This week brought our chefs to Barcelona, Spain, a city known for its rich and complex Catalan cuisine. Barcelona—and Spain, in general—is home to some of the best chefs in the world. But great food is not necessarily just the work of talented chefs. Some of the most talented people in the food industry are the fishermen and farmers who catch, cultivate, and prep the food with a craftsman’s respect and skill.
So it was great to start our chefs off at the Clock Tower at Port Vell. Seafood is such an important part of Catalan cuisine, and it’s always amazing to see ingredients in their raw form. Even better was watching our chefs experience the often thankless task of fabricating the daily catch.
Some chefs struggled while others like Nookie clearly knew how to work a knife and just got down to business. The Red Team won the exceptional ingredient, red prawns, but the Black Team had the upper hand. Nookie had lived in Barcelona and Jenna is fluent in Spanish. I know which team I would rather be on.Chefs have egos (no big surprise there) and these chefs are in competition, so there’s bound to be frustration. But you can’t win without being a team player. We all know Keven doesn’t listen and Jenna gets under people’s skin. But she speaks multiple languages, which has made her a valuable asset to both her Lyon and Barcelona teams.
It was so incredible to sit at a table at Dos Cielos with José Andrés and twin brothers Sergio and Javier Torres. The new age of Spanish chefs is just taking the world by storm. (The 2012 tally of the 50 best restaurants in the world lists three Spanish restaurants in the top 10.) And Andrés is leading the charge of incredible Catalan chefs, a crew that includes the Torres brothers. Not only are they handsome devils, they’re truly chef’s chefs. They’re in the kitchen at Dos Cielos every night and the night I dined there, the food was outstanding. When you’re cooking for this caliber of chef, you feel the pressure. So our young chefs were definitely sweating it out. The Red Team really missed an opportunity with their Merluza Crudo with Gambas Rojas. Red prawns are called the truffle of the sea. They are traditionally served whole and diners suck the juice out of the head, which is ridiculously sweet. It should have been the hero of this dish, but it was completely overshadowed by Chaz’ merluza. By scooping it out with a spoon, he lost all the texture of the fish, and it ended up a mushy mess. It was a big mistake. Quite frankly, he's lucky to still be around after serving a dish like that.
The Black Team, on the other hand, wowed everyone with their first course. Kudos to Nicole for her Trio of Tapas. Liz’s Bruléed Custard with Macerated Fruit didn’t turn out the way she intended, but the diners liked it. In the end that’s what matters in this competition—and as a chef. It’s critical to keep the diners happy. Whether critics love or hate your food makes no difference if there isn’t anyone filling the seats.
In the end, Keven’s personality did him in and Chaz dodged a bullet. Congratulations to Nookie for being the most valuable chef -- he really earned it.
See you in Africa!