Eli Kirshtein discusses which strategies worked for which chefs in the Elimination Challenge.
Ahh crabs, something we do so well here in America. We have great varieties covering all parts of the country; Stone Crab from Florida, King Crab from Alaska, Dungeness Crab from the west coast, the list goes on, but one of the greats are Blue Crabs from Maryland. They are really unique in that we often get the crab whole and alive. They also yield a relatively small amount of meat for the work that goes into them. They are a total icon in the Chesapeake Bay area, and they make a tremendous impact on the food culture. This Quickfire was great for that reason; it showed something regional in all its glory. It was good to see that some of the chefs knew exactly how to use them, whether it was picking the meat or it was getting flavor into a broth. Some struggled with knowing what to do with them at all. I think that Ed winning the challenge was spot-on. He put the labor and effort into extracting the meat, and instead of trying to focus on a complete restaurant style dish he focused more on putting together something that would really bring the flavor qualities of the crab out. You can tell this was a good strategy because the people who were in the bottom had the critiques of covering up and muddling flavors.
The elimination was really smart. It echoed on the trends of today of total local food and sustainable products. What was also really impressive to me was the amount and depth of products produced at this one farm. They had an amazing variety of vegetables ranging from roots to greens, as well as a variety of animals like cows and pigs. I think it was a great example of how one small place in a local area can take care of all of our food requirements with minimal if any need to source from other places.
The group didn’t really seem to heed the call of being one cohesive team. Instead of deciding the different courses and components of the menu and then breaking up into smaller groups, some people teamed up and even a few ended up working solo in some sort of disorienting arrangement. All four of the chefs in the top played it smart by partnering up. In practice, they were able to execute their own ideas with someone catching their back and helping where they needed. Andrea also played a smart card by doing just a protein and sauce. She worked on doing two things great instead of composing a complete meal on one plate. Some of the chefs like Kevin and Kenny did a good job of just focusing on vegetables instead of proteins; think underpromise and overdeliver. In the end, Kenny came through for all the reasons he stated himself; that if you do a great vegetable dish that shines, it will put you over the top from the protein based dishes. The seeming problem with Tim’s work was the incomplete nature of it. I know the environment was tough, but the judges really wanted to see him put more work into it on the whole. Tom was also very quick to chastise him on basic cooking issues. He probably could have taken the time and did a bit more.The chefs really going to need to find some kind of symbiosis soon. We are almost a third of the way through the season and tensions are high. The group is going to get smaller and more intimate and with some major team challenges (think Restaurant Wars) looming, there needs to be a higher level of respect. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the chefs make amends in short order. Either way, I am looking forward to what kind of energy comes out of these guys next week.
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