Cast Blog: #80PLATES

The Art of Culinary War

Default image

Avery Pursell: "I Felt That I Did Not Perform Well"

Final Destination

The Suspense is Killing Me

Homeward Bound

Food Reigns

Default image

Meat Sweats

Atta Girl!

The Final Four

Axis of Evil

Big Trouble in Little China

The Future is Hong Kong

Rocket Science

The Third Opium War

Cheating In Chiang Mai

Under the Radar

The Thai That Binds

Okie Dokie

Full of Bologna

Troop Bologna?

Pick Up Your Game!

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

When in Rome...

Super Tuscan

That's a Spicy Meatball!

Villa-ins

Down in Africa

Funky Cold Medina

Spice Girls

Prawn Stars

Barcelona or Bust

It's in His Lisp

My Retirement Plan

Allons-y a Lyon!

Truly Exceptional

Lyon for Lambs

Truck Nutz

Playing the Game

The Dog's Bollocks

London on a Plate

Piss and Vinegar

The Art of Culinary War

Hugh Acheson examines Nookie's worldly skills.

The chefs are off to Morocco.

This whole episode could play out stranger than a Paul Bowles novel but has no possibility of being weirder than the film version of Naked Lunch, unless you get them all really stoned on “Majoun,” a powerful version of hashish. That’s a whole other show concept, though. 

Coming out of the gate Chaz is all anti-Avery. He thinks she is taking credit for the success of others. Chaz is jealous because he didn’t think of this strategy. I think the thought is misinformed though… Avery is just better than Chaz and he’s feeling a bit chuffed.

Didn’t see this coming but I am perplexed that the person with the most worldly travel experience is a man named Nookie. Soon we realize though that while Nookie has some Moroccan experience, he is not very thrilled to be back. Morocco freaks Nookie out. I think there is a warrant out for him in Marrakech for some mercenary work he did with the French secret service back in the mid '80s. 

I think Nookie has written a book called The Art of Culinary War: Lessons in Screwing with People’s Minds While Peppering the World with Humor. This guy has a better strategic mind than anyone I have ever seen on a competitive cooking show. He is the guy no one wants to play Risk with, but he’s good to have on your team.

The Exceptional Ingredient race is a mindless meandering to the medina. Funky and cold it is not, but sexist and weird it is. To the Central Park South horse drawn carriages! Three teams are formed and they are: Black Team is Nookie, Avery, and John. Red Team is Liz, Jenna, and Nicole. White Team is Chaz, Gary, and Nick. Nick and John haven’t really stood out so far. Until they do I will call them Slice of White Bread A (John) and Slice of White Bread B (Nick). Doesn’t taste like much, but it’s always there. Getting around without the language is a little sketchy. Gary is lulling people into submission with his perfect French. The Red Team is getting hissed at. Oh the modern men of Morocco. Wake up, fellas. You let Bowles and Burroughs run free and wild -- now it's time to let the ladies enjoy themselves without full headdress. Call it progress. 

They all have to find the Ben Boubker spice shop and then pick out the makings of Ras El Hanout, a common spice blend used in many North African foods. 

The last team arriving is the White Team and they actually pull out the win, even with Nookie, literally, throwing his weight around. Chaz wears shades inside which now has me humming that Corey Hart song. He was Canadian you know. No apologies for our exports. 

They are now off to the top floor of some restaurant that specializes in mint tea. A bunch of old guys show them the secrets of the pour and then prod and beat them with sticks. Gary has been pouring shots into the gullets of sorority girls for years as their social coordinator and chef, so he may have an advantage. Alas, the Black Team wins and gets the special power amulet: a demure man named Ahmed, their guide through the world of tagines and their personal shopper through the medina. Looks like this will be a special assist and really give them an advantage. Oh, they also get to split $15,000 in cash, which makes Nookie very nervous. Slice of White Bread A once won $20 in a scratch off ticket from a truck stop in Illinois. Wow. 

Curtis is looking beautiful in this African sun. He knows it too. 

The tagine is a Berber dish. It’s slow braise cooked in a special vessel that has a shallow bottom with about two-inch high sides and then a conical top. The top allows the moisture from the cooking ingredients to circulate and steam back into the food. Hiss. It’s less brothy than a stew and usually has lamb or chicken and  vegetables in it with a full complement of spices. They each have to make a tagine and two sides. The foremost American expert on Moroccan food is Paula Wolfert who back in the early '70s wrote Couscous and other Good Food from Morocco. My Paula story is this: I am a big fan, but we crossed paths in the strangest way. I moved to San Francisco in 1998 and was busy staying at my sister’s house faxing resumes to various restaurants. I was having a lot of issues getting one resume faxed correctly. The number was off and it just wasn’t working. After about 20 attempts I get a call on the fax machine from a very annoyed woman, announcing, “This is Paula Wolfert and why are you trying to fax my home phone?” Oops. I apologized and found the correct number. She hung up. So we’re close… real close. 

Nookie to Avery: “Do you want to go pet the monkey?”

You have to be careful in some countries. Things can be morally misconstrued. This would be misconstrued everywhere. 

They all suck at making tagines. They just make stews with spices. Couscous should not be cold unless you’re at a salad bar in Silicon Valley on Worldly Eats days. 

John attempts to communicate with the waiters by bringing them flowers, but these guys are not having it. In North Carolina and Morocco you cannot, as a man, bring another man flowers. 

Beet Gate. Avery’s beets get cleared by mistake. She accuses Chaz. They get into it. Gary solves it all and Chaz gets mad at Gary. Chaz is also mad at an imaginary gnome named McGillicutty. Everything and everyone angers Chaz. Chill Chaz, chill. 

Chaz is convinced there is “something personal” between him and Avery. No Chaz, you’re just being a weiner. Put your head down and cook. 

Slice of White A has undercooked the beans. Crunchy beans are no good in any language. He is apologetic and has no good reason why this has happened. But he runs that Fez room like it’s a TGI Friday’s. Finesse, aplomb, and pin-on buttons of positive affirmation are what make this room roll. Sun Tzu, I mean Nookie, is schooling Avery in the art of war. Nookie is feeling good and may be integral in the overthrow of many North African governments by the end of the show. Chaz is still very pissy about the beets. Let it go, Chaz. Slice of White B is solid with the White Team plan to vote Avery off, but his reasoning is that its because Avery is actually really good and therefore a long term threat. 

Liz is really good in the front-of-house role, but Red Team’s food is also just better, though I liked Avery’s trio of salads too in Black Team land. Looked good. Chaz is convinced Avery’s salad was made by someone else and that there was a second shooter in the JFK assassination. 

White Team

Chaz Brown - Couscous with Roasted Vegetables

Gary Walker - Chickpea, Carrot and Tomato Salad

Nick Lacasse - Chicken Tagine with Green Olives and Preserved Lemons

 

Black Team

Avery Pursell and John Vermiglio - Trio of Moroccan Salads

Steve "Nookie" Postal - Beef and Vegetable Tagine

John Vermiglio - Saffron Stewed White Beans

 

Red Team

Liz Garrett - Saffron Couscous with Onions, Vegetables and Harissa

Jenna Johansen - Lamb Tagine with Garden Vegetables

Nicole Lou - Rice Pudding with Orange Flower Water

 

Red Team wins. Liz wins the episode with her front-of-house fortitude and her Couscous. 

Chaz goes home to fax his resume to Paula Wolfert. Call me, Chaz -- I think I have her number. 

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.