Truck Nutz

Hugh Acheson reveals what he would have cooked for his Lyonnaise hosts.

And we’re off to France with a focus on the foods of Lyon, kind of the home base of old skool French cookery. It’s the land of chicken that tastes like chicken, chestnuts, tripe, pike quenelles, and cheese. How do they live longer than us? Actually I know the answer to that… I watched Last Tango in Paris. 

So “laissez les bons temps rouler” in the OG sense.

Gary speaks fluent French and he’s not afraid to use it. This should help him and his team.

I would have done a cardoon gratin, confusing the heck out of Curtis and Cat but they really do eat a lot of cardoons in Lyon. It’s one of their things. Funny that the meal really didn’t touch on charcuterie and coq aux vin, even though Spaz, I mean the AIC (Anger Issues Chaz), did make big and little chicken, but we’ll get to that. 

Chaz does have immunity from his last victory, something Keven is not very happy about. For a guy who removed the “I” from his name, he is still pretty selfish. He’s making Nookie look good, and I haven’t even made fun of Nookie’s name yet. That will come in due time. 

Team Black: Chaz, Keven, Avery, Gary, and Nookie

Team Red: Nick, Nicole, Sai, John, Liz, Jenna

Sai is getting a bit frustrated that French cuisine is really adored in France. She feels that her Thai background won’t help much in this challenge. This is true, but why feel the need to say really, really weird stuff like: “I don’t want to come off ASIAN HITLER style… not yet.” I have no words to describe this moment of jaw-on-floor. WTF is she talking about. Jenna is a take-control kind of person. That’s very different from a leader. She and Keven need to go to leadership training seminars together. They bark directives and nobody follows. It’s the charge of the army of onesies. She does have a communications plan, though, when the team is split into two cars: “If we need to talk to each other HONK three times.” This is brilliant and so much better than her not-shown first idea of aluminum cans with string tethered between the “voitures.”

Red Team drives the Infinitis faster than the Black Team and are the first to meet up with the most generalized French cheesemaker ever. Complete with bandanna around his neck. It’s like if I greeted you in Ottawa wearing a Mounties uniform. Don’t think I won’t.

Well Jean Marc does know his cheeses and this is a hard challenge but the cheesy instincts of Jenna will reign supreme. She finds the six sheep’s milk cheeses in a slow methodical fashion, though at one time she disagrees with the most Authentic Frenchman Ever. The nerve of some people. The cheeses do look really tasty. Some look deliciously unpasteurized… don’t get me started. 

Black Team arrives after a devastating Black Team Down situation where Keven, the navigator and driver of the team, led them astray. Keven has not just studied cheese though, he has studied fromage. He is plein de suffisance. To the Babel Fish my people!

Then they herd sheep. Elves, I am speechless. Really?

Best Nookie-ism: ”Keven is about as useful as a fart in a space suit.” This is going to make my seven-year-old very happy as a new saying. Thanks for that, Nookie. Off to the wine pairing which is an odd challenge because wine can be very subjective, but I will play along. Nookie solves Fermat’s Theorum and this makes the bottles fall into perfect order for the matching wines extravaganza. I did not picture him for a math whiz, but then I was like, “Where the hell is MIT? That’s right… in Nookie’s hometown.” Then it all made sense. The movie was meant to be called Good Nookie Hunting.  

So the Black Team wins the exceptional ingredient, which in this case is a meal and an explanation of the Lyonnais dishes that they will be re-creating, most importantly the Quenelles of fish (usually pike). The Master chef is very helpful and this is an important advantage. I have a soft spot for a master Euro chef like this one; we just don’t often find the dedicated chefs willing to live above their restaurants and just focus on the one thing for their entire careers, but that mentality is still very common elsewhere in the world. Here we have chefs coming out of cooking schools who think that they are one call away from their own show and Truck Nutz sponsorship. I digress, cause this type of writing may interfere with my Truck Nutz contract. 

The Red Team, led by the less-than-charismatic Jenna is wandering around town to see what constitutes the flavors of Lyon. Indian food is out, salads and chicken seem to be popular, and quenelles are a necessity. They must try the quenelles so they go and order one to share amongst all six of them. Page 27 of How to Get By in Lyon on $12 a Day. They relish in the flavor and work backwards through the dish to be able to make it. This smart sounding system is bound for failure. The problem is that Jenna speaks only a little French. She ain’t no Gary in the lingual department. Gary’s grasp of the language is really the biggest advantage in the episode, much more important than the Master chef. Sai and Jenna are battling. No one likes anyone, except Nick and John are nice to one another. A menu is decided and dessert becomes a brownie au chocolat. Julia Child is gonna kick someone’s ass in heaven. 

The guest judges show up and they are Jacotte Brazier and Gregoire Cuilleron. They eat with the beautiful blond and Cat. Red Team first: “I think we should present it as a play on a quenelle.” This is code for “we completely bombed at this.” During prep there was chatter that they made pancake batter, basically fishy pancake batter. The process of making a quenelle is this: A panade is made, kind of like a choux base, and then the fish is finely ground and passed through a sieve. Eggs and the panade are added to the fish and mixed and then you quenelle the mixture with two spoons forming them into little footballs and then you poach them gently in highly aromatic stock and serve them with a Nantua sauce or a simple cream-based sauce. It’s not rocket science and Red Team has completely bombed on this course. 

They also have a haddock with gribiche but not enough of it. Expediting is horrific. Half of the people seem to have really enjoyed the fish. Bad omen. 

