It was such a pleasure having these two Southern gentlemen in the Duels kitchen tonight. Watching this episode again conjured up feelings of family love and big granny hugs and the warm 'n' fuzzies you get after a feel good movie. I'm actually eating a big chocolate chunk cookie as I write this because seeing those desserts again at the conclusion of the show has made me crave something buttery, delicious, and sweet. I think these guys from Georgia were a perfect match for this competition -- they clearly both draw inspiration from their Southern roots, but their execution is completely different.
It was awesome to see Kevin break down that half-pig with his lightning butchery skills. He exercised such precision and knowledge of the cuts. The flavors of his dish were bright and modern with the perfect amount of heat and his was the most impressive dish in my opinion. Art really butchered up that pig but he ain't used to tasks like this! Like he said, he's a chef to the big name stars and gets his butcher to do the dirty work, ha! Jokes, Art, jokes. Despite losing a bit of time, he put up such a feel good classic meal that was tender and kind of made me long for a Southern upbringing -- actually most of the dishes tonight made me think more deeply about life, family, and food down South.
So now for the critter fry up! It doesn't sound overly appetizing, but if anyone knows how to make anything fried taste incredible -- it's these Georgian chefs. Art nailed this one with a balance of fresh ingredients and the rich buttermilk dressing; it was a really smart dish.
This was one of my favourite Duel challenges. I love the way food can make you feel better and each dish here was aimed at doing exactly that. Kevin was super knowledgeable about the healing powers of the ingredients he was using in his first dish and went for a much fresher approach than Art. Art's right: chicken soup is bloody good medicine and a big bowl of soup does wonders for stress in my opinion too. Maybe it's something about the fact that you slowly sip away at it, blowing on the first few piping hot mouthfuls while breathing in the calming properties of the steam. Art's dish complete with a buttery biscuit was of course a little heavier so it really came down to personal choice on this round -- do you like it heavy or light?
I know all about curing a dose of homesickness because I have been living away from Australia for about 20 years now -- such a long time. I've put down roots in LA now with my beautiful wife and two kids and luckily I get to travel back to Oz around five or six times a year for work. I still vividly remember walking into my home when I was a kid to the smell of my mum's baking -- it's something that has stuck with me wherever I've gone. Truthfully I don't get to bake as often as I'd like but I really want my two little boys to have beautiful memories of comforting food and crave wonderful, delicious aromas from their childhoods just like I do, so I make sure I’m in the kitchen with my three year old Hudson at any chance we can get. Emerson is just teeny tiny (just two weeks old!), but I'm looking forward to the time that he can get involved in the action with us. Anyway I digress, these chefs really cooked from the heart for this second dish. Art went for a chicken dish again -- I honestly don't know what he'd do without this succulent bird!
But those soulful desserts were the real kicker for me. Kevin's looked absolutely incredible; it was presented beautifully however Art's 12-layers of chocolate goodness was phenomenal. I'm telling you guys, if you're trying to mend a broken heart, this towering cake will fix you right up.
Tonight was fun, it was fast, there was good food and both of these guys just exude personality. Kevin came out just on top because his beautifully refined, modern take on Southern food seemed to resonate with us judges and our special Grey's Anatomy guests, but that Knockout is about to step up a notch with Smithy's hat in the ring. I have no doubt he'll "kick some chef butt!"
Thank you chefs! OMG only a week until the finale, I'm looking forward to it!