A not-so-famous person famously said, in regard to the Best Actor category in the Oscars, “[i]f you want to know who the best actor is, let them all play Hamlet. Otherwise, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Makes sense to me. And so Eric Ripert and I hit the food markets at the crack of dawn to pick proteins for the chefs to play with in this final challenge. We wanted a whole fish to feature in the fish course. The rouget was small and very fresh. We selected the slipper lobster because it’s a crustacean that most Americans have never cooked with. Of course, there’s nothing all that different about how it needs to be cooked, so it was a bit of a red herring (metaphorically!!!). I was hoping someone would pair the cuttlefish with the duck, but no one did. The duck was the most interesting of the proteins –- one could roast or confit the leg and roast the breast. Or one could make a stock, if he chose to remove it from the bone. The pork could have been used with the second or third course (but Angelo’s choice to use it with the first shifted the focus to the pork, featuring it instead of a vegetable, a poor choice). So there were plenty of options with these proteins, and plenty of opportunities to be highly creative in designing the courses, much as three different actors could have delivered three entirely different –- and equally valid and interesting –- interpretations of the Danish prince.
Let’s break it down course by course: As I mentioned above, Angelo’s first course did not actually complete the challenge. I liked that he made the noodles, but no matter how you slice and dice it, pork belly and noodles do not a vegetable course make. Ed’s corn dish was good but not great. Whereas Kevin took a relatively standard dish and gave it a lot of flavor. It was extremely well made, and hands down the best of the three, with Ed’s in second place.
So, the first course standings: First place: Kevin. Second Place: Ed. Third Place: Angelo.