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'Next Food Network Star': And then there were three

July 20, 2009 |  4:58 pm

Jamika 

How did this happen? How did Jamika start out so strong -- with that sensational smile, good-looking food and sassy attitude -- and end up falling short of the final three?

She self-destructed, that's how. She turned off that megawatt smile, dropped her head and appeared put out every time something did not go her way, such as during the live challenge on a Florida TV station when the remaining contestants were "punked" -- their demos were rigged to go awry. Debbie dominated the challenge, delivering a performance that was called both flawless and brilliant. Melissa and Jeffrey excelled as well. Jamika stumbled.

It was worse during the Red Lobster grill challenge, when the competitors were told to cook up a seafood dish only to have Bobby Flay throw them a curve ball by substituting in different ingredients. Asked how she was handling it, Jamika told the judges she was "pissed" and "irritated" by it all. Well, that did her in. In the evaluation room, she tried to defend it: "I've got the attitude -- you pull it out of me, you're going to get it." Food network honcho Susie Fogelson responded: "For this job, that's not going to work ... you're giving us dour and sour."

And then Jamika was sent home.

The final three competitors for their own show on Food Network include two of L.A.'s own: Jeffrey and Debbie, who join Melissa.

No one emerged unscathed from this week's competition. Jeffrey won the Red Lobster challenge -- his dish will be featured on its menus -- but he was warned that his "cooking without borders" viewpoint is coming across more like a lifestyle or an attitude rather than a real culinary point of view. He was also reminded once again that his Zen master demeanor could strike some viewers as dull.

Melissa was once again dinged for a frenetic, frantic approach during the first challenge, but she impressed everyone with a more authoritative delivery and an unexpected command of habanero peppers during the Red Lobster challenge.

Debbie, though, got the worst of it. Flay stripped Debbie of her go-to Asian flavors during the Red Lobster challenge and told her to instead employ Mediterranean ingredients -- capers, olives and anchovies. "Where are the capers?" he asked when he tried the final dish. First, she said she'd incorporated the capers into a vinaigrette. Then, she said she'd forgotten to use them at all. The evaluation panel called her on it, saying they'd had too many times where her explanations seemed murky (and self-serving).

It wasn't enough, though, to send her home over Jamika. Were you surprised by the ouster? Bookmaker.com still has Jeffrey set to win it, as it has throughout the competition.

— Rene Lynch

Photo credit: Food Network

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