Tomorrow is the Fourth of July! And the Fourth of July is all about getting together with family and friends for food and fun (and fireworks, of course).
So what better way to mark the occasion than to discuss the food in last week’s Food Network Star, which saw the remaining nine contestants in the 11th season compete in teams against each other for a July 4 picnic battle?
As you know, we’ve been cheering for DC Chef Alex McCoy in our blog, so we are going to recap how well Alex performed in this past episode, Episode 4. This will bring you up to speed so that you can watch him cook in Episode 5, set to air this Sunday, July 5, at 9pm ET on the Food Network.
Last week, Alex joined up with two other contestants in one of three teams. Each team was named after the colors of the U.S. flag –- red, white and blue — and Alex was on team blue with Arnold Myint of Nashville and Eddie Jackson of Houston. (Eddie is a former NFL football player for the Miami Dolphins, by the way, and his performances on this show have generally been pretty entertaining.)
Anyway, each team was given time to buy a bunch of ingredients in a Whole Foods for their Fourth of July party. The blue team decided they were going to go with a curry theme: Arnold, flank steak with Asian curry; Eddie, chicken skewers with Caribbean curry; and Alex, curried shrimp salad sandwich.
It was a great plan that united the team while playing to their individual strengths, including Alex’s stake as a sandwich specialist. Well, when they returned to the field where they would host their picnic, guest host Bobby Dean threw them a curveball. Bobby Dean told the teams they would not use their own ingredients; instead, they would use the ingredients of another team.
As such, the teams had to swap car keys to access the ingredients in the trunk of another team’s car. Because of this system, each team would be flying blind; no team tracked what another team had purchased in Whole Foods.
Bobby Dean assigned the keys of the white team to the blue team, and Alex went for a revised meal of chicken sandwiches with his new ingredients. For his Japanese-inspired chicken sandwich, he really wanted mayonnaise and ketchup but he had neither in his new load of ingredients. So instead, he made his own mayo from eggs and made his own ketchup from tomatoes — inspired!
The resulting Chicken Katsu-Sando and Sesame Slaw was a smash hit. Food Network Star host Bobby Flay called it his favorite dish so far, and Bobby Dean agreed, but he said he didn’t know what he was going to be eating from Alex’s description.
And that’s where Alex faltered a bit in last week’s competition. Each team had three minutes to pitch their meals to the crowd gathered by Food Network for the picnic. Each member of the crowd was armed with the Food Network “Dial of Doom,” which they could use to indicate a good or bad pitch from each chef by dialing to the left for a bad performance and to the right for a good performance.
Alex lost the crowd a bit by talking a long time about his Japanese sandwich — and losing folks with the Japanese terms. In doing so, he also left his teammate Eddie with very little time (perhaps 15 seconds) to explain his meal.
In post-competition analysis, Food Network Star host Giada De Laurentiis hit Alex for focusing on the Japanese ingredients and not simply telling the audience they were going to eat a fried chicken sandwich. Gina said Alex failed to make the Japanese recipe, an international dish, accessible to an American audience.
Having said that, the hosts declared the sandwich was “phenomenal.”
The picnic crowd each chose the food of one team to eat, and each person had a token to spend. Alex’s blue team gathered the most tokens from the crowd with a total of 35, so the entire team was automatically spared from elimination this episode. (White team gathered 32; red team, 16.)
Another DC-area contestant Emilia Cirker hasn’t been doing as well as Alex in the competition this season! For the picnic, she made Tandoori chicken and pea puree. Her presentation was great but the judges were disappointed by the food. Emilia’s red team ended up on the bottom because few queued up for them. However, Emilia was spared from elimination for her good presentation.
Alex shared a recipe inspired by this episode with the Food Network. You can find his Katsu-Sando with Shaved Cabbage on the Food Network website if you want to make it for your own July 4 party.
You can watch Food Network Star, Season 11, Episode 4, here: