Welcome to the second night of Celebrity Cooking Showdown. For those of you who haven't seen day 1, the show is pretty simple. Hosted by the perpetually drunk Alan Thicke, the show pairs up 3 celebrities with 3 professional chefs, and gives them 50 minutes to prepare a 3-course meal. This meal is them judged on presentation and flavor by Colin Cowie (think Simon Cowell with mascara) and Gael Greene (think Boy George with even less taste). The winner of the first three nights moves on to the final round on Thursday, which will be judged by us (apparently just on presentation, since they're not sending samples out to all of us, which I think is a damn shame). On Friday, the professional chefs will show us how it's done the right way, and we'll find out who wins.
The first thing I notice tonight is that Alan Thicke is just as drunk as last night, and wearing the same clothes as Monday. This means that either they've taped both shows on the same night, or Alan really CAN put away the Manhattans, and he has my admiration for that. Two Manhattans for me, and I'm liable to show up without pants, and somehow he's managed to get a tie on.
First up is the impossibly blonde Ashley Parker Angel, formerly of the "Pop Stars" band O-Town, glamming it up with Wolfgang Puck. Now, I know Wolfie has a great reputation among chefs, but I've always found him to be just an average pizza cook, and anyone can make a pizza. Ashley claims that he doesn't know how to cook anything except Eggos and ice cubes, but he's got a huge party planned in a couple of weeks, and wants to impress his friends. Ashley's going to be cooking:
1. Curried Chicken and Shrimp Satays with Peanut Sauce
2. Vegetarian Pizza with Wild Mushrooms and Pesto
3. Caramelized Lemon Crème Brûlée with Fresh Berries
Up next is a real diva (as we're reminded 438 times tonight), Patti LaBelle. She's paired up with Cat Cora, which means they're definitely exceeding the perky quotient for the team, and come in a close second to Ashley, all by himself. Patti has been cooking her whole life, and in a shout-out to good old southern comfort food, she's cooking:
1. Black-eyed Pea Croquettes with Spicy Aioli and Dandelion Greens-Tasso Ham
2. Blackened Shrimp and Grits with Spring Asparagus Petite Salad
3. Coconut Cake with Raspberries
Last but not least (at least, until you see her cooking) is Gabrielle Reece. She may be a killer on the volleyball court, but she's pretty clueless in the kitchen, it turns out. She's teamed up with Govind Armstrong (I love saying that name. Isn't Govind the name of a Muppet?), and she has her work cut out for her with the most ambitious menu of the three, and it's:
1. Tuna Tartare with Crispy Nori and Fresh Wasabi
2. Dover Sole with Artichoke Purée, Green Beans, and Marinated Tomatoes
3. D’Anjou Napolean with Spiced Cranberry Reduction
On to the actual cooking. Immediately, Ashley notices that he's missing a key ingredient:
Eggoseggs. He runs to the pantry to try to find them, so he can get his Crème Brûlée started. And if you think I'm typing all those little accent marks every time, you can just stop reading right now. Gabby's having quite the time with her phyllo dough. Apparently it's too wet, and it's a very sensitive dough. Patti throws 2 lobsters in the pot without hesitation, and I cringe a little. Basically, until the first commercial break, everyone's trying to get started, and everyone's having problems actually doing it.
Back from the break, and now it's time for the Chef Passes. Each celebrity gets one, and each chef gets one. They allow the chef to come in and help for 2 minutes, once. It's best to use them during a critical time, when you need those extra hands. Ashley uses his to have Wolfgang chop veggies, and even though I don't like him, the man is a chopping FOOL in the kitchen. He has a pile of veggies as big as my head in about 3 seconds flat. Patti uses hers for just an extra set of hands, because she really wasn't struggling with anything, except for her 6" spike heels she apparently thought would be good "cookin' shoes". Gabrielle has to use her pass and Govind's pass back-to-back, because she's fairly inept and struggling with everything there is to do.
At this point, I'd like to give some flair points to Ashley. Even though he's so happy he's annoying, he really knows how to pump up the crowd. In fact, at one point, he actually goes out into the crowd, and slaps everyone's hand in the front row, all the way around the kitchen. He also on more than one occasion jumps up on his prep table and gets the crowd yelling. But honestly, if I never hear another shouted "Yeah, baby, yeah!" outside of an Austin Powers movie, I'll die a happy man. The judges claim that they don't care how arrogant he is, because his food looks so good.
With 5 minutes to go, the chefs are allowed into the kitchen to help the celebrities, and for Gabby, it's a lifesaver. She's completely lost, and everything is going wrong. For Patti and Ashley, though, it's just an extra set of hands to help plating up food and getting last-minute details taken care of. Patti has her food plated for the judges first, followed by Ashley, and Gabby gets her last two dishes in just at the buzzer.
Colin and Gael get to taste Gabrielle's dishes first. They decide that she could have used more time in preparation, and it's clear that they're going to take points off for lack of attention to detail. First they try the tuna tartare, and they both love it. It has lots of flavor, apparently, although I'm reminded that they're actually eating raw tuna, and raw tuna does indeed have lots of flavor - it's just that you can't really screw it up, can you? Next is the dover sole, which Colin says is his favorite kind of fish. They say that it's not seasoned enough, but the vegetables are over-seasoned, so it all works out in a not-so-kind way. Last up is the d'anjou, and Gabby has severely overcooked her pears. Overall, the scores are:
Ashley's up next. The judges declare him a rock star in the kitchen, and say he's absolutely fearless. They can't wait to dive into the food. First is the shrimp satay, which gets mixed reviews. Colin loves it, and Gael thinks the shrimp is overcooked and the sauce is too sweet. Gael claims she'd love to wear it as a skirt or a hat. Judging by her hat choices the past two evenings, I'm not sure that's exactly a complimentNext up is the vegetarian pizza. Gael puts is best when she says "pizza is like sex - even when it's bad, it's still pretty good." It's hard to screw up a pizza, and Ashley continues that tradition. Last up is the creme brulee (see, I told you!), and the judges love it. It's perfect, and overall, Ashley gets the following scores:
Last up is Patti LaBelle, and the judges love her soul food. Gael calls it "very handsome", which is a phrase I'm sure she's heard about herself once or twice in her lifetime. First up for Patti are the croquettes. The judges love it. Next is the shrimp and grits, which Colin sums up with one word: yummy. Gael disagrees, saying that the lobster is wildly overcooked. Patti is the first to talk back to the judges, saying the lobster itself was bad, and they must have found it out in the street. Patti's dessert is coconut cake, and I know she's in trouble when Gael says she doesn't like coconut. Patti had some trouble flaming her rum, and it shows in the judge's reactions. Her total score is:
And so, for the second night in a row, Wolfgang's protege moves on to the final round. Can he pull out a clean sweep? Tune in Wednesday and find out!
My culinary skill is limited to scooping out ice cream and dialing a phone. If you need help with either of those, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.