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Das Boot

Hugh Acheson explains why Stefan's pork really didn't work.

By Hugh Acheson

Kristen is still reigning champ in Last Chance Kitchen and Josie is napping off the hangover of defeat. Did you notice the very awkward exit when Josie got her pink slip? Missed hugs, avoided high-fives, skulking walk of shame back to the Stew Room, but always sporting that trademark smile. The world could be imploding into itself and Josie would be like, “Dudes, let’s party!” 

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The remaining chefs are packing their bags for the cruise ship to Alaska. Brooke looks horrified because she hates boats. This is not so much a boat as a floating city. It’s huge.  We see pictures of an enlisted Stefan colluding with the Axis powers. Ah, history. 

Brooke recounts a very confusing story about fears, toddlers, boats, and stuff. Evidently this sunk into my brain because I am now afraid of boats too, and have somehow inflated a life raft in my living room and the blinking beacon light is really bright. 

The chefs get evicted from the Olive 8 and bounce around the boat to tunes that are endlessly repetitive. Josh decides to laud all of his compatriots, telling us how awesome they are, how talented they are, and how much he respects them… except Lizzie. He leaves her out. They do include Lizzie in their tropical drinking dance party on the Lido deck though cause freezing trips from Seattle to Alaska make me want to drink Pina Coladas.

Padma and Curtis are in the kitchen looking all kinds of good lookin’. They crack funnies about icebergs. Ha ha ha, massive ice blocks that sink ships. Lizzie starts her emotional journey of endless complaints about the ship’s kitchen equipment. Watch closely -- she whines about the equipment through the entire episode. 

I kind of like iceberg lettuce, but it has the nutritional content of paper. It’s a constant in stores and you get your money’s worth in food density, and it tastes pretty damn fine with tomatoes and bacon. BUT, should you go on a 100% iceberg lettuce diet you would need to eat over 25.3 pounds of it a day to take in the recommended caloric amounts for a 40-year-old, moderately healthy man weighing 155 pounds. That’s me, for those taking notes. You would also need a good dentist because it’s high in sugar. I am leaning to not recommending this diet. 

I am so confused. Who are they cooking for? How did these people get culled from the masses of cruisers? Why are they so special? Why wasn’t I invited? 

Aside: Josh comes from a place where men don’t wear pink stuff or get manicures. Ah, middle America. 

Stefan: Braised Iceberg Lettuce, Pastrami, Fingerling Potato & Blue Cheese Sauce.

Sheldon: Vietnamese Lettuce Wrap: pork, shrimp and pickled iceberg hearts.

Lizzie: Iceberg Salad: crispy bacon, shallots, and anchovy vinaigrette.

Josh: Iceberg Roll: Apple Cider vinaigrette, bacon jam, blue cheese.

Brooke: Iceberg wrap, bacon, scallop, caramelized onion and crispy quinoa.

So we have a cup of lettuce, two wraps, one roll, and a salad. Sheldon wins but only gets an "advantage." The comforting veil of immunity has gone away at this stage of the competition. 

The chefs have the night off so they are going to cut a rug on the Lido deck and then get some modernist cuisine (© Myrhvold) at Qsine. First, Sheldon and Lizzie get manicures while Stefan, Josh, and Brooke talk about when Stefan first got laid. Lizzie finds another South African working in the nail salon and then tells us about her father’s passing. Josh’s wife is due any moment back in the OKC. We are officially up to speed. 

Qsine has iPad menus and upside-down lamps. This sells well to cruisers. Cause it’s crazy! They quibble over their win-loss records and eat disco shrimp and lollipops of sushi. A doll house of small bites comes out. Curtis and his little friend come in and ruin the meal. The challenge is set. Surf ‘n’ Turf it is. Sheldon’s  advantage is that he gets to pick his surf ‘n’ turf proteins first, an advantage he wastes on getting the most basic surf ‘n’ turf combo ever: beef tenderloin and lobster. They are chatting while having a pyjama party. They wake up to pick their protein. Lizzie wants that little piggy. Sheldon makes his safe picks. They go shopping in the belly of the beast. Sheldon was Goofy for a season at Disney World. We would have never met because, no joke, my youngest is terrified of mascots. 

Lizzie is butchering up a storm. They all cook and push the limits of food as we know it. Josh has attempted to make scallop pasta and this has turned into a complete fail. He turns it into scallop scrambled “eggs,” which sounds vile, but was actually pretty good. This boy only knows breakfast. Everything is breakfast.

They get a break and move into their staterooms, then back to work they go. 

We are dining with some of the ship’s leadership. Nice seafaring people they are. The quintet wrestle their strange plates together. Brooke has made a Papadum thing with frogs' legs and mussels. The Hotel Director is also named Sheldon. Weird. The Papadum is a little oily but otherwise she did a good job. Stefan has made a tooth crackin’ pork belly with eel ravioli and beer sauce. I can understand the dish but the sauce is not good and the pork is not right. Curtis loves the crunchy pork but the rest of us like our teeth and disagree with this Australian predilection. Anyhow, his teeth are so perfect I suspect they aren’t real. On to Josh who has made a scrambled scallop with braised pork belly and bacon bits. It was like scallop grits. Strange but oddly good. We were all a little flummoxed by how good it was. 

Sheldon is taking us on another Asian journey by way of an Outback by the mall. Steak with lobster tempura and stuff. Not his best effort. Very boring. My point on the tempura is very valid. It’s a horrible way to cook for masses of people. Lizzie is fighting with the oven again. Digital beeps make things slightly better, but her cabbage rolls are a little al dente. The scallops were good, the pork was good, and it kind of worked, except for the non-pliable cabbage. It just lacked flair in the end, but I will give her high marks for cooking a suckling pig in that amount of time. 

At Judges Table', my posture is insanely good. My grandmother would be very proud. Brooke wins. She wins another cruise, which is great cause she hates boats. Lizzie and Josh are safe. Stefan packs up his knives. 

Look, I make fun of Stefan a lot, but at the end of the day he’s a very talented chef who has a very big heart. He’s just a little icky. Stefan, we’ll have a beer and talk about it sometime. Godspeed to you, Stefan. 

Follow me on that twitter @HughAcheson


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