Viet Pham on "Food Network Star." (Food Network )
Viet, you're impossible not to like, thanks to that killer smile and gentle spirit. And you clearly have the cooking chops. Enough to beat The Flay Man.
But here's the problem. When you open your mouth ...
"Then you start talking," Alton Brown told him. "You have no authority."
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Viet was eliminated this week after being repeatedly stumped during live demo challenges. He couldn't think on his feet when his sauteed peppers were taken away, and then looked like a deer caught in the headlights when he was asked to name a trio of summer party dips on the fly. (This guy clearly did not watch past seasons of "Food Network Star," or, if he did, he wasn't really paying attention.)
Really, you couldn't just belt out "salsas" or "salsa, guacamole and sour cream and onion." It's not a trick question. It's not that hard.
But Viet was the first to admit that he couldn't get over the fear of the live camera, not exactly Food Network Star material. His departure came during the midterm of sorts for this Season 8 crew, and perhaps more important, marked the return of Bob Tuschman.
You could see the smiles slide off the competitors' faces as he walked back into the room. Yes, he has the power to make you. But he also has the power to break you.
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The live demo challenges brought out the best and the worst in the competitors, and caused the judges to give some second looks. In the case of Russell, they likely saved him from elimination.
Despite the edgy mohawk, he has been a mumbling, bumbling drip for much of the competition, saved again and again from elimination only because someone else, as luck would have it, was worse. Yet, when someone flipped the switch during his live demo he just kept on going: "Lights going out, no big deal."
And even though he managed to botch a potato salad, he recovered splendidly when he was forced on the spot to throw to a commercial break.
"THAT guy," was Tuschman's response, that's the guy the network has been hoping would show up.
Meanwhile, some other competitors who have been at the top of the class seemed unable to grasp the significance of the live challenge, which is -- this is live, no retakes, keep going.
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Nikki and Chad, who routinely sail through challenges, were snagged by this one.
One competitor, however, shined brighter than the rest.
Last week, I gave Stacey grief. Maybe I was just hungry or something. She was spectacular this week, relaxed and easy-going, pleasant and high-spirited. But as always with this game, you don't stay on a high for very long: She was told: "What you did was pretty close to perfect. ... Unfortunately, perfection can get boring really quickly. ... Let us see a little of the imperfections."
Is that unfair or ... just the reality of the situation?
Is The Pie Man turning into a bit of a sham? He has yet to make a good pie, correct? And this week's dessert, a kind of meringue pie, was undercooked. Is he just a cool cat in a hat, or is there something substantial lurking there?
Ah, Damaris. The self-perceived sex kitten just needs to go.
Russell thinks pretty highly of himself. He basically told his competitors that he thought he was better than them (way to win friends and influence people, Russell) after he and Viet ended up (again) in the bottom two.