'Food Network Star' Recap: Cougars, Burnt Cheese and Surprise Goodbyes
'Food Network Star' Recap: Cougars, Burnt Cheese and Surprise Goodbyes
Matt Click
Matt Click
Staff Writer, BuddyTV
It's week four of Food Network Star and the stakes have never been higher for this season's contestants. We've said goodbye to Howie, Juba, Katy and Alicia so far, and any slip-ups are duly noted by judges Bobby Flay, Giada de Laurentiis, Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson. Who will be our fifth elimination? Will Penny continue her scheming, dramatic ways, and will they get the best of her? Will Jeff once again don a sweat band to keep from sweating in his food? How many times will I forget that Susie is a contestant? All of these questions and more will be answered in this week's episode of Food Network Star.

Read on, food fans.

Cereal Chefs

Our finalists head to Food Network kitchens and find ... Melissa d'Arabian. I'm not a big Melissa d'Arabian fan. I wasn't fond of her during her winning run on Next Food Network Star, and her Ten Dollar Dinners is one of my least favorite cooking shows on the network. But eh, she is a past winner of the show these contestants are currently competing on, so I suppose it makes sense. But still. It's better than Guy Fieri rollin' up in one of his cars and trying to sell the contestants his knives. (Edit: And now I come to find he's going to do just that next week. Great.)

This Camera Challenge is another great example of blatant product placement. Except this week, instead of Hershey's, it's Kellog's. We've got cereal, crackers and waffles. The contestants don't get to choose their ingredients, so they've got to think fast. Justin B. wants the Cheez-Its, and he gets 'em.

And here's Michael Symon! Finally, a guest judge I can get behind. 

Chris is up first to present and stuffs two huge bites into his face. Man, is he obnoxious. Whitney does well in front of the camera, but her food is somewhat lacking for the judges (first time that's happened, huh?). Vic does well, and Michael Symon says he digs his look (get it, 'cause they're both bald!). Jyll's up, and Melissa loves her. Of course she does. Jyll and Melissa d'Arabian are the same person. Susie once again reminds us that she's on this show, but blows it front of the camera by naming the product wrong (don't piss off the advertisers, Susie!). Michael Symon loves her food though. Penny's food falls flat with the judges.

Justin D. isn't paying attention to his timer and stops talking with 10 seconds to go. And Bob Tuschman thought he said his dish tasted like "human" instead of "cumin." Which is both hilarious and unsettling. Justin D. is feeling bad about his performance, and the fact that Bob Tuschman thinks he's a cannibal.

Justin B. has the same problem and runs out of stuff to talk about with 30 seconds to go. Usual criticisms: great food, but get a personality, for the love of God. Jeff is doing great, and then he makes a poop joke ... right before the judges taste his food. Jeff! What have we learned here on Food Network Star? Don't sweat into your spring rolls, and don't make poop jokes in a cooking competition.

Jyll wins the challenge.
That's two Camera Challenges in a row going to Jyll. Geez, does she have a chance at winning this whole thing? Speaking of winning the whole thing, where has Orchid been for the last two episodes? Can anyone honestly remember Orchid doing anything? I hope we get some more of her this time around. The judges call out Justin B. and Jeff for their missteps.

Cooking for Cougars

Time for the Star Challenge (and it seriously is a Star Challenge this week). They're met by Bobby Flay, who's flanked by Bill Lawrence (executive producer of Cougar Town) and Busy Philips (star of Cougar Town -- but I'll always think of her as Kim Kelly from Freaks and Geeks). Penny's all excited and says, "I love Cougar Town. Being a cougar myself, I relate." I missed the next couple minutes of the show because I had to find a garbage can to puke in.

The contestants will be preparing meals for the cast and crew of Cougar Town. They're being broken up into teams of two (ooh, this is gonna be good) or three. Each team will be responsible for feeding the five different departments: art, writers, vanities, crew and cast.

The teams are: Penny and Mary Beth (crew); Justin B. and Jeff (art); Orchid and Chris (writers); Vic and Jyll (vanities); Susie, Whitney and Justin D. (cast).

They immediately break and start planning. Whitney is concerned because Justin D. can be a bit spacy. Orchid is worried about working with Chris. And Penny doesn't want to work with Mary Beth because she's "so square."

The contestants stock up on enough food to feed an army. Justin D. is having a really rough time at the store. He leaves the store and he doesn't know what he's making.

Oh my lord. Chris is outside with a broom chasing a raccoon. "Dude, I've never been this close to a raccoon before!" Chris is seriously 11 years old. What a weird scene to include in the episode.

Jeff shows Justin B. pictures of his wife and kid (d'aawwwwww) the next morning. He says he's not doing this for himself -- he's doing it for his family. I like Jeff, I really do. I hope he can steer clear of the poop jokes in front of the cast of Cougar Town.

Chris is concerned because his lamb is still frozen. Mary Beth and Penny are both being totally fake-nice to each other and it's fantastic. It's like watching two con-artists trying to pull fast ones on each other.

Justin D. didn't get some of Susie's ingredients from the store. Susie sort of just rolls with it, but Justin feels bad.

Jeff is again rockin' the sweat band. He's working with tofu, and he's concerned. I am a little too. I've had very little tasty tofu in my life. Apparently Penny's cheese sauce for her mac-and-cheese is burning, but she's unaware. I can't wait until she discovers this.

In walks Paula Deen, and she cranks up the Paulaness to offer the contestants some advice. "Don't edit yourselves," she drawls. "Let those little personalities shine through." Unless your personality includes poop jokes, Jeff. (I swear, that's the last time I will mention Jeff's poop joke.)

The contestants bring their little personalities and their huge meals to the Cougar Town set. The massive cast and crew break for lunch. Everyone's loving Mary Beth's meatloaf, but nobody wants Penny's burnt mac-and-cheese.

Courtney Cox is in the house! Her and the rest of the main cast are seated at the judge's table. Chris and Orchid are up first to present. Orchid is starstruck and freezes, so Chris picks up the slack. He actually gives a nice little presentation. Giada de Laurentiis says Chris did "a lot better than he has in the past." Bobby Flay counters with "He didn't do anything ridiculous, which is a step in the right direction." Here here, Bobby.

Jeff and Justin are up next. Jeff is concerned about his tofu, but, here's the surprise, the judges love it, and they love him. Looks like he's out of the woods this week. Whitney, Justin D. and Susie are up. Susie impresses the judges, but Justin and Whitney both come off as a little bland. Jyll and Vic present next. Someone says what we're all thinking and draws a comparison between Vic and Vin Diesel. Funny, but I made that joke like five weeks ago.

Penny and Mary Beth are last up to present their food. Mary Beth makes a penis joke, and it goes over surprisingly well. So poop jokes aren't cool, but penis jokes are? (I know, I know. I promised I wouldn't.) The judges love Mary Beth's meatloaf, but everyone can totally taste the burnt cheese sauce in Penny's mac-and-cheese.

Everyone except Penny hated her mac-and-cheese, so they all spend the evening bad-mouthing her while she sits within earshot. So they all hate her, and she burned her food. Is Penny going home this week?

A Surprise Goodbye

Judgement time. The judges commend Chris on his growth this week. Orchid did a really good job keeping Chris in check, I have to admit. They gush over Mary Beth's meatloaf. Bobby tells Penny that her mac-and-cheese was burnt, and she goes, "Wow, really?" like it's the first she's heard about it. I've gotta say, I've had just about enough of Penny. I hope beyond hope she's going home right now.

Chris tries to tell Penny that her cheese was, in fact, burning, and she snaps at him like she's being attacked, when in reality, she messed up and is refusing to admit it. She needs to have more outbursts like this in front of the judges, so they will send her the hell home.

Bob Tuschman says Jeff's tofu was the best tofu he's ever had.

Contestants safe this week: Jeff, Orchid, Mary Beth, Susie and Vic.

Is it just me, or is this elimination taking forever?

Jyll and Chris are both safe. Jyll has won two Camera Challenges in a row, so that makes sense. And Chris' personal growth this week probably saved him.

So that means our bottom four this week is Justin D., Whitney, Penny and Justin B.

Penny, Penny, Penny, Penny, Penny.

The bottom four leave the room so the judges can deliberate. Susie goes, "What?! They've gotta think about it?" Susie, this is how it always works. You're four weeks in. Let's get with the program.

Penny, Penny, Penny, Penny, Penny.

Annnd ... it's ... Justin Balmes.

Justin looks absolutely shocked, and I'm right there with him. This is the first time I've been legitimately thrown by an elimination. I mean, Justin was bound to get cut at some point. But this week, when Penny was so clearly the bottom contestant?

On the bright side, I no longer have to include a last initial for the Justins in my recaps. Every letter takes time, you know. And time is money. So I'm saving time and money. Oh, who am I kidding? It should have been Penny Davidi, and the judges know it.

What a weird decision. The producers must be keeping Penny around for the drama.

Next week, Guy Fieri is stopping by to annoy everybody (and by everybody, I primarily mean me) and point at the camera. Until next Sunday, food fans!

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(Image courtesy of Food Network)