Truly Exceptional

Cat Cora shares her personal connection to Lyon.

Wow, the level of intensity really went up in this episode! The challenges were harder and the contestants’ personalities are, um, coming into focus. And what a place to stage a culinary competition: Lyon is Mecca for foodies everywhere. It’s where it all started.

Since I trained outside Lyon in Vonnas with Georges Blanc, a three-star Michelin chef, I really enjoyed the first part of the show. It’s no easy task to pick out just the sheep cheeses from such an array of cheeses. It may be easy to eliminate a chevre (goat), but a lot of sheep and cow-based cheeses can taste the same — especially the aged ones. And your palate can get overwhelmed after so many flavors in a short time. Jenna got off to a good start, but Kevin was faster.

The wine part was no easier, especially with eight wines. Picking out the flavors in so many wines takes a highly sensitive palate and a lot of training. In the end, Nookie’s math-based strategy paid off for the Black Team.

And this week’s Exceptional Ingredient was truly special — a master class with Chef Josef Viola. Obviously it was a real treat for the contestants — and one that went way beyond learning about the ingredients for quenelles. You can tell they were all in awe of him. There were some serious glitches in the meal preparation part of the contest this week. The Red Team’s quenelles were pasty and thick, they ran out of haddock, and they had real issues with the timing of the Salade Lyonaisse. Things didn’t go that smoothly for the Black Team either. Gary’s strategy of offering the meals as a degustation (a quick tasting) offended the locals and Chaz’s chicken portions were way too big. Aren’t small portions the great diet secret of the French?

The Black Team managed to squeak out a win this time but the Red Team put on a great effort. The next stop, Barcelona, is one of my favorite cities. The food, the scenery, the architecture, the people — they’re all fabulous!




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