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A Cuban cook from Miami, Ana earned her place among the final-four competitors, but her journey wasn't without drama, as she earned a reputation for dooming her partners with immediate elimination. Her food chops were strong from the very beginning, but she struggled with her presentations, making only minimal progress in the end.
The mentors wasted no time in praising Ana's strong skills in the kitchen. In the Week 1 Star Challenge at the movie theater, she presented a Cuban-inspired burger with chorizo that Bobby was so pleased with that he joked, "This is going to be a Burger of the Month at Bobby's Burger Palace before you know it." Given the progress she made in her second-take cold open, compared with her first-take cold open, she earned a top seat in the premiere episode.
The second week exhibited repeated presentation struggles for Ana. After a flop of a travelogue with Melissa, she attempted to deliver her mash-up dish of paella and cheeseburgers to a crowd, but her nerves got the better of her and she ended up stumbling over her words. Nevertheless, she described her dish better than Melissa did, and Ana was deemed safe from elimination.
Each finalist was given a journal to use during the competition, and Ana filled hers with inspirational quotes, notes on her recipes and rough sketches of her would-be plates, like this one she drew for the Week 3 Mentor Challenge. It turns out, though, that her plan didn't work as expected, as Food Network Magazine's Maile Carpenter couldn't discern the Carved for Attention theme from the finalist's dish, and neither she nor the judges tasted the sandwich.
Working with Martita for the Week 3 Star Challenge, Ana was concerned about her partner's idea to script their Family Road Trip video, as Ana noted, "I think it's important that our promo sounds like a very natural conversation." Ana kept her resolve to herself — and it paid off. While Giada found Martita to be "overly polished," the judge noted that Ana was "very conversational." Ultimately Martita went home that week while Ana remained.
When VIP guest judge Jesse Tyler Ferguson disguised his voice to call the finalists and request changes to their menus, Ana adapted with ease, swapping out guava for fig to serve with her salmon. For her, the shock came when she saw him sitting at the table, as she all but babbled in his presence. "You did actually make her nervous," Bobby told Jesse. In terms of her dish, the mentors were wowed, as Jesse deemed it "delicious."
In the Week 5 Mentor Challenge, the mentors put the focus on culinary hacks, and for Ana that meant the Mason jar. She's timid about shaking it up on camera — both literally and in her presentation — and Bobby called her out on that. "Ana, go for it," Bobby told her simply. For Giada, the concern came down to interest: "I don't understand. You cook so well. Why can't you, like, get more excited about it?"
Despite the mentors' pleas for more personality, Ana continued to struggle in the later Star Challenge, when she introduced her tofu-studded fried rice with lackluster energy. "We'll learn something about her heritage, and then she'll just give negatives, which kind of is a downer," Giada noted. "She doesn’t have the same enthusiasm as some of the other finalists."
When the Good Mythical Morning guys, Rhett and Link, dropped by with their Wheel of Mythicality, Ana was saddled with pairing radishes and eggs Benedict. Despite her best efforts to showcase the radishes, they got lost in her dish, according to the mentors. Her presentation, though, was anything but subtle, as she wound up snuggling into Rhett and holding hands with him. "It can't come down to your having your head on his shoulder to be able to tell them what's in the dish," Bobby reminded her.
For the first time in the contest, Ana delivered a twinge of the personality that Bobby and Giada had been asking for in the Week 7 Mentor Challenge. She spoke of her recent divorce and first forays into the dating scene while describing her reinvented tres leches cake. The panel was impressed by her progress, and Bobby began to grasp the persona she'd been offering. "Ana's demeanor is kind of relaxed and calm, and we have plenty of people who are stars on the network who have sort of that same level," Bobby explained.
Ana and Joy found themselves working together for the tiki party, and while they got off to a strong start while prepping their dishes, the situation began to unravel onstage. "They were fighting with each other," Bobby noted. "It's just uncomfortable to watch." Luckily for Ana, though, her pork slider was successful, and she was spared another week.
After Ana presented her Spanish-inspired lobster roll — which garnered rave reviews from the mentors, with a story about her daughters — Bobby commended Ana and said, "When you talked about your kids, it shows how important that part of your life is." And ultimately that feedback was enough for her: "This is a step in the right direction. It's the boost that I needed."
True to many of her past performances, Ana once again delivered her appetizer course during the guilty pleasures dinner with nervous energy, so much so that guest judge Alex Guarnaschelli cut her off midpresentation. "You have to relax," Alex told her. "You're making me nervous." Her dishes — three different pork-based offerings — weren't runaway hits, and she landed among the bottom finalists.
In what would be her final week in the competition, Ana received the ultimate surprise when her daughter Beba walked onstage to present alongside her in the food holiday Mentor Challenge. "I think you actually had your mom come out of her shell a little bit," Giada told Beba, after Ana and Beba chatted naturally on camera. Ana's churro offering, however, wasn't a complete success, as the dessert seemed heavy to the mentors.
Ana was stumped when it came to combining elements of Irish and Cuban fare for her St. Patrick's Day party in the Star Challenge. And what she ended up with — shortcut shepherd's pie and corned beef and cabbage empanada style — was too much of a departure from the traditional St. Patrick's Day recipes for guest judge Donal Skehan's tastes. "This is not what Irish food is all about," he said of her empanada offering. For Giada, both of Ana's plates lacked the bold flavors for which she'd come to be known. "This is, like, not Ana. It's very bland," Giada said.
Though Ana had indeed made sizable progress in her presentations this week, she ultimately went home in Week 9 following back-to-back food flops. "I know, without a doubt, that I'm the best cook here," Ana said, "but it took me a long time to get it together with the presentations, and it was too little too late."