As you may recall, we left our aspiring TV personalities on something of a sour note, with just about everyone mad at Teddy for his actions and Teddy fighting tears. Naturally, you might assume that such powerful emotions would carry over into the very next challenge that would be thrown at the group…right?
Not so much. The distrust and (frankly) dislike of Teddy seems to have melted away as we head into the fourth episode of the series. The remaining seven contestants (“the last seven people in the world” to have this opportunity, as Bobby Flay reminds them later in the episode) are going about their business as if none of the oh-so-dramatic events of last Sunday’s episode ever happened.
With Teddy Folkman out of town for a family reunion, we watched this week’s episode from the comfort of our own couch. No commentary from fellow fans and well-wishers to accompany this one…but at least it was a quicker trip home at the end of the show!
The episode begins in earnest when the competitors assemble in the test kitchen to face Bobby Flay and another challenge: design a gourmet burger to appear on the menu at Bobby’s Burger Palace – a chain that Flay has been opening throughout the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT). We’ve actually had burgers at the Eatontown, NJ branch, so we can say from experience that most of the dishes that the contestants turned out would have been right at home alongside the Miami, the Philadelphia, the Dallas and the Napa Valley Burgers that already appear on the menu.
Michael channelled Little Italy with a Mulberry Street Burger that included chunks of mozarella tucked inside the patty itself and a garlic bread bun. Melissa’s Burlington Burger recalled her college days with melted Vermont cheddar and turkey chili atop the burger. Teddy drew inspiration from the fresh Amish-grown produce that he works with in his restaurants, paying tribute to those farmers with a Pennsylvania Burger topped with heirloom tomatoes, peppery arugula, and other fresh flavors. Jamika thought of New Orleans as she whipped up a spicy cayenne burger atop a flayed sausage link. Debbie and Jeffrey stuck with their California comfort zones – a bulgogi burger for Debbie and a sweet-heat offering from Jeffrey. Katie stuck to her green guns as she put together a San Francisco Farmers’ Market turkey burger…a risky move, as turkey burgers generally need to cook at lower temperatures for longer periods of time to avoid drying out.
So who ended up going home at the end of the show (SPOILER ALERT)? And whose burger will be making its way to Connecticut? Find out after the jump.
With its deft handling of some big Italian flavors, Michael’s Mulberry Street carried the day. Although previous experiences with editing have cautioned us that what we see is not always what we get on this show, it seemed like a good choice from our vantage point on the couch. And although Michael’s introduction of the burger to the camera still seemed a bit shaky, he definitely turned in a good performance to start the show. He and Melissa were chosen as the top two.
Others didn’t fare quite as well. Teddy was still a bit nervous, but he seemed to avoid the manic “TV Teddy” personality that has been hurting him up to this point. Jeffrey’s dish was decent, but the judges still felt as though he was failing to connect with the audience. Debbie’s Korean flavors didn’t show up the way the judges would have liked. Jamika’s burger was unwieldy and her performance was scattered. But Katie definitely earned the worst of the judges’ scorn with another undercooked offering. She just couldn’t get the turkey burgers cooked in time, so she made the ill-advised decision to go ahead and serve undercooked turkey.
Moving on to the elimination challenge of the evening, the cast made their way to the USS Intrepid – a World War II era aircraft carrier that is docked in New York City and houses the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. There Food Network personality (and NFNS Season 2 winner) Guy Fieri greets them and informs them that they will be providing a taste of home for returning servicemembers using ingredients that represent a specific state or region. It’s basically a version of Chopped in which each contestant is working from their own unique list of ingredients.
Melissa hit a home run with her skirt steak tostada. She served it with a honey-mango salsa and spiced it with peppers whose flavors and heat she ascertained by tasting them one at a time (since she doesn’t usually cook with them at home). She may not be a professional chef, but that was a pretty bad-ass performance. Michael and Debbie were also deemed sufficiently safe to move on to the next round without further discussion.
Of the remaining bunch, I’d say Jeffrey had it the hardest with his basket of lobster, smoked salt…and blueberries from Maine. The combinations don’t exactly leap to mind – and Jeffrey’s lobster pot pie with a blueberry-chipotle sauce just didn’t cut it. Though it was surprising to see Jeffrey fail at just about anything, it wasn’t much of a surprise that the judges opted to keep him around another week.
Jamika’s basket of Wisconsin delicacies – beer, cheese and sausage – had the potential to be a home run. But the limited kitchen they were working with tripped her up, and she made the cardinal sin of trying to mash some undercooked potatoes by sticking them in the food processor. The result? Gluey potatoes whose cell walls have been obliterated and turned into a starchy paste. I made that same mistake once – the outcome is unpleasant. Even with two strikes against her (after her first round misstep, too), she ended up sticking around to see another day.
Katie’s challenge basket from Georgia allowed her to put together a full meal – panko and cornmeal-crusted catfish, roasted butternut squash and braised vidalia greens. She even managed to present her dish without beating anyone over the head with its healthiness…though the judges criticized her this week for failing to mention the health benefits of the meal (since that IS her “culinary perspective,” after all). With her pair of undercooked offerings stacking up against her success on the ship, she was definitely on the bubble.
And that left Teddy. His New York basket included duck breasts, cream soda and apples, and Teddy showed off his perspective with a DLT – a sandwich that used the seared duck breast in place of bacon and incorporated an apple compote into the makeup of the dish. The judges were uniformly impressed with his cooking (Flay called it “four star cuisine”), but he just couldn’t get his act together for the presentation portion. He was flustered, and he even appeared to refer back to notes he had written on his hand. At the Judges’ Table, he was once again criticized for his hyperactive on-camera persona.
Given the choice, you’d think the judges would have kept the talented chef around in the hope that they could work with him to find his stride and his voice. You’d be wrong. Teddy was sent home, and Katie will get one more chance to share her love of all things green (and raw or near-raw) next week. To make matters worse, the editing of this episode left little time for explanations as to why they decided to send Teddy home instead of one of his opponents. We’re looking forward to setting up an exit interview with Teddy this week in the hope that we can learn about more about why they chose him.
For now, all we can do is shake our heads as we try to figure out just how the guy we know from Granville Moore’s and the Capitol Lounge ended up looking like the big villain on the Next Food Network Star. We’ll still be paying attention to the show – and we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop about when Teddy’s fellow alums will be guest starring in his restaurants here in DC. We applaud Teddy for making it as far as he did.
If you’d like to judge Teddy’s work for yourself, swing by Granville Moore’s sometime soon. As an added incentive, you can find a DLT very similar to the one Teddy cooked on tonight’s episode on the menu there, just waiting to be washed down with a smooth Belgian beer.