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'Food Network Star' 2014 week 7: Someone returns, someone goes home

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"Food Network Star" 2014 resumed July 13 on the Food Network with a seventh week of competitive cooking. By evening's end, one former contestant returned to the mix while another said good-bye for good.

The episode opened as a marquee welcomed the six remaining hopefuls to their new battleground, the glitzy streets of Las Vegas. Judges Giada DeLaurentiis and Alton Brown welcomed the contestants to Caesar's Palace and noted that given the city's well-known culinary background, it would serve as an ideal spot for the next few weeks of the competition.

Alton then sprung a surprise on the top six as the winner of "Star Salvation," the previously dismissed Luca Della Casa, re-entered the competition for a second shot at the title. After the contestants welcomed him back into the fold, Giada dismissed them by saying she'd meet them at the buffet.

Later, Giada did indeed meet up with the newly formed top seven and explained that each would have 90 seconds to describe up to three different dishes. She explained that they would be judged on how hungry their descriptions made her feel. Just to make the task more difficult, they weren't allowed to move on to a second description until they'd successfully made her hungry with the first.

Giada chose Chris Kyler to begin the task with a trio of Italian dishes. He struggled mightily and ultimately failed to get the job done. Nicole Gaffney faced a trio of Asian foods and also struggled with word choice and a failure to use simpler language. Sarah Penrod followed with gazpacho, and she took swung and missed at the pitch.

Emma Frisch faced tater tots and was the first to move on to a second dish. She sailed through grits as well as brisket on her way to successfully completing the task. Loreal Gavin's effort lacked passion as she failed to get a single dish, and Luca surprised everyone by nailing two dishes with an articulate display. Lenny McNab began has quest with polenta and successfully finished a single dish. Overall, Giada called their performances "underwhelming" and told them all to work harder in preparation for their challenge the next day at Caesar's Palace's Venus Pool.

The next day, Giada and Alton greeted the top seven at the Venus Pool. Alton explained that each would have 60 minutes to create a dish for a crowd of pool party goers who were about the hit the scene. But it wasn't as simple as just preparing a tasty dish: they were each also required to stand before the attendees with a one-minute "persuasive and entertaining" pitch compelling the hungry revelers to try their food.

As they headed off to the hotel kitchen, the hopefuls formulated their plans. Drama immediately ensued as Chris snagged the entire pan of beef tenderloin and refused to share with Sarah. The Texan was angry, but changed her plan to feature a pork tenderloin. After butcher babe Loreal lamented Chris' harsh treatment of the beef, she opted to go with a Louisiana surf and turf dish featuring skirt steak and grilled shrimp, while Emma prepared a calamari mango saute. Nicole worked on a seared scallop, and Lenny made coffee crusted lamb burgers. Finally, Luca prepped a seafood salad.

After time expired, the contestants joined the party goers on the pool deck, where they learned that each attendee would be able to taste only three dishes. Alton then upped the ante by revealing that each attendee would be using a dial of doom to express their immediate impressions of the participants' pitches.

Chris kicked off the festivities with his pitch, which Giada thought made "an impression" but Alton noted failed to adequately describe his food. Sarah followed and Alton and Giada weren't impressed. The wind put a damper on the beginning of Nicole's presentation, but earned the judges' praise in the end. Loreal charmed with her party girl vibe, but failed to describe her dish, while Emma delivered a personal presentation that Giada called "concise." Lenny rocked it by promising to do a belly flop into the pool, and Luca charmed viewers with his smooth, clear presentation that Alton called "seductive."

With the pitches complete, the attendees were instructed to trade their tokens for the dishes that interested them them most. While Lenny drew an impressive crowd thanks to his vivacious personality, Sarah struggled to get any attention at all. But the biggest gaffe of the event belonged to Sarah, who lied about using Serrano ham rather than prosciutto in her dish and was scolded by Giada and Alton for not being up front about it.

While the party goers sampled, Giada and Alton judged the food. They were unimpressed with Nicole's scallop, but loved both Loreal and Luca's dishes. Giada was "thoroughly disappointed" with Chris' overcooked tenderloin, and Alton preferred the grits on Sarah's plate to the intended star, the pork. Giada dubbed Emma's complicated dish "not perfectly thought-out" but the judges adored Lenny's "phenomenal" burger. After successfully collecting the most tokens, Lenny made good on his promise and belly flopped into the pool, eliciting cheers from onlookers.

The next day, the contestants joined Alton and Bobby for judgment. Although Emma earned the third-highest rating, she took heat for not putting her dish together for her customers. Chris earned praise his presentation, but Giada said his dish "didn't deliver" excepting his mushroom chip.

Alton called Loreal's dish one of the best, but delivered a crushing blow when he said he didn't trust her. Giada called Nicole's presentation "fun to watch" but rapped her knuckles for misguiding watchers. Alton slammed Sarah for not giving a cohesive image of herself, and Luca earned praise for executing a great comeback. Finally, Alton declared Lenny, who delivered the best dish and best presentation, the contestant to beat. Lenny, Luca, Loreal, and Nicole were all then saved to cook again, leaving Emma, Sarah, and Chris to face potential elimination.

As they deliberated, Alton and Giada seemed to agree that Emma had done well enough to survive, but had concerns about both Chris and Sarah's abilities to deliver good food and convey their culinary points of view. After coming to a decision, they summoned the trio for the final decision. Emma was saved to continue in the competition, and it was Chris who was eliminated from contention. He took his elimination in stride, excitedly exclaiming "Bobby Flay ate my food!" before heading off to continue pursuing his dreams.

"Food Network Star" 2014 resumes July 20. With six contestants still in the mix, it's anyone competition to win.

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