All of this leads up to one of my very favorite chefs of all time ... my hero ... a mentor ... Andre Soltner. For those of you who have never heard of him, Chef Andre successfully ran Restaurant Lutece in NYC for over 30 years and brought classical French cuisine to the forefront in America. This man is like the grandfather I never had. I absolutely love cooking side by side with him, and he cooks like no other. Whether it's Salmon en Croute or Alsatian Potato Pie, there is a rustic yet sophisticated and heartwarming way about his food, and every time I work with him I am his apt pupil. Not only is he over 70 years old, he actually still does all of his own work when cooking for a demo or event. What is so great about him too is sometimes I'll be cooking next to him and making something else for an event and he'll ask me what I'm doing and we'll discuss various techniques -- bottom line being that he is one of the greatest chefs of our generation, but he is still inquisitive. It serves as inspiration for me, as I too hope to be still cooking as actively when I am his age. Best part of my day is when he asks me to cook lunch for him. He loves Chinese food and I once taught him how to make fried rice, which he now makes all of the time.
So enough gushing, let's talk about the challenge. We took the contestants to the Union Square Greenmarket, one of my favorite places. They had an hour to shop and managed to get some great ingredients. Hung had an extra 30 minutes of cook time, which he took full advantage of. His dish was near perfect, outside of the heavy pommes dauphin. Sara, for some strange reason, went with another couscous dish. Her chicken was very pink (at least the camera plate was), and though the dish was pretty to look at it was definitely under-seasoned. Dale's dish, while tasty, suffered from too much going on, and he forgot his sauce. Ambition gets the best of us at times, but Dale narrowly missed getting the ax. Brian's dish was extremely unattractive, but very tasty. My main beef with it was that all you could taste was the pheasant sausage. The chicken was completely lost amongst the strong flavors of the sausage. Casey's dish was also good, and I won't hold the technicality of the name "Coq au Vin" against her. Andre knows all there is to know about French Cuisine so I am sure that is why he made the point about the chicken and the rooster. If you get the chance to try real coq au vin with the old bird, definitely do. It's got a much gamier and flavorful quality about it and is absolutely delectable in a red wine braise.