The winner of this week's challenge on "Food Network Star"? Giada De Laurentiis.
She's not a competitor, of course, but a mentor. But Giada singlehandedly saved Ippy in the dreaded Pitch Room by cleverly playing up his Hawaiian roots -- and what a wonderful travel-oriented food show that could make for viewers who might never otherwise see that slice of paradise.
Well played, Giada!
Quick rewind: Ippy and Eric, brothers from different mothers, artists in the kitchen, and duds in front of the camera.
Oh, Ippy started out strong all right. But his laid-back Hawaiian style backfired this week when it came off as aloof, unmotivated and disengaged. Eric had the opposite problem: over-amped to the point of distraction. While he delivered on the plate, he floundered at the "star" part. Both men surprisingly ended up on the chopping block this week. (Personally, I think either Yvan, Marti, Linkie or Judson could have ended up there before those two.)
On the face of it, Eric seemed destined to make it out of the Pitch Room and back into the competition. The Flay Man noted that Eric just might be the best chef in the competition, as evidenced by his ability to make everything from scratch, down to the ricotta cheese in his lasagna. But Eric didn't have Giada on his side.
The judges asked Giada if she had any final words before they began to deliberate Eric and Ippy's fate. And boy, did she ever.
"Everybody wants to be able to experience Hawaii. And I think that Ippy could take everybody on a regular basis, 'Come with me, to paradise.'"
Just like that, Ippy was back in it. At the end of the day, Bob and Susie are looking for stars and a show they can sell, and nothing sells quite like paradise.
Said Susie: "Ippy is an original ... whether you can get to Hawaii, or bring a little Hawaii home, he would be the guy to do that."
Eric's elimination capped a brilliant challenge handed down by Ted Allen. Take humdrum dishes -- meatloaf, pork chops, tuna casserole, etc. -- and give them a makeover worthy of an unveiling at New York's fashion week. Team Alton won in part because the rose-lipped Justin and Emily actually listened to the challenge and brought their quirky flare to it. That's actually putting it mildly.
In eight seasons of "Food Network Star," no one has ever nailed a challenge like Justin, who turned beef stroganoff into a jellied checkerboard dish that looked like it might be a hat, a coat, a bag … it defined food-meets-fashion.
A.B. and his 5 o'clock shadow couldn't be prouder.
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Photo: Giada de Laurentiis arrives at the Gracie Awards Gala last month in Los Angeles. Photo credit: Jordan Strauss / Invision