This week, the participants were:
Wilo Benet from Pikayo in San Juan Puerto Rico (charity: San Jorge Children's Foundation), Cindy Pawlcyn from Mustard Grill in Napa (Clinic Ole), Ludo Lefebvre from Ludo Bites in LA (CHASE for Life) and Rick Bayless from the Frontera Grill in Chicago (Frontera Farmer).
The Quickfire Challenge had a familiar look - the contestants drew knives. They were different colors. Wilo got orange, Cindy yellow, Ludo red and Rick green. They were charged with creating a dish in that one color.
Wilo made a smoked salmon tartare with raw carrots. Cindy had quick grits and sweet corn with a vegetable curry of yellow tomatoes, peppers and a corn tortilla garnish. Ludo concocted a red beet gazpacho with steak tartare with watermelon and red onion. Rick had green roasted vegetables on a banana leaf with a mole verde with tomatillos and pumpkin seeds.
Judges were three women who work photographing food. They want food to look good and taste good. Ludo's gazpacho was not taken to the table. I felt that was the waiter's fault and was unfair. The judges liked the flavors and textures in Cindy's dish. They liked Rick's dish but wanted to lick the plate with Wilo's. However, he did not take the ring off the tartare and it looked odd.
Wilo 4 1/2 stars
Rick 4 stars
Cindy 3 1/2 stars
Ludo 3 stars
For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs would prepare street food to be served at Universal Studios Hollywood. The meat? Offal. Again, a choice of knives. Each number corresponded to silver domed plate.
Wilo - beef hearts
Rick - tongue
Cindy - tripe
Ludo - pig's ears
I had to laugh. If anyone could make a dish out of offal, it was the Frenchman Ludo. He had to have worked in a charcuterie when he was training in France. I am sure if you gave him a day, he could have turned all four items into a gourmet meal. I would be first in line.
The trip to Whole Foods was in addition to 3 hours of prep. OMG, I thought, I hope there were pressure cookers. All the offal could only be made with long slow cooking. Thankfully, there were. Rick was helpful to everyone, aiding Ludo in finding a cheese for his quesadillas, instructing Cindy how to use the pressure cookers. Ludo calmly boiled his ears like he would have in France in water with vegetables. Wilo chopped the hearts small to make a tripleta on pita bread. Rick grilled the tongue for tacos. Cindy stewed menuedo and Ludo had his pig ear quesadillas. Ludo had problems getting the food done with no help and had lines of people waiting.
Back at the studios, the judges gave Ludo credit for having the toughest of the meats. They seemed unimpressed with Cindy and her safe, under spiced menuedo. The scores were:
Rick 18 1/2 stars
Wilo 15 stars
Ludo 13 1/2 stars
Cindy 12 stars
Added to the Quickfire, Rick won the day. We are now half way through the preliminary rounds. The finals are going to be awesome.