Before we delve into the culinary stylings of the chefs this week, I want to pause a moment and reflect on the sponsor. For years the sponsor was Gladwear, which made sense as it is a food storage product and this show is about food. But suddenly now it’s Dial Nutriskin, a body wash. Unless you’re Kramer, usually food prep and showering don’t go together. What gives? Did Glad get pissed at Padma’s “invention” on 30 Rock? Are these particular contestants in need of a shower more than others? It perplexes me.
Siamese Twin Quick Fire
The kitchen action starts off with Padma and guest judge Sam Kass, an assistant White House chef, challenging the chefs to create a “biparti-sandwich” in thirty minutes. I hope the level of political puns is stepped up over the coming episodes. Making a sandwich in thirty minutes is too easy, so they pair the chefs off by drawing knives then tether them together with double-wide aprons. Each chef can use only one hand so they must work carefully. The only person who seems to have fear is Alex, as he’s worried his partner Tim will cut off his fingers. After the usual dashing about and cooking like fiends, the pairs produce these sandwiches:
Angelo and Tracy: Flounder marinated in fish sauce, spicy siracha mayo, pickled red onions.
Andrea and Kevin: “Philly Cuban” with roasted pork, pickle, whole grain mustard, gruyere cheese.
Amanda and Tamesha: Prosciutto, Swiss cheese, Dijon mustard and pepper salsa.
Alex and Tim: “Croque Madame” of ground lamb, mornay sauce and egg.
Jacqueline and Stephen: Saba vinegar onions, California avocado and chicken.
Kenny and Ed: Korean chili-rubbed ahi tuna, cucumber and mango slaw, multi-grain bread.
Kelly and Arnold: Curry-rubbed grilled chicken, honey and sambal, cucumber, mint, dill and cilantro.
Tiffany and Lynne: Flatbread saltimbocca, goat cheese, artichokes, peppers and white asparagus.
Sam’s verdict is that Jacqueline and Stephen’s sandwich lacked creativity and Tiffany and Lynne’s sandwich did not have a good texture. He did like Angelo and Tracy’s sandwich, saying it was bright and lively and liked the heat of the siracha. Kenny and Ed also produced a great sandwich with beautifully seared tuna. Sam picks Angelo and Tracy for the win and they get immunity in the Elimination challenge. Kenny is really irritated by Angelo’s third consecutive win. No doubt Angelo is relieved, as he owns a sandwich shop in New York and would otherwise be embarrassed.
A Visit to Lunch Lady Land
Guest judge Sam is not around merely because they’re in DC; he is affiliated with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to eliminate obesity by starting with kids. The Elimination Challenge has the chefs working in teams of four to create a healthy lunch for fifty middle schoolers on the public school budge of $2.68 per child, or $134. Sam takes $4 away for overhead, so the budget is down to $130 for shopping at Restaurant Depot.
Angelo and Tracey have the choice of what QF pair they want to work with; in a bit of strategy, they chose Kenny and Ed. Angelo is on a mission to take down Kenny. The other pairs match up and the teams are: Team 1 Tracey, Angelo, Ed, and Kenny; Team 2 Amanda, Stephen, Tamesha, and Jacqueline; Team 3 Andrea, Alex, Tim, and Kevin; and Team 4 Lynne, Kelly, Arnold, and Tiffany. Each person on the teams will be responsible for one of the meal components, which must include a main course, side dish, vegetable, and dessert.
The teams spend thirty minutes working up their menus. Tracey decides on a healthy chicken burger for her dish and the guys fuss over Angelo’s idea of peanut butter on celery. On Team 2, Amanda wants to do sherry-braised chicken but Tamesha thinks gnocchi would be better. Amanda wears everyone down and Jacqueline crazily volunteers to do a dessert. Really, after being in the bottom last week? Team 3 agrees on mac & cheese and seems to have the best camaraderie of all the groups. Team 4 has Kelly dominating the conversation about carnitas and feta and pickled onions, despite objections from Tiffany and Arnold.
Shopping is even more wild than usual due to the budget constraints. Team 2 hits a huge budget problem, with Amanda insisting on getting sherry and vinegar and sucking so much out of the budget that Jacqueline cannot buy the chocolate for her choco-banana pudding. Back in the kitchen, Team 3 buzzes along in harmony. Kenny wonders if his Team 1’s menu is as healthy as it ought to be. On Team 2, Jacqueline struggles with her now banana-only pudding, as the bananas are very starchy. She adds a ton of sugar to help the pudding along. Team 4 has Kelly taking credit for all of the choices the team made, which pisses Arnold off to no end. Later that evening, back at the house, Arnold, Tiffany and Lynne call her out on starting every sentence with “I” when describing their meal.
The next day, the chefs arrive at Alice Deal Middle School for one hour of prep before serving the kids and the judges. Angelo’s foam gun—for peanut butter foam, which just sounds repulsive—breaks and he asks Kevin if he can spare one. Andrea nixes the lending; after all they’re there to win and Angelo has immunity. Later on, Angelo re-works the issue and uses a piping bag for his peanut butter.
