Food Network Star Season 9 Episode 6 Recap: Product Pitch
Jul 10 2013 09:10 am CET

This week the Food Network Star Lucky Seven have to present product pitches to some top level executives. Although we get a better understanding of each contestant's aesthetic, a clear division between the top and the bottom begins to form.

Last week on Food Network Star: The top eight were subjected to the rigors of 4th of July LIVE. Damaris was a bit of a lush, Stacey owned her segment, but Russell seriously underwhelmed. He practically tied with Viet in the bottom two. However, a successful throw to commercial saved the sinful snack slinger and Viet was sent home.

Bobby greets the "lucky seven" as they enter the Food Network kitchen. He informs the contestants about the importance of being able to communicate a culinary point of view. This week's challenge will begin with the contestants taking one hour to cook samples of two products they would sell to the general public. Much like with summer blockbusters, the money for Food Network is in the merchandising. The mentors will sample each contestants product and offer "brutal feedback," according to Alton. After the evaluation, the contestant will choose a product to pitch to executives from Kraft, Kellogg's, and Target. Whoa, this is for realsies, folks.

The time begins and the contestants scramble through the kitchen. Despite the parameters of the challenge, most of the contestants have a plan and aren't overly stressed. Stacey struggles the most, but that's only because she has some execution problems and not concept problems. Damaris also runs into a bit of a roadblock when Russell bogarts all the bourbon, but she substitutes whiskey to fill the void.

Time expires and the evaluations begin. Russell has made bacon candy and chocolate bourbon ice cream. The judges love the candy and tell him flat out to go with it. Nikki Dinki has made two sauces: one eggplant and spinach combo, the other roasted red pepper and tomatillo. The eggplant/spinach sauce has an Exorcist vomit hue to it, which (surprise) the judges find unappetizing. The other sauce is their recommendation by default, even though it is a little heavy.

Chad has made BBQ baked beans and a Memphis-style dry rub. Although both dishes are fine, Bobby and Alton advise Chad to go with the beans because the marketplace is too crowded with dry rubs. Stacey's misfires aren't as big of a disaster as she had anticipated. Although he gluten and dairy free cookies get a "not for me" from the judges, her cayenne butterscotch tickles their fancy. Chris created a spicy sweet corn bisque and a roasted pepper and smoked apple jam. Bobby tastes the soup and exclaims "whoa." Alton and Giada pass on tasting the soup if their colleague thinks it's spicy. They like the flavors of the jam, but the consistency is not quite right. They suggest changing the name, so Chris decides to call it a ketchup.

Damaris presents a whiskey and honey vinaigrette. However, the dressing isn't cooked so there's a proof issue at play. Her peach and chili jam is more to the panel's liking, so she goes with that product. Finally, Rodney has devised two different pie kits: one for quiche and one for a mini berry pie. The judges suggest going with the quiche since it will be easier to package. Speaking of packaging, Giada tells him in no uncertain terms to keep the presentation simple. Rodney interviews he may or may not take that advice. Rodney is kind of the worst.

After meeting with a graphic designer to go over packaging ideas, the contestants go in for their pitch meetings. One at a time, they have a minute to present themselves before the panel of executives ask questions. Chad goes first and makes the faux pas of addressing the panel with "hey guys." He goes on to describe his "kick-ass" Big Boy's Beans. The panel bristles. One exec finds the beans too sweet and the look in the jar is not appetizing. This is not a good week for Chad.

Stacey is wearing a blue gingham dress that reminds me too much of Kenley from Project Runway. She goes through her super-rehearsed pitch, but trips up on a word and loses her place. She uses up a good chunk of time recomposing herself. Overall the pitch is dull, but the panel seems to like the product.

Chris spends his minute rambling about how important food is and his still-not-mentioned-by-name cause. Just before time runs out, he adds that a portion of the profits will go to charity. I hope he realizes that will be coming out of his cut and not necessarily the companies he's pitching to. The panelists felt zero connection with the product or Chris since he said nothing of substance. Chris is asked how he came up with the flavor profile and mentions in passing his family owns the largest orchard smokehouse in Ohio. Way to bury the lede AGAIN, Chris.

Nikki Dinki's pitch went fine for the most part. Then one of the execs asked where in the store she would imagine her product. Nikki Dinki is caught completely off-guard by the question. It's not quite a pasta sauce, but placing it in the health food aisle might diminish sales. Also, the product is kinda chunky, making it less of a sauce. Maybe Nikki Dinki's pitch didn't really go well at all.

Russell sells his culinary sins aesthetic almost instantly. One of the execs points out bacon candy "flies in the face of wellness," but I don't think she was presenting an objection. The panel samples the bacon, but it doesn't quite read as candy. It reads as bacon, so Russell leapfrogs to the front of the pack.

Before delivering her pitch, Damaris asks Stacey to stand behind her and speak while she mouths the words. Sorry Lena Lamont, you're on your own. Damaris delivers a well-scripted pitch, completely stripped of her personality so as not to inadvertently shimmy or flirt. She does run out of time, but the panel seems to like her. One of the executives comments on Damaris' "reserved charm," which caused Bobby to do a spit take (or he would have if he were drinking something).

Rodney closes out the pitches with thirty seconds of fast-paced rambling followed by a song he wrote in the shower that morning. I know my dearly beloved, gone far too soon Danushka was supposed to be the villain this season, but Rodney has surpassed her in hatefulness. Following the song, the execs have some questions, such as "what's in the product?" and "how are we supposed to mass produce a mason jar with a wire hanger handle and a life preserver of pie dough?" You know, things Rodney should have addressed in his pitch.

The seven contestants return to the evaluation room to face Bobby, Alton and Giada. Alton begins with Damaris, telling her she didn't show liveliness, but her product and packaging were a hit. Stacey also had a good product, according to Bobby, but the perfectionism and over-rehearsal causes her to come off as less than genuine. Giada finally subscribes to Russell's aesthetic, even though the bacon candy didn't quite qualify as candy. The good news: this trio is the top three for the week and are safe from elimination. They leave the room.

Chad, Nikki Dinki, Chris and Rodney learn there is no such thing as "middle of the pack" anymore. Bobby recaps the problems with Chad's beans (sweetness) and presentation (needs an opaque jar). Nikki Dinki's lack of confidence during presentations is hurting her to the point that she is not communicating what her product is. Chris could have locked up his pitch but didn't mention any of the information that would make him an authority or give his product gravitas. Alton says Rodney was entertaining (your mileage may vary), but he did not do anything that was asked of him in his pitch. Chad and Nikki Dinki are declared safe and dismissed. Chris committed the same sin as Andres way back when and therefore must leave the competition.

Next time on Food Network Star: Culinary vocabulary quiz! Bobby Flay has a buzzer! Food auction (though probably not Survivor-style)! Something else (my DVR cut out)!

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