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Axis of Evil

Hugh Acheson thinks it was about time Nookie focused on the food.

By Hugh Acheson

Avery is still glowing from her days with the Demon Chef. His positive affirmations have really made a difference. She has that morning glow of victory, but what happens in Hong Kong stays in Hong Kong, or at least is recorded and stuck in your file by the Chinese government. 

We are down to four chefs of all shapes and sizes. Before this flight to Buenos Aires takes off Nookie must have a tender moment. Nookie, as half of the remaining chefs are, is a parent and the separation from your kiddos can even affect the most burly strategist. It’s the end-game Nookie, pull yourself together. 

Travel time to Buenos Aires is a mere 30 hours and then the chefs get up and right to the first challenge. This show is grueling. Time to make the empanadas, the Iberian gift to the world of hot pockets. Nookie and Avery team up as the parents in this contest with the kids table being manned by Liz and John. There is a much-highlighted difference in the physical speeds of these teams, but don’t worry, Liz can quickly ruin that advantage by burning the first batch of empanadas. Avery and Nookie are like ballet in the kitchen, but I envision tutus and the thought is only half good from there. 

Upon the completion of the empanadas, the teams must cart up and sell their wares in the local park. It’s like the tamale guy at your local dive bar, but you aren’t drunk cause it’s daylight... the harsh reality of sunshine. 

Now we get a tender moment with Liz. Mom meant a lot to her. It’s time to hunt for Nookies. Selling the empanadas at the price point of two for $5 is working for Lizohn. The slow math skills of Avery have put a damper on Team Averookie’s sales because they are waltzing around a park selling empanadas no one can afford… this ain’t the Ferry Building you know. Nookie resorts to pimping out Avery for bonus kisses to boost sales, but the first guy they approach is happily married to a very jealous and powerful woman. Where’s the Demon Chef, master of perversion? He would have bought all those empanadas in a jiffy to get close to the Avery. 

Really though, Avery is not going to win a math Nobel Prize. If you make 80 empanadas and sell them for $5 each, how many would you have sold if you had grossed $150? Dirty thirty. That’s right. They figure that they are not selling because the price is way too high. Some things can easily be fixed by the strategist though, and Nookie parlays the math reality into a wholesale of their remaining empanada stock. This is why Nookie is where he is in the competition. I would much rather say that it is because of his scruples, but scruples he has none. 

They must find a Cat and a Curtis to finish this competition and even with the less-than-athletic dispositions of both Nookie and Avery, they arrive in time to win. I really thought the choice to ride the old wooden subway was going to hinder them but this metro excursion was a nary a hiccup and not a hurdle to their empanada dominance. Nookie’s mantra, “Work Smarter, Not Harder” has been a winner again.

The Exceptional Ingredient is some cooking know-how in the way of Parrilla grilling, Argentine-style. They are going to be cooking a two app/two main dinner at la Tronquera with a big fire pit and lots of well-dressed waiters. Nookie’s war room as of late has been various taxis around the globe and here we have him brushing up on the finer points of the dark side with Avery. Upon menu development, Avery chooses to cook the goat on the iron cross… you could see this coming as Avery has some Goth girl grill in her. She’s going to listen to The Birthday Party really loudly, heavily apply mascara, rip up some tights, and make some chimichurri. Following my lead, she calls the firepit the “dungeon of meat.” I dream of a late night watching The Hunger with Avery, drinking Hungarian red wine from large bottles, trading haikus with the last line always being, “a dark life of malaise.”

Back to the show and Avery has her tender moment. We get it. Buck up, Ms. Nosferatu. 

Liz, who evidently has a very short-term memory, jumps at the chance to make empanadas, something she just failed at. She is also Maitre D’. Nookie is making a skirt steak but playing it safe in the Argentine style. John is making a vegetable salad he once ate in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

Narda Lepes is the attractive guest judge but check out the woman one table over at the two-top… smokin’ hot. I suddenly feel like a certain disgraced ex-governor of South Carolina, but I don’t think that woman is Maria Belen Chapur. To the Google!

Quickly we realize that Argentinians don’t like their skirt steak cut, no matter that John and Nookie think the consumer is an idiot who should not be allowed to cut steak. 

Avery is thinking she’s running behind but not really. She’s killing this goat challenge like a Pagan goddess sacrificing gerbils. Eating time. They love the empanadas. I think Liz does pretty good on the floor as well. Trust me, I would be very reluctant to leave Nookie plating my food. He’d serve you a frozen empanada on top of a puddle of bleach water just to gain traction. 

It’s always about strategy with Nookie, but this time, he should have concentrated on making great food and not just putting his hopes in the failure of others. Alas, Nookie has a glimmer of hope because John’s salad was not very loved. The goat was loved and as I mentioned, Liz rocked the ballsy empanada. Liz wins, and we have the most confused NAXE members ever. Nookie’s Axis of Evil is falling apart. 

John starts out by throwing himself under the bus, as this is a Midwestern tradition. For all you naysayers saying how the system of the chefs voting each other off is silly, this is where it gets very interesting. 

I truly thought Avery would vote for Nookie, but she goes all John. Crazy. John is a goner. I liked that John fellow. Ah well -- he did a pretty fine job. 

The other three are off to Colonia, Uruguay. Fly safe, chefs.

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