I thought that this was one of the better challenges that I've seen for far. Leftovers is very smart. Except... The one ingredient that I wish hadn't been there for the Quickfire Challenge was the sweetbreads. This is why there were so many quickfire dishes with Sweetbreads. Most of those contestants have worked with them before. If it was among the choices in front of me, I would have chosen it, too. It's a no-brainier.
There were a lot of ingredients up there that require a long cooking time. You can brine, poach, and crisp a sweetbread in under an hour. That table had so many ingredients. I was watching Josie grab these giant oxtails, and I thought "No! Grab the small ones! Those things aren't going to cook in two hours!" I saw Cliff trimming up his oxtails, and I wanted to show Josie, "Look at Cliff! Look! You have to make them smaller!" Two hours to do a huge piece of meat like that is quite a push.
A lot of viewers were probably freaked out by the chicken feet, so let me explain really quickly: Chicken feet are really fantastic for sauces. They're used a lot in Chinese cooking, and especially in wonton soup broth. There is a ton of gelatin in the chicken feet. It's what gives the broth its body. And best of all, it's a serious amount of protein. I thought the selection of ingredients was fun and cool and it was fun watching Marcel mix up the pig's blood and make the emulsion. I don't know how well it tasted, but it was interesting. I thought Elia's kidney and crusted potato salad was kind of a cop-out. You've got two hours, come on, show me something.
As for the Elimination Challenge, here's my take: Going into someone's restaurant and using their leftovers sounds really daunting. But that restaurant -- once you see them standing in there, walking around all these fabulous ingredients, it's not really leftovers at all. When I open my restaurant I hope to have leftovers around like that.
I guess was just looking for some decadent food. You have Stifler's mom up there, she's a saucy chick. Who's bringing it over the top? And I liked seeing Betty trying to get everyone together on what they were making. I thought that conversation should have happened at someone point, instead of pulling a menu out of the air. Particularly for a tasting menu, you don't know if there's going to be a cohesiveness among the menu. You have to coordinate those flavor profiles. They're all good at working as a large team, they just never choose to. They clearly do a nice job helping each other plate every thing and get it out there. You want everyone to work together. But planning a menu? It's silly to not work together as a team for that.
I was sad to see Josie sent home. I really thought she was going to tear it up at some point, but she never really hit her mark. She has an infectious smile, you were always pulling for her, and it was a bummer to see her go.
As for Marisa, I thought being a pastry chef was a disadvantage, and she never really did anything for me. Even in the pastry competitions. I don't know what those girls were thinking when they put that whole odd citrus plate together. When I see food, I want to see something that's going to make me hungry. And that plate did not do that. At all. Tom is not wrong. He has very cut and dry opinions. He's very clear that he doesn't want all those options. That he wants the contestants to focus on something that's going to be really exceptional. And I didn't see a lot of that, aside from the paella. I have to say, it looked incredible. It looked like something I would have torn into and eaten every bite of. And it was good to see Mikey on the winning side instead of his usual droopiness at the judges table. It's like that guy has to put on a Kevlar vest every time he goes in there. So I thought that was cool.
One of the thing that really pisses me off, having been a part of the show, is watching the guest judges just tear apart the contestants. First of all, these kids are getting thrown in to a new kitchen every single contest. There's no sense of familiarity. They're just getting thrown in. They had two hours to pick a dish and bang it out, and when you're cooking for that many people, to hear a guest judge say: "Oh, I would have done this, I would have done that. ..." That's the challenge I want to see. I would like to see some of those judges have to pull off something like this. I'm convinced that these contestants would give them a run for their money.