Every judge starts out with four impeccable chefs that they hand-picked. Or almost hand-picked: in other words if more than one judge pick the contestant, then the contestant gets to pick in which kitchen (and under what tutelage they want to be under).
So last week was a theme on sandwiches. They deviated from their plating on a spoon *gasp* because quite frankly, plating sandwiches on a spoon doesn't quite work. So they went for small sandwiches - almost like a high tea party, but hold the tea ;)
This part of the competition deviates from The Voice. The judges on The Voice have to pitch their teammates against each other find the best vocalist on the team to represent the judges' team in the semi finalist round. However, what happens on The Taste is that every team member under the judge's kitchen cooks to the same theme during the group competition. Then there is a taste test within each kitchen to put the best dish to compete amongst the other kitchen. There are guest judges that come in to make the call. In this episode it was Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi who were tasting the four sandwiches put out by each kitchen.
The chef that wins the best taste amongst the four kitchen gets immunity - meaning during the cook off later, he or she can't get kicked off her spot. Everyone is drooling for that immunity! In some kitchen, they have the complete team of 4 going (ahem Chef Bourdain) but some like Chef Nigella Lawson are not so lucky and only have two chefs to represent. But in the end, Gregg from Chef Ludo's kitchen wins it all with his smart tonna sandwich (or sashimi grade tuna) with mayonaise (made of tuna). Sounds delish if you ask me! But then again I love me some ahi-grade tuna and I could care less if the guy has an attitude or not, as long as he can cook. I'll eat your food any day ;)
So after that, the individual elimination round starts. They are eliminating two chefs on the last episode. In this round, everyone is out to safe themselves, and the only one who can afford to do a lackadaisical job is the chef with immunity (Greg in this case!). Whatever they cook up will be served in a blind taste test, and each judge will award a "best taste" and a "worst taste." The caveat here is that the judges don't know who cooked what and they might be eliminating their own members off the kitchen. Yep - that is how Nigella lost one of her own teammates. What does make this whole review round interesting is that the judges face stage up, and the contestants are all standing behind them on a platform above them hearing every word they say - so they hear what is being said about each of the dishes as well as their own. But the judges again don't know who made what.
It's still the sandwich theme and I was happy to see a huge diversity of sandwiches. Anything from something ethic like lamb on a naan, down to roast beef with a jus.
I was extremely proud that Lauren was able to get such great accolades from Chef Bourdain for her Mediterranean Lamb on Naan. She knew he liked ethnic and ethnic is how she made it - lots of garlic and great seasoning for the meat. I think this chef has it all to take Chef Nigella's kitchen all the way to the end! And that's ok. Cause in the end, Chef Nigella just need one chef to bring it all home. Lauren is also quite likeable with her bubbly personality and ready to learn from her mentor.
If I were in that kitchen, I'd make a banh mi, or as Chef Ludo called it a "banh mi ni" - was that a clever play on panini? Either way Chef Bourdain jumps in and says "you mean banh mi." Ha! So what is this? A banh mi has some delicious pork or pork belly, and perhaps liver or head cheese, a bunch of nice crisp pickled vegetables, such as carrots & turnip that have a nice acidity, topped with some fresh cilantro and chilis to give it a nice spice. All this is nestled between a delicious crisp piece of baguette - a tradition that came about when the French colonized Vietnam. So it's not unusual to have this interesting "fusion" tradition. In my opinion it has the right balance of texture, taste, exploding flavors and would make any one eating this feel quite happy.
So when Diane went about to make this, I was super excited about her choice. Unfortunately the praises fell flat because she chose the wrong bread - making the whole sandwich a little heavy and "too bready". Oh dear... but I was rooting for this sandwich.
Then there were a few girls that had the guts to make their own bread. Uno made a steamed bun - smart, isn't it - which received high praises. It gave her an extra edge to stand out. With some attempts like Mia, it, however, backfired, when she grilled her bread and it tasted too much like charcoal. Also, don't talk back to the judges? Just take up ownership of your mistakes and move on...but that's ok, because the judges moved on without her. *sigh*
Then there were those that were "thinking outside the box" or "outside the bun" (which made me think of Taco Bell's slogan, but I digress). Sarah went all out with her oyster tacos idea and it worked for the judges. What a relief that chefs are giving credit for going big and daring.
However smooth, there is always room for big mistakes under such pressure. Unfortunately Huda was going for a chicken pesto sandwich, which sounded quite lovely. The only problem it was raw, and that's a big no no. Salmonella, anyone? But those cost mistakes is what sends even good cooks home, and she gracefully accept their decision. She even owned up to the camera that if anyone had served her raw chicken, she'd send them home too. Poor Huda, which means Chef Nigella is down to one chef: Lauren (no pressure here!)
I could go on and on and give you a play by play, but that's not the point here. let me just say there are a few chefs that will be on my to-watch list: Uno for her creativity and her solid understanding of flavor, Gregg for his technique and his overwhelming food knowledge, Diane for her go-getter attitude (she's not going down with a fight), and my personal favorite Khristianne.
It's really about the contestants, so even thought I would love for Chef Bourdain to take it all home or I would like to see Chef Nigella sweep it all with her one lone chef standing, I will have to root for Chef Malarkey, because Khristianne is on his team.
Yep, I think Chef K has what it takes to go all the way. If you made me call it today, I'm placing best on this star.
Who are you placing your bets on? Leave them on the comments, and if you were right, I will send you a little something :)
So who is watching The Taste on ABC Tuesdays 9|8c? I hear it will be offaly good...yes pun intended, because they will be working with offal. Check back on the ABC site for any episodes that you may have missed!