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'Food Network Star' recap: Surprise, no one likes Jeff's dumb, crass, coarse idea

July 11, 2011 | 12:02 pm

At Orchid's expense, we have a critical inkling as to what the "Food Network Star" judges are after.

From Day 1, Orchid was labeled a front-runner. Her food was swell, and she was at ease and relaxed in front of the camera. The judges heaped on the accolades. And that's when Orchid started to wilt. She started to second-guess herself. (Why are you asking for tasting notes from a fellow competitor? Doesn't that seem ... dumb?) And when standing alongside Vic and Jyll in this week's food truck challenge, Orchid faded into the background as they bloomed before the judges' eyes.

Now, I have nothing against Vic or Jyll, but they are trying awfully hard to be Big Personalities. And clearly that is what the judges want. What do you think? Would you like to see them as your next "Food Network Star?" (Personally, I like Vic when he tones it down just a bit and leaves the shtick behind, and I love Jyll's small-bites concept.)

What I did not like: Jeff and his balls. Seriously, what a dumb, crass, coarse idea, especially after the judging panel has already made clear they don't want toilet humor. Giada looked horrified, even though they managed to keep the whole balls thing relatively PG. The only dumber thing was Whitney going along with it to prove "I'm fun!" (As in all things, if you have to say it to the judges, it means it just ain't happening.)

If they had gone with something closer to "meatball mania" or "circling the globe," they might have won the whole thing:

Jeff's rustic meatballs were a hit with the judges, as was Susie's spicy albondigas soup. The only flop in this trio came from Whitney, who insisted on putting together falafel using canned chickpeas instead of dried chickpeas because of time constraints. That just goes to show you how Whitney is really in over her head: She is such a self-admitted control freak that she couldn't pivot and come up with something else when she realized her key ingredient was unavailable.

I would have sent Whitney or MaryBeth home and given Orchid one last shot to pull it together. But the judge's didn't ask me. What about you? (Actually, I would have sent Chris and his "nasty" lobster slop home, but Jersey is hot these days, and he hails from Hoboken, and the judges no doubt like that. So I'm giving up that fight.)

And we can't have a weekly recap without addressing Penny, can we? I'm getting a little tired of her shocking inability to accurately judge her own actions. She could be a superstar if she would only soften up a bit. How many times can someone ding her for being overly aggressive before she gets it? If she doesn't know how to act ... how about just standing there with her mouth shut and a smile on her face? That alone would probably push her through to the final three, because she can certainly cook. But can you imagine what SHE would do if someone pulled a mock cat cry on HER? The fur would definitely fly.

But here's the key questions coming out of this week: Where can we get the recipes for Vic's and Penny's food-truck dishes? Man, did they look good. They need to put out a cookbook a la "MasterChef."

One final random aside: So good to see Tyler Florence back, and looking forward to the new season of "The Great Food Truck Race." As I have said a million times, he is underutilized by Food Network.


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-- Rene Lynch

Photo: Orchid, before her departure. Photo credit: Food Network