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Duck and Cover

Harold Dieterle reveals his favorite so far and explains the process of rendering skin.

The Quickfire this week was a good one. Your palate can be trained, but like 90%, more than 90% of your taste buds come from your nose, and some people just don't smell well. You gotta have that. You gotta be able to do that. It's just a memory thing is what it is. It's just remembering. I have a very strong palate, picking up on a lot of undertones and overtones of different flavors and textures. It's very important to be able to cook. Antonia hasn't really been doing or cooking anything that's really "Wow, oh my God." She makes good, simple food, probably similar to what I do. It's just a matter if it's appropriate for the challenge, and it's soulful, and the guest judges and Tom and Padma are all digging it.

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Ming Tsai is a good guy. I like Ming. He's a lot of personality. He's really funny. And he's got -- I've never cooked with him -- but there's something to be said about someone who is a celebrity chef and still only has one restaurant, still has one focus. A lot can be said on that.

Onto the Elimination. Another team challenge, though. That's brutal. Has there been a straight up single chef Elimination yet? For Team Earth, it was a really shitty situation. Obviously with Antonia, you want yourself to be heard, and you want to play a role, but you really don't have anything to lose. It's really selfish the situation she put them in. I don't really recall Zoi being that strong and saying, "I want to do a soup." I do remember Spike saying, "I wanna do butternut squash soup." I mean it's really difficult to wow people with soup. Some people are really into those just straightforward, really home-cooked flavors. I love a bowl of soup, and I love making soup. I don't see anyone winning a challenge making soup. I don't see a challenge being won by someone making soup. That's just my feeling on it. Certainly if you do want to play it a little safe and go in that direction, soup could be a good thing, and I feel like they used a lot of earthy ingredients. They just didn't make the best of it I suppose. Sunchokes, and rosemary, and mushrooms, and beef -- I just don't know. The other ingredients sound great -- I can kinda see where they were going with that. You have a lot of sweet, and subtle, and earthy flavors, and then you blast rosemary in there. A specific situation where it's not used properly to make all the flavors harmonious, it can be problematic.

I'm with the judges on their Team Air critique because I'm a self-proclaimed duck fanatic. I was just watching them cook the duck, and I was just like, "Oh no." Duck is pretty sacred. I like to do -- I wouldn't call it poaching it -- but I like to take the duck, and I just like to pour a scented hot liquid over it to start the rendering the process of the fat a little bit, and then score it, and cook it super slow, skin-side down for a really, really long time. There's a couple of different ways to go from there. I like to take that fat that's rendering, and with my spoon just baste the duck and you can throw herbs in there too. There's a lot of different ways to skin a cat. But, I was watching them slice it, and I just wasn't into it.What's rendering? Duck is something that has such a thick, dense fat, like a pork belly, or bacon, or any type of cured meat. When it's slowly cooking it, the fat melts, almost like butter, so it's basically the same thing as melting the fat. Maybe I'm being a little harsh because duck is kind of my thing, and I just didn't think they gave it the love it deserved. Duck and pomegranates go great together. What they put with it, I thought was a great accompaniment. The handling of the duck itself, though, the duck could have used a lot more love.

As far as the little drink goes, it's not my thing. A lot of times, you have three people, and everyone wants to have their presence felt, so you do a little more, and you do this, you do that. But it didn't look nice. The drink didn't look nice. There was some pomegranate seed in there -- it looked like foggy water. It did. It didn't have a beautiful, pristine ruby color. You know, I can't taste it, I'm just strictly going on visuals.

Team Water was a f***ing mess.You can totally sous-vide fish, but first of all, when you do salmon, my first thing is, why would you leave the skin on the fish? I know you want to keep the moisture in, but sous-vide salmon skin and then you serve it with it on it, is not going to taste good -- I guarantee it. Even if there weren't scales on it. It's not a skin that steams well. I like a snapper skin or a black sea bass skin that you can pierce through nice and gingerly and eat it. It's not that type of skin.What I would have liked to have seen them do is cut the salmon skin off, cut it into pieces, brush it with some glucose or simple syrup or whatever you want and make little coquants or tuiles out of the skin and really crisp it up and give the dish some texture. Because if you look at their dish, you've got the faux caviar -- I've said my piece on that last week -- but I don't really know why they were getting up in Mark's shit about the parsnip and vanilla. I think those flavors go really nicely together. So, it was one of those situations where I would have had a hard time figuring out who to send home. And the scales? That's a major, major f***up. The fact of the matter is that Richard's been doing a really nice job, and they weren't ready to send him home yet for sure. I knew that he wasn't packing his bags because he's got major skills, and everybody gets at least one strike I would hope.

Team Fire's bacon was phenomenal; it looked great. And Dale can go and say whatever he wants about Lisa winning for cooking bacon, if you're going to break out a technique or a move that nobody's seen before, you're going to get props on it. I've never cooked bacon like that before. I've never thought about cooking bacon like that before. I don't know why I haven't put bacon with miso and maple syrup, but I'm thinking about throwing something like that on my brunch menu. It sounded phenomenal. Chili-grilled shrimp has been done before. Everybody knows about it. You're not putting anything new on the table. It takes some skill to do it right, certainly, and not overcook the shrimp for making that many plates, but it was good to see Lisa throw it down, and say, "You know what, guys? I don't want to make this. I don't want to do eggs. I think it's a bad move." And it paid off. Her resilience paid off. So, I respect that.

Serving hot food as a first course is just one of those things. There are a couple of ingredients, you gotta be really careful, and chilies are one of them as a first course. It's not that big of a deal. You can have a warm canape. Chilies are a concern. Garlic is another. Garlic that's not really cooked down really slowly, roasted garlic, raw garlic, you're going to be burping that up the whole meal. Blue cheese, peppers, types of things that are really strong and pungent -- you want save them towards the latter part of the meal. But Tom's absolutely right -- you have to be really careful with chilies.The fight after? Wow. It was an interesting scene. Stephanie was kinda holding it together. You got two sides that are just not feeling each other. Then you have Jenn and Spike going back and forth, battling it out. It was just like, geez, it's getting ugly. Richard was getting upset too.

I was sad to see Zoi go -- you can tell she's a really sweet girl. There can be only one I suppose.

Since you guys have been asking who my favorites are, I have to say, I like Stephanie. I like Richard. Stephanie and Richard, they're probably my two favorites. Not really amused by Andrew anymore. I lost it. I was amused by him the first time I saw the tapioca faux caviar, but it's boring to me at this point.


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