Cast Blog: #TCMASTERS

One Lump of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down

Hugh Acheson shares his love of boxing.

Like a Prince Harry visit to Las Vegas, all good things must eventually come to an end, and this season is past the midway point, and we are churning towards the butter of a champion.  

I am not the best chef in the world, but one of my fortes is my uncanny abilities (I have two. The other is mindreading.) is figuring out what something weighs without a scale. Steaks, small birds, bundles of vegetables, babies, small circus performers… you put it in the palm of my hand, and I will tell you what it weighs down to an ounce or two, but even that range wouldn’t be a real skillset for this challenge, as the range in this mise-en-place workout is a slim 7.5 to 8.5 ounces. Big portion, small range. 

Cosentino is assessing his competition in the prep challenge and finds potential threats in all members of COBRA… I mean the remaining chefs. I always picture Chris as a small boy dressing G.I. Joe up as a chef. A silent, deadly, burly G.I. Joe who excels at charcuterie, wearing a small homemade apron. Chris is correct to assume that Lorena, though speedy, does not engage much in the prep for her menus. You try making four million Taco Bell burritos, Chris. In other news that really is not news, because that implies freshness, currency, and Katie Couric, Chris was a character in a Wolverine comic book. If that’s not a career accomplishment I don’t know what is. Nothing that cool ever happens to me, except that role of Apple Spice’s forlorn younger brother, Mumbles, in My Little Pony.

As the challenge begins, we also have Kerry wondering whether Chris’ steaks are looking a little small. In many states those are fighting words… but he’s right, and Chris is sent to the sidelines, even though he has raced through the challenge at lightning speed. Patriceo is in the same undersizing predicament. Kerry is doing something weird with his eggs. Lorena is a grating machine, but Kerry wins this bout and will cook against Takashi with the Quickfire cook-off being judged by their fellow chefs.

Kerry is making country fried steak with parmesan and a sage jus. That’s my renaming, but it’s pretty apt. His first round is kind of a mess, but he’s all up on it and has a back-up ready. His plating looks like he’s been to Art school… the chef, not the oeuvre. Takashi meanwhile has whittled out a really nice-looking plate with vegetables, potatoes, an egg, and seared steak. Both are pretty impressive in the taste world, given the pressure of going through one challenge and segwaying right into a head-to-head battle. 

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Art is no longer here to malign that line, so I will do the honors. Sugar Ray Leonard is in the house and he’s going to knock this Elimination Challenge out. The women chef will be battling each other while Takashi and Chris do a Wu Tang battle of their own; Kerry will be sitting this one out, relaxing in the glory of his Quickfire win. The bouts will take place in the ring with Curtis acting as the Michael Buffer for the matches. Curtis will inevitably cry when he realizes that Buffer makes a reported $5 million PER FIGHT while “the Adonis from Down Under” has to smile, nod, and create small talk with a bunch of cranky chefs. In the immortal words of Buffer, “Let’s get ready to rumble.”

Boxing is an art form. I love to watch it. I realize it’s a rough sport that gets some haters but then again so does cricket and bowling.  Boxing is a tactical, enduring battle of strength and movement. I remember watching a Sugar Ray bout in his prime with my Pops and some of his friends in a tavern in Ottawa, back when pay-per-view was only to be had at a seedy bar on the corner. The place was famous for serving square pizzas. Pretty good pizza too. Prescott Tavern… how on earth did I remember that? Anyhoo, I just remember Sugar Ray being so awesome. Ethereally light while delivering bone-shaking blows. From then on, I have always been a fan of the sport. You can have all your No Fear, UFC, Ultimate Fighter stuff, just leave me a great boxing match. 

Back to cooking reality show… first thing they have to eat at Milos, a restaurant that I have been to in its first incarnation in Montreal. Too many small worlds going on. Milos is great Greek vittles. Stunning fish and great service. If you are in Vegas, go for dinner or for the best lunch deal around. Three courses for like $20 or so. Amazing value. Curtis is taking this ring announcer thing pretty seriously, but that’s why he gets paid the big (not Michael Buffer big) bucks. I would be like, “You have got to be kidding me.” 

In the undercard, Chris and Takashi tangle with bacon. Chris makes a Cal-Mex breakfast and Takashi makes a bacon steak with mushrooms, fennel, and some other choice uppercuts of flavor. Chris reigns victorious. 

In the second bout, there is real venom between Lorena and Patricia. It’s been bubbling for the last few episodes and they are not really enjoying each other’s personalities. Bacon is the feature again. Gidget Chipperton loves this porcine moment. Chowder from Lorena. I doubt this will be on the new value from Taco Bell, but who knows. Patricia wants to school Lorena on knife skillz. Wow. Ouch. 

Patricia has finished early and is washing up. Lorena is chopping up cilantro to finish this Latin match of pig belly. You get the distinct feeling that Lorena’s cheering section is much smaller than Patricia’s. The BLT salad from Yeo looks good, but Lorena’s chowder looks pretty tasty too. They can both cook, that’s for sure. Kerry is loving this judging gig. Me thinks he’s edging for my job…

Lorena wins this so the championship round will be Cosentino v. Garcia. Takashi and Chris really show their preference with comments and sad faces. Buck up, young Chris -- you were in Wolverine!

Lorena’s chef coat fits in well with the Ed Hardy/ True Religion Vegas uniform. It’s brash and unstylish, yet form-fitting and screams MEANZ BIZNESS, in no uncertain terms. Chris’ apron speaks more to a paternal nanny thing. I still can’t wrap my head around his apron. 

Sugar challenge in honor of the challenge against obesity and diabetes in America… or maybe in honor of Sugar Ray. Chris is making Zabaglione and Lorena is making a flourless chocolate cake, a staple of every restaurant a decade ago. Don’t get me wrong -- it’s an all-star dessert. Chris is playing around a lot in this, not his usual style. He just needed to get rid of Art to fully bloom into the beautiful flower he is. Lorena has made multiple desserts as the crowd counts down. To the tasting: Chris says his dessert is a punch in the mouth of flavor. That is a good thing until you lose your teeth from cavities. 

Lorena wins and the world stops for a moment to contemplate. Gidget is let loose. She has the moves -- it’s just her personality that grates most everyone the wrong way. It ain’t her fault-- she’s just a little Chihuahua in a Limoges shop. 

Lorena and Takashi are having a chicken liver battle. I would do a Hunter’s Chicken finished with a liver butter, seared livers, crisp sage, and mushrooms if time permitted. That’s because we cook what’s on our mind and I just wrote the recipe for my new book… don’t hold your breath -- the pub date is in like 2014. 

Livers, prosciutto, and red cabbage for Takashi, while Patricia has mustered a warm asparagus salad with livers and one lonely cherry tomato. Sugar Ray only punches with positive enthusiasm and likes them both. Take a stand, Sugar Ray! You’re a champion!

Curtis luckily is not showboating with the end result cause any which way its going to be sad. Patricia looks tired and has for a couple of episodes. Takashi goes home and Takashi must pack his knives. He did a great job for American Red Cross and the guy really is a badass. They all are. Trust me -- I was tired at this point… it was the same auspicious time that I went off last season. I slept well that night. No remorse. 

Follow me on Twitter @hughacheson
Buy my book: A New Turn in the South
Eat my food: hughacheson.com