Chefs Just Want to Have Fun
Hugh Acheson explores the teppanyaki mystique.
So Debbie left last week in the wedding debacle, but regardless the chefs probably served the best wedding food ever, because let’s be honest, wedding food usually sucks.
So back to the Cosmopolitan, where we are shown an ice block tundra with Winterlude of fish. The chefs are told that they are not allowed use of heat, so cruda it is. Cosentino points out that Takashi probably has a definitive advantage in this challenge, but I think this is profiling. I can see the logic, cause Takashi is a sushi chef. In a similar vein, I would probably jump to the assumption that Gidget Chipperton would win the Doritos Taco Challenge. Brian Boitano is guest judging, and if he doesn’t do a triple axel I am outta here.
Kerry gets his charity explained right off that bat which worries me… Sometimes that’s a sign of bad things to come. Then again I think that the Magical Elves are onto my thoughts.
Cosentino is doing a pulverized charcoal drawing with a mackerel brush. Thierry is doing a geoduck dish. Takashi has been lollygagging around and leaves everything until the end, but let’s remember he is a sushi chef. This is like riding a bike made for him. Patricia thinks Brian knows what he’s talking about which is a good trait in a judge. Clarke, who does look like the monster from Rocky Horror (hat tip to commenter from last week), makes an oyster dish worthy of an oyster bar grand opening. Those Maine guys and their seafood. Mark nails it with the lobster, making this one happy competing couple. Bottoms are Kerry with the Hamachi and poison oil, and also Thierry with his geoduck thing. Tops are a medal podium ceremony with bronze going to Mark and his pet lobster, silver going to Offal Chris with his charcoal drawing of mackerel, and Takashi taking gold with his splendid sushi. Evidently doing sushi everyday is a distinct advantage in a raw fish challenge. Duh.
Takashi wins $5000 for American Red Cross disaster relief. He wants a nap instead but needs to get ready for a Benihana extravaganza.
There is a teppanyaki place in Athens and I remember going there about 12 years ago and sitting down. The culturally-specific chef appeared and he was young and began setting up. Then, casting all generalizations aside he greeted us with the most down home Georgia accent, “Hey y’all! Let’s have some fun!” The mystique cleared out faster than a NASCAR pit stop.
So cooking in this style is showmanship as much as it is content. I mean the food has to be good but it’s the onion volcano that keeps ‘em coming back.
Hot Tamales, Rick, and Waxman are the guest diners. None would be Teppan masters but hey, they all know how to have fun. Art is going to kiss some babies. Patricia is glad Takashi is on her team. She’s profiling too. Oh and Francis Lam, Ruth, and James are judgmentally eating.
Whole Foods time. Clarke and Mark met at Stars. They have won medals. They live in Maine. It’s not really a Cosentino shopping trip unless Chris runs like a madman through the store. Thierry is getting a happy ending on aisle three. Awkward.
Carts are loaded and the show begins.
Kerry Heffernan: Shrimp with Eggplant Herb Salad & Gochujang Sauce
Mark Gaier: Scallops, Bok Choy, Pickled Mushrooms and Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce
Lorena Garcia: Chicken Fried Rice, Spicy Chili Oil, Cilantro and Orange Guava SauceMark is being ballsy browning the bok choy. The plate looks very Zen. Scallops are my TV nemesis, so I am hoping for Mark’s success. Kerry is bringing the drama… and the overcooked shrimp. And the tarragon. Lorena is cooking fried rice. She is lispy-licious. Gidget is kicking butt except she has forgotten the salt. The judges think that the chefs should be licking their fingers and tasting the food as they go. Most health departments think otherwise, but then again “What happens in Vegas…”
Takashi Yagihashi: Sauteed Calamari with Savory Okonomiyaki Pancakes
Patricia Yeo: Beef Kalbi Lettuce Wrap with Gochujang Sauce
Clark Frasier: Lobster Tails with Miso and Seared Orange Butter
Takashi is cooking at an IHOP. But instead of Red Velvet pancakes (they really exist), he is getting all squidy with it. Clarke is playing with oranges and looking for hot spots. I would have taken the lobster out of the shell, but I am not going to tell a chef from Maine how to cook a lobster. Patricia is getting picked on by James, who is judging meat doneness from his King Judge Throne. She decides the only way to save this thing is to perform a striptease. How many times do you eat the Gochugang sauce in a year? Well you diners are going to have it twice tonight! Crazy. Evidently they have all been to Momofuku recently and have fermented bean sauce on the brain.
Art Smith: Griddled Shrimp, Cheese Grits Cakes and Swamp Greens Salad
Chris Cosentino: Grandma Easton's Rhode Island Clam Chowder
Thierry Rautureau: Pear Crepe Flambe with Almond Cream and Pear ButterTeam Old Guys in Fedoras plus Offal Chris (I mean White Team):
Chris is trying to quarterback this game of Teppan but when you have Art and Thierry on your team it’s hard to have a gameplan. Frenetic Art makes deconstructed grit cakes with shrimp. It looks like Cabrini Green, but tastes like Oak Park. I told you showmanship was going to help! Chris moves in like this is a fight to the death. He rattles off the whole dish and schools us all. Art has completely screwed everything up by not bringing the mandolin to the cooking stage. I half expected Art to pull out a banjo instead and strum a few tunes to really drive Chris to the brink. Thierry decides crepes are the best idea. Dish looks good but I do not want a dessert crepe cooked on a stove right after shrimp and squid.
Rick was vibrating with excitement at Chris’ dish. That’s a line he would officially like to retract. Oseland coins the term “Teppanyaki Terror” and has a line of onesies and koozies coming out.
Patricia Yeo has a kitchen full of chefs paid in candy. Kerry just keeps everybody on pins and needles by just feeding them espresso and PBR. This reminds me of a recent headline in our paper…
Art doesn’t think he’s on the winning team. His look says defeat. Then he wins. He’s officially redeemed. The other tops are Chris and Thierry. Team Whitey. Art brought the fire and now the tears come out. Oscar-winning performance.
Art gets brutally tackled by Gidget. Mark, Kerry, and Lorena, the Green Machine are on the bottom. Under-seasoning seems to be the main culprit. They get nailed for not tasting the food as they cooked but this is a really debatable issue. I mean maybe you could have a couple of disposable spoons to taste with, but most people would get grossed out if I was to snack at the Teppan table. Mark’s Zen simplicity does not give any of the judges a sense of calm. Maybe it was the nerves of the first team, maybe it was a lack of a smart menu, or maybe it was just the salt, or lack thereof. Half of Maine is going home. Mark packs his knives.
Onwards. Follow me on Twitter: @hughacheson