Food Network Star, Season 9: Top Moments of Episode 7

Get an inside look at the finalists' challenges and relive the most memorable moments from the seventh episode of Food Network Star, Season 9.

Photo By: Sarah Shreves/Creel Films ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Sarah Shreves/Creel Films ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Sarah Shreves/Creel Films ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Sarah Shreves/Creel Films ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Sarah Shreves/Creel Films ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Sarah Shreves/Creel Films ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Judge's Recipe

For the first time this season, one of the judges takes over cooking in the Food Star Kitchen. In a test of "culinary vocabulary," Bobby asks the finalists to taste his salmon dish and describe it imaginatively instead of with "crutch words." If they mention empty words like "delicious," "awesome," "wonderful" or "incredible," Bobby will sound a buzzer.

Disappointing Delivery

"Vocabulary is not my strong point at all," Chad explains about this challenge. Although he uses only one off-limit word, his presentation is a flop with Bobby, who cites "lots of stutter, stops and starts."

Small Misstep

Highlighting the appearance, taste and texture of the fish dish, Nikki demonstrates a clear presentation, although she does mention that it's "delicious." Nevertheless, Bobby compliments her overall: "I thought you did a pretty good job."

Not Herself

The usually upbeat Damaris comes across as "kind of boring" and "clinical" in her presentation, according to Bobby. She realizes she needs to be "more exciting," but she still maintains with her delivery simply because "the buzzer's not going off." Afterward, Bobby tells her she ought to be "more conversational." He adds, "This was not a good effort."

Storied Salmon

Stacey accompanies the description of the plate with a story about "a friend's abuelita," something that no one else does. Because she "went to the story," she impressed Bobby, so much so that she's deemed the winner of the Mentor Challenge and has earned an advantage in the Star Challenge

Up for Grabs

For the Star Challenge, the Food Star Kitchen is transformed into an auction house, and Alton's on hand to be the lead auctioneer. After preparing dishes that showcases their culinary points of view, the finalists will present them to Gastronauts — a club of refined eaters — and Alton will auction them off for the charity Share Our Strength. "You've got to make your food sound absolutely irresistible," he tells the contestants.

Underwhelming Spuds

Chad explains that he wants to be "the barbecue authority" by selling his dish of "barbecue poutine," french fries topped with a gravy-like mixture of kielbasa and barbecue sauce. Like in the Mentor Challenge, he stumbles over his words and pauses frequently as he presents, and after tasting his offering, Giada notes that his potatoes "lack flavor."

Pies in Progress

The "Pie Man" is making dessert-style pies filled with berries and rhubarb and topped with an oat-bacon fat crumble, and he's confident they will wow the audience of expert eaters. "I have no doubt that they're going to love it," he says of the Gastronauts.

Mushrooms as Meat

Nikki's cooking with her audience in mind today, as she explains, "I want to make sure that the flavor is sophisticated." She's preparing vegetable-based pasta with mushrooms and Marsala wine sauce, and adds simply grilled shrimp to maintain her "meat on the side" focus.

Bacon Buddies

As Stacey works on the bacon for her maple-bacon cheesecake, she samples a slurp of Russell's dish, a deconstructed bacon-and-egg sandwich. He smokes trout eggs and serves them with bread puree, pork belly and horseradish ice cream. "This focus group, they're sophisticated diners," Russell notes. "They're going to get it. I just need to coax them in."

Comfort Food

"My goal is to not be boring ... I just want to be me up there. And sell my damn casserole," Damaris admits of her presentation to the Gastronauts. She's dressed up a feel-good Southern classic, the green bean casserole, to include kale, roasted tomatoes and shiitake mushrooms, and Alton compliments her on "a lot of technique" for being able to complete this dish successfully in only 60 minutes.

Award-Worthy

After watching Nikki's presentation, Stacey admits that her rival "gives an Academy Award-winning performance," and come elimination, Alton, too, compliments Nikki on a successful presentation. "You are no longer apologizing for your food, either in mood or word. You are presenting in a very proactive kind of way. Your dish, I thought, was exceptional." She's ultimately named the top performer this week and is safe from elimination.

Word Games

Rodney says his performance will be "frickin' nuts," and he indeed delivers on that, using half of the presentation time to tell an astronaut-Gastronaut joke that leaves the other finalists stupefied. "I'd have to bid on this pie," Damaris explains, "so I could see if he is insane or if he just is a pie genius."

Losing Steam

"I'm really freaked out," Russell says of presenting in front of the Gastronauts. "I just need to make sure that my point of view is clearly presented, and I have to sell this in the right way." He begins his presentation seemingly confidently, although he soon "turns into snoozefest," according to Damaris, who's watching from the Stew Room.

"Pie-Style" Success

Despite his controversial presentation, Rodney's pie wows the winning bidder and mentors alike, so much so that they deem it the dish of the day. Bobby tells him, "You're going to do something different than anyone else 'cause you're not like anyone else here — and that's a good thing."

Top Seller

Stacey earns automatic immunity this week, as her dish has sold for the most money, $180, which doesn't include the $10 bonus she's gifted on account of her Mentor Challenge advantage. Despite Stacey's strong finish, Giada stresses that she needs to see "a little more spontaneity" from Stacey, who tends to deliver seemingly rehearsed presentations.

Decision Time

"There's the revolution that you're going to lead, and then there are sins," Alton tells Russell of his dueling points of view. "You must now pick one because they're making you look confused." Because of this mixed messaging and his average dish, which was severely hurt by the "bland" bread puree, Russell is among the bottom-two finalists this week.

Not Cutting It Anymore

Chad joins Russell as the other least-successful finalist this week, on account of his poorly presented poutine and the fact that he's "not making any jumps," according to Giada. The Selection Committee hopes he'd have shown some progress by now, and Giada tells him, "We need you to go to the next level."

Goodbye to Barbecue

In the end, Chad's asked to leave, although Alton admits that both Chad and Russell "have shown glimmers of real promise." Looking back on his Star journey, Chad is proud to have survived this long in the competition, explaining, "There are thousands of people that tried to be in the same situation that I'm in, and I made it down to number six, which is, I think, pretty incredible."

Chance at Redemption

Chad has a final opportunity to return to the competition, but not without surviving Star Salvation, an exclusive Web series hosted by Robert Irvine. Watch the latest battle to see how he fares.

Go Behind the Scenes

Browse exclusive snapshots of the finalists and judge-mentors on set, plus learn insider trivia about the show from Food Network's culinary team.

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