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The ninth finalist eliminated from the competition, Nikki, is a food blogger who hosts her own cooking videos online. Although the mentors appreciated her commitment to her vegetable-based culinary point of view, they were forced to let her go after she failed to convince them of her authority over food after more than two months in the contest.
In the premiere episode, Nikki was clear and concise in her portrayal of her food perspective: She dubbed herself the "semi-vegetarian" who enjoyed "meat on the side." The focus group awarded her a high rating on their dials, and Susie Fogelson, although she thought Nikki to be "cutesy," deemed her point of view to be "so simple and genius."
Each finalist was given a journal to use during the competition, and Nikki filled hers with recipe ideas, notes on challenges and plans for future presentations. Here she jotted down a few ideas for her performance at the live Burger Bash demonstration, wherein she'd try to sell her Veggie Bang Burger to 100 guests. "Be an authority when it comes to being the one to cook vegetables," Nikki wrote of the mentors' advice to her that day.
Despite Nikki's best intentions for her burger in Episode 2, Giada found her between-the-bun creation to have "no flavor," but perhaps most disconcerting was Nikki's performance, in which she used uninspired phrases, like "kind-of burger patty" and "usual," to describe her burger. "If it's not special, why bother?" Bobby wondered.
The Mentor Challenge in week 3 forced the finalists to demonstrate their authorities over mystery ingredients, and for Nikki, that product was cuttlefish. Embracing her culinary point of view, she prepared a vegetable salad with the cuttlefish on top, but Alton her efforts fell short with Alton. "I didn't get that you were grasping that ingredient," he told her.
Nikki opened up her mystery basket to find chicken nuggets, cheddar fish crackers, fruit leathers and apple juice in the Chopped-style challenge, and she again put a "semi-vegetarian" twist on the ingredients by making broccoli-chicken spring rolls. Guest judge Alex commended her on the preparation, saying, "I'm impressed with how much you repurposed the ingredients."
Working with Russell and Stacey on Team Western, Nikki took charge of the appetizer course on the group's menu, which they introduced to an audience of moviegoers in a themed trailer. The mentors and focus group alike enjoyed Team Western's video, and come evaluation, Alton told Nikki, "The you in that trailer is the you I want to see from now on: confident, in control."
In addition to her performance, Nikki's food also received rave reviews in week 4, one audience member calling her vegetable-based chicken with a sausage topping "really, really good." After tasting Nikki's dish, Alton told Giada and Bobby, "This is the kind of cooking that I've been waiting to get from her that shows the whole body and the depth of the flavor that she can bring with those vegetables."
In the first live-television challenge of the season, Nikki was caught off-guard by an unexpected fire alarm and blackout while on set with guest co-host Terrence Jenkins. She should have simply continued with her demonstration, but instead she stopped and waited for direction, ultimately at the expense of the live show. "I far from nailed this one," she admitted.
After earning a week 5 advantage, Rodney assigned Nikki the dish of fried chicken to cook during the group's 4th of July Live Mentor Challenge. Nikki, a "semi-vegetarian," had never before prepared fried chicken, but she managed to deliver juicy meat that Bob Tuschman found to be "super crunchy."
After finding the color of Nikki's spinach sauce to be immediately unappealing, the mentors advised her to instead pitch her pepper-tomatillo sauce to brand executives. Nikki was confident that the panel would be impressed by her would-be branded product, as she explained, "Once they see what can be done with it, I think they'll realize that it is something that a lot of people could use."
Bobby challenged the finalists to a lesson in "culinary vocabulary" in Episode 7, explaining that they had to describe his dish of sauteed salmon without using "crutch words" like "delicious," incredible" or "sexy." Although she used an off-limit word, Bobby complimented Nikki on her presentation, telling her, "I thought you did a pretty good job."
"Nikki is so, so perfect," Damaris said after watching Nikki's performance in front of a group of Gastronauts gathered at the Food Star Kitchen-turned-auction house. The winning bidder paid $130 for Nikki's mushroom-shrimp pasta, and she and the Selection Committee were impressed with the flavors. "The mushrooms are really apparent and they have a lot of impact," Bobby explained.
Challenged to give what Giada called a "mouthwatering description" of a plate of pasta, the finalists were tasked with making the mentors crave their dishes. Nikki abandoned her "meat on the side" focus this week by opting for a wholly vegetarian plate of linguini with tomatoes and goat cheese, something that she planned to describe using a story about summers with her family.
The Selection Committee revealed that each finalist must describe a rival's offering instead of their own, but that didn't stop Nikki from delivering a winning presentation. She described Russell's sugo in such a way that "she showed a sense of discovery," Alton said. "It was actually like we were eating it with her." Her first-place presentation earned her an advantage in the week 8 Star Challenge.
Nikki delivered a strong closing segment to the video with an interview with Faith, a customer of The Donut Man. "I thought Nikki was fantastic, very natural," one critic from The Hollywood Reporter said of her performance on camera. "From a place of leadership and authority and team building, I think that you did a terrific job," Bobby told her.
Tasked with turning pantry staples, like Kellogg's cereal, into a lunch offering, Nikki used Kellogg's Special K Red Berries in a salad, but not in the way that she'd planned. She settled on garnishing her dish with cereal flakes instead of showcasing croutons after the latter burned while deep-frying. "It is not anything close to the dish that I had pictured in my head," she admitted.
"I know if I make a dish that really represents me, then there's a good chance that I can win," Nikki said confidently of her plate of salmon with a broccoli cake and rice pilaf. Although one of Phil's managers said her dish "tastes better than it looks," the Selection Committee was disappointed she didn't know the exact definition of a pilaf.
"Your ability with food greatly outstretches your ability to explain what it is you're doing," Alton told Nikki at evaluation. Her lack of authority over food is enough to force her exit, and after nine weeks of challenges, Nikki said goodbye to the contest. "I can't imagine anybody wanting it more than me," she reflected. "I put my heart and my soul into this competition."