Tom arrives and reveals his mother managed a school kitchen for twenty years. I now understand his aversion to spicy foods. He checks in on Kevin’s use of yogurt foam as a whipped cream doppelganger; Tom thinks this is very smart. Checking in on Team 4, Arnold tells Tom that they “all” did the work; Tom thinks this is a weak move because if they go down, there’s nowhere to hide. He doesn’t know Arnold is trying to mitigate Kelly’s “I” problem. Tom then psychs Kenny out a bit by reminding him that two of his teammates have immunity, so if they’re the worst team, he has a 50% shot of going home.
The hour passes quickly and the kids and judges arrive for service. The meals served are:
Team 3 Andrea, Alex, Tim, and Kevin’s picnic-themed plate with Andrea and Alex’s slaw with yogurt and grilled apple cider barbeque chicken, Tim’s mac & cheese with whole wheat crust, and Kevin’s fresh melon kebab, orange chantilly dipped in yogurt foam that looked like whipped cream. The judges like most of the dishes but find the mac & cheese to be a bit weak.
Team 1 Tracey, Angelo, Ed, and Kenny’s lunch plate of Tracey’s chicken burger with fiesta rice, Angelo’s peanut butter celery crudités and tuile, Ed’s sweet potato puree with cinnamon, and Kenny’s apple bread pudding with cinnamon yogurt. The judges find the sweet potato puree has too much hot pepper in it, the bread pudding okay, the burger good, and they have no idea if Angelo’s offering was a dessert or a vegetable portion.
Team 4 Lynne, Kelly, Arnold, and Tiffany present their lunch consisting of Lynne’s black bean cake with crispy sweet potato strings, Kelly’s braised pork carnitas tacos with pickled onions and cilantro, Arnold’s roasted corn salad with cilantro lime vinaigrette and chili oil, and Tiffany’s caramelized sweet potatoes and sherbet. The judges are impressed by the amount of color on the plate and love everything they tasted.
Team 2 Amanda, Stephen, Tamesha, and Jacqueline serve Amanda’s braised chicken thigh with sherry jus, Stephen’s sweet onion rice with tomato, carrots and green onions, Tamesha’s bean and tomato salad, pickled red onions, and apple cider vinaigrette, and Jacqueline’s banana pudding with skim milk and fresh strawberries. The judges are stunned at the use of sherry in a school setting but like Tamesha’s salad. They aren’t impressed with the starchy and overly sweet banana pudding and the rice was too mushy.
The Perfect Childhood Diet: Alcohol, Sugar, and No Veggies.
Padma arrives in the Stew Room and calls for Team 1 and Team 2, which makes Kelly very nervous. As the teams stand before the Judges’ Table Tom says the challenge was about addressing health issues and serving appropriate food for schools. Padma drops the bomb that they are the bottom two teams and the defense begins. Stephen says he didn’t have enough money to put all the vegetables he wanted to in the rice. Jacqueline similarly says she didn’t have enough money for chocolate and she had to add two pounds of sugar into the pudding to get the starchiness down. Sam finds this to be entirely too much sugar and wonders how they had the budget to buy sherry but not chocolate.
Gail complains that Ed’s sweet potato puree was too spicy for kids and Sam says going with a starch is an easy way out. There was a serious lack of vegetables on the plate; Kenny offers there was tomato on the burger, and Sam quickly points out what every third grader knows: tomatoes are fruit. Ultimately, the only vegetable on the plate was the celery and Tom asks Angelo if he would have made the same thing if he didn’t have immunity. Gail asks who was looking at the plate as a whole for nutritional value. Kenny intimates he tried to raise the issue but he had to come to an agreement with the people who had immunity. Stephen, on the other team, jumps in and asks why he didn’t say anything if Kenny knew there was no vegetable. Kenny snipes back that two pounds of sugar in pudding surely isn’t any better. Amanda, of the sherry fixation, shoots back that peanut butter is chock full of sugar and fat and is terrible for kids. This prompts Gail to ask why Amanda used sherry. Amanda replies she likes chicken braised with sherry and it wasn’t like she was serving it up by the glass. Gail says she likes vodka but she’s not using it with kids.
The bottom two teams are sent back to the Stew Room, tell the others that they were actually in the bottom, and send in Team 4 to see the judges. Kelly, Lynne, Arnold, and Tiffany created the best lunch, although the judges did praise Team 3 for their barbeque and use of yogurt foam. The judges ask who did what on Team 4. Arnold did the corn salad, which the judges like for its look and taste. Kelly made the carnitas tacos, and the judges really liked the crunchy onions. Tiffany’s sweet potato and sherbet is praised for look and texture, and Tom said one of the kids who didn’t usually like sweet potatoes loved the dish. Lynne’s choice of black bean cakes was a bit unusual, but since she dressed it up with the fried sweet potato strings (or a sweet potato wig, as she called it) it appealed to the students. Sam gives the win to Kelly for her carnitas tacos.
Team 4 returns to the Stew Room and Kelly sends Kenny, Ed, Amanda and Jacqueline back to see the judges. Tom declares Kenny needed to be more assertive about balancing the nutrition of the plate, as did Ed, because they should have seen the plate was too starchy. He says Amanda’s chicken was not appealing to anyone and Jacqueline’s pudding was grainy, unappealing, and had too much sugar. Padma then tells Jacqueline to pack her knives and go—in my view, a week later than it should have been. Jacqueline departs, wishing she had fought for more than 10% of the budget. She is disappointed but realizes she has to live with the choices she made.