Red Snapper two ways. Again, these were two good dishes. At this stage in the competition, it’s the tiniest of errors or gradations in quality that can make the difference between a win and a loss. For the judges, it’s also a subjective feeling, when tasting dishes side by side, about which one was fresher, in which dish were the flavors brighter? If served both in a restaurant, which would compel the taster to return? Here, Brooke’s pork cheeks were a little on the dry side, and as Kristen’s dish was perfectly executed, the slightly dry pork was enough to place the win for this course squarely in Kristen’s column.
…which gave her win, overall. And we never got to taste their desserts.
A word about desserts, while we’re on the subject: we are often asked why we even bother with desserts, why we are judging savory chefs on their ability to make them. I’ll acknowledge that there’s a point to this argument. But here, the assignment was simply to prepare five courses -- a dessert was not required. And yet both Kristen and Brooke planned to make a dessert as their final course. I wonder if the chefs think they’ll be marked down in some way if they don’t plan on making a dessert as their final course. They wouldn’t be. Were I competing, I would make five savory courses without giving it a second thought. I’d think it a better bet to do a savory dish unless I had a dessert up my sleeve that I knew was just spectacular… though that would be unlikely, because with a busy career as a chef, there’d be little chance to have cultivated that.
What we didn’t get to do within this week’s format (because we weren’t discussing the food in private among ourselves) was look at the courses in relation to each other, by which I mean two things: 1) We didn’t get to take into consideration whether a chef won one course by a narrow margin while the other chef won another course by a mile; and 2) We didn’t get to look at the arc of the meals planned by each of the chef, to see how one course related to and led to the next. Overall, though, I think that Brooke’s decision to make that fried chicken course made it very difficult for her to win enough courses overall to take the title (imagine your teenager leaving an entire section blank on a test and hoping to get a higher score than a classmate who filled out all the sections), and I think that would have been the case whether we filmed the show live or not, and no matter what the judging system.