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The Final Four

Curtis Stone breaks down the competition heading into the finale.

By Curtis Stone

We’ve reached the semi-finals of this culinary competition and the chefs’ strengths and weaknesses are out in full force. Avery loves a culinary challenge—and she’s skilled enough to pull it off. Nookie, aka the master strategist, plays this competition like a high-stakes game of craps. John, the Midwesterner, is solid and steady, while Liz keeps her head down and ends up exceeding everyone’s expectations.

It’s not too surprising that Nookie won the Exceptional Ingredient again. It’s only shocking that it took him so long to think of selling the whole lot of empanadas to a vendor! What Nookie and Avery won was truly exceptional. Like so much of the Argentine culture, meat is prepared (and consumed) with incredible passion. Asado is the traditional dish of Argentina and asadors, or grill masters, are revered for their ability to cook the perfect piece of meat. 

One of the beautiful things about Argentine meat is its simplicity. A touch of oil and a bit of salt and pepper is all beautifully cooked slice of goat, lamb, or beef needs. But getting that meat to be good enough to stand on its own is no easy task. Kudos to Avery for once again taking on the hardest job and really shining. Asadors are overwhelmingly male—and Argentine—so in addition to cooking an amazing goat, she broke a few stereotypes along the way. But it was Liz, with her unique combination of corn and chorizo empanadas who really wowed the locals. She took a chance and it really paid off.On the disappointing side was Nookie’s skirt steak, which was overdone. And the chimichurri shouldn’t have been on a hot plate. As for John, he had good instincts. Argentine asados do include salads, but they’re commonly simple like an ensalada mixta (lettuce, tomato, and onion) or potato salad. His Roasted Vegetables with Provolone Cheese & Eggplant Puree just didn’t fit the bill.

At this point in the competition, it’s really difficult for any of these chefs to go home. They’ve come so far, learned so much and cooked some great food. Congratulations John for making it almost around the world. See you all in Uruguay. 

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