And for my next trick, I am going to pull frozen scallops out of Spike's hat. Sorry I haven't logged in my two sense about this situation yet. I was getting buried at work last week and had to attend a wedding out of state this weekend. Here's the deal: This episode was all about partnering with Allen Brothers, a wonderful Chicago based meat and seafood company, well-known for its steaks.
The Quickfire took place at their establishment, so we only saw it fit to link the Elimination Challenge to them so the story of the episode would make sense. There was no better fit than Rick Tramonto, a Chicago icon, and his new steakhouse, Tramonto's, which served the long bone ribeye from Allen Brothers on its menu. First of all, those of you who are questioning the integrity of Rick Tramonto or his restaurants should just stop right there. When we first scouted Tramonto's, it was also my first time meeting Chef Rick. He was completely warm, gracious, and welcoming to our entire crew. I mean, what a great guy, seriously. He surprised me by giving me a bag with a copy of each of his cookbooks in it. (They are great and you should go buy them, especially his new one Fantastico!) They are now proudly part of my ever-growing cookbook collection.
The Allen Brothers tie-in to the Elimination Challenge was that they donated a bulk of the proteins for the challenge. Keep in mind, as the culinary producer, it's my job to keep within my food budget for each episode, and the budget's never as big as you think it is. I worked with Chef Rick's corporate chef, Greg Biggers, on making sure the fridge would be stocked with a plentiful variety of proteins and produce for our contestants to work with. However, Tramonto's was not donating this product -- we had to pay for everything we requested and used. Chef Greg sent me his inventory list with current prices attached and I had to budget out what we could order and what could be donated. While this is not uncommon, I want you to understand why I got the scallops donated, rather than pay for 5 lbs of them. There's nothing wrong with frozen seafood, but there were no scallops on Rick's menu at the time, and if there had been, he certainly would not have been using frozen scallops. So all of this hullabaloo at the end of the day is MY fault. I knew the scallops were frozen, and besides the fact that they would be free, they may have been perfectly suitable in other applications, such as a seafood stew or sausage. It still doesn't excuse the fact that Spike knew this also. He observed the quality of the scallops the minute he opened the bag and he STILL chose to use them. It was bad judgment on his part either way.