A Dramatic Episode

Padma Lakshmi on Otto's dramatic departure, and proclaims her love for Vietnamese food.

It was wonderful to watch the episode last night and be reminded of how great that food was ... well, some of it. It was such an easy decision to pick Betty as the winner. Not only was her aloe vera drink slamming (I went back for five cups) and healthy and refreshing, her demeanor and charm only made you want to go back to her booth even more. I love Vietnamese food, and I was pleased to see that the team embraced the flavors and ingredients of that region. It was also refreshing to have an all Asian themed episode, starting of course with the sushi Quickfire challenge.

I thought Mia held it together like a true professional, and she was lucky because I've actually visited fish markets around the world in my food documentaries and that one was pretty clean. It was so fun to talk to chef Hiroshi Shima, he was charming, and playful. I wish the viewers had a chance to get a bigger glimpse of that.

I've always loved field trips, and I am no different when it comes to our show. It was hard to get up that early, but it was exciting to see all that beautiful fish, it made me want to make sushi too. The Quickfire was a hard hurdle to jump, but it was nothing compared to what was to come.

II thought both teams had a really big challenge and to feed 1,000 people is no joke. The Vietnamese meat dish was tender, and the fact that they not only did three dishes, but worked like a well-oiled machine in unison, was fantastic to watch. I really was impressed. Josie's personality infected the whole team with a sense of confidence, fun, and calmness -- they looked happy to be there, and therefore made their customers happy too. And the other professional booths from some of LA's best Asian restaurants were impressed with them as well. The Korean team: Where do I start? The rice was a gloppy mess, there is no excuse to serve something like that, especially at an Asian food fair. Not to mention with a panel of judges that consists of two out of four Asians. They should have just left it out. Having said that, I know it was a hard challenge, and the flavors in their dessert were tasty, and very appropriate to the region they were dealing with. But it was rock hard, and had too many layers. A simple case of trying too hard and doing too much. And there was no organization at their booth or in their team, and one could tell. They seemed rushed and completely out of their element, which I had great sympathy for, but there is, after all, a lot at stake.

And the whole lychee controversy really saddened me. Many of us have come away from the supermarket with some water, or dog food we haven't paid for, but if the rules say not to go over budget, why would you not only risk losing yourself, but put the whole team in jeopardy, not to mention doing it on national TV? I do think that Otto redeemed himself by understanding the mistake, and I was relieved that he chose to go home on his own. All in all, the episode was a very dramatic one for me.

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