Get More Russell
An underground chef from San Francisco, Russell, was the second runner-up in the competition, ultimately falling in the finale after an 11-week journey.
Each finalist was given a journal to use during the show, and Russell filled his with recipe ideas, reflections on the competition and notes for future challenges. Here he illustrated the intricacies of his winning Burger Bash creation, which featured a lamb and beef patty on a sesame bun with what he called the "Key: Bacon, Onion, Bourbon Marmalade."
Although he was working with a mystery ingredient — arrowhead root — in Episode 3, Russell didn't hesitate to call on his culinary sins in order to let the product shine. He fried it in bacon fat and featured it with a pecan pesto, but Bobby told him, "I would have liked to have seen more arrowhead root as part of the dish."
Faced with a Chopped-style basket of beer, hot dogs, peanuts and cotton candy, Russell simply pureed the ballpark-classic ingredients with tofu and featured the mixture in dumplings. Guest judge Alex told him, "I really loved your energy," but she wasn't sold on his dish, given the way he offered it. "You don't need all the bells and whistles to capture our attention," Bobby added. "You are the bells and whistles."
Working with Lovely and Nikki on Team Western, Russell starred in a Western-themed movie trailer touting his group's themed menu. This challenge proved to be a struggle for him, as his Spaghetti Western was a flop with the mentors and focus group alike, and Giada told him after his performance, "You've definitely caught our eye."
At the culinary auction, Russell put a made-over bacon-egg sandwich up for grabs, but elements of it were disappointing to the mentors. More so than his dish, however, his multiple points of view proved to be problematic. "There's the revolution that you're going to lead, and then there are sins," Alton told Russell. "You must now pick one, because they're making you look confused."
It was Russell's job to introduce his team's field piece on Vito's Pizza, but while doing so, he attempted to work in talk of "a culinary sin," something with which the mentors weren't impressed. One Hollywood Reporter critic, however, said of him, "I think that he's got a cool presence on camera."
Tasked with both presenting a dish and sharing a tip, Russell delivered a pleasing rib eye, according to Alton, although his performance lacked overall, given his inability to establish eye contact with the camera. "Looking off to the side at your eye level," Alton explained to him, "makes it look like you're looking to somebody for an answer."
The team at Phil Trani's asked for a healthier version of the restaurant's spinach chicken, and Russell provided, serving one of the most successful dishes of the day. He prepared a spinach-wrapped chicken breast and served it alongside lemon-scented risotto, the recipe for which he scrawled in his journal.
Before pitching to the network his ideas for a future show, Russell imagined potential titles, including My Culinary Sins, which "shows overall highlights of my list of culinary sins." The network was ultimately sold, however, on Guilty Pleasures, wherein, "I'm bringing my bag of sins along," he explained. "I'm actually cooking dishes and giving it that sinful twist."
Russell met up with Guy Fieri on location at Bennett's Ice Cream to film his pilot, and although Russell struggled with the opening segment, he managed to finish the video strongly. He took to the kitchen at Bennett's to turn out bacon-bourbon ice cream, and Guy told him then: "This is definitely where you excel. You're real comfortable in the kitchen. That's evident."
Visit Food Network's Food Network Star headquarters for more insider coverage of the show.