The salade Lyonnaise rocks, but I would have used more frisee in place of lettuces. That’s just my opinion. It’s funny because I think the salad is a really important Lyon dish, but Sai is about to get raked over the coals for it. Remember that playing nice and explaining your motives is half the success in this show. Sai is combative and not a team builder. She also has pulled a Hitler comment off the “We Do Not Go There” shelf. Brownie. Ms. Brazier says it ain’t Lyon but it ain’t half bad either. They celebrate by drinking from the bottle. À votre santé! Jenna decides this means its time to talk down to everyone and proceeds to let loose with some perfunctory, “Honey, blah blah blah.”

On to Black Team’s service at the Daniel & Denise. At first I thought it was Daniel & Denis — a restaurant name illegal now in North Carolina.

They nail the Quenelle. Rock on Avery, a contestant we have not seen much of. Following that is a salad with balsamic? Foie gras, the official food of the Boston Red Sox comes next, and Nookie has done a good job. 

Somehow the service mistake is made to make this a French buffet. No idea why Gary is doing this. I think he’s confused by constantly calling everyone in sight his “little lambs.” 

Chaz is sitting on the floor. I am not sure if that’s the best spot to have a good service from.  Seems like the customers all loved the quenelle, but the rest of it kind of got lost regionally. 

But Black Team makes it through with Avery winning best dish. Red Team loses and Sai goes home for making the much better of the salads presented. 

In the immortal words of Chuck D:

“Black is back, all in, we're gonna win
Check it out, yeah y'all, here we go again”

Homeward Bound

Avery finally outplayed Nookie.


Well, everyone, we made it. And I for one am exhausted. I'm not saying I'm as tired as our chefs, but, y'know, I might be. We see the chefs heading to Uruguay (No, Uruguay!) on a ferry. I love a ferry ride, so this seemed fun to me. At some point, Avery says "Nookie could change his mind at any point." You know who can also change her mind at any point? Avery! But I will stop asking why no one has kicked Nookie off until this point, but it's moot. 

The chefs are issued their Course: they have two hours to shop and prepare a traditional Uruguayan dish, and they are only allowed to obtain their ingredients from three markets. Not only that, but their diners are Cat and Curtis! Liz doesn't seem to have too much trouble shopping, but she does forget to ask the butcher for salt. I was actualy surprised Nookie and Avery thought to ask for salt, knowing it wouldn't be provided. Avery bought her wine before she bought her protein, so she was surprised by the fact that she couldn't get fish. White wine? Chicken it is! Nookie has a seemingly nice idea behind his dish saying, "If I learned anything, it's to talk to the locals." Well, one local led him to a jar of onion jam. But she also said to make a traditional tart. That didn't happen. Nookie made -- and I mean "made" in the most generic way possible -- chorizo (my fave) with the onions. Cat and Curtis weren't too happy that Nookie didn't really cook anything. Even Avery said, "This is a cooking competition, not a reheating competition." Ouch. Also, the jam was too sweet. Liz made a successful steak salad, but it was missing salt. Curtis could tell the addition of sausage was made in an attempt to add some salt, but it wasn't enough. I really do wonder why LIz asked Nookie for salt and not Avery. Any thoughts?!

So, Avery won the Course. Some of the chefs seemed to be confused about whether this was the final challenge -- it wasn't. By winning the Course, Avery won the exceptional ingredient, and definitely the most exceptional of them all -- the ability to choose her finale competitor.And she did it. Finally. She voted Nookie off. Hallelujah. Since i finally met Nookie this past week at our amazing Sneak Peek Finale Party, I feel compelled to say here that I'm not writing "hallelujah" because I don't not like Nookie -- I've just never understood why everyone was OK with him holding all the cards. 

around-the-world-in-80-plates-blog.jpg Me with Nookie and Avery at the 80 Plates Sneak Peek Finale Party

So, Avery and Liz head to... Los Angeles -- their home turf. In L.A., the chefs are met with their Takeover: first they have to choose one chef from each store to act as their sous chef for the Takeover. The chefs are their fallen comrades from countries past. Avery ends up with Jenna (did you see her give Liz the side-eye after her team was done cooking?) and Nick, and Liz ends up with John and Chaz! And all the sous-chefs seem genuinely interested in helping their respective chefs win. Whileeveryone's in the kitchen, Avery and Liz get a very welcome surprise -- their family members! Avery's kids and aunt come to say hello and we meet Liz's boyfriend, Ryan. I always wonder if these little surprises are helpful or hurtful. While Avery obviously wants to see her children, I'd have to assume a little surprise like that would break anyone's focus. And how funny was Nookie with her kids? Ha. 

The other surprise was who the chefs were cooking for. Although they knew they'd be serving Wolfgang Puck since they were cooking in his kitchen at red seven, they had no idea the caliber of their diners -- James Beard winners, nominees, etc. And despite all these pressures and curveballs, they both kind of killed their menus… for the most part. Avery started her meal with her and Jenna's winning papaya salad; then moved on to an apparently perfectly-cooked beef dish with chimichurri. She finished it with tea and a pannacotta. I thought serving tea with dessert was ballsy because if that gets cold, it's ruined. Did anyone else notice that her kids seemed to eat all her food? I was very impressed.

LIz's starter was the majority's favorite dish of the night. She then served a dish that was criticized by someone (forgive me I can't remember who) for not seeming Italian. Mmm it was a simple dish served with dino kale -- seemed Italian to me! She then finished with a play on an empanadas, but her custard didn't set up.

From where I was sitting, it seemd to come down to the best dish vs. the best meal. And Avery was just more consistent, so… she won! Congratulations, Avery! And congratulations to Liz on doing such a fantastic job. 

I'll be recapping Masters which premieres next Wedneday, so hope to see you all over at that site then. If I may say so, I've peeped some of the episodes already, and I swear they're amazing. Until then, Have a Nosh!


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