Rocco DiSpirito

Rocco DiSpirito goes deep about why Corey Roberts' party ultimately won.

on Jul 14, 2011
Last night’s dinner party may go down in the history-so-far of the show as the wildest. The kitchen almost burned up, guests got ballet lessons after dinner, and I got a marriage proposal. But the craziest angle of all was the diverse background of the chefs: owner of a cooking school, a vegan chef, and an airline chef. Don't airline chefs make meals that look like they had been placed in a time capsule and only recently unearthed – stuff you eat somewhere over Kansas? Well, read on, for how this dinner party came down.

The three chefs competing were:

Corey Roberts, who is from Australia and is the Executive Chef for LSG Sky Chefs. Yes, he’s the airline chef in question.

Nicole Straight from Connecticut. Nicole runs Time to Eat Cooking School. She teaches people how to throw dinner parties.

Ayinde Howell. He’s a vegan chef and food blogger. Ayinde has been a vegan all his life; he eats no animal products of any kind. He has never even cooked meat. I’ve cooked and eaten a lot of vegan meals, and done right, they can be terrific. Ayinde said he could deliver.

For the Signature Dish Challenge, Ayinde whipped up Texas BBQ Rubbed Seitan with Sauteed Mustard Greens and Home Fried Potatoes. Seitan (pronounced SAY-Tan) is another alternative to meat, and it comes from the protein in wheat. You can use it in a lot of dishes, like stews, burgers, and casseroles. Like tofu, it takes on the character and flavor of any ingredient used with it. His seitan did taste like a meat dish, but it was so over-seasoned … I could barely eat it. The level of sodium made my cheeks wince.  Wish he had the ability to acknowledge his error, might have saved him.

Nicole made Pan Roasted Salmon with Truffle Butter Sauce, wilted baby spinach, and slices of Yukon Gold Potatoes. The salmon was cooked perfectly. Good truffles can change your life, but I couldn’t taste them in the butter sauce. She clearly doesn’t have lots of experience with this precious ingredient.

Corey did something playful and fun: Mummy Fried Shrimp. He took long shreds of potato and wrapped each shrimp so that it looked like a mummy. Then he deep fried them. Very cool. Creativity like that wows guests. He served it atop an avocado and citrus salad. But the shrimp was woefully bland and not crispy. So sad. I asked him if the fryer he was using was hot enough and he made some smart-alec remark.