From Lemony Snicket to Lucha Vavoom, this episode had a little something to whet everybody’s appetite.
Doug and Sang’s love/hate relationship was out in full force this episode. I thought it was hilarious that Doug created the ketchup challenge simply to get Sang’s goat. There is some real humor amongst this group of chefs. The games and digs at each other aren’t malicious or nasty -- it’s typical of what you find in a normal commercial kitchen. Chefs love to annoy, offend, and be smartasses to each other in the name of a good time (I think as an industry we’ve earned a rep for being like this!), and I’ve been sitting back enjoying the banter.
I’d have to agree with Sang -- I don’t think I’d use ketchup in my restaurant. Don’t get me wrong; it’s perfect with French fries and a burger, but ketchup does mask the flavor of other ingredients in a dish. Saying that, Jen did an awesome job using ketchup in her scallops dish. My gosh, welcome back Jennifer! Talk about coming back with a vengeance. Her winning dish was super creative. Obviously, ketchup is a bit of a one-note ingredient, but Jen spiced it up with the other ingredients to create an incredibly well-balanced flavor, and it looked gorgeous on the plate. Maybe her taste of going home a few weeks ago is exactly what she needed to get to the top. Has she got what it takes to go all the way now?
Lucha Vavoom was so much fun. I actually ended up taking Lindsay to their Valentine’s Day show following working with them on this episode. Both the chefs and judges had a really rad time and enjoyed every minute of the ridiculousness. I think it was good for the chefs to get in the ring themselves and release a bit of pressure and bravado. This challenge also presented a really good test for the chefs. It’s one thing to conceive an incredible dish; it is another thing to do it en masse for 300 people and to do it well.
Sang and Jennifer were thrown a real disadvantage. I'd be spewing if I had to swap sous chefs at the last minute because you almost speak another language with your sous chef. It’s like doing a dance; you move in one direction and your sous just knows to move in the other, which sounds pretty silly on paper. They know what you’re going to do next, they know at what point you like to season your food, they know what particular style of plating you like, and you don't have to spell much out to them. This sort of relationship is built up over time. When you have someone new standing next to you, you’ve got to teach them your style. You’ve got to stop what you’re doing and explain how you want things done. So hats off to Jenn who won this challenge despite having Sang’s sous chef to help her. The sous chefs were great sports and definitely stepped up to this obstacle well. As I said on the show, Bryan’s braised beef tongue was a really brave thing to do for 300 people. Bryan is a great example of a young chef who is cooking using new techniques. He achieved that great fall-apart-in-your-mouth texture using the sous-vide cooking technique, which has been around for 10 or 20 years. Tongue isn’t the easiest thing to cook for a large number of people, and he went out on a limb because a lot of people consider tongue to be gross. At the end of the day, you’ve got to think about your guests, even if 50 people shy away from the dish, it is 50 people too many. However, if you're going to take on a risk like that, you better make sure you can do it absolutely spotlessly. As it turned out, Bryan’s risk really paid off. Tongue is not so uncommon for Mexican cuisine, and I think the dish matched the atmosphere of the evening to a tee.
I think Doug hit the cruise control button a little bit with his Bloody Maria. Who knows, it might end up being a smart tactic because he had a bit of an easier week due to immunity. Maybe he is saving something in the tank for next week or maybe taking the easier road was foolish and the judges will keep it in the back of their minds…
I was totally bummed to send Sang home. He really crosses over a multitude of cuisines and is very talented both in traditional and more modern cooking techniques. I personally love his attitude towards food and people. He is a take-no-prisoners sort of guy. We've seen him yell and scream once or twice in the competition, but for good reason he is super passionate about what he does, and I love that about him. I've really enjoyed eating his food thus far and I’m just a little bummed that I’m not going to eat more of it in this competition.
Not long left until the season finale!