I love cooking competition shows on TV. LOVE THEM! And tonight, being Wednesday, is Chopped night! So I thought I would blog while I watched!
Tonight's episode is called Quahog Quandaries and Pickle Puzzles.
Our contestants are Ricardo Cardona, executive chef of a fancy-schmancy latin restaurant; Kat Ploszaj, Chef and Owner of teeny-tiny restaurant; Marc Anthony Bynum,... ... self-described sexy beast?! Ew.... And lastly, Melissa Muller, the token organic chef! (They never do well on this show, sadly...)
My husband and I always try to guess which chef will win but as he's away right now, I guess I'll have to play alone. I'm going to go with Chef Kat. I just have a gut feeling that when she said she loves competition, it's because she likes to make other people weep with despair. I like that competitive fire!
First round ingredients: quahogs, rhubarb, and almond butter cookies! I don't think I've ever seen quahogs before, but they seem to be GIGANTIC clams. I love when they have shell fish because they bring shucking skills into the picture.
We have an all female judging panel tonight: Jody Williams, Alex Guarnaschelli and Amanda Freitag.
As predicted, there are issues with shucking and Chef Kat rips the quahog open with her bare hands, thereby affirming my impression of her competitive drive. We have considerable panic at at least three of our stations. The sexy beast chef isn't panicked because he has a fool-proof plan to wow the lady judges with pink food because "ladies love pink." Wow! Condescending and offensive! Our organic chef has ZERO open clams with 30 seconds left, so she plates what she has and she doesn't get the plates finished.
To the judges!
Chef Ricardo makes a ceviche. Fresh, good texture, edible clams (I should hope), too much acid. Chef Kat presents a different ceviche, a compote and a salad. Clams not cut small enough, too much spice, delicious rhubarb compote but the dish lacks a center. Mixed review for my contestant. Chef Marc makes clams casino and reveals his fool-proof plan to use pink food. At least one judge looks annoyed. Nice presentation, but he's missing bacon, which makes it not clams casino. The first withering judge comment of the night from Alex: "Please describe what's on your plate, not what you wish was on your plate." Zing! Chef Melissa's unfinished dish is really sad... though the judges seem to appreciate her vision. And the chopped contestant is... Chef Melissa. No surprise there.
Second round ingredients are venison tenderloin, cinnamon swirl bread, sharon fruit and cornichons. We have two chefs proposing to make french toast. Chef Marc is talking to his food, and he says that it talks back. There are medications for that... I've never cooked with venison before, but it looks delicious. Chef Ricardo runs through the kitchen waving a knife, which the judges frown upon. My contestant starts cutting her venison with 10 seconds left... yikes! But she gets it done!
Chef Kat presents a pan-seared venison with cassoulet. Generally good reviews, but one of the judges questions whether a cassoulet was actually what she has made. Chef Marc makes breakfast for dinner but there's some inconsistent cooking (including an egg that can't be eaten) and he gets criticized for the 'safe' breakfast decision. Chef Richardo makes pan-seared venison and cinnamon toast. Beautiful presentation and his cornichons are the most successful, but he uses juniper berriesin his sauce in a way that takes away from the rest dish. And then there's that running-with-knives safety thing...
Chopped this round is... Chef Ricardo, because of his juniper misstep.
To dessert!! Ingredients are matzo, salty peanuts, dried strawberries and coca nibs. Chef Marc makes his second stereotyping comment of the show, indicating that he's at a disadvantage because all women can bake. Chef Marc is relaxed, cool, calm and composed and he keeps asking Kat how she's doing. That would drive me crazy. Chef Kat is, to quote her opponent, "running around like a nut."
To the judges, Chef Marc presents a napoleon (the most common dessert made on this show) with a mousse. He gets lots of credit for his use of the matzo, but criticism for the size of the dish (too big) and too much strawberry flavour. He flirts with the judges to mixed effect. Chef Kat makes a gelato and a tiramisu interpretation with a sweetened basil juice palate cleanser. Good comments for her dish too, but again, she gets some criticism for a dish that that doesn't really come together in a harmonious way.
The judges consider the whole meals and review the good and the bad. The judges credit Marc for presentation and Kat for creativity. Taste is the deciding factor.
And the winner is... Chef Marc.
Sigh. As annoying as he was, I can certainly see why they chose him. He did look like the strongest throughout the competition. Chef Kat cries and I feel bad for her.
To give credit where credit is due, Chef Marc manages to accept his $10,000 without saying anything gross or annoying. So yay for that!