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There wasn't a Quickfire Challenge in this week's episode, which is something I didn't realize until I was watching the show yesterday — while we were judging, we hadn't been aware of the fact that the Elimination Challenge was all the chefs were up to this episode. But in hindsight, it makes sense. This challenge, creating a full wedding menu from passed hors d'oeuvres all the way through a towering cake, is as difficult as two challenges rolled into one. At least. As a judge, it was also a remarkable opportunity to take stock of this season's contestants: while the menu needed to work as a coherent whole, each chef created his or her dish more or less entirely on their own, playing to their own strengths, with only the most minimal of limitations imposed on them. It showed us who was capable of thinking on their feet, being creative in execution and adept in ability, and who would falter under the pressure of creating a wedding feast.
And what a wedding feast this was! Working from a request that the menu be Filipino-inspired and generally "Asian" in scope and palate, the chefs divvied up the courses: some on one-bite amuses for the cocktail hour, some on full-fledged plated courses, some on dessert. Art's wedding cake got a lot of airtime thanks to its architectural instability (which, to be honest, I found kind of endearing — it actually made me more sympathetic to the cake), but what landed him in the bottom three wasn't an aesthetic concern; rather, it was the fact that what he advertised as a pineapple upside-down cake simply wasn't. What makes that cake so great, so delicious, so wonderfully fulfilling is the combination of a really soft, moist crumb, a sweet vanilla flavor, and — the real payoff — that gorgeous, oozy layer on top of caramelized pineapple and brown sugar. Art's cake just didn't have that. It didn't make me want to take another bite, and another bite, and another bite, the way a truly good version of that cake should.
James, I very much enjoy your participation in the show. I bet you would be an interesting person to have dinner with. And I love that Bravo is having the critics blog this season. Thanks to you, Ruth and Krista for sharing your opinions with the viewers in more detail than can be captured in the episode.
James, my grandma Vera, made the perfect pineapple upisde down cake. Typically cooked in a cast iron skillet. She was born in 1896, and in her youth her family ran a hotel, catering largely to lumberjacks. She was a "from scratch" cook, accustomed to cooking for large crowds. Pineapple-upside down cake is rich, complex, and substantial - if done right. Although super moist, it should also be sturdy enough to stand up to whatever frosting (although I would not do that) and even multiple layers. I think sometimes people look down on dishes perceived as more homey, although they are often so satisfying, and even sophisticated in conception.
Mr. Oseland, I want to say, I love to watch you eat. Not only do you convey your opinion of the food in the expressions on your face, but you make the tasting look fun. I also admire that you can eat so much and stay so slim. My friends and I say that when you enjoy a dish, it's like watching a dog chew on a good meaty bone. Fascinating!