Food porn: Kevin’s fromage blanc mouse was way too sweet and one-note. The honey overpowered the grapes and the entire dish lacked texture. Mike V.’s stuffed grape leaf was very good, having utilized the grape the most: the grape leaf, raisins in the couscous, the grape vine, grapes, and the Minus 8 reduction (I ordered the stuff cuz it’s the bomb.) Bryan’s hen was indeed overpowered by the bacon, but it was tasty. If you ask me, based on taste alone, I would’ve chosen Jen’s dish. I ate it about an hour after it had been sitting around in food porn. It was ice cold and still delicious. The clam and verjus broth was unctuous, and the rich chicken livers were complemented by the sliced grapes and mushrooms. It was a perfect dish in my opinion. When Chiarello was on Masters, he shipped down some grape leaves and grape vines when we had our signature dish swap challenge, so I think he really appreciated Mike’s integrated use of the grape product.
The Elimination Challenge had to be set up in two stages. During finale, I don’t have a base kitchen so we are usually working out of a cube truck and the production office. Our first challenge was to build an outdoor farm stand, which you saw on camera. I worked with Sheamus and Avia, Long Meadow’s manager, to order all the product for the market. Everything was sourced within 50 miles. It took us all morning to build and set up the market, styling everything out in baskets, boxes, and in coolers. We started at 6 a.m., were ready to go by 2:00 p.m. and after finally pricing everything out and creating master price lists for the Long Meadow staff, we had built this beautiful outdoor farmers' market. The producers showed up with the contestants, camera crews and the rest of the production. We filmed arrivals and then the contestants shopped for 45 minutes. And then we tore it all down in about an hour. (Build. Destroy. Build. Destroy.) We had to pack all of the food back into their boxes and move the food back into the Long Meadow cooler because we’d be picking it up two days later to bring it to the final challenge. A good culinary producer always watches her budget. While we were doing this, Louise went with the producers and contestants to Brix to supervise the storage of their ingredients until the next day.
Early the next day we trucked all of our equipment into Brix and simultaneously set up the kitchen and the back lawn/service area with the assistance of Brix’s kitchen manager, Guillermo. For each chef’s station outside, we provided them with three electric burners, a cutting board, bus tubs and soap, serveware and cutlery, and two of the gorgeous Steelite chaffing dishes. The contestants had 4 1/2 hours in the Brix kitchen and then at the end of that time they had to be outside setting up their station for the last half hour.
Let’s talk food: Kevin’s dishes were good, but not perfect. I found his beets and carrots to be just a tad undercooked, but other than that, the dish was simple and striking. Now, the brisket situation perplexes me slightly. I know what he was trying to achieve, but he opted not to use the pressure cookers we provided, and even though the meat was not done, he tried to shred it. The muscular fibers of brisket are long and stringy, so I think he may have been able to achieve a more appealing level of “toothsome” had he sliced the meat thinly across the grain, as you would traditional brisket. The collagen would have still been springy, but at least it wouldn’t be like trying to chew through rope. His pumpkin polenta was tasty but his marinated root vegetables were unpleasantly raw.
I really think season 1 had the best chefs. All four could have won and there was more creative cooking in that season than others. This season has established chefs and that is a little contrived to me. The Napa episode on season one is my all time favorite, and Lee Anne you were great. It really was a wash from where I sat-in front of a TV.
Lee Anne, i always enjoy your blog as it has insights none of the others can provide. I was a big jen fan and was sad to see her go but it seemed the right call. I think the editors tried to make more out of Bryan's underspicing to add drama. It seems he should have won and she should have gone home. But, to her credit, she has been showered with praise for some really wonderful ork this season. And her standouts were descirbed with more praise than most. I'm sure Eric is very proud.
Lee Anne, I will miss your thoughtful and fun blogs. How can we follow you on the Net and keep up with what you are doing?
Hi. It was so beautiful to hold the competition in Napa again and I appreciate the behind the scenes story.
And hey, Kevin might be one of the best situated "losers" in this competition. To be cooking in Bocuse d'Or and to be featured at Pigs and Pinot? And to have the personality he has? If Bravo doesn't give him a cooking show, I am just saying, he deserves to have a show on a certain other network...
And Jennifer. My gf lives in Philadelphia and true to Philadelphia fans they passionately love their own -- she says Jen has been huge. Next I go back to Philadelphia, I am going to want to go to 10 Arts.
I CAN NOT GET ENOUGH OF YOU AND YOU NEW SHOW ON COOKING CHANNEL!!!! COME TO HOUSTON AND CHEK OUT THE FOOD SCENE THERE! THE BREAKFAST CLUB IS AMAZING AND SUGARBABIES CUPPCAKES MAKE ME SMILE! ON THE HIGH END PERRYS STEAK HOUISE HAS A PORK CHOP THE SIZE OF A SLICE OF A SEVEN LAYER CAKE!