As for the two other bottom dishes, as I said, they didn’t meet the criteria expected of them: Tiffany made a decent enough soup, but it was more of a tortilla soup. It’s OK to take liberties with a dish, but hers was a complete departure from the task she’d been given, and so she wound up in the bottom three. The irony is that she knows how to make a very good chicken and dumplings! So we were quite surprised to be given an altogether different dish.
And Fabio’s “boo-ger” (he had fun with that word!) wasn’t a burger at all. He even said at the meat counter at Whole Foods that he was going to make a meatball instead. So he, too, departed from his assignment in this particular challenge. But then he stopped short of going all out with that, tried to do something halfway in between, and failed to execute what he set out to make. Gail correctly said that when you bite into a burger, you want that juiciness that is the hallmark of a good burger. What he gave us was too heavy on the breadcrumbs and was utterly dried out. This is why Fabio lost: we expected a juicy experience, so the standard of what a burger should be was not met. And the cheese was not “cheesy.” I don’t know what happened to his cheese sauce –- whether he scorched it or what (I didn’t care to explore it enough to find out), but it was grainy and really, really bad. Being a well-rounded chef means not only being able to make high-end food, but also how to make a burger. I serve complex dishes in the dining room of Colicchio and Sons and burgers in the front tap-room. We kept hearing from Fabio, “Asian food isn’t my thing… Burgers aren’t my thing…” You can only go so far in this competition by doing just “your thing,” what you know. Fabio was asked to make a burger and fries. He opted for something closer to a meatball, but with a cheese sauce on the side. And both components were poor.
Contrast these with the top three: Antonia was dealt the hardest hand of the challenge. She had never prepared or eaten beef tongue, but, unlike Fabio, didn’t say, “This isn’t my thing.” She found out not only how to prepare it, but also how to handle the brevity of time. Beef tongue would be tough if not cooked long enough, and she found out how to speed up the braising time by using the pressure cooker. I think it was generous of Richard to advise her about that. Beef tongue is traditionally found in delis, but it’s become more popular lately as people have learned more about small farms and local offerings and sustainability, and have wanted to take greater care not to waste good parts of the animals they’re eating. When prepared correctly, beef tongue can be really delicious. Once cooked, it lends itself to many different preparations. It can be sliced cold for sandwiches in traditional deli fashion, served warm in braising liquid with vegetables, diced as a garnish in various dishes…. We have lamb tongue in the lamb loin dish on my menu at the moment, in a lamb tongue, chickpea, and spinach ragout, and it’s a personal favorite. Antonia did a terrific job with her dish and was right to be pleased with the outcome.