Lee Anne Wong

The Season 1 chef'testant gives her behind-the-scenes take on the season premiere.

on Nov 13, 2008

I actually flew straight from a weekend long chef event at The Chef's Garden in Ohio to set on Governor's Island. I managed to get there right when they were supposed to start shooting but thankfully upon my arrival they were behind schedule (as I figured it would be, first day). This year I got a brand new team on Culinary, Shannon opting to sit this season out (emphasis on the word "team", as it's only ever been me and Shannon making up the culinary department. That's right, two of us). Angie, or "Foxy", her alter ego, was my No. 2. I was allowed to hire my good friend Louise, better known as "Weezy", as our food stylist and food porn queen. An ex student of mine, a brilliant young man, Peder, was our junior culinary producer and resident guinea pig (under many $3 bets, we challenged him to eat and finish more than a few inedible Quickfire dishes). And then there was Bev, our tireless, food-obsessed production assistant. Just want you to know whom I'm talking about since my team totally kicked ass this season and made my job not only endurable but also enjoyable. Anyways, these guys set up the beautiful cook off tables on Governor's Island, and it involved many cases of apples.

The apple thing was like a light bulb slowly illuminating as the challenge team and myself sat in a room for the first time together for 2 hours thinking of ideas. We had toyed around with the idea of making them crack lobsters, dice a watermelon, make butter by hand ... basically previous ideas for relay races (every season we sit down and come up with a mile long list). We figured peeling (I remember watching Iron Chef Sakai school a bunch of culinary students in a race to peel apples using only a chefs knife), dicing, and an actually test of culinary skill would be sufficient. I knew the medic would need to be standing by too and we were placing bets on how long it would be until someone cut him or herself.

We provided each of them with a cooler of good stuff including steaks, pork chops, chicken, shrimp, scallops, créme fraîche, a variety of cheeses, and plenty of fresh produce in addition to a small pantry table. Both Radhika's and Leah's dishes were good. But unfortunately the salads from both Lauren and Patrick were uninspired (spinach, blue cheese, and bacon ... you don't say) and Lauren had to say goodbye as she had just barely said hello. The quickfire ended up being the not so quickfire, as we had estimated a 6 hour shoot which turned into a 10 hour shoot. Grueling New York summer day, almost 100% humidity. Welcome to the family, newbies.