Wilo Benet, lemme eat your heart out!
That’s what I wanted to do during the Offal Elimination Challenge, cuz your tripleta, for me, was most sublime.
Chef Wilo’s combination of chicken, ham, sweet caramelized onions, and of course, the beef heart, tasted scrumptious. Texturally, it was also a symphonic hit. Soft pita bread, tender meats, and crunchy tortilla slivers on top made for an adventuresome mouthfeel.
How perfect that Wilo drew heart as his protein for the final challenge; his gentle soul and lyrical way of cooking (and even speaking) proved to me, yet again, that a chef’s food is an incredibly intimate and direct representation of his/her personality.
I found it intriguing, too, that each chef during the Quickfire seemed to draw the color that most portrayed him/herself. When I think Rick Bayless, green comes to mind. Balanced and lush are words that I associate with that hue, as well as with Rick’s food.
Cindy Pawlcyn is the epitome of yellow: cheerful, bright and fun, and a corn and squash soup is a spot-on rendition of those traits. When I first felt Cindy’s energy on set, I wanted to "gigil" her. How adorable is she? A slumber party at Cindy’s house making mac ‘n’ cheese, meatloaf, and baking three-layer carrot cake, all while wearing my sweats and fuzzy pink slippers? For me, there isn’t a better way to spend time making delicious comfort foods than that.
The fire shooting from Ludo Lefebvre’s eyes is red red red. It’s an intensity that can’t be denied or copied. His beet gazpacho was provocative and visually disturbing. And I mean that in a good way!
Then orange foods for Wilo: wise, curious, thoughtful, so much so that he forgets to take off the ring mold from his salmon tartare. Wilo, I agree with you that you were very lucky the blind-tasters didn’t penalize you for leaving that on the plate!
What I really loved about this challenge was that it was one of the first on-location shoots we had during the season’s taping. Plus, I had never been to Universal Studios before, so that felt very different — we were off campus! It was a frigid yet sunny day, and just before critics Gael, James, Jay, and I were to walk over to the Masters' street food stations, I remember James and I hanging out in a nearby gift shop laughing and horsing around, both of us hungry and
giggly with anticipation.
All of the Masters' stations were bustling with diners and everything seemed to be going pretty smoothly. Except, of course, when us critics sauntered over to Ludo’s stand. Waiting, waiting, still waiting on his food – poor Ludo! It’s a good thing we had tried the other chefs' food before his, or we might’ve been much more irritated.
How hilarious was it that Ludo exclaimed during shopping at Whole Foods that Rick was copying his quesadillas with his tacos? Fiercely competitive with a flair for whimsy, Ludo’s fervor translates through TV, but I also can attest that he has an incredibly demure and
charming side that the cameras didn’t reveal.
I had interviewed Mexican cuisine maestro, Rick, a couple of years ago at the James Beard Awards here in New York. I was pretty starstruck cuz I had watched him on his cooking show many times preparing soulful Mexican, all while doing yoga poses in between courses. Rick
is a true wonderboy and a wizard, yet wide-eyed and childlike at the same time. His humbleness and freshness on display in his cooking is something to be admired, and his tongue tacos were delectable and umami-rich. I, personally, just wanted a squeeze more of lime.
So another kick-ass Masters episode later, and another wonderful and tasty trip down memory lane!
What did you guys think?
Which dish did you wanna try most?
(p.s. – Mollie b, how can I find you?)
Wilo Benet, lemme eat your heart out!