Food Network Star recap: Experiential dining sends off another finalist


Journey through the jungle to the mountain top, the Food Network Star finalists create experiential dining in this week’s episode.

Food Network Star tries to create interesting challenges to push the finalists and keep viewers intrigued. This week’s episode tackled experiential dining. This type of dining immerses guests into a particular theme. From the lightning and décor to the food on the plate, the diners feel like they are sitting in a specific area or theme.

This week’s challenge was to create a five course dinner. Each course represented a particular locale: jungle, beach, forest, desert and mountain. The dishes had to reflect both the theme and the finalists’ culinary point of view. Additionally, the finalists had to create a video enticing diners to want that particular dish.

Since the competition is still early, this week’s challenge was another team challenge. As soon as Bobby and Giada announced the format, Matthew, the Comeback Kitchen winner, instantly cringed. Team challenges often come with personality conflicts and power struggles.

Food Network Star, Experiential Dining, photo from Food Network

Unlike last week where finalists chose their own teams, the top two finalists from last week’s challenge did a school yard pick for teammates. Addie and Cory were team captains. Addie’s team consisted of Jason, Amy, Cao and Matthew. Although picked at the end, Matthew was happy with his team. Cory’s team was Rusty, Trace, David and Suzanne. No one really wanted Suzanne on their team.

With the teams set, the finalists decided their courses and dishes. While Addie’s team had no problems choosing locale and food, Cory’s team had Suzanne, enough said. With her debacle in last week’s challenge, Suzanne felt the need to assert herself. Insisting on the dessert course, Suzanne wanted her voice to be heard, almost to the downfall of the team.

Food Network Star, Experiential Dining, photo from Food Network

The cooking portion of this episode didn’t have too many catastrophes. David’s duck breast became duck charcoal, but he was able to re-fire the dish. Cao complained that Vietnamese food takes all day to create the bold flavors. Suzanne had difficulty with her dessert, baklava. The flaky pastry, which she apparently makes all the time, didn’t have enough butter to make the layers supple.

Overall, the food dishes were cooked well. There were some mistakes, but the majority were better than your average at home cook. Personally, I would hope that a Food Network star would be an amazing chef, one who could create a plate of food that would be mouthwatering, not just acceptable. But, maybe as the competition moves forward, some chefs will up their game.

Food Network Star, Experiential Dining, photo from Food Network

Since Food Network Star is more than just good food, the finalists had to create a 30 second video to entice diners to choose their dish. Of course, the videos created the episode’s drama. What’s a reality television show without drama?

Addie’s team did well with the videos. Even Amy, who still lacks confidence, had an engaging video. I wish that she wouldn’t doubt herself so much. Matthew held a blowtorch during his video, which was totally weird and over thought.

Food Network Star, Experiential Dining, photo from Food Network

Like every episode so far, Jason and his catchphrases stole the episode. Instead of “Lord Honey” or a bourbon/butter reference, this week featured a statement about smacking inside your mouth. No one knew what it meant, but I can’t stop watching him. I really hope Jason goes far into the competition.

As for team Cory, Suzanne was a complete disaster. The entire team had to use almost all of its time for her video. She couldn’t describe her dish, she couldn’t speak in a complete sentence, and she shouldn’t be on camera. Unfortunately, team Cory’s videos suffered because of her.

The Food Network guests had to choose just one of the dishes for each course. The finalists’ videos were used to entice the guests. While the popularity of the finalist and the dish were a consideration, taste was a factor too.

The overall winner of this week’s episode was Jason. His personality has star quality. Plus, he made a dessert in this week’s challenge. He won Holiday Baking Championship. If he can’t make a winning dessert, he should go home.

Food Network Star, Experiential Dining, photo from Food Network

The three chefs up for elimination were Suzanne, Cao and Trace. Cao had a good presentation, but her pho lacked bold flavors that Vietnamese food should have. Limited time is part of a cooking competition. She needs to learn to develop flavor in a condensed period of time.

Trace had two issues. First, his dish was boring. With just a few ingredients, the dish needed to be on point. But, the pasta was dry and needed a sauce to add flavor. Plus, his presentation lacked authority. His personality seemed bland, like his food.

Suzanne failed both her dish and video. The baklava was dry. No dessert should be dry. Her video was almost unwatchable. Suzanne was eliminated. What I really didn’t like was her attitude when she was sent home. She said it was unfair. It’s a competition. You didn’t have a good dish. You didn’t have a good video. Your time in the kitchen is over, accept it and don’t be a poor loser.

Next: Food Network Star Beauty and the Beast episode

Three episodes down in Food Network Star. Experiential dining may not have been the immersive experience viewers wanted. Let’s hope next week’s episode has some big drama. It is time to separate the stars from the wannabes.