OK -- so let me just dive in to this week. I love this relay, and each time, I wonder what task I would have taken on. In this case, I probably would have supremed the oranges. All of it was daunting otherwise. That fish and the artichokes looked beyond challenging.
This really does separate the men from the boys (girls) because I really think that this challenge is no joke and that anyone could choke (no pun intended).
Antonia did choke. She wasn't blazing through those oranges and she kept looking to her opponent to see what they were up to. In swimming, you learn to only look straight ahead so you don't waste a single second focusing on anything else but yourself. Richard gutted the perfect fish which was no surprise, and I would have been standing there like a stunned deer. Dale rocked it too, but with Richard his detail and form are as important as the finish line. He does nothing half-assed. Andrew saved the day with his peeler when hacking up the artichokes. It is always the simple tools and common sense that save the day.
In the end, my girl Stephanie really rocked the mayonnaise task. She is very calm and methodical, and when in the right setting, she really shines. She finally did well during a Quickfire. I still maintain that she will be there in the final four.
When Dale's team didn't win, he cursed loudly, slammed the locker, and was visibly furious. I still like Dale. He's passionate, he takes it personally, and I don't think he ever skates by. I think his temper and inability to get along with others will hurt him in the end, although I really believe he will be and deserves to be in the top four as well with Andrew and Richard being the other two besides Stephanie. As for the many complaints I hear about the cursing on this show, I get the sentiment, but this is a "reality" show and if you have never been in a professional kitchen then I understand why this may be unclear. Unfortunately, restaurant kitchens are filled with people with the most profane language you've ever heard. Tensions and frustrations are high and people are swearing at pots, pans, and often each other just because they are so on edge. I'm not justifying this, but I can tell you that you are getting an accurate portrayal of this lifestyle. In addition, I don't think that the first two seasons had the level of professional chefs that they have now which may explain why the chefs are more true to life. Just an experienced thought and observation. That notwithstanding, Dale needs to reel it in a bit because the calmer ones like Stephanie and Richard perform like rock stars while maintaining class and integrity.
Now for the "Wedding Wars." How daunting. I completely relate to the sleep deprivation aspect, because on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, I slept no more than two hours per night for two months' sleep (I was in the top two so the finalists slept significantly less than the other 14 because of our duration in the game.) Nothing in the world is worse than sleep-deprivation. I once fell asleep standing up at Kinko's at 5 in the morning. It's brutal, it makes you emotional, irrational, and you would want to give away spy secrets just for a catnap.
I truthfully didn't think that whether a team chose the bride or the groom was really significant. Food is food and good chefs should be able to prepare Italian, Indian, Morrocan, or diner food to the best of their ability. I agree with Tom that Italian should have been a lay-up, but by the same token, something done over and over will make you expect much more from that genre.
That being said, the results were completely on point. In the beginning, when Nikki was complaining about Dale being the type of person who would blame anyone at the Judges' Table, I knew that she was living in fear during this task. "Scared money never wins" and she didn't "own it" at all during this task. She is Italian, she connected with the groom and verbally said so, so go with it. Owning it and failing might keep you in the game more than avoiding it and failing will. Either way, as I said last week, I didn't think she had what it takes, and I think it was time for her to go home and let the cream rise to the top.I agree that Spike's fish was probably great, but he did take hours to prepare it, and unfortunately catering is not the same as individual perfected dishes at a small restaurant. Tom Collichio said not to dumb it down which I agree with, but very often food loses a bit of its luster at a big event because of the massive quantities. This shows in the simple fact that the majority of food was bought at a restaurant supply food store rather than in gourmet stores during usual tasks. Even the garlic was purchased in enormous containers. A simple flavor of freshly peeled and chopped garlic is always more delicious than peeled and packaged industrial garlic. Having catered many large events, I get this concept. My point here is that Spike has to get with the 250 guest list program. You can't spend all day simmering the perfect sauce when you have to feed an army. Small things will get lost.
Dale understood this concept. Indeed some of the quality of his items (bruschetta) suffered, but he understood the "sense of urgency" which is crucial when cooking on this scale. I disagreed with Gail Simmons when she said that Dale should have known that he could go down for this and he should have edited his list. That advice was for someone playing a game when in fact, Dale was not playing a game, he was catering an event He picked up the slack and did what had to be done. Rarely do I go to an event where every dish is impeccable. If the food is flavorful and of good quality, I'm typically happy. I don't expect the same as at a high-end restaurant. Sometimes I'm surprised, but I am at events several days a week and this is the rule with some exceptions.
As for Andrew, his chicken was sub-par and Antonia knew this from the get-go. She should have pushed this concept and made him choose another chicken. Practically any other chicken that he chose would have worked. Richard was also a rocks tar yet again. His attacking all of the meats and cooking them to perfection (I could see the beautiful pink color of the meat) and his ownership of the problematic anise flavor showed what a stand-up guy he is.
Antonia's pizzas stood out, and they show that she is a strong competitor who I really like but I still don't see her going the distance. I like her, and she really is shining through here so maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised. The opposing team was the Italian team and their flatbreads didn't even come close. I do have to give her a shout out because they looked delicious. Now to the cakes. I give both of these girls credit because this is daunting and no one could take the blame besides them. Lisa's cake was a little scary to look at, but it looked delicious and chocolatey, and I don't know if I as a baker could have done much better. I may have created more height and used chocolate fondant, a neater choice for a wedding cake. However, I may not have been able to pull that off either. She skated by by saying he wanted an understated cake, and she did really do a great job.
Stephanie, however far exceeded any expectations. She literally created a wedding cake that could be sold at a real wedding bakery. I didn't love the non-edible leaves, but all in all it was phenomenal, and I love the authenticity of Richard giving her his award. He is and always will be a class act. Even the way he catered to the bride and it being her special day was phenomenal.
I still think Andrew has the goods, but he is a bit of a loose cannon. I laughed when Antonia said "Andrew isn't allowed to talk to any guests."
Another great week. I'm locked in and fully invested.