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'The Next Food Network Star': What goes around comes around

June 15, 2009 | 11:41 am


Welcome to "Planet Brett." It's a place where you offer to help a fellow contestants who's struggling -- and then stab 'em in the back for taking your hand. Whether the judges on "The Next Food Network Star" took that tasteless maneuver into consideration was never broached -- but in the end, it didn't matter. Brett was thankfully sent packing.

And then there were eight.

And a considerable reshuffling of the deck.

Last week, Jeffrey was at the top of the heap, charming everyone in his path. He did much the same this week. In the contestants' first swipe at playing TV chef in front of the cameras, his presentation for his seared filet mignon dish led Food Network exec Bob Tuschman to remark that "no one brings food to life more than Jeffrey does." That reserve of good will probably helped later in the night when the challenge was to build a menu around a holiday. Jeffrey was stuck with Groundhog's Day. A tough one, and hardly a "holiday." He ended up making a tasty lobster-and-avocado dish, and admitted that one had nothing to do with the other, leading Tuschman to jokingly call him a "charming con man." When all was said and done, Jeffrey found himself safe in the middle of the pack.

Last week, Debbie found herself at the bottom of the heap and close to being sent home. This week, she redeemed herself with a Korean take on Southern dumplings. While her dish was dinged as being a little too complicated for the targeted audience -- Good Housekeeping readers -- she earned praise for the flavors and her presentation. Also joining Debbie in the top three: Jamike, who is blossoming before our eyes, as well as mommy Melissa. Ultimately, Jamika won the week with her take on New Year's, and collard greens and corn bread.

Melissa bombed during the first challenge, failing to finish her couscous dish on time and then yammering nonsensically about how the dish could be fed to an infant or a toddler. (Weird enough on its own, but worse when you consider this dish was supposed to be aimed at an Esquire magazine young male audience!)

In the second challenge, Melissa landed Mother's Day, appropriately enough. She put a great spin on traditional egg and French toast dishes but began to lose her way in the commercial kitchen and was falling behind in the timed competition. That led Brett and Teddy to offer -- offer, mind you -- to help her plate her dishes. (To be sure, it looked like their plating help was critical.)

Tuschman labeled Melissa's style in the kitchen as "mommy mayhem." But then he went on to praise Melissa mightily for her menu, pronouncing it "DEEE-licious" and "brilliantly done," sparking a raised eyebrow from Teddy and a shocked look from Brett. But instead of saying something himself, Brett slapped Teddy on the shoulder and appeared to say something along the lines of "You take this one." (I rewound it several times, but just couldn't make it out.) Guest judge Giada De Laurentiis picked up on it and asked Brett if he had something to say.

"No, no," he feigned, and then continued with his sucker punch: "I'm just listening. But in a culinary world, you do have to be able to produce your dish and put it out."

Gee, I wonder if that had anything to do with the fact that moments earlier, Tuschman had dinged Brett for his awkward ways? Certainly seemed like it.

Melissa was understandably reduced to tears, and Brett got his: He, Eddie and Katie ended up in the bottom three. And then Brett was sent home. Good riddance. Certainly that kind of spirit wouldn't be at home in the Food Network family!

Random observations:

Katie: STOP IT! No one wants to hear about digestive health and antioxidants anymore. What part of that don't you understand? Just make delicious food that just so happens to be healthy or get your bags packed 'cause you are going home.

Eddie: I'm kinda disappointed that Bobby Flay stopped Eddie in the middle of Eddie's story about the intimate night he shared with his girlfriend, a night where the two lovebirds had the apartment to themselves because Eddie's roommates were out of town. . . . I wonder how far that story would have gone.

Teddy: Trying too hard. On a scale from 1 to 10, he needs to take it down from a 15 to an 8.

Michael: Hysterical. That thing with the witch's hat was a riot. But the criticism was apt -- keep the antics off the plate. Less is more.

-- Rene Lynch

Photo credit: Food Network