Food Network Star Season 9 Episode 8 Review: Food Stories From the Road
Jul 24 2013 07:56 am CET

This week the Food Network Star cast returns to six contestants as the winner of Star Salvation is revealed. After another food description challenge, the cast splits into teams to cover legendary eateries.

This week's Food Network Star began with the return to the competition by Star Salvation winner Connie AKA Lovely (CAKAL). Then the now-six remaining contestants were asked to prepare pasta dishes that they would need to be able to describe in mouth-watering detail. In a twist, the cast was divided into pairs, then each half of the pair had to describe the other half's dish. Most of the contestants struggled with this, including Rodney who said almost nothing and Stacey and Damaris who both got bogged down in telling stories. Nikki Dinki was the only contestant who made the flavors of the dish a story and effectively conveyed any worthwhile information.

Nikki Dinki won the challenge and received an advantage in the main challenge. The cast will split into teams of three and each produce a three-minute segment about a famous LA eatery. Nikki Dinki's advantage: she gets to pick the teams. She chooses Damaris and Stacey, who instantly realize they need to win the challenge or one of them is going home. Oops. The three women get to meet the Donut King while Rodney, CAKAL and Russell cover Vito's Pizzeria.

The donut presentation goes incredibly well. Damaris is a complete natural describing the history of the establishment and showcasing its most-popular item: a donut stuffed with actual strawberries. Stacey overproduces her portion with the owner, talking over him during the demo and eventually pushing him out of the frame entirely. Nikki Dinki does a solid job in the outro, bringing in a little kid and asking her opinion of the various donuts available. What I liked most about this presentation is that this is the first time this season where I see a show I would want to watch. The trio have great chemistry and the idea of them road tripping down Route 66 checking out restaurants and diners could be a ton of fun.

Then there's Team Vito. Maybe team is too generous: the three look like they are filming a pilot for 'What's in the Break Room Fridge at the DMV?' Russell decides to talk about his aesthetic, rather than the restaurant. The good news: he's settled on culinary sins instead of food revolution. Rodney tries to interview Vito about the secret recipe, but it's two guys more interested in busting each other's chops than having a meaningful conversation. CAKAL is saddled with trying to bring customers in the mix, but they just want to eat their pizza and she's fine with letting them do that. I know I wasn't a CAKAL fan when she was on earlier in the season, but I didn't remember her being so outwardly dislikable.

The videos were screened for the judges and some of the writing staff at

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