Surprise! (First REAL challenging twist of the season). Yep. The contestants gave me dirty looks for the rest of the day. BUT, outside of the toaster oven microwave fiasco, they had everything else they could possibly need to make a fabulous meal, including blenders, food processors, kitchen aids, chafing dishes, hot boxes, and a ton of sterno. They had a huge pantry provided, and all the small tools and Gladware they would need to get through the challenge. I was thrilled to see that apparently Eugene was the only one who used his brain at the supermarket by picking up charcoal and making a fire pit out of one of the chafers. Not against the rules. Ariane realized that the hot box could act as an oven also, with the use of sterno and charcoal. This is exactly the point and what we want from our contestants; flexibility and resourcefulness.
I can't speak to the stupidity of both team names but both put out respectable food considering the conditions. The actual eating and serving area was a good ways away from the outdoor kitchen, so they all had to do quite a bit of running back and forth to get their stations set up. I sampled both teams food and at the end of the day, I preferred Team Cougar's a bit more, not to say that it didn't have its missteps. I think for me it was Ariane's delicious and moist turkey and Eugene's sweet and tender smoked pork loin. I found Team Sexy Pants' (again, stupid name) turkey to be dry and the gravy uninspired. Plus Team S.P. put out a salad bar, which may have been suitable for the Foo Fighters but to me screams Ponderosa. Part of being a chef is sometimes not giving the diner the choice, so I would have rather seen them make several interesting composed salads rather than fill a few bowls with canned chickpeas, olives, and shredded bagged cheddar cheese. Did I mention how much the salad bar turned me off? Team Cougar fell flat with not only its desserts (The bar-fait was really not good), but also with its salads and sides. What you don't see is that Richard had also made a mozzarella and tomato salad coated in basil pesto, which was fine, but really had no place on a Thanksgiving menu. It was a close call however, and Radhika's Vegan Cornbread Stuffing was a hit with all of them. And by the way, that episode was by the far the worst clean up I have ever had to do for any challenge in five seasons as the outdoor kitchen was destroyed by the rain, and the serving and dining area had only been "tidied up" by Team Cougar. Cry me a river Eugene. Unfortunately for sweet, sad Richard, his time was up. I thought he was very creative and had a great attitude the short time I got to spend with him. He left me a really nice note in his recipe book, which was turned into me after he left. I saw him recently at a TC event in Grand Central so he's doing well and I wish him the best. So the big thrill of my day? I got to look at the rider in which the Foos talk about their likes and dislikes. They have a whole paragraph dedicated to bacon. Bingo. I made bacon gift boxes for each one of them, complete with Bacon Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies and Billionaire's Bacon. After the Foos had judged the contestants and were on the way up to their dressing room to get ready for the show, Liz drags them over to say hi to me. Dave Grohl had his back turned to me and Liz says, "Dave, I just want to introduce you to our culinary producer..." and he turns around, points at me with a big smile in surprise and shouts, "Lee Anne!"
I almost passed out.