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Eli Kirshtein describes what the final days before finale are really like.

It’s an eerie feeling. You have been asked to start to get your things around the house in order. There seems to be far fewer production staff running around.  All the miscellaneous boxes labeled with production company names are starting to disappear. This is what the days right before this challenge is like. In the next 24 to 48 hours everyone is going to be on their way back to their “normal” lives. Back to reality if you will. For some it’s a relief, others feel like they have entered some kind of a comfort zone. You may have even begun to feel like the house is almost mildly home like. Everyone around knows that 80% of the chefs still in the house are moving on to a new phase of the competition. It’s a really mentally challenging time.  This one really counts.

The Quickfire is kind of a play on a challenge that has made an appearance before, wine pairing. I was really expecting the chefs to do what they did actually. They, for the most part, went for flavors that were traditional pairings with the grape varietals that they had chosen. Bold red wines with hearty full-bodied flavors seemed to be the tone of a lot of the dishes. While the original dish concept was a good pairing, I was surprised to see Kevin take such a risk with out building in a safety net. He had to have known upfront that he was going out on a limb to try to braise the belly in an hour, even in a pressure cooker, so it miffed me a bit that he didn’t already have a back-up protein, possibly one that paired with the wine better, already set to go. With that being said, he knew what had gone wrong and took it on the chin rather gracefully. I also think Kelly using the blue cheese was a risky choice. In the world of cheeses, the flavors profiles of blues can be really vast, so you would have to make sure that it was really spot on, and I think she just missed that mark. I really think that Angelo’s best success was breaking away from the traditional paradigm of wine pairings, especially with foie gras, and focused on the specific flavors at hand. He worked on compliments as opposed to classic marriages.

The parameters of this challenge were really wide open. The main gist of it is that the food needed to be reasonably small, and not too sweet, and had to make sense for the space food application. What struck me was how none of the chefs really seemed to go with that. Let me say, all of their dishes sounded great, very refined, and well conceptualized, but they just didn’t seem to follow the spirit of the challenge. First they all featured a fairly large cut protein, big portions on the whole. Several had sweet components to them, think candied ginger, or ever a marmalade. And then what about translating dishes to space food, cooking meat to perfect medium rare?  Searing a piece of halibut? Frying onion rings?  How would you really translate this to dehydrated space food?

The chefs really seemed to look down the pipeline a bit. They were focused on the idea that if you make a dish with great flavor and solid technique your safe. That’s really not a terrible strategy at this point in the game. All five of the chefs were really close and I think that came off pretty obviously, but in the end Angelo had the most composed, eloquent dish in the pack. Most notably his dish seemed most translatable to the idea of space food, it didn’t need the sensitivity of temperature specific meat and fish dishes. Unfortunately, someone did have to go home. Even after Tom had articulated that she had been coming on strong, it was Tiffany.  She did a strong dish but really lacked the refinement that the others did, just detail-oriented criticism.


Now we are down to the final four. 

Follow me on Twitter @elikirshtein

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