‘Food Network Star’ recap: Would you buy used car from Nikki Martin?

Consider Nikki Martin. She ended up on the chopping block on “Food Network Star"along with Linkie Marais. It was kind of a time suck: The winner -- Nikki -- was a forgone conclusion.

Linkie -- seen above -- is so warm and welcoming when letting her hair down and just talking to the camera. But she’d freeze up when “presenting,” and stumbled over her words. Sad to say, but it was time for her to go. (Please leave the recipe for those football cookies on your way out the door, OK!?!)

Nikki, by contrast, can rise to the occasion. She is more at ease in front of the camera. Unfortunately, though, she comes across like a used car salesman. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Martin sold me on a dollop of tzatziki as a fresh, easy way to brighten up what could otherwise by a ho-hum grilled chicken breast.

But the question is this: Is she someone whom I want to watch -- or just someone whose recipes I want to steal? She convinced me this week that she deserves another chance to break through the brittle exterior that comes from being out on her own since the age of 17. That actually ties in nicely to the unexpected “girl” griller. And the new show concept, “Grill Next Door,” is a winner.

But can she soften the abrasive edges enough to sell me on watching it? We’ll see.

Other observations, in no particular order, beginning with this: The food court challenge is a keeper, like fashion week. And having Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian arrive midway through to deliver a chicken liver twist was brilliant.

Yvan Lemoine and Ippy Aiona are clearly listening to their mentor, and acting on it.

Malcolm Mitchell, meanwhile, continues with the big talk and no walk. Malcolm, you can clearly cook, but you seem to think you are also an expert in being a TV personality. But last time I checked, you don’t have your own show. So why can’t you just listen to the Flayman and do what he says? So disappointing. Speaking of Bobby Flay’s team, I don’t know how “The American Deli” translates into “The Seafood Shoppe.” But it worked. Yay, Michele Ragussis is roaring back.

Home run for Team Alton Brown. Highlight reel: A.B. mouthing “I’m doomed!” to the camera. Most improved player? Martie Duncan.

All-Star status to our red-lipped Justin Warner for jumping on the chicken livers. Please! Like a plate full of glistening chicken livers could scare this guy??? That was like giving candy to a baby.

Let’s hope that, after he wins this thing and “Rebel With a Culinary Cause” lands in my DVR queue, the first episode revolves around teaching the rest of us how to make fritto misto. Note to Emily: Stop with the twitchiness, and thinking so much about what you are going to say, and just say it!

Riddle me this, though: Did Martita Jara stab Linkie in the back with a tortilla chip?

Linkie was clearly befuddled by the challenge, clearly unfamiliar with Mexican food or churros. Martita, as she takes every accented moment possible to remind us, is Mama Mexico.

So, when Martita says she cannot help Linkie with the churros -- “I can’t tell her how to make one” -- my question is, really? Why not? Because you don’t want to? Or you don’t know how to? Why not suggest something else for Linkie that would fit her baking abilities. Like a Mexican wedding cookie, or a flan? A disaster of a dessert could have sunk the team. I’m surprised that team mentor Giada de Laurentiis didn’t call Martita out on that.

But there’s always next week.

I have a feeling Martita is in the dog house and Giada is looking for a rolled-up newspaper.

I like how Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson are referred to as “The Network”...and everyone knows exactly what that means!


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