I love the way these two chefs have really come into their own since their first go on Top Chef. They've learned how to handle themselves and have fun when the tough gets going in the kitchen, so that was really awesome to see. What's more, they still pack serious attitude -- and that competitive fire in their bellies that is necessary for Duels.
OK, so let's dive into the challenges. Dale knows his way around the dim sum kitchen, but I think he bit off a little more than he could chew with his challenge. He actually didn't do a great job, and failed to execute the dim sum as I know he would have liked. Tiff very nearly snatched this challenge away from him. I call these decisions "coin tosses" because I look at both of the chefs and I just don't know which way to go. Tiff easily gave us the best and the worst dim sum so if you add them up: 4 +1 = 5. If you add up what Dale gave us, which was my second and third favorites: 2 + 3 = 5 too! So it's really quite hard to decipher which way to go. In a close call like this, you have to think, which dish would I love to eat again? I would eat Dale's again because Tiff's lobster was undercooked and doughy. But let's not take anything away from her though. She was tasked to make a crazy amount of dim sum in just 30 minutes, so if that isn't something you're used to doing, it's difficult to pull off. My hat goes off to you, Tiff.
Tiffani's challenge was right up my alley because I love a cocktail and a perfect little canapé to accompany it (don't we all?). I like the way she fused together two cocktails in one: an old fashioned and a mint julep, but it was an extremely strong cocktail. At first sip, it was too intense for me (and c'mon I'm an Aussie). However as the ice melted, it became much more delicious. Dale took a more traditional route, and if I'm being really honest, I think Dale's drink and canapé were probably slightly better tasting. . .However, as you saw, I did give my vote to Tiffani because she fully embraced the spirit of the challenge of taking a classic and giving it a twist. At the end of the day, it's always cool to see both chefs pocketing a nice chunk of change for their efforts.
Cue in the rock n' roll baby!!! We were so lucky to have three absolute legends of the thrash metal/heavy metal genre with us tonight: Rob Zombie, Scott Ian, and Gary Holt. They've played in some of the most unbelievable bands and are huge stars in their own right. I can remember having a Slayer T-shirt at the age of 12 back in Australia. What's music to my ears now is that they have an absolute love and appreciation for good food. These guys have a presence all over the globe so to sit down and listen to them talk about themselves as artists and how that relates to the artistry of food was fascinating.
Rob Zombie being a vegan posed a very difficult challenge for our chefs. They looked pretty darn nervous when I delivered the news: cook an entirely vegan menu that is hardcore, decadent, dark, LOUD, inventive, and lots of fun.
The Duel was an interesting one because we had some real high highs and some horrible low lows. Dale's first dish was fantastic, you just couldn't fault it, and Tiff's skewered drunken noodles were equally good -- both had plenty of flavor and depth. Then Dale fell flat on his face with the second course. I've gotta say nobody was a fan of his tofu ramen as each component was lacking in flavor. On the other hand, Tiffani totally excelled with her King Oyster Mushrooms (imitation "scallops") and embraced the notion of creating a meat substitute. The meaty textures and rich, complex flavors were spot on, and being a meat kind of guy, I was not missing it when eating her dish. At this point, I was thinking, "Dale, you've got no chance mate," but then he went ahead and pulled out that dessert! It was presented so elegantly and I liked the PB&J surprise. You know, you don't usually find Aussies snacking on PB&J but Dale might have just changed my mind about this salty and sweet marriage. So, a big win for Dale in the end but no doubt we'll see Tiffani again!
Super enjoyable night with engaging conversation and some absolutely winning, delicious dishes.