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It Takes A Smurf Village

Harold Dieterle on Malarkey, Howie's exit, and guest judge Dana Cowin.

This week's Quickfire Challenge was pretty tough. I''m surprised they had this one so far into the game. I would've liked to have seen what else was on the kitchen pantry table. It was very vague. I saw some cornstarch and I saw some limes and eggs. But I didn't really get a feel for what they got to work with. This challenge was kind of on the same tune as our convenience store challenge, and when they had to cook out of a little vending machine last season. With this one, some of them I thought had tougher aisles than others.

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Specifically speaking, I was just thoroughly amused watching Hung put his dish together. I can't remember who it was, Brian or CJ, who said it looked like a Smurf Village -- it was really funny. His dish and Frank's "Mushroom Fantasy" from last season have by far been the two most entertaining dishes I've seen produced. I was just cracking up. He was just having fun with it and laughing, and I just thought, "This is what it's all about." The guest judge, who I'm not familiar with, clearly wanted to take everything a lot more seriously than was necessary. I would like to see him put under those parameters and put something together.

Brian cracks me up. Anybody that refers to themselves in the third person, I personally think highly of. Everytime he calls himself "Malarkey", I laugh to myself. I thought he did a good dish. It looked good, it made sense, and I'm a fan of the Spam. So I thought he did a nice job.

Casey's parfait? That looked great. It looked sharp. It was layered really well and it looked like she knew what she was doing. It was really well-made. She mentioned that she has some pastry experience. She definitely goes the sweet route a lot more than anybody else, but she looks like she has come prepared to do some desserts when she gets there.

Howie's decision not to present anything -- well, it's a double-edged sword. You want to talk about integrity and the fact that you're not going to serve something because it's not up to par -- that has to be your bread and butter move throughout the competition. We've heard him say in the past that he serves stuff that he wasn't crazy about. I don't really know what to think about that.

I think that Brian's decision to make himself leader was the right move, especially after the way we saw things go down with CJ picking Tre and how that all worked out. I think if you're going to be the go-to guy, you're going to be the No. 1 guy, then put yourself in the position to run with it. As far as Tom's comment about Brian "splitting hairs", it's one of those things where it doesn't really matter how it goes down. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't -- you don't' really know how it's going go down. They get beat up a lot for trying to do too much of an assortment of canapes when they all should have focused on doing one thing. If each person does one canape, that's seven canapes for 60 people, which would have seemed a little light to me. I'm not so sure I completely agree with the judges on that fact. If I went to a canape party and there are 60-70 guests on a boat, I'm looking for a little bit more than just seven canapes. I'm probably going to be a little disappointed. So I think that they had the right idea with that.

But I though Casey did overall a really great job between the two challenges. From an elegance standpoint, her canape really had the most refinement. I can't taste it, but the flavors sounded great. Sara M's tomato bread pudding definitely sounded good. I wasn't impressed with the seafood sausage on a baguette. Seafood sausage? Brian has already done it twice. I was looking for something a little creative.

I was especially looking for Hung to bring it because I know that kid can bring it. He was all "Everybody's doing some really classical stuff, so I'm just going to fall in line." I don't really think it was a cop-out. I think it's one of those things where Hung looked at it and he just wanted continuity among what everyone else was doing. If you're going do something his style and off-the-wall and a little different, and then everybody else is making crustinis and whatever other old-school stuff people are doing, it doesn't really fit in. But, they were on a boat, so you're looking for some trend-setting stuff.

Howie knew he was going down and he wanted to go out on his own terms. I think it was pretty obvious the way the whole day played out -- that it really wasn't working out for him. I think that kid fights tooth and nail. He doesn't come across as a quitter at all. I just think from a strategic standpoint, if he could save face on his own he would. He thought, "I'm pretty sure I'm going home and if I can send myself home on my own accord then I'll take that route." But the judges were making it clear, and Tom made it a no-go on that one. Howie deserved to go home. It was kind of rough to watch how he was rolling. His stuff just didn't look that tight.

And finally, for the special guest judge, Dana Cowin. I'm a big fan of hers. She's been into Perilla. I really respect what she thinks about food. She eats at the best restaurants in the world, so when she comes in, I want to pick her brain apart because I really value her opinion. I guess we'll see what goes on next week.

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