Bacon steak, folks? Really? When I first realized the finalists on last night’s episode of The Next Food Network Star were going to be challengers on the Iron Chef, I grew excited, sat up in my chair and paid even closer attention than normal. Could it be, they’re mingling two of the coolest shows ever, on this, one of my favorite channels? Yes indeedy, they are!
Challenge: Shrimp went off without a hitch, in my humble, non-professional foodie opinion. I predicted in the beginning of the episode that Aarti was going to slay the rest and take home the title of Winner for the evening. I was right. I was surprised to hear that she was nervous about getting the spice mix just right for the Prawn Masala, as she is a very experienced cook. It just goes to show that even the most schooled cooks need to remember their past disasters when preparing every future dish. I have made masala just once and it turned out fabulous. Now, I am super excited to try Aarti’s recipe! Despite her doubt and nervousness, the judges loved the masala as well as her other two dishes. I stand by my prediction that she is going to win the whole gig. Go Aarti!
Herb carried his own in this challenge but in no way came close to Aarti’s success. His Enchilado de Camerones impressed the judges, one of who cleaned his plate completely. His Mexican Shrimp Soup received solid reviews but unfortunately, the grit that seeped from the oysters upstaged the flavors of the dish. The third dish received such poor reviews that I won’t waste my blog space here to mention it. Sorry, Herb. However, I think I should note here, that my daughter thinks you’re hot and would totally go out with you even though I will forbid it because I’m sure you are much too old for her. Perhaps you have a son. Who can cook.
Challenge: Bacon. For Farm Animal’s Sake!! Where do I start?! Tom and Aria, what were you thinking? Ok, I should probably take that back. Aria, you were not thinking. Tom, you really did give it your all, didn’t you? We recognize that and we give you that. Now please make something edible, next time.
Aria made the second dish my kids learned how to make when they were about nine or 10 and wanted to surprise us with breakfast in bed on a holiday. The absolute worst part of that dish was when the camera panned in on a plain, white plate with a thin, lonely, boring piece of french toast. Not sure what that was all about, but the judges had it right. This does not bode well for an Iron Chef competition and frankly, nor does it bode well for a contestant in any kind of culinary challenge. Unless you are that kid in Home Ec class vying for extra credit.
So, what was done with the side of bacon to make it so spectacular? Was it shellacked in bourbon before being cooked? That would’ve been tasty. She did throw bacon into a salad – ingenious! It seemed that’s what she did with the potatoes, as well. Not impressed. Don’t get me wrong, when the show first started Aria was my favorite contestant. As the episodes wore on, she seemed to care less about each challenge and more about shrugging her shoulders and proving some point. At the judging toward the end of the night, she said something to the effect of “that’s my point of view.” Well, my point of view is that, if I were single, and didn’t have a husband to feed, I might eat my favorite BLT for dinner every night. But if I were chosen over thousands of other contestants to be on a culinary show in front of millions of viewers, you bet your ass I’d put out something much, much better and creative and challenging than a BLT. How about one with spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes? Some thick-cut, candied bacon? How about a touch of brie to meld it all together? Put it on puff pastry, maybe? Make it a napolean? Ummm…sounds ok. Anything is better than three slices of bacon or a piece of bread on a plate.
Tom is a different animal, entirely. He has so much heart about his cooking. If you focus really hard, you can just about see it on his sleeve. In fact, he had so much heart and eagerness to show the judges he meant business, he went too far over that ledge and produced inedible dishes. I mean, really, can you see yourself going into any establishment and saying “yeah, I’d like to start with the bacon cake, please.” No. You cannot. If I’m wrong, please RUN – DON”T WALK to your nearest nutritionist for a refresher course. Tom’s other two dishes aren’t really worth a mention here, but he is worthy of his slot in the final three. I have never seen him bomb this bad and I hope we don’t again.
My prediction: Aarti, Tom, Herb. PS, Alton Brown, we love you.