch. It’s painful, funny, or just wrong. But you can’t turn away. Danushka’s videos produce that feeling. I’m not sure if I could watch her for 30 minutes, but I might watch as I hope to see some disastrous moment unfold.

Emilia is even harder to watch on camera. Her point of view is all over the map. Sometimes she talks about world cuisine and sometimes she talks about her family. The presentations are scattered. Even worse, the commentary can be preachy or condescending. I watch to learn more not be scolded about my lack of knowledge.

The judges eliminated Emilia. I’m sure that her many blogging fans aren’t happy about her elimination. But, the remaining contestants have improved and appear more ready for stardom.

With just five chef-testants left before the premiere of Food Network Star season 13, the competition is fierce. Will there be more gamesmanship or will someone fold under the pressure? Can an underdog emerge from the pack?

Next: A chat with Iron Chef Stephanie Izard

Hopefully, all these questions will be answered in next week’s episode. Tune into Food Network next Sunday for the next episode of Food Network Star Comeback Kitchen.