Well, what can I say about our poor chefs’ Quickfire Challenge? Let me tell you, it’s hard enough being in an unfamiliar kitchen, cooking under extreme time restraints and against the best chefs in the country. But cooking with an ingredient that you have never cooked with before, that potentially grosses you out or, in Suvir’s case, simply goes against your beliefs — this had to be one of the toughest Quickfires in Top Chef Masters history.
I thought I was in for an easy ride with this job. Apparently not. I had to eat all of these dishes! Now it’s not the first time I had eaten an insect. I’ve tried crickets before in Thailand and actually quite enjoyed it. I’ve even eaten a large worm (10 inches in length) with an Aboriginal elder in the middle of the Australian outback, so I felt quite well-prepared. Trust me, I was not.
I take my hat off to the chefs as some of the dishes were actually quite tasty like Hugh’s tempura fried crickets with sunchoke and carrot puree. However I can still remember the horrible texture of the hornworm and coconut soup and the scratchy legs on the soy crickets. Now, understand: this not a criticism; I was really impressed that our talented chefs rose to the occasion and, in most cases, put something edible on the table.
The Elimination Challenge was something I was really excited for. There is nothing better than raising money for your charity and here we really gave our chefs the ability to turn on the magic. I have to tell you as a chef, the first thing you do when you have a dinner like this is make a timeline. Some chefs will be meticulous about it and write it all down and others will just do it mentally. Simply put, you work out what you need to do to create the food in time for service and divide that into individual jobs, including how long each should take. That way, you give each component the right amount of attention, and you know how long it’ll take to get the whole meal done. So, if you have 10 jobs to complete before service and they take on average 30 minutes each, it will take you five hours to prepare for service.