It’s been said that those who can’t do, teach. I say rubbish. Take this week’s Quickfire and Elimination Challenges, which asked our three remaining chefs, all unbelievably talented in their own right, to guide, instruct and educate. The result was beautiful food and students who were inspired and proud of their accomplishments.
The Quickfire was vintage Top Chef Masters. Instructing someone you can’t see (and can barely hear) to cook and plate a dish is intensely frustrating for the chef, but so fun to watch. Particularly when the students are the show’s judges. I expected Ruth to be amazing at this as she was famously a master of disguise as food critic for The New York Times, but James and Francis managed to hide their identities pretty well too. It was here that we saw the first hints of our chefs’ teaching styles. Lorena was patient and encouraging, Chris was methodical, and Kerry was demanding. What was interesting is how that style translated into the mystery partners' dishes. Lorena’s patience produced a deeply rich sauce, but cost her time to finish the pasta. Kerry coached Ruth to make a perfectly sautéed chicken, but it was remarkable to see how close Chris and James’ Prawns with Sautéed Celery, Thyme, Pine Nuts and Chili Threads turned out, in both taste and appearance.
This week’s Elimination Challenge was unbelievably rewarding. Walking into the kitchen you could feel this intense blend of nervousness and excitement from our six students. While they were all star pupils in the culinary arts program at the Southwest Career & Technical Academy, you couldn’t help but notice that the chance to cook with our talented chefs at this incredibly high level was blowing their minds. It was fantastic. It was equally great to see Lorena, Chris, and Kerry work with their kids. It’s worth noting that it had to be nerve-wracking to hand over your chance to make it to the finale to inexperienced teenagers just starting to learn to cook. But each of the chefs put that aside and focused on how to get the best dish out of the students, as much for the kids’ benefit as theirs.