It's down to just seven cheftestants on "The Next Food Network Star" after the soul food chef without enough soul on camera was sent packing after Paula Deen's Beach Party. Malcolm Mitchell went head-to-head with Michele Ragussis, queen of the fauxhawk, in the Producer's Challenge, but he was still unable to come out on top with his awesome-sounding apple cobbler cocktail. His food was pretty much top-notch throughout the competition with the judges raving regularly, but he didn't have enough pizzazz in the camera challenges to stick around.
Still sticking around are seven unique chefs and culinary specialists - one of which is about to have dreams turn to reality when he/she joins the ranks of celebrity chefs and their "Food Network Star" mentors Bobby Flay, Alton Brown, and Giada De Laurentiis.
Who Needs to Go Home Next?
Here's hoping there's a triple elimination next week with Martita Jara, Martie Duncan, and Nikki Martin saying their goodbyes. Well, it might not all happen next week, but it won't be long now for these three.
Martita Jara is charming with a great back story, and her food is often rocking, but she's inconsistent and her POV is not clear enough yet to trump the frontrunners. Plus, who can get over her flop in last week's media pressure test. Cringe!
Martie Duncan, party planner, is also a true charmer with a heavy pour of Southern hospitality, but Chatty Cathy (i.e. Martie) is too fragile for the intense world of celebrity hosting. From her issues early on about her age to her struggles with rambling and time management, there is pretty much no way she's going to keep her head above water much longer.
Nikki Martin, the Girl on Grill turned Grill Next Door, has a long way to go for the judges to truly believe in her. From her overly aggressive approach in the beginning to her flower petals and sugary sweet attempts at winning them over in the media challenge, she's been faltering in her POV. But she has been impressive in the Producer's Challenges, saving herself from elimination time and time again. Chances are, though, that her days are numbered against the favorites.
Who's Going to Take Home the Gold and Win a Food Network Show?
If Anthony Bourdain and Alton Brown had a baby, the only possible result would be ruby-red lipped Justin Warner -- the rebel chef who lives up to the title. This witty 27-year-old is definitely in the lead for the win with his edgy and intense approach to everything from bloody steak to powered sugar. He is self-taught and has paid his dues in the food industry, working in restaurants since age 13. He would infuse some desperately needed energy, quirk, and barely controlled chaos into the Food Network line-up. Chances are that this rebel will be on the Food Network payroll in no time and could really have a killer career with Bourdain-esque success.
In second place, it's all about Michele Ragussis, despite her hiccup in the beach bash challenge. This New England cuisine expert knows her stuff and has worked as an executive chef up and down the East Coast. While she does get nervous on the timed challenges, she has natural star power and culinary chops, and if she can keep her energy level up moving forward, there's a solid chance she'll make it to the top two.
Also left are Philip "Ippy" Aiona -- the loveable Italian Hawaiian -- who is as chill and endearing as they come, but without the energy yet to carry his own show; and Yvan Lemoine, the handsome and sweet Venezuelan, whose background is fascinating and emotionally touching, but without the star power to headline on the Food Network.
"The Next Food Network Star" airs Sundays on 9pm EST/8pm CST.