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Saturday, December 9

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TV Mon Jun 11 2012

"Food Network Star" Works on its POV

POV, or "point of view," is important to a Food Network host, and so this week's episode of "Food Network Star" had the contestants honing theirs. The show opened to Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis meeting with their team members and giving them feedback on their work so far. When Alton got around to our Chicago contestant, Judson Allen, he summed up the issue with this mercurial guy who's been barely holding on: "Here's the big mystery: Who are you? Because I don't know who you are either."

In the process of defending himself, Judson explained again that he was overweight for many years and that his rediscovery of flavor happened through his weight loss journey, training himself to seek flavor instead of calories. Alton latched onto that and told Judson to make that central to his POV -- and to his credit, Judson seemed energized by the idea.

After the consultations, the teams assemble to meet the week's guest judge, past "Food Network Star" winner and superstar Guy Fieri. Each team will be hosting a live special segment with Fieri in front of a studio audience. Team Alton got Halloween as a theme, Team Giada got game day, and Team Bobby got kid-friendly foods.

Judson opted to do healthy veggie chili, playing op the flavor to make up for the lower fat. His recipe started off with a beer and fig jam reduction, with roasted pineapple, habanero peppers and plenty of spices. Fieri found the chili a little sweeter than he likes, but otherwise the judges seemed to like it. Alton talked about his struggle to find this new POV, and producer Susie Fogelson said that he needs to hone in on this new one, noting that "he slid by by the skin of his teeth" last week. Meanwhile, his fellow bottom-dweller Marti Duncan went way long on her portion of the segment, unintentionally screwing teammate Emily Ellyn.

Judson Allen Food Network Star farewellAt judgement time, the judges decided that there was only one losing team this week -- Team Alton -- and all its members would participate in the producers' challenge. The team had to throw darts at a map of the United States and cook a dish evocative of whichever state they hit. Judson got Arkansas, so he decided to make catfish with a garlic-Cajun spice rub and chopped pecan, parmesan and panko crumb crust. He broiled it to get a crispy crust without deep frying.

"I got this new, great POV and I'm going to convince Bob and Susie that I'm not a salesman and this is who I am, because that weight loss journey is personal," Judson said.

Justin Warner has been a judge favorite all the way through the competition so far, and he skated through the pitch with his Nebraska-inspired "Spaghetti Midwestern" that featured a whole t-bone steak. Likewise, Emily did well, but the judges wanted to see more of "her" peeking through the "retro rad" persona.

Marti in the meantime landed on Pennsylvania and was at a loss as to what to make. Knowing nothing about the state's cuisine other than Philadelphia cream cheese, evidentally, Alton tips her off to the state's mushroom industry, and she created a stuffed portabello mushroom dish that she felt nothing for. It left her at a loss for words when it came time to record her one-minute pitch, and it showed.

Despite not wanting to sound like a salesman, Judson's presentation sounded very salesy. Susie said, "Don't take this the wrong way, but you have a little BS artist in you." Judson defended himself by saying he'd finally found his real voice that showed more of himself, pleading for more time to show prove it. Alton shared his own story of being a "heavy kid," and explained that "you learn to create a different version of yourself to project to people." He made the case to give Judson a chance to show that he can share instead of selling himself.

For Bob and Susie, it was obviously a decision between Marti and Judson, and unfortunately although he's "moved so far in the right direction," it was too little too late, and the producers felt frustrated that they had to keep leading him to his POV. Judson went home this week -- but no doubt we'll be seeing more of him here in Chicago. Meanwhile, you can be sure that Marti is still on the bubble going into next week.

Watch Judson, the producers and Alton Brown reflect on Judson's departure in the video below:

And here's the entire episode:

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Andrew Huff / June 11, 2012 6:11 PM

Incidentally, since Judson was the last Chicago contestant on the show, his departure means Gapers Block's coverage of "Food Network Star" is over for this season.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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