I have to admit that it was kind of crazy becoming a judge. I'm going in there on the other side of things. It's amazing to watch the new contestants, because the whole time I'm thinking, "This is going to be one of the craziest times of their lives, and these contestants have absolutely no idea what they've gotten themselves into." I don't have any early favorites yet. And it's still interesting to watch them get into things.
Last year there were twelve, and this year there are fifteen. The contestants are a pretty diverse mix of people, I don't know if it actually gets more diverse than what they've got. There are professional chefs, there are culinary instructors, caterers, people in the food world. And it's really a wide range. I really found myself putting myself more in their shoes. I actually thought that their first elimination challenge was so much more difficult than our elimination challenge. They had a mystery box! We had been pretty much able to shop for -- we got to shop for our signature dish. With all the time to go out to shop, and purchase stuff and cook. It wasn't like we were thrown in without a clue. I think that the amount of time that they were given was definitely a little...excessive. Almost crazy.
I find myself wanting to help, but I don't give any tips. I'm just an elimination judge. Tom, though -- they kind of give him that update on what they're making. He seems to have it well in hand. Basically, looking at the first basket of goods, I kept trying to put myself in their position and think what would I make. They had escargot, potatoes, American cheese, artichokes and peanuts. And I thought that was pretty tough. I think that the American cheese is the standout ingredient, but there's no criteria bout how much cheese you need to use. So I probably would have made a potato gnocchi, put some American cheese in it, then I would have sauteed the gnocchi with the escargots and a little white wine butter sauce. Probably with a nice crispy salad on top, with shaved artichokes and peanuts. And then I thought the second group had a much more difficult basket.
The first group thought that they had it tough, but I'm sorry -- chicken livers and frog legs? Try to put those together. That is not easy at all. I'm still fuzzy on what I would make. I really have no idea. I love frog legs. I guess, I'd make a frog leg confit and a chicken liver sauce, but other than that...I'm lost. Judging is hard. You're sitting around the table and everyone is talking. The contestants kinda had the opportunity to decide who was in the top and who was in the bottom. And a couple of them, I didn't exactly see eye to eye with. I wasn't exactly sure how they thought the criteria was used. I certainly didn't think Marcel's dish was great, but I didn't think it was one of the weaker dishes. He displayed some refinement and some good plating. And the flavors were classical and they were good.
The elimination was just awkward. I felt a lot more comfortable naming the winner than I did talking about the loser. They asked me who I thought the loser was, and I was like, "You guys did a good job picking out the winner, I'll let you do what you do." Obviously they know who should go home, they've been down this road before, I'm not going to name who should go home. They all seemed fine with it, except for production. I've spent a lot of time since the completion of the first season with Tom and Gail. I think we're all friends at this point, so it's nice to sit around and joke with them. I'm looking forward to seeing what these contestants are going to go through. I can't wait to see more drama, figure out who's going to be the villain. Who's going to have their moments. Here's what I miss:
The most fun for me was always back at the house, when, you know, the craziness was taking place. Chefs like to rock star it up quite a bit, and now I'm a judge. So that's definitely something I miss. Check back next week, I'm sure I'll have a lot more to add.