Reprinted with permission from www.healthywaytocook.com
We made it to the finale, and four cooks remain: Khristianne (Malarkey’s kitchen), Diane (Bourdain’s kitchen), Gregg (Ludo’s kitchen), and Sarah (pronounced Saaagggurglehhhaaa, from Ludo’s kitchen). The Taste is pulling out all the stops, playing super suspenseful music with quick cutaways of the contestants looking nervous, and bringing in world-renowned chef and restaurateur José Andrés as the guest judge.
The cooks must each prepare three spoonfuls of tapas in one hour that use at least one of three ingredients selected by the judges. The ingredients are mozzarella, Iberico ham, and spot prawns. The cook who prepares the spoonfuls that José Andrés likes the least will be eliminated from the competition. The mentors will be helping in the cooks’ kitchens, with Nigella, who has no chefs left, acting as a floating mentor.
Diane’s menu includes spot prawn with basil puree and tomato caviar, Iberico ham with quail egg and caviar, and mozzarella with mint and walnut accents. I have to be honest, the idea of mozzarella with walnuts triggers my gag reflex, and it has nothing to do with a walnut allergy.
Khristianne is cooking mozzarella with balsamic grapes, almonds and fried basil, Iberico ham with caviar, quail egg, tomato sauce and crispy bread, spot prawn with chimichurri, tomato and blood orange. She’s using a bit of molecular gastronomy with tapioca maltodextrin which she learned from, guess who? José Andrés. Oh, and did we somehow forget that Khristianne is Charlie Sheen’s personal chef? I’m not quite sure how that nugget of information fits into her cooking style, but I’m going to assume that she has a lot of burners going while preparing his meals.
Sarah’s spoons are prepared by the careful hands of Ludo, who does not leave her side except to give a cursory glance over at Gregg’s half of the kitchen. She is cooking mozzarella mouse with tomato confit and pesto bread, Iberico ham with a cheese stuffed date, and spot prawn with chorizo and orange cream sauce.
Gregg, the awkward third wheel on a date with Sarah and Ludo, prepares mozzarella with roasted red pepper, preserved lemon and almonds, spot prawn with caviar and potato chip, and Iberico ham with poached quail egg and ham chip.
After initially choking on her mozzarella dish, José compliments Khristianne’s spoons, and she swoons harder than a fourteen-year-old girl reading a tweet from Justin Bieber. He is less enthusiastic about her spot prawns, but her ham dish reminds him of home. Diane’s tapas spoonfuls all have the same problem—she overwhelms the spoons with one ingredient and loses the rest of the flavors. Gregg lived in Barcelona and worked in a Spanish restaurant, so he is surprised that José doesn’t just marry him on the spot. His first spoon lacks acidity, his prawn is disproportionate, and his ham dish is overly complicated. Sarah’s mozzarella is “very enjoyable,” her prawn lacks acidity (this guy really likes his acid!), and her date is too big for José’s mouth.
In the end, it’s Gregg who has the worst spoonfuls because Gregg is the worst person. Goodbye, Gregg. We will not miss you in the least. And with that, the three finalists are Khristianne, Diane, and Sarah. So…can we just give the prize to Khristianne and skip the rest of the formalities? No? Okay.
Solo Taste Test
It’s time for the main event, where the cooks have two hours to prepare three separate but complimentary courses, paired with a glass of wine. They will have the help of José Andrés in the kitchen, which fills Khristianne with both dread and delight.
Sarah tells José Andrés that she is making arctic char with fingerling potatoes, mushrooms, and jalapeno salad, a seared duck breast with braised fennel and red wine sauce, and beef tenderloin with creamy shallot confit. But, she says it in such a lackadaisical manner that I’m afraid her food might bore her to death before she gets her spoons to the judge’s table. José suspects that her calm demeanor has something to do with being lost.
Khristianne is combining her Portuguese and Filipino backgrounds to create a progression from the air (Peking duck with chive pancake, pear and radish slaw) to the land (braised short ribs with bok choy, mushrooms and squash purée) to the sea (seafood bouillabaisse with sea bass). José is impressed, and reminds her that her background is a very important ingredient in the dishes.
Diane is making sea urchin with butter mousse, lobster and caviar, a seared scallop with quail egg and daikon salad, and some halibut with mushrooms, bok choy and lobster sauce. José warns her that it all sounds just too much for three little spoonfuls, but Diane is undeterred. She is also using a smoker for the first time ever, which is a huge risk that she doesn’t even recognize as a risk because “you can only learn if you make mistakes.” Well, yes, but this isn’t supposed to be a learning experience.
It’s time to taste some spoons:
- First up is Diane. The judges like her sea urchin, they think her sea scallop is missing something, but the halibut is a nice finish.
- It’s Khristianne’s turn. They like her duck but they wanted more of it on the spoon, her octopus is “perfect,” and the short ribs have too much purée.
- Sarah is last, and I’m hoping the judges spit out at least one of her spoonfuls. The judges think the flavors in her arctic char are not well married, her duck has good flavor, and her beef tenderloin is simple but charming.
The judges don’t have a clear favorite, and Tony says that he could “viciously argue” any one of the trios. But a decision must be made, and a winner must be crowned, so to the magic buttons!
Let’s start with the loser. Third place is Saaaaggggaahhh. Hahahahaha, ha. Second place is Diane, and the winner is Khristianne, just as it should be! Nice work, ladies. Can someone please get Khristianne her own cooking show so that she doesn’t have to go back to Charlie Sheen? He’s just going to crash her new car and blow her winnings on candy.by