To be sure, the only one who really has a marketable point of view is, truly, Demaris Philips. However, her focus seemed to shift - and really come out of nowhere - in this episode with her sudden emphasis on "teaching men how to cook southern cooking" which she strangely revered to as "the food of love." What? Really? At least she didn't shimmy this time - though watching her flirt (or actually attempt to flirt and simply embarrass herself) was uncomfortable at best. And it reminded me of the first few episodes when I never thought she'd progress. As far as her culinary offerings are considered? In the post-Paula Deen world, do we really need another overweight southern woman cooking unhealthy food and trying to pass it off as acceptable with a wink, a smile, and a "ya'll"? I don't think so. It simply doesn't work for me, and while I'd rather see her win than the men, I was quite unimpressed with her pilot. Just not smooth or watchable.
The only thing Demaris has going for her is that the men, however, were worse. Russell did not impress, simply because it appears his only true talent and innovation - despite his seven culinary sins - is bacon, bourbon ice cream. Didn't we see this before? Does he have any range as a chef? Certainly, he has more talent and knowledge than someone like Rodney, but his inability to move past the word "awesome" is somewhat pathetic. And, finally, Rodney and his "pie style," which he inexplicably keeps claiming is "sweeping the nation" continued to be a mess. He is simply uncouth, unsophisticated, untalented, and unwatchable. Seriously. This show revealed one thing to me, and it's that I severely over-estimated the taste and judgment of people like Bob Tushmann and Susie Fogelstein because where they claimed to see "charm" or "entertainment," many of us simply see a rather annoying and crass individual who thinks he can ride the words "brother" and "fricken'" and "pie style" for an entire episode. Since when did low class, unsophisticated, and abrasive come to mean "charm"?
It really doesn't matter who wins next week because Demaris, Russell, and Rodney are definitely not Food Network Stars. Here's hoping for a much better round of finalists next season. Instead of this season's cast of amateurs, I would have liked to see the Food Network focus on giving some past runners-up a second chance. I still think the network missed a great opportunity when they didn't give Michelle from last season her own show called Michelle's "My New England." That was a cook who had class and talent and would have been worth watching.
So, if I have to vote, I am voting for Michelle Ragussis.
For more analysis and commentary, here's another critical look at the finalist fiasco.