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Four home chefs are looking for the sweet taste of victory as they compete for a coveted spot on TGI Friday's menu.

Recaps by Chico Alexander, GSNN

Host: Guy Fieri
Judges: Katherine Alford, Linda Fears, Michael Psilakis
Creators/EP: Jim Berger, Art Edwards, Joseph Levy
Packager: High Noon Entertainment for Food Network
Origin: Food Network Studios, New York City
Airs: Sundays at 9p ET on Food Network


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Comfort Foods
January 4

The Showdown is on again!

Just like last season, four home chefs are going to take their best dishes into the Food Network kitchens where one of them will be crowned worthy enough to be called champion. And with that title comes a spot on the menu at TGI Friday's for a dish inspired by their creations and a check for $25,000.

Just like last year, these four are the cream of over 10,000 recipes submitted to Food Network.

Just like last year, the judges will split the competition into two rounds, a signature round and a speed round.

Just like last year, the judges will judge the dishes based upon taste, creativity, appearance, and ease.

Unlike last year, though, Guy Fieri, who hosted alongside Marc Summers, is flying solo. Interesting. That said, let culinary combat commence!

Tonight's chefs...

Diana Davis, a healthy cook from Sherman Oaks, CA. She believes healthy people need to indulge and get into comfort as well. For her, cooking is part of a healthier lifestyle. She used to be 70 pounds heavier, but thanks to a newfound love of food instead of eating, she has embraced a healthier lifestyle.

Signature: Le Soupe du Cinq Mai, a soup inspired by both the French defeat at Cinco de Mayo, and by a fusion of French Onion Soup and Tortilla Soup.

Rick Massa, a former SWAT team leader turned cook from Simi Valley, CA. He personally believes that if you don't love bacon, then something is wrong with you. He served in LAPD for 35 years, having been shot at multiple times. He can cope with the pressure because that's what he was brought up to do. Comfort food is warm, easy to put together, and inciting of good feelings.

Signature: Cheese Lovers Five Cheese Mac'n'Cheese, a kicked-up macaroni with five cheeses, whole milk, heavy cream, and lots of... that's right, bacon.

Emily Hobbs, a 23-year-old from Ozark, MO, who is trying to raise money to go to culinary school. She says she's shy and quiet, but not so when it comes to cooking. She grew up on Southern-style food and family dishes, having come up in a small town. She is saving her money waiting tables.

Signature: Baked Butternut Four Cheese Farfalle with Sage. Emily says that the dish is about texture first and foremost. Creamy pasta... crunchy topping.

And finally, Michaela Rosenthal, a seasoned competitor from Woodland Hills, CA. She says soup is the ultimate comfort food. She's competed in over a dozen cookoffs. She started when she grew up in Montana. She's easily inspired by the finest produce available.

Signature: Cream of Parsnip Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds. The bite of jalapeno provides a contrast to the sweet and silky flavor of the soup.

As a reminder, recipes for all of tonight's creations will be available on in case you want to whip it up yourself.

Each chef will have 90 minutes to create their signature dish, which will be submitted to the judges (director of the Food Network test kitchens Katherine Alford, owner of Mia Dona Michael Psilakis, and editor-in-chief of Family Circle Linda Fears) for tasting and judgment. They'll judge on a 100-point scale...

- 50 on taste
- 25 on creativity
- 20 on appearance
- 5 on ease

The recipe that scores the highest overall wins his or her chef $25,000.

One thing about these recipes... if you ARE going to work them yourself, get a lot of cheese. Preferably fontina and gruyere.

Okay, time's up. At the end of the Signature Round...

Diana's Le Soupe du Cinq Mai: Katherine says the soup has a lot of moxie and is very smart. Chef Psilakis calls is fantastic.

Rick's Five Cheese Mac'n'Cheese: Katherine was really surprised as the flavors come together successfully. Chef Psilakis likes the smoky bacon flavor. Linda wants to make it for her family tonight.

Emily's Four Cheese Butternut Farfalle: Linda says that the sage is a little overwhelming. Katherine doesn't taste the squash. Chef Psilakis thinks that it's incredible that Emily put something like that together. Emily... thinks that the chef is hot.

Michaela's Cream of Parsnip Soup: Katherine likes the texture of the soup. Linda says the heat of the jalapeno warms inside and out. Chef Psilakis says that it was a smart addition.

The results of the scoring...

Emily 44 24 17 5 90
Michaela 45 25 18 5 93
Diana 45 25 20 5 95
Rick 47 25 19 5 96

That gives Rick the advantage going into round 2, the Speed Round. It's the same battle, except now you're working with a third of the time. You have to come up with a Comfort Food recipe in 30 minutes.

Here's what the cooks have to offer...

Diana: Mini Pumpkin Corn Quesadillas with Brazilian Avocado Butter
Rick: Heirloom Grilled Cheese & Chunky Tomato Bacon Soup
Emily: Pumpernickel Pastrami Panini with Rosemary-Ale Jus
Michaela: Apple-Date Fritters with Lemon Curd Cream & Candied Ginger

Crisis in the kitchens as Diana's pan is too hot, Michaela's fritters are raw in the middle, Emily's way too strung out to concentrate, and Rick's main focus is making the time limit, which is hard with TWO complex recipes going on at once.

And... that's time. All eyes are on the pastrami to win it all... maybe. Let's go to the panel.

Diana's Mini Pumpkin Corn Quesadillas: Katherine says the polenta needs to be more of a contrast. Linda likes the avocado butter. Chef Psilakis wanted to see a little more aromatics.

Rick's Heirloom Grilled Cheese: Linda thought about two comfort foods and loves them both. Katherine doesn't feel the bacon. Chef Psilakis equates this to his mother's grilled cheese. Not better, because... well... Greek mother watching.

Emily's Pumpernickel Pastrami Panini:  A long pause... Katherine offers to share this sandwich with Guy. "Rockin'. The dip totally makes it." She thinks it's really great sandwich. The one problem: not enough pastrami. Linda disagrees, saying the pastrami's perfect. Chef Psilakis likes the whole better than the sum of its parts.

Michaela's Apple-Date Fritters: Everybody likes something fried. Linda notes that one side is more fried than the other. Katherine called it a perfect Sunday breakfast, but confectioner's sugar would've suited it better. Chef Psilakis calls the candied ginger "rock star". She should be proud of herself.

Final scoring...

Emily 90 95
Michaela 93 94
Diana 95 90
Rick 96 93

That gives Rick Massa tonight's crown and $25,000. And a dish based on his mac'n'cheese will be on the menu at your local TGI Friday's soon, only their version will be made with penne pasta instead of macaroni.

Next week, four new cooks and eight new amazing recipes. Don't watch hungry.