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!




Final Destination

Curtis Stone explains the importance of traveling for a chef.


We’ve reached the finale! What an amazing journey we’ve had. 10 countries in 44 days, and at last we have our final two. Congratulations to Avery and Liz! This wasn’t an easy competition and getting to the finish line is quite an accomplishment. 

But first, we had Uruguay. I’ve said it often in this blog: Nookie played this game like a pro. But while there were similarities to Survivor, this competition was at its heart about great food. I was so glad to see Avery choose Liz for her Los Angeles opponent. As she said, when it came to the final showdown, she wanted to go up against someone who would bring everything she had to the table and treat the food with integrity. That sure describes Liz. 

I think the final challenge to make three dishes, inspired by their travels was perfect. I believe every chef should travel as much and as often as possible. It’s a beautiful way to learn and be inspired and expand your palate and sensibilities. Back in their own kitchens, chefs then can creatively integrate the foreign flavors into dishes that speak to all corners of the globe while also catering to the palate of their own culture. It’s how food evolves with respect and reverence.Of course, Avery and Liz had to cater to the palates of some seriously extraordinary chefs. Melisse’s two-star Michelin chef Josiah Citrin, James Beard winners Brendan Collins and Carolos Tomazos from Waterloo & City, and of course the legendary Wolfgang Puck, who has both designations under his belt. 

Both Avery and Liz did an outstanding job. In the end, just four votes made the difference. Avery has been such a superstar throughout this competition and Liz has shown an incredible passion for food. A huge round of applause to Avery and all of our chefs. Your culinary journey around the world is only beginning.