While the eight remaining contestants continue on Food Network Star, Food Network Star Salvation has begun. For those who aren’t familiar, Star Salvation gives one chef a chance to come back to the main competition by winning this competition of eliminated chefs. The one who pulls it off will return at the final four, so that means that we’re treated to the return of Blake, Toya, Suzanne, Nancy and Trace. As more chefs get eliminated, they’ll end up here. Think of it as a loser’s bracket for a tournament, if you will.
Traditionally, Alex Guarnaschelli hosts alongside the previous winner, which would be Tregaye Fraser. I’m not looking forward to that, as I found Tregaye quite annoying last year. I would have gladly watched a show featuring Jernard or Damiano, but I’m not a Tregaye fan. But to my delight, it is not Tregaye who’s hosting Star Salvation, it’s season seven winner Jeff Mauro, the Sandwich King himself. Awesome. I do like Jeff, and I think he’ll be great here.
Anyway, our first Star Salvation gives our contestants 20 minutes to create a snack on a stovetop grill, and Blake’s doing avocado toast with sweet potato subbed in for the toast. OK, that’s better than his first time out, but still a little too health-focused. Blake’s got to get off that laser focus and expand his arsenal.
Toya is doing an andouille sausage cream cheese slider, and she’s adding roasted red peppers. I don’t even like sausage, but I think that could work. Nancy opts for yogurt and honey peaches, with the peaches cut in a way to get the pit out of the way. Suzanne chooses an open-faced pita kebab, which sounds like a decent snack but doesn’t include a hack at all. Trace opts for a caprese salad in a sorbet glass, which is more creative than anything he did on the main show.
So our Food Network Star Salvation judges make their rounds, and Blake’s guacamole is strong but underseasoned. Bland does not work on Food Network. Toya has the flavors in her dish, but her portion size has to be better. Nancy and Suzanne both seem to have the flavors on point in their dish, as does Trace, so Blake is the one in a hole as we head to the Facebook live video portion of the challenge. This is likely the weak point for Nancy and Suzanne.
Suzanne – no, she’s still calling herself Mama Suzanne – is still stumbling on camera. Her hack of flattening kebab sandwiches with a pan doesn’t go over as a hack at all, and she didn’t explain it at all. She’s in trouble. Trace, on the other hand, uses his jar to transfer salad to the plate, and he looks so comfortable on camera. Food Network Star Salvation Trace is a different Trace from the main show. I like this Trace.
Toya is still struggling with time management, and that detracts from her performance, which was a solid example of interactivity. Continuing the theme, Nancy again runs out of time, and I think that’s just the way she is. She can’t condense herself, and that doesn’t work for a show. Blake does a good job getting everything on camera, and he also tastes his food on camera as time expires, winning praise from Alex and Jeff. He says it’s a new feeling for him to be confident going into elimination. I think Blake and Trace are both safe.
So that brings us to the judging for Week 1, and Jeff and Alex reveal that two chefs are going home. I guess since everyone agreed to compete this time (unlike Melissa) and the Comeback Kitchen winner is still on the show (unlike Martita), they have to cut two at once. So Jeff announces the two chefs going home, and it’s the end of the road for both Mama Suzanne and Nana, which I’m quite pleased with. Neither one showed much of anything in the competition, and both had no ability to condense their videos. Plus, the nicknames they gave themselves were just annoying.
As she exits Food Network Star Salvation, Suzanne refuses to call herself a loser and says she’s never going to give up. I’ll use the word for her: Suzanne was a loser on this show. So was Nancy, who also says that she’s not done…but I think she’s done as well. She’s shown nothing to suggest that she can host a show. So that leaves Blake, Trace and Toya, who are one step closer to returning to Food Network Star. Blake and Trace look like they’ve learned a thing or two, while Toya is on thin ice.
Do you agree with my analysis, or did I miss something? Who do you think will win the spot back on Food Network Star? Sound off in the comments below and like and share this story!
By Dan Angell
Photo Courtesy Food Network