Flash in the Pan

Curtis Stone examines the uniques challenges of a Diner en Blanc.

There are many things that make Diner en Blanc spectacular. The sea of white and the astonishing level of organization that’s needed to pull off a flash mob in a public space are stunning enough. But to have that mob come together over a shared love of food and a passion for dining was just extraordinary. While our chefs worked hard to make the best three-course picnic for 300 guests, I was glad that they had a chance to sit down at the table, talk to the diners and experience the joy that Diner en Blanc brings.

But first, a little on the Quickfire Challenge. It was a lesson we’ve seen a few times this season. How well do chefs have to communicate to create delicious food? For my money, I think communication is one of the most important skills a chef can master. Cooking is dramatic, but it doesn’t have to be a drama.

Chris and Patricia once again proved they are a fantastic team. Working together in the past meant they knew how to organize, keep their cool, and support each other. Kerry and Lorena, on the other hand, seemed to be speaking different languages. I don’t know if the sticky rice would have pulled Lorena’s seared salmon dish together or not. But the incomplete plate wasn't the biggest loss. Knowing that Kerry didn’t have her back was probably a greater disappointment.

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Diner en Blanc presented an interesting challenge. The food at these events, called chic picnic, needs to be elegant and elevated but still portable and somewhat easy to eat. Chris and Kerry both created dishes that actually got better after sitting in the fridge for the evening. Chris’ Pork and Liver Pate with Hazelnuts and Truffles was perfection and Kerry’s Haricot Vert, Orzo and Mozzarella with Pesto was bright and flavorful. Unfortunately Patricia and Lorena struggled. I can understand why Lorena would want to up her game at this stage in the competition, but the sweetness of the Jerk Chicken Salad with Mango and Caramelized Pine Nuts and the touch of spiciness in her Jalapeño Chocolate Mousse came off more confused than edgy.Patricia is such a thoughtful and intelligent chef. So it was no surprise that she would create dishes around a concept of Marco Polo’s journey from Venice to China. You could imagine every one of her dishes being wonderful the night before the event. But the next day, they tasted too much like leftovers and not enough like fresh picnic fare. It’s been such a gift to eat so much of Patricia’s beautiful food and to watch her cool-headed cooking every week. Best of luck, Patricia!

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