Food Network Star, Season 12: Top Moments of Episode 9

Get an inside look at the finalists' challenges and relive memorable moments from the ninth episode of Food Network Star, Season 12.

Photo By: Patrick Wymore ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Patrick Wymore ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Patrick Wymore ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Patrick Wymore ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Patrick Wymore ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Patrick Wymore ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Patrick Wymore ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Patrick Wymore ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Patrick Wymore ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Celebrating the Final Four

Ana, Damiano, Jernard and Tregaye are the top-four finalists, and what better way to celebrate the milestone than with a party, right? Kind of. The mentors introduce a calendar of food holidays — both the usual and some unexpected ones — and each hopeful is tasked with creating a dish to showcase the day. Plus, they'll be presenting their dishes in a live-style social stream, but not without an unexpected twist, of course.

When Savory Meets Sweet

Saddled with National Pretzel Day, Ana puts pretzels to work in churros, but she's not pleased with the way the dough turns out in the fryer. And when it comes to the duo of dipping sauces she's prepping, she manages to plate only the chocolate sauce, falling short on the dulce de leche. "I can't believe that I ran out of time," she admits afterward. "Epic fail."

Frogs on the Move

Damiano takes his Frog Legs Day task seriously, opting to make a saltimbocca-style dish, as he notes that the Italian word saltimbocca translates to "leap in the mouth," just like what a frog does. "I mean, I'm a genius," he says, confident in his plan.

Family Reunion

Nothing could have prepared Ana for the surprise the mentors spoke of earlier. Beba, Ana's daughter, walks onstage to help her mom present, and immediately the tears begin. "I'm just having fun and I'm so thrilled that she's here," Ana says of laughing and chatting with her daughter on camera. It turns out that Beba is a force of good for Ana, as Giada tells Beba, "I think you actually had your mom come out of her shell a little bit." The churros, however, are less successful; the mentors find them to be too dense on account of the pretzels.

Coaxing a Conversation

For Damiano, having his brother, Massimiliano, on hand is a bit of a concern. "He's so shy that he can't even talk," says Damiano, who indeed ends up struggling to highlight Massimiliano on account of the latter's hesitance. Despite that, though, Giada tells Damiano: "I'm so proud of you. You have come so far." And Damiano's frog's leg dish is a runaway hit. "This is the best savory dish that you've made," Bobby praises him.

Bringing "Boo" Back

Tregaye wastes no time in having fun with her husband, Selwyn, on set and puts her "boo" to work grinding fortune cookies for her Fortune Cookie Day dish. But she's soon sidetracked by viewers' questions, and the presentation moves from food to fashion, forcing her to run out of time. As for her plate, the mentors aren't wowed by the seemingly disparate combo of zucchini bread and duck. "It just seems a little awkward to eat," Giada notes.

Better Together

"Seeing her, it just completes me," Jernard says of welcoming his wife, Keena, following an emotional reunion. With Keena's help, he not only executes his buttered rum-lacquered grilled chicken on account of Hot Buttered Rum Day, but he also offers strong tips and entertains the viewers, dancing with Keena in true Jernard fashion. With a solid presentation and flavorful chicken under his belt, Jernard wins this Mentor Challenge and earns an advantage in the upcoming Star Challenge.

The Celebration Continues

Come the Star Challenge, the focus stays on holidays, but this time the competitors are raising a glass to larger events, such as New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day. Each finalist must lead a five-minute demo alongside a party full of guests and showcase two dishes. Jernard chooses Mardi Gras for himself before dishing out other holidays to his rivals.

From Mexico to Italy

It's no secret that Damiano has a penchant for Mexican cuisine, so when he's challenged to cook for Cinco de Mayo, he preps his Seafood Tostada and an authentic mole poblano. But he adds ricotta cheese to the mole offering for a decidedly Italian element, and Bobby's pleased with the marriage. When it comes to his presentation, Damiano wows with his ability to entertain, guest judge Tia Mowry notes, but she tells him, "Sometimes I have a hard time understanding you."

Thinking Beyond New Orleans

Jernard knows the importance of slowly cooking the roux to form the base of his gumbo, but given the time constraints of the challenge, he's forced to make changes. "This time I'm taking a big risk by creating this fast-paced 45-minute gumbo," he explains, noting that he's transforming the flavor with both Chinese five-spice powder and Worcestershire sauce, two unexpected ingredients. The risk, however, doesn't pay off, as the mentors are mystified by the dish and its lack of classic flavor.

Food Misfortunes

"I really liked that you were able to do a lot of things at once," Bobby praises Jernard after his successful party presentation. On top of offering good-to-know tips and mingling and dancing with his guests, Jernard manages to showcase his gumbo and fried catfish bites in an enjoyable demo, but ultimately both of his dishes are flops — the catfish too salty and the gumbo nontraditional, according to the panel. "Don’t misrepresent whatever it is that you're making," Giada warns him of the gumbo.

Simplicity Falls Short

Just like her grandmother does, Tregaye plans to celebrate New Year's Eve with both collard greens and black-eyes peas, which she's combining into a single dish. For her second offering, she puts together a parfait featuring layers of fresh berries and yogurt. "This needs to be a 1-2-3 dish," she admits of the dessert. The simplicity of it turns out to be a problem, though, as Giada tells her the dish "seemed like a throwaway."

A Girls' Night for the New Year

When it comes to Tregaye's New Year's Eve bash, she throws a ladies-only soiree, letting her guests help with the dish prep. "The way that you utilized your meal was amazing. It all made perfect sense," Bobby tells her. Tia's especially moved by Tregaye's story of her grandmother, so much so that the guest tears up, and Donal Skehan, the other guest judge, notes the significance of that: "The fact that you've made Tia emotional, it shows that you are able to capture someone's heart. And not a lot of people can do that."

An Irish Misstep

"I'm Cubanizing St. Patrick's Day, and that's not easy," Ana admits of her plan to turn shepherd's pie and corned beef and cabbage into Latin-inspired offerings. While Ana's presentation is a hit with most of the mentors, Giada isn't wowed. And Ana's dishes are a bigger problem. "This is not what Irish food is all about," Donal notes of the empanadas, and the shepherd's pie is lacking flavor, according to Bobby.

Highs and Lows

Despite Tregaye's trouble with her dessert, her black-eyes peas are more successful; given her strong on-camera presence, she's one of the top-two finalists this week alongside Damiano, who earns high marks for his solid dishes and presentation. Jernard and Ana, however, round out the bottom, and both face potential elimination.

Ana's Farewell

"It really comes down to answering the question of who can really get to the finish line," Bobby explains to Ana and Jernard before one is sent home. Ultimately it's Ana who leaves this week, though she stands by her dishes. "I know, without a doubt, that I'm the best cook here," Ana says, "but it took me a long time to get it together with the presentations, and it was too little too late."

One-on-One with Ana

We checked in with Ana following her elimination. Hear what she had to say about the competition and learn her thoughts on the remaining finalists in an exclusive exit interview.

Go Behind the Scenes

See what the mentors, finalists and crew members are up to between takes by checking out insider photos from the set.

More: Behind the Scenes of Food Network Star, Season 12: Part 2

Want More Food Network Star?

Check out Food Network's official Star headquarters for more insider coverage of the competition, plus exclusive mentor interviews, behind-the-scenes photos and winning recipes.

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