Man, last week was a rough week for DC contestants participating in Food Network Star!
Chefs Alex McCoy and Emilia Cirker gave us little to feel good about, despite laughs from bona fide movie star David Alan Grier, who showed up to serve as guest host for a reality show challenge.
The latest episode of Food Network Star, “Improv,” saw the worst performance by Alex to date, although he continued to make some really tasty food. And Emilia finally got bumped from the program. Although there were still a few weaker contestants overall, she delivered a terrible second-act performance that sealed her exit.
We’ll recap that later. First, the remaining seven contestants faced off in an opening pizza challenge last Sunday. Under the guidance of guest judge Pastry Chef Duff Goldman, the contestants competed to impress Darin Harris, CEO of CiCi’s Pizza, with a pizza featuring “kicked up flavors.”
Each contestant had only 30 minutes to create and cook their pizza, and the winning pizza would inspire a creation to be featured on CiCi’s menu nationwide for a limited time. It’s probably not a spoiler to say that Eddie Jackson won this competition with a fruit dessert pizza, as CiCi’s immediately introduced a Fiery Mango Tango dessert pizza on Monday. It will be available across the country through Aug. 16.
Rising to the challenge, Alex made an Eggplant Pizza that featured Harissa Paste, a North African chili paste. He then had a minute to present his pizza. But as usual, Alex focused on the ingredients of his pizza and ran out of time in his presentation. Unfortunately, his pizza also was undercooked. (To be fair, many other contestants faced that same problem due to the time limitations!)
Food Network Star host Giada De Laurentiis still complimented the flavor of Alex’s pizza.
The second challenge of the episode was the most complex challenge of the season so far. Under the guidance of David Alan Grier, contestants entered a contest that combined cooking with improvisation. They had to prepare a meal under the guidelines and then give an improv cooking demonstration of four minutes to a crowd of 30 comedy fans, who rated them.
David Alan Grier drew inspiration from a board that had four categories: protein, unlikely ingredient, time of day and color. Each chef was charged with making a meal within 45 minutes that encompassed all of the elements.
Alex drew the protein of chicken livers, the unlikely ingredient of caramel squares, the time of day of dinner and the color blue. In response, he cooked up a Sausage Burger with Chicken Livers and a Dry Fruit Chutney with Blueberries. The chutney incorporated the caramel squares.
In their four minutes presentations, contestants found a new challenge when they had to tell a random story and incorporate an experience drawn from another improvisation board. Alex was challenged to talk about “the best dish you ever made” and to explain “a cooking term we don’t know.”
Alex’s food was great, but he faltered again in his presentation! “I literally did nothing they asked me to do,” he acknowledged in a side interview afterward.
Food Network Star host Bobby Flay called Alex’s presentation “an epic fail,” in particular because he used the curse word “damn.”
Guest judges Bob Tuschman, Food Network general manager, and Susie Fogelson, Food Network senior vice president of marketing and brand strategy, agreed the use of the word was bad.
Still, Bobby admired Alex’s cooking. “Based on the ingredients that he was given, I think he did a good job,” Bobby said. Giada agreed: “Alex can cook.”
In grading the contestants the next day, Bobby told Alex, “Your presentations have plateaued. You got the lowest rating from the audience.”
It could have been really bad for Alex except that Emilia absolutely bombed in her improvised presentation by making fun of the other finalists. Bobby and Giada, as well as guest judges Bob and Susie, found her presentation to be mean-spirited and bordering on offensive. In a week with several poor performances, Emilia’s ill-conceived and scattershot presentation was enough for the judges to decide to eliminate her from the competition.
As the numbers get smaller, the stakes get higher. Be sure to catch Alex McCoy and the remaining contestants on Food Network Star Sunday, July 19 at 9pm ET on Food Network.
Meanwhile, watch Food Network Star, Season 11, Episode 6: