Warrior Chef 1: Round 2

Jimmy: @I almost got eliminated in the last round, and now I’m back for another round of cooking. @I’ve got to compose myself. @It’s a new day!

Leona: @After the last challenge, I felt really angry. @I deserved to win the challenge, but I wasn’t even selected to be in the top three. @That sucks!

Lucas: @Immunity is no longer on the table for anyone at the moment, and that makes me nervous. @I have to cook my best from here on out and hope I score a win and immunity for anything coming up next.

Carrie: Welcome back! So for tonight’s challenge, we want to see you guys get inventive with a very unlikable ingredient!

A cart is wheeled in, carrying a variety of tofu, ranging in firmnesses.

Zack: @I see the tofu, and I’m feeling underwhelmed.

Jackson: @Tofu?! @Really?! @That’s so boring!

Carrie: You’ll have 30 minutes to prepare your dishes with tofu. Time starts now!

Karen: @I’m going to make a tofu bread pudding with currants, raisins, figs, and salted caramel. @I’m using blended up tofu in place of the eggs, and I’m thinning that out with coconut milk. @I think it’ll be an unusual take on bread pudding, and that’ll play into my favor with this challenge.

Vanilla: @Haha! @Tofu is so gross! @But I know a few things I can do with it. @I grab silken tofu, and I’m making tofu ice cream, tofu chocolate mousse, and tofu-orange custard. @I’m going to make tofu infused crumble as well, using tapioca and almond flours to help make it extra crumbly and crunchy.

Vincent: @Chef Bobby has shown me a few recipes with tofu in the past. @I’m going to use the firm tofu and make a char su tofu. @I’m going to pair that with some cabbage and mushrooms. @I’m feeling super enthusiastic about this dish. @I’m determined to win immunity!

Tadashi: @I know tofu like the back of my hand. @But I’m so used to making traditional tofu preparations that making it creatively ought to be interesting. @I’m making a dashi infused tofu chawanmushi. @To make the chawanmushi, I’m going to blend dashi, agar agar, and silken tofu and set those into glasses. @I’m making a ponzu sauce with some fresh greens just to contrast that. @I know that this is going to be a dish that stands out, so hopefully it’ll be a really standout dish.

Lucas: @I’m tasting the different kinds of tofu, and I think about using the spongier firm tofu in my dish tonight. @I’m blending it up, and then I’m going to use it to bind together my mushroom croquettes with a beet hummus. @I’m trying to keep my flavor profiles really simple tonight, because it’s just 30 minutes. @Simplicity has served me well in the past, so I’m going to keep at that.

Leona: @I’m taking that tofu and pureeing it. @I’m making a potato-tofu puree with a seared wagyu ribeye and a jus that I’m thickening with pureed tofu. @I’m using parmesan to season my puree and the tofu, I’m hoping it’ll act like butter. @My biggest fear is that the tofu won’t be noticeable, but at the same time, I don’t want that bland taste to dominate the dish.

Zack: @Leona’s trying really hard to mask the tofu, but that might be the smartest way to cook with this ingredient. @I’m making a tofu aioli with some roasted vegetables and lemon-garlic gremolata. @I want to go vegetarian, because it’s tofu, and you think vegetarian when you think tofu. @It’s going to be my inspiration for this dish, making the vegetables and produce shine first.

Jackson: @I grab the extra firm tofu, and I’m tasting it. @It’s really spongy. @I decide to treat the tofu like tripe and marinate it in mustard and yogurt, and then I’m going to roast it in a pan and then transfer it to the oven. @I also want to make a scrambled egg, and I’m blending silken tofu into that. @I’m going to season it with sturgeon caviar, because that’ll make it very fresh and pungent.

Carrie: Time’s up!
Karen: @I step back from my station, and I think my dish looks nice. @I made bread pudding with tofu. @That’s pretty ballsy, even for bread pudding.

Jackson: @I don’t think Karen making a bread pudding is going to put her on the map. @I think my dish is going to be the one that earns immunity.

Carrie: Your judge is vegan and raw food expert, Chloe Lula!
Chloe: Hi, guys! So tofu has been classically mistreated over the years. Being a semi-vegetarian myself, I know what beautiful dishes it can be used to make. I want to see where tofu can take your cooking tonight.

Vanilla: @Haha! @Chloe is an incredible influence on my cooking. @Her vegan cupcakes and cookies are some of the best desserts in the world!

Fanny: @Great, as if having tofu wasn’t hard enough. @Now we’ve got the bloody queen of cooking it judging our dishes.

Chloe and Carrie taste the dishes.

Carrie: So Chloe, who mistreated tofu the way many cooks in the 80s did?

Chloe: Zack, the aioli was actually tasty, but the issue was your vegetables. The squash were undercooked and hard. Leona, the wagyu just completely dominated the dish and the puree with the actual tofu in it was chunky and split. Vincent, the char su tofu, it was something most vegetarian cooks in the 80s would try, making tofu a meat substitute. It just doesn’t work like that.

Leona: @Chloe’s opinion doesn’t matter to me. @I know that I’m a much stronger cook than Zack and Vincent, so it doesn’t matter to me.

Carrie: And your favorites?

Chloe: So for my top three. Karen, your bread pudding was dynamite and the fact you used only tofu and no eggs, it was impressive how it set. I think all bread puddings should use silken tofu from now on. Vanilla, the dessert you presented was gorgeous, and your crumble with the tofu and the ice cream, I was impressed by all of the different applications. It flowed together organically. Lucas. Your croquettes were simple, but the mushroom-tofu combination was actually delicious and the beets offset that perfectly. Tonight, I had a hard choice. But my favorite dish belonged to… Vanilla.

Carrie: Congratulations, Vanilla! That means that you won immunity!

Vanilla: Eee! @I’m so happy!~ @Haha!~ @I got immunity, two rounds in a row! @Being safe is such a great feeling!

Tadashi: @Not getting on top of this challenge, it puts a bigger fire in my stomach to win the next challenge. @Vanilla’s proving herself consistently and she just might be my biggest competitor.

Carrie: So now for the elimination challenge. You’ll have just 1 hour to prepare a dish inspired by your heritage. It could either mean your culture or your upbringing. Your time starts… now!

Vanilla: @My heritage, well, I’m a girl from Perth, WA. @I’m an Aussie and I was originally a beauty guru before falling in love with desserts!~ @Haha!~  @For my dish tonight, I want to make something savory. @I’m preparing a roasted pork belly with pear puree and mustard-honey-cinnamon jus, with thyme-cinnamon pear chip. @This is inspired by Christmas at home! @I have to make sure that everything I do makes the judges smile and laugh! @Haha!~

Karen: @Vanilla is proving herself to be a major threat. @She’s won all of the challenges we’ve had together, and to say that’s no east feat is putting it lightly. @My heritage is French and German. @I want to prepare a pork schnitzel with a Dijon mustard butter sauce and tarragon parisian gnocchi. @It’s a simple dish, but I know how to execute everything on it well. @Being the youngest here, I want to keep proving myself to the older cooks and show that I’m not easy-pickings in this and that I’m  here for the long haul.

Lucas: @I love American classics and being from Boston, I cook seafood a lot. @I’m preparing a humble clam chowder. @I’m using the littleneck clams, heavy cream, a simple roux, plenty of herbs, corn, potatoes, and pork belly. @I don’t want to do some fine-dining take on this, because it’s a dish inspired by my heritage, and that’s my heritage. @Boston strong.

Tadashi: @Having to cook a dish by my Japanese-Californian heritage, it’s going to be a  cinch. @I’m making a smoked uni risotto with butter poached spot prawns and a lemongrass oil, and kale-sesame gremolata. @I think that’ll be the best way to showcase my Asian roots, but in a classic European manner. @Looking at my competition, I’m only thinking about my own progress. @I got a perfect score in that preliminary, and I want to keep showing that I can cook good food and win the title.

Zack: @Being on the bottom of the last challenge puts a huge fire under my ass. @Leona and Tadashi have proven themselves, and I’m the only gatecrasher who hasn’t. @This is my chance to step it up. @For my dish tonight, it’s inspired by my mentor, Gordon Ramsay. @He taught me about flavors and textures. @I’m preparing a seared scallop with coconut-avocado risotto. @It’s really creative, because I’m finishing my risotto with a coconut-avocado puree to give it that rich, creamy finish. @For the broth to cook my risotto, I’m using shiitake mushrooms, dried scallops, and lime peel.

Leona: @Zack’s making risotto and scallops. @That’s pretty boring, just like him. @I want to do something interesting. @Being African American, I know how to bring the party to the party. @I’m making a speck and gruyere mac n’ cheese with brown butter crumbs. @It’s really delicious, and I’m going to spice it up with some chilies and I’m using porcini powder in my crumble, just to really amp up the umami flavor.

Vincent: @Chef Flay has taught me well, and I think about Thanksgiving dinner, so let’s go with that. @I’m making a turkey ice cream with cranberry jam, rosemary caramel, and cornbread crumble. @The turkey ice cream, I’m using turkey stock and brown sugar, mixed with milk powder, heavy cream, garlic, herbs de province, and eggs. @I think Chef will be proud of me for making this work. @I’m taking Thanksgiving and translating it into a dessert. @Nobody here is doing that, I guarantee you.

Jackson: @I decide to cook a classic of my grandma’s. @Strawberry tart with vanilla bean ice cream, white chocolate mousse, and lemon curd. @I don’t really bake as often, but I’ve seen Vanilla getting a lot of wins off of her desserts, so maybe I could win a challenge or two using a dessert as well? @For my tart shells, I’m using pate sucre, which is made with flour, butter, sugar, and egg yolks. @I’m using the leftover egg whites to make my white chocolate mousse, since I’m using egg yolks in almost every other component in my dish.

Fanny: @Sweetheart, I’ve got this one in the bag. @Being from New York, I know what I can make that will show my roots. @I’m a boxer, and I love to eat chicken for protein. @And in New York, you smell street food from a mile away. @I’m making the Halal styled chicken and rice. @I’m using the chicken broth with cumin and turmeric to season my rice, and then I’m going to crisp up the meat in the pan. @I’m also making a yogurt aioli and a salad with shaved radishes, oranges, and shaved brussels sprouts. @The salad isn’t traditional to this dish, but it works!

Jimmy: @I’m excited to have another shot at representing Hawaii with my dish tonight. @I’m going to make Kahlua braised pork shoulder with a milk bun and a pineapple-coconut salsa. @The risk is making my own bread from scratch, but if I can nail this, then my dish will definitely propel me to the top three, if not win the entire challenge. @I know, regardless, that my pork will deliver on flavor and taste.

Tadashi: @I taste my risotto, and I screwed up. @The rice, it’s overcooked. @At this point, I only have 6 minutes left on the clock. @So I grab the risotto, and chuck it into the blender. @I add in more of my reserve uni butter, and some prawn stock, and blend that into a bisque. @Hopefully, it’ll work.

Carrie: Time’s up!

Fanny: @I think my dish looks gorgeous, but then I see some of the other dishes, and I’m not feeling too worried.

Karen: @I see Vincent’s dish, and it’s horrifying. @He made turkey ice cream. @I think he’s going home. @There’s no way he’s going to be safe tonight.

Carrie: Your judges are:

Erwin Ko

Aster Walker

Thyme De Lys

Carrie: So let’s get into the dishes, starting with Jackson’s, Lucas’, and Karen’s!

Jackson – strawberry tart. vanilla bean ice cream, white chocolate mousse, lemon curd

Lucas – herb-pork belly clam chowder with corn

Karen – pork schnitzel, Dijon mustard butter sauce, tarragon parisian gnocchi

Thyme: Jackson’s tart, it was under-filled but baked properly. The strawberries, give or take, they weren’t glazed, so it just tasted bland. The vanilla ice cream, white chocolate mousse, and lemon curd, it made the dish taste way too creamy. I needed more lemon.

Erwin: Lucas made a beautiful soup. It wasn’t complex, it wasn’t cheffy, and that’s what I loved about it. The clams were cooked beautifully, the chowder was creamy, I loved the chunks of braised pork belly, and the accompaniments were delicious!

Aster: Karen cooked that pork nicely. The mustard sauce was a delicious component to serve with the crispy fried pork and the gnocchi were rich and delicious. My issue was that nothing really popped other than her sauce, which I wanted a lot more of.

Carrie: Next are the dishes by Jimmy, Zack, and Leona!

Jimmy – Kahlua pork in milk buns and pineapple-coconut salsa

Zack – seared scallop, avocado-coconut risotto

Leona – gruyere-speck mac n’ cheese, brown butter-porcini crumble

Thyme: Jimmy nailed the pork for sure. It was succulent, falling apart, and smoky. The salsa was fresh and vibrant. My issue was that his bread was dense. Had it had enough time to proof, this would have been