We all struggle to find healthy, tasty food for ourselves and our families on the go. I am constantly at a loss as to what to eat for lunch when at the office or otherwise strapped for time. After all, it is so difficult to make positive meal choices in a sea of vending machines and fast-food restaurants, and so easy to fall into the trap of grabbing whatever is most convenient and least expensive. I try to eat as well as I can during the workday, but I swear my taste buds cannot take many more mediocre grilled chicken salads on wilted greens. If only I had time each night to plan my midday meal and make it at home. Which brings us to this week's Elimination Challenge -- cooking a healthy and satisfying boxed lunch for cadets at Chicago's Police Academy, incorporating a protein, a whole grain, and at least one fresh fruit and vegetable.
I personally loved Dale's idea of the Lemongrass Bison Lettuce Wrap with Brown Rice & Herb Salad. In fact, just last week I had dinner at an Asian restaurant with a family member who has diabetes, and we ate lettuce wraps, noting how perfect they are for her diet. Similar to a sandwich, but without the overdose of carbohydrates, they afford no end to the different flavor combinations you can create. Dale's decision to use bison was also smart. As Tom explained, it is an incredibly lean meat, but that still tastes rich and gratifying, like beef.
It seemed that the bottom three in this episode knew exactly why they were there, despite Lisa's claim of ignorance. They all were well aware their lunchtime creations were weak, but they appeared to be more angry than usual and completely unable to face the judges' criticism. Having seen three other seasons of chefs get to this stage in the competition, it is easy for me to spot that moment when they become so run-down and frustrated that they give up trying to defend their food and instead begin looking for other people to blame. This episode was that turning point. Lisa was certain the rice in her shrimp stir-fry was sabotaged, regardless of how poor the rest of her dish may have tasted. She continued the blame game, calling out Andrew as if the judges didn't already realize his dish was missing a whole grain.
Spike spent so much time worrying about how to incapacitate the other contestants that he forgot to pay attention to his own food and put out what looked to be the most uninspired dish served so far this season. A lame chicken salad with a limp sliced tomato and lettuce on bread is not exactly what I call Top Chef material.
Andrew, the self-proclaimed nutrition expert of the bunch, had the nerve to blame the judges for not having good enough palates to appreciate the raw salmon sushi he made -- a tactic I guarantee did not win him any votes! He could not put his ego aside long enough to realize that, apart from the lack of a whole grain in his dish, his food simply did not satisfy his customers. At the base of it all, isn't pleasing your diners the sole purpose of being a chef? For this reason and more, it was time for Andrew to pack his wisecracks, along with his knives, and go.
Before I sign off, I want to thank everyone who wrote in to my blog last week with suggestions and wishes for my upcoming wedding. I loved reading all your ideas and will take many of them into consideration as we put the final touches on our menu. I was especially inspired by those who proposed I incorporate favorite family recipes into the meal. Please keep the ideas and questions coming -- about the show and, of course, all the action behind the scenes.
I promise to answer a few in my next blog post.