Last week on Food Network Star, our top five finalists were roasted by a panel of comedians, and we said goodbye to Whitney Chen. Now our final four head to Kitchen Stadium to duke it out in front of Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, Alton Brown and the usual stable of FNS judges.

Our final four are: Jeff Mauro, Mary Beth Albright, Susie Jimenez and Vic Moea.

Don’t miss our recap from last week, or our interview with Whitney Chen!

Battling Like Iron Chefs

The finalists head to Kitchen Stadium (or just a set that sort of looks like Kitchen Stadium). Today’s challenge will consist of two battles, each between two finalists. They’ll cook three dishes in the span of an hour. The finalists who aren’t cooking will be on the floor, commentating. We’ve all seen it before in past seasons. Definitely one of my favorite challenges of the competition, mostly because it includes Iron Chef (my favorite show on the Food Network) and Alton Brown (my favorite person on the Food Network).

But of course our finalists will not be cooking alone. Four eliminated finalists will return to act as sous chefs.

In walks Whitney Chen (yay!), Chris Nirschel (uh, what?), Penny Davidi (yeah yeah, boo hiss and all that) and Jyll Everman (uh, k).

Jeff gets to pick his sous chef because he won the last Star Challenge (and the Camera Challenge before that, and the Star Challenge before that). He doesn’t even hesitate before picking Whitney. Good call, Jeff. Vic gets Jyll. Mary Beth, of course, gets Penny. And Susie gets Chris.

Mary Beth says she didn’t see it coming. That’s funny, because it’s only the seventeenth time you’ve been paired with Penny.

The secret ingredient for Mary Beth and Vic is rack of lamb. Mary Beth is doing lamb chops three ways (this could come back to bite her). Susie and Jeff are doing their best commentating. Jeff gets some laughs, and Alton has to remind Susie that Italy is, in fact, located in the Mediterranean.

Penny is moving at the speed of dirt (as Michael Symon puts it), which makes me think that she’s sabotaging Mary Beth. She’s also smirking as she takes her sweet, sweet time preparing chops and cutting onions. Oh, Penny. We missed you. And by missed you I mean we still talk about how thankful we are you’re not on the show anymore.

Susie is just bad at commentating and keeps making up words. Jeff is doing great, though. Alton calls Penny out on her leisurely pace, and she acts like, “Who, me? Leisurely?”

The battle between Mary Beth and Vic comes to a close. Vic’s first dish, a lamb salad with arugula, goes over well. His lamb burger goes even better for him, but the fries are too overcooked. Vic has a broiled lamb chop with a mint glaze. Bobby asks what’s making it sweet, and Vic tells him it’s mint jelly. Bobby goes, “Mint jelly has no place in the Iron Chef kitchen.” Vic, as an aside, says, “Then what was the mint jelly doing in the Iron Chef kitchen?”

Vic, good point. I lol’d.

Mary Beth is up next. Her dishes are not going over as well. Most of her lamb is overcooked. As Mary Beth puts it, “They love my ideas, but not my execution.”

Now it’s time for Jeff and Susie to battle. The secret ingredient? Lobster!

Can I just say I’m ecstatic to see what sandwiches Jeff is going to prepare? He’s doing a lobster roll (of course), a lobster and bacon sandwich (with bisque) and a lobster taco. Susie is doing a stew, a ceviche and an enchilada. Both of these cooks are sticking to their POVs, which always appeals to the judges. Mary Beth and Vic didn’t really do much of that.

Uh-oh, there’s no avocado for Jeff’s lobster and bacon sandwich, so he has to resort to mayo. Alton catches the normally confident Mary Beth off guard with a salt-related question.

And our second battle is over.

Jeff is up first for evaluation. The judges love his lobster roll, are iffy on the taco, and love his lobster and bacon sandwich. Jeff decides that, from this point on, he’s going to make his own mayo.

All of Susie’s dishes go over exceedingly well, which is worrying to Jeff.

Judgement Time

At this point, I think Vic or Mary Beth is heading home. It’s funny seeing Susie in this final four. I ignored Susie for half the season, and honestly forgot she was participating a lot of the time. She has come a long way, but I’m still not sold on her as a food authority.

Susie wins her battle against Jeff, and Vic wins his battle against Mary Beth. Which means our bottom two is Mary Beth and Jeff.

I’m just calling it now. Mary Beth is going home. It would be a crime if Jeff was sent home right now. Jeff is a better personality and a better cook. Mary Beth is a funny, charming person, but her food has been disappointing at points.

Jeff is, of course, safe. Mary Beth is going home.

Jeff will be going on to the finale!

We have our final three. Next week, we have a double elimination (well, obviously). Each finalist will shoot a pilot (directed by Guy Fieri). And we will have our new celebrity chef! I think our final two will be Susie and Jeff. What does everyone else think?

(Image courtesy of Food Network)

Matt Click

Staff Writer, BuddyTV