Crushing It Like a Can of Pinto Beans — Justin’s Rebel Recap

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Chris and Lovely - Food Network Star

Finalist Chris Hodgeson, Rodney Henry and Connie "Chef Lovely" Jackson planning for the Star Challenge "Dinner & Movie" as seen on Food Nestwork Star, Season 9.

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

Eddy Chen, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

From my experience on Food Network Star, I can tell you with authority that team challenges, and teams in general, are double-edged swords. A good team works harmoniously like gin, quinine and lime. A bad team? Well, read on to see why team-work, sharing and cooperation are things that were drilled into us in kindergarten.

The Planning Process

Team Western: Russell conjures the ghost of Fellini (not to be confused with Leone, the director most associated with the genre) to inspire a Spaghetti Western dish (not to be confused with my Spaghetti Midwestern recipe).

Team Musical: Rodney and Chris suggest that Lovely make a New Orleans beignet for the dessert course, but she doughs nut wanna do it. I'd pay any price to see a riff on Les Miserables, with Chris playing the role of Fantine, Rodney as Jean Valjean and Lovely as Cosette. Sing it with me! “Do you smell the tartlets baaake? Wafting the smells of meat and cake, it's the music of the stars of which Bob Tuschman surely maaakes! When you're speaking from your heaaart, and you are tasting with your tongue, it is a life for whom Food Network stardom will coooome!”

Team Romance: Romantically, the team goes for the KISS strategy (keep it simple, stupid), and makes a menu consisting of a chicken wing, shrimp and grits, and berries with whipped cream. This is why I didn't watch The Notebook.

Shooting the Movies

Team Romance

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

Eddy Chen, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

  • Nothing says “romance” like a robotic sticky chicken wing. I can't believe Chad kept a straight face during his shoot.
  • Team musical comes up with a ditty describing their food. Chris and Lovely seem to have it together alright, but Rodney sounds like the shouting man in at my local subway station.
  • Nikki gets cranky about Russell fumbling over his lines, complaining that she doesn't want to be dragged down by Russell. Yay, teamwork!


  • Lovely fries premade pizza dough and calls it a doughnut. As her doughnuts are coming out of the fryer, they bounce like golf balls.
  • Stacey bangs out a popcorn graham cracker coffee s'more, which I thought was the most creative dish of the entire group.

The Humiliation

  • Team Western crushed it like a can of pinto beans. The Nikki/Russell crankiness wasn't apparent at all on the big screen. I actually re-watched the trailer to watch them gallop on their fake horses. So awesome.
  • Team Musical's jingle went kinda like this:
Justin's Rebel Recap Song
  • Maybe Rodney shouldn't have tried to eat one of Lovely's doughnuts before singing.
  • In the parlance of the kids these days, Team Romance was “Awk. Word.” Although, Damaris' little wink at the end was pretty cute.

Cue the Scary Music

Team Western, with the best performance of the day, would have made Fellini and Leone proud. Oddly, Nikki's veggie chili was deemed better than Russell's giant double-barreled meat blaster spaghetti cannon. They were permitted to ride off into the sunset.

Even though Chad's robo-sexy program malfunctioned, and Damaris and Chris made “serviceable” food, they were freed, as well.

Threat of the Week: There's a new sheriff in veggietown: Nikki meat-on-the-side Dinki. Her role in "Western" was perfectly executed. She reminded me of Bonnie McFarlane in Red Dead Redemption. If only The Pioneer Woman didn't have this market cornered. Nikki already has a bulletproof POV. If she can continue to cook and stay away from cute as well as she did last night, we may have the first semi-vegetarian Food Network personality.

Lovely, Rodney and Viet

Photo by: Nathaniel Chadwick/Creel Films ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Nathaniel Chadwick/Creel Films, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Up for elimination: Rodney, Viet and Lovely. Rodney's pie was not pie-style at all. And his performance? Well, we all know how that went. Viet made meek food with a meek presence. Lovely, while slick as a Teflon pan, hasn't made a good dish yet.

Lovely's asked to pack up her Coach bags. She maintains her poise until the door shuts.

The Moral of the Story: Teamwork, annoying as it may be, is how you get ahead in life. The path to being a Food Network star is no different. Being stubborn only makes defeat more painful. Professionally and personally, a Food Network star should try to avoid “you should have made a beignet” situations.

But wait, there's more. What? A second chance? Online only? OMG. Maybe Danushka is coming back.