What a great way to start the season! A cooking contest in Chicago must involve Chicago style pizza, mustn't it? And the pizzas looked good. Except for one that was all bread.
First, let's review the contestants and what I feel is the biggest controvery of any season, so far.
Andrew--who is extremely self-confident and quite braggadocious.
Antionia--sorry, I don't remember her.
Dale--Hung II. Seriously. Molded in the image of Hung. And not in a good way.
Erik--Like wow! What is this guy doing in the kitchen. He looks like a bounty hunter. He scares me.
Jennifer--Kewpie doll lesbian.
Lisa--another who had a poor edit last nite and I really don't remember.
Manuel--did not make an impression last nite. I'm blaming these on the edit. I'm sure he has a personality.
Mark--a cutie from New Zealand, heretofore to be called Cutie Kiwi.
Nikki--sorry, another that did not stand out last night.
Nimma--Well, hmmmm, uhhhh, they spent a lot of time on her. She didn't want to make friends, only wanted to play alone.
Richard--twin haircut with Jennifer.
Ryan--the pretty boy in the group. He claims to have been cooking since he was 11.
Spike--being a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I couldn't help but remember his name. And that he is greek.
Stephanie--cuddly short girl with curly hair...fluffy, like a true foodie should be.
Valerie--I'm so sorry I don't remember you.
Zoi--Jennifer's partner, also a chef from San Francisco.
Okay, I wouldn't make such a big deal of the lesbian couple if the show hadn't. I personally feel it gives them an unfair advantage. While everyone else is away from home and family and friends and loved ones, they have each other. These two women have their support system with them. It makes them stronger.
Done with my rant now.
The quickfire challenge was genius! Create your own signature Chicago style pizza. And they (most of them) looked fabulous. I was so hungry watching Padma and Rocco eat these that I had to go have bowl of cereal. Especially liked the idea of the peach with a sweet tea reduction. Rocco selected the best, exactly half of the group, and left the contestants to settle into their new digs. Nimma decided to separate herself from the group, as did Dale.
The elimination challenge came the next day and was mucho fun. The winning group from the night before had to each select a challenger from the losing group. The challenger then selected the item they would each cook. The choices? Crab cakes, Duck l'Orange, lasagna, chicken piccata, steak au poivre, eggs bennedict, shrimp scampi and souffle.
Richard and Andrew face off on crab-cakes. Andrew forgot to buy mayo and used panko bread crumbs which nobody liked.
Mark and Stephanie presented their duck l'orange. Both had taken an Asian swing, but Andrew failed miserably while Stephanie created a dish the judges did not want to stop eating.
Jennifer and Nikki did the lasagna. While Jennifer went for the winter veggies, Nikki made her own pasta and used goat cheese to make a more traditional version. The judges liked both, but preferred Nikki's.
Spike and Lisa did eggs bennedict. They loved both, but felt Lisa had better execution. And she used lobster.
Dale and Manuel made steak au poivre. Dale deconstructed his, while Miguel gave his a mexican flare. The judges liked both, but preferred Dale's.
Ryan and Valerie presented chicken picatta. The judges hated Ryan's. Really, really, really hated. They didn't like Valerie's either, but they hated Ryan's.
Lisa and Nimma did shrimp scampi. Nimma's shrimp was too salty and her cauliflour flan was not flan.
Eric and Zoi did souffle and neither did well. The flavors were there for both, but they made custard, not souffle.
In the end, Stephanie was declared the winner and Nimma went home.