Eli Kirshtein

Eli Kirshtein explains why it must have been difficult for the chefs to compete against their respective season's winner.

on Mar 10, 2011

The problem with having to cook against the chef who won your season is that you thought you left it behind you. You have cut the competitive nature of your relationship down to a minimum, with the only exception being the occasional and incidental public cook-off that may occur. But really no head-to-head challenges of any real substance or consequence. You have built really strong relationships with these chefs over time and would even be willing to say they are your friends, having to go face-off in that aggressive format must be really difficult for both sides.

While the chefs who are still in the running for the title are in a very competitive state of mind, the winners might be in a bit more of a daze. Due to the secrecy of the whole process, I can assure you that none of the winners knew what the challenge was until the day of Quickfire. I would also say that it was very important to put the $10,000 bounty on the challenge, if they hadn’t it wouldn’t mean as much to the winners and there wouldn’t have been as much of a competitive edge to their cooking. It was good to see all the chefs put such a good foot forward. With the exception of Carla’s underdone rice and possibly the weird outcome of Stephanie and Antonia’s dishes, they all really seemed to cook really well, especially given the ingredients and kitchen afforded to them.

Things go wrong in kitchens all of the time; one of the hallmarks of a great chef is the ability to troubl shoot a wide gamut of problems. It might be anything from a broken refrigerator, to clerical problems, to an improperly cooked dish; a chef has to be a jack-of-all-trades.  But one additional trait of a great chef is to know when you are over your head, and when to ask for help. That is exactly what happened with the fryer during the challenge. Just from seeing what was happening, my professional diagnosis would be a broken thermostat, and there is very little that can be done about that once it gets to the point where it is smoking the way it was. I would have called for help. The chefs were very lucky no one got hurt and nothing got irrevocably damaged.