Our challenge was to reinvent the taste test challenge in some new way. "Taste what's in the sauce" was our reinvention from last year. This is always sort of a crapshoot with the contestants. Remember Season 3's overconfident spelling bee style match? The producers are always tell me to get more ingredients, "What if there's a tie breaker???" Yeah right.
First of all, my sauces are f*cking great. I love making sauce. There's an infinite art and time consuming caring that goes into making a truly great sauce, from the time it takes to make a proper stock, to all of the multiple times a sauce will get strained and refined as it reduces and builds flavors. I made seven sauces for the producers to choose from including a sea urchin beurre blanc which was to be the tie-breaker, and a coffee and red wine demi glace, a sauce chasseur, and even a sausage gravy. Every sauce had at least twenty ingredients.Here's the list of ingredients for the sauces they tasted:
The Bouillabase: olive oil, chicken bones, lobster bodies, shrimp, carrot, yellow onion, celery, leeks, garlic, shallots, fennel, tomato, parsley, thyme, coriander seed, dried red chile, black pepper, white pepper, salt, sugar, bay leaf, juniper berries, orange peel, saffron, brandy, white wine, Pernod, sherry vinegar, heavy cream, lemon juice
The Green Curry: vegetable oil, chicken bones, yellow onion, carrot, celery, Thai green chilies, ginger, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, thyme, bay leaf, cilantro, Thai basil, shrimp paste, fish sauce, coconut milk, rice vinegar, salt, black pepper, granulated sugar, brown sugar The Mole: Vegetable oil, chicken bones, yellow onion, celery, carrot, garlic, ginger, jalapeno peppers, serrano peppers, dried pasilla chilies, dried guajillo chilies, tomatoes, orange zest, lime zest, epazote, cilantro, thyme, black and white sesame seeds, dried oregano, cloves, coriander, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, salt, black pepper, bay leaf, brown sugar, vanilla bean, Mexican chocolate, peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seed, golden and red raisins
So you see, naming three out of 30 someodd ingredients is kinda lame. They were even allowed to name the "gimme" ingredients, like salt, pepper, and oil. And once you know it's a Thai green curry, or a bouillabase, I mean, use your head, what traditionally goes in those sauces?
We are starting to see very interesting personality traits from some of our contestants. Jamie in particular this episode is upset that Stefan has beaten her in the Quickfire, but she handed him the opportunity rather than try to name more ingredients herself. And apparently there is an "I" in team as you see it later at Judges' Table when clearly it was Ariane's responsibility for the perfectly cooked lamb, and Jamie wanted to take credit for the entire working of the team's success. She's a very capable, very confident cook, who reminds me of someone else....
Stefan on the other hand is giving Team Euro a bad name with his annoying behavior in and out of the kitchen. Not entirely sure I'd want to work with him either. Add in the Hosea and Leah affair and doesn't this season entirely remind you of summer camp? Gail's bridal shower was the most straightforward challenge we'd given them since the first episode. Create a dish based around the chosen theme and then execute it. How hard could it be? They devised their menus and were allowed to prep the night before. During that time I take their rental orders, in terms of plates and silverware they want to serve their course with, so we can put the order in that evening and have the stuff on-site the next day. Gail's bridal shower party included a table full of food enthusiasts and professionals as most of the guests worked with Gail at Food & Wine magazine, so our chefs had to really knock this one out of the park. Besides it being an important event for ANY bride, this was Gail we were talking about.
24 Fifth Ave is a beautiful event space with an ample kitchen for them to cook and plate in. They all entered the kitchen space at the same time, so every now and then we have a challenge where the last team to go has infinitely more time to get their dish ready. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. So when you hear "something blue" and you think last course why on earth would you not think of blueberries? A blueberry tasting or dessert of some kind would've been perfectly appropriate and probably more exciting than the fish dish which followed the meat course (they weren't judged on this factor but somewhere in my mind I held it against them as a non-creative cop-out).
The heirloom tomato trio was fine and made total sense. There wasn't anything terribly exciting on the plate but I agree with the judges that Jeff's tomato sorbet had the most flavor (eat THAT Stefan). And for the record, shot glasses on the plate are never a good idea, especially if you have to serve 40 plates. New style sushi was a new style disaster. It reminds me of my doomed Asian appetizer trio for my wedding challenge. Actually, I think I mentioned this to Tom as he was trying the dish and he almost spit out his food he laughed so hard. First of all, you NEVER make the sushi rice the day before. And it's not like he ran out; we keep it in the pantry. Gene screwed up the rice the day before but never thought to make fresh sushi rice the day of. When they arrived at the kitchen they fried the shrimp right away (bad idea NO. 2). In fact, most everything on that plate was a mess. The fact that they left the shrimp and beef on a skewer and then expected the ladies to pick everything up with their hands and eat it was completely inappropriate and required a serious lack of judgement. Unless you plan on passing a tray of handiwipes afterwards then this is probably not the setting where guests want to get handsy with their food. Before I continue, we gave them a budget of $800 so they could buy really rich and extravagant things, like caviar and lobster, none of which any team opted to do. Thank god no one did scallops.
OK, so back to the Jamie show. Poor Radhika doesn't want to corner herself as knowing only how to cook Indian food but she makes herself cliche in the fact that it's really all she's cooked since she's been here. But remember, it's Jamie's secret spice and Jamie's ideas and Jamie's heart and soul on the line and Ariane's already screwed up so many times so she better just stick to the lamb ... yeah (*sigh*). (Plating 10 minutes out equals cold lamb by the way). I chuckle because their dish was overwhelmingly delicious, the lamb definitely being the centerpiece. If anything Radhika should've won for making the lamb marinade and tangy raita. I honestly think they should go back to not giving prizes out so the contestants can stop the winner's envy, though I know it's more about the glory until you get to the episode where they start giving cars away. Team Borrowed won due to the talent of all three ladies on the team, and the fact that none of them are going home is what's important.
The blue corn encrusted seabass was uninspired, a stretch in terms of the "blue" theme, and really just mediocre. The fact that the team relied on Fabio's accent rather than their own cooking abilities leads me to believe they phoned in the challenge. Blue mush vs. new wave BS? Daniel's delusional defense at Judges' Table is what got him sent home. Even Eugene had the presence of mind to admit his mistakes. I suppose the other thing admirable about Danny (other than that lovely geometric chin strap of his) is that he stood by his team mates and his food, even if it was misguided. I saw Danny also at the beginning of this season. Happy-go-lucky guy that he is, he is doing well and continues his gig at the Babylon Carriage House on Long Island. I'm sure I'll see him soon.