Food Network Star, Season 9: Top Moments of Episode 3

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

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: 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

Questionable Authority

"A Food Network Star has to be a food authority," Alton tells the finalists, "so today, for your Mentor Challenge, you're going to get a chance to prove to us that you've got that kind of expertise." The finalists open bags to reveal unusual ingredients, which they must showcase in a single dish in just 30 minutes.

Smelly Meets Sensational

Once she's able to look past the "rotten trash" scent of durian, her mystery ingredient, Stacey works on transforming it into a creamy custard. Alton's impressed with the taste of her dish, but not with the story of her childhood she serves alongside it, as he finds it "a bit rambling."

Seafood on the Side

Nikki finds cuttlefish in her bag, and she's determined to treat the squid-like ingredient in the same way she would meat: on the side. That plan ultimately proves unsuccessful when she fails to fully integrate the fish into her carrot-bell pepper salad. "I didn't get that you were grasping that ingredient," Alton tells her.

The Rivalry Continues

"On a cooking level, [Viet's] really my competition," Russell admits. After tasting Viet's crab salad with umeboshi and Russell's arrowhead root with pesto, Bobby critiques both guys for not showcasing their ingredients at the forefront of their respective dishes.

Don't Forget the "L"

In a challenge designed to test the finalists' mastery over ingredients, Chad mistakenly refers to his product — salsify — as "sasify." Bobby corrects him during this presentation, and unfortunately for Chad, his dish of deep-fried hushpuppies isn't strong enough to redeem his error. "These are very dense," Bobby admits of the golden-brown bites.

Earning an Advantage

"I feel like I got the easy ingredient," Damaris says of her "salty, oily and ... spicy" mango pickle. To stick to her Southern-style point of view, she features the product in a saute of cabbage with seared cauliflower, which proves to be "really good," according to Bobby. "The flavor just keeps going on and on," he tells Damaris before deeming her his team's winner and awarding her a later advantage.

Looking for More

After placing among the bottom three in the first two episodes, Danushka is determined to have a stellar showing this week, but she struggles in the Mentor Challenge by not embracing dragon fruit to its fullest potential. "I would just like to see you utilize it in a more creative way," Bobby explains after tasting her fruit discs, which are simply topped with shrimp salad.

Bittersweet

"This is pie-style. I get it," Alton tells Rodney, who's prepared a fruit salad with bitter melon and gin topping that could double as a pie filling. Alton ultimately names Rodney the most-successful finalist in his group, and, like Damaris, Rodney has earned a Star Challenge advantage.

Unexpected Visitor

Who better to judge the Chopped-style Star battle than longtime Chopped judge Alex Guarnaschelli? Much to the concern of some constants, Alex joins the mentors as a guest judge and will oversee the finalists' mystery basket transformations.

Chopped at the Ballpark

The finalists are competing in two heats, and the first group, with Chad, Danushka, Russell and Viet, opens the baskets to find familiar ballpark classics, including hot dogs, peanuts, beer and cotton candy.

Finalist-Turned-Judge

For their advantage, Damaris and Rodney are given automatic immunity from this week's elimination, plus an exemption from the Chopped battle. Instead, they'll take their seats at the judges' table and review their peers' dishes. "I could be making enemies here fast," Damaris reflects of her newfound position.

Did She Just Say That?

Alex is rendered almost speechless when Danushka admits out loud to experiencing "boredom" in the kitchen. "I don't know what to say about that. Frankly, I need a minute." Once she's busy working, Danushka deep-fries whole hot dogs in a peanut-beer batter and makes a cotton candy-Sriracha sauce that Bobby admits "is the best sauce we've seen all day."

Inspired by His Past

"As soon as I see the hot dogs, I immediately think of my earliest food memory: I was actually cooking ramen," Viet explains. He re-creates the childhood dish by adding ground hot dogs and beer to his broth and finishing the bowl with peanuts. "I like your presentation," Bobby tells him before adding, "I do need you to be more passionate about what you're doing."

Questioning Commitment

Damaris doesn't hesitate to share her feelings on her fellow finalists' presentations, admitting to Danushka, "You seem a little bit like you're not excited to be here." Danushka concedes that over-the-top performances aren't in keeping with her personal style, but Alton adds, "I know you think that the presentation starts when the clock starts; everything that happens in front of a camera is presentation."

Kids' Menu

The second group of contestants arrives at the chopping block to find mystery baskets containing familiar kid-friendly picks, like cheddar fish crackers, chicken nuggets, fruit leathers and apple juice. In this round, Rodney joins the Selection Committee to judge Stacey, Nikki, Chris and Lovely.

Comfort Food, Fast

With just 30 minutes on the clock, Stacey must rush through a classic chicken pot pie preparation, explaining, "This is a huge risk, but if I can pull it off, I'm really confident in the results." Despite teammate Chris' help during the final few minutes of cooking, Stacey's forced to serve the judges undercooked pastry crust, as she runs out of time before it's finished.

Cool Talker

Lovely's challenged to transform traditionally kid-focused foods into something sophisticated and elegant in order to maintain her "glam" persona, so she opts for mini stuffed peppers that ultimately Alex finds "a little bit sweet." For Alton, the issue is Lovely's performance. "You are slick. You are smooth — a little too much for my liking," he tells her.

Breakthrough

Bobby notices Chris' mention of "a broken life" during his presentation and encourages him to explain it further. "I used to be a drug addict, an alcoholic," Chris explains emotionally. "And the only thing I liked to do was cook. It was ultimately the thing that rebuilt my heart." The mentors commend him for opening up about this past, and Alton adds, "We've all made big screwups, but you're a success story."

Back From Behind

After a disappointing performance last week, Nikki proves her potential with well-executed broccoli-chicken spring rolls that integrate her point of view effortlessly. "This roll-up's pretty cool. I dig it," Rodney tells Nikki. Alex adds, "I'm impressed with how much you repurposed the ingredients." Nikki's named one of the top finalists of the day and successfully advances to week four.

On a Roll

For the third episode in a row, Chad is among the most-successful finalists, after delivering a Star Challenge dish that, according to Alton, "really allowed each of those basket ingredients to shine" and a performance that "was very personable."

"The Queen of the Bottom Three"

Once again Danushka finds herself in the bottom three, but this time, she's not given another opportunity. Alton tells her: "You literally perpetuate an I-don't-care, I-don't-want-to-be-here attitude. That's a problem." Later, she reflects, "I can't tell these people enough that I really do want to be here."

Go Behind the Scenes

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

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