My Baloney has a First Name it’s J-E-N-N-A

Hugh Acheson gives advice for teammates of an "immune Achilles heel."


We are still in a Florentine frenzy after the casting off of Gary. Jenna and Liz are trying to make amends in transit as they have been placed on the same team, but like bleach and ammonia, some things are not a healthy mix. Jenna wants Liz to find her inner chef, one full of ego and evil. John, the chauffeur for this leg of the Infiniti Jest, remarks that all chefs are egotistically unstable. Going to agree with John on this one: his Midwestern logic is hard to argue with sometimes. Jenna meanwhile feels like she has been “kicked in the nuts,” the second time I can remember her uttering this this season. If I said the gender reverse of this I would be properly admonished. I am again at a loss for words. 

Off to the Modena. This should be cheesy. In all seriousness, the earthquake in May near Modena really took its toll, with a devastating death toll and a real impact on industry in the region. Our hearts go out to the multitudes affected. Parmagiano Reggiano, one of the most important regional exports, lost upwards of 10% of their production. Sadly this is not a cheese that you can just make overnight, so this hit will have long term impact. 

What is tattooed on Avery’s back? I am hoping it says Original Gangsta. When I was growing up I had an acquaintance who was a little too much into the rockabilly scene and had “Rock ‘n’ Roll” tattooed on his arm, quite large, but the problem was it came out as “Rok ‘n’ Roll.” Solution? A “c” and an arrow was added, just like an edited version of a manuscript. No joke.Remember the last episode with Filipo the sunglass vendor? Apparently John and Nick got a good deal on specs because they suddenly look very Italian in a Snooki kind of way. Hope they dump the baggage that comes with that look. 

So they are in the aging warehouse for Parmagiano, hunting for green triangle-labeled wheels of cheese. As an ex-Axis power the Italians might not want to use a symbol that the Nazis marked petty criminals with, but maybe that’s just me and the effects of symbolism. Red Team quickly finds three flawed wheels, and to further this thought, Jenna is acting like a third wheel to the more pleasant couple of John and Liz. 

And off they go to the Salumeria. John is rolling that cheese and Jenna is getting mad at him because they keep getting lost following her directions. I mentally have kicked her in the balls about 10 times this episode. When looking for directions she calls to many locals who just ignore her over-pronunciation. May Gary’s dream of a muzzle soon come true. 

Shopping goes well, except as the Black Team catches up they realize that Nicole has crossed Parmagiano off the list without actually procuring said cheese. She cut the cheese without the cheese. My eight-year-old is gonna love that line.

So the Red Team wins this race and gets to the restaurant first with the prescribed grocery list. The prize is $10,000 and the exceptional ingredient is dinner at the Pappagallo. The kicker is that the Red Team gets to decide whether the Black Team dines with them or not. They decide companionship is a good thing and a dinner with tortellini and stuff starts flowing. The chef is a sweet fellow who falls prey to the evil tactics of Jenna when she asks that Q&A be conducted in Esperanto so the other chefs can’t understand. The funny thing is this is no boon to her strategy and really doesn’t help out the Red Team. So dinner will be served with Paul Bartolotta as judge. Paul is pretty badass. Great fish cookery. I have only been to his namesake restaurant in the Wynn Casino, but it was stellar. Good vittles. Very Italiano. 

Two hours to make food for 60 people is not much time. I would be freaking out as well and probably order a bunch of frozen tortellini to save time. The results would have been not so great, but would be much better than Avery and Nooie’s fateful tortellini catastrophe. The smart moves on the Black Team were two-fold: getting all the waiters and dishwashers to make their food and leaving Nick to do his magic with the appetizer. Let me tell you how you should be acting if someone on your team is going to be an immune Achilles heel: do your food well, help the heel in question do the best job they can by really advising them, and then make sure they know when choices are being made for people to be sent home that you are their BFF forever and just tried to help them. Alas, Nick is kicking it with his plate, but his trying to help Nicole is more whiney than helpful. 

Black Team

Nick Lacasse - Warm Mushroom Salad, Arugula Puree and Parmesan Cheese

Steve "Nookie" Postal and Avery Pursell - Squash and Prosciutto Tortellini in Chicken Broth 

Nicole Lou - Ribeye Medallions with Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower Puree

Time flies and we are eating at Al Cumbio, the Black Team's restaurant. Starter is great. Mushrooms are beauty. Arugula puree is well-loved. The tortellini sucks. Dough is, contrary to what Curtis says, not too wet but way too thick and dry. Wonton pasta is mentioned. Broth is good, but that is not going to make up for this misstep. The beef is pretty sad too. Brussels and cauliflower puree don’t save the leather.

Back to Pappagallo, which in my off-kilter translation comes to Papa Rooster but probably is a colloquial for Rooster Soup. Weigh in people and tell me where we stand. I am sure Jenna will chime in with a long Italian lecture about the name.

Red Team

Jenna Johansen- Four Cheese Plate with Mushrooms and Sweet and Sour Sauce

John Vermiglio - Tortellini in Capon and Parmesan Broth

Liz Garrett - Pork Loin with Romagnolo Sauce and Eggplant  

Four cheese plate is so-so but not a revalation. John’s tortellini is killing it. Broth not so much. The pork, much to Jenna’s chagrin, is top notch.

Black on the block. Let’s further the discussion of what you should do if you have an immune Achilles heel on your team and want to survive. This is for you Nick… you cook well; check. You help the failing course; C grade on that sir. You be really nice in final name-choosing to enamor the immune giving them no choice to choose you… complete and utter fail. You drew a target on your head when choices were being made. 

Nick, you had so much promise. No Thailand for you. 


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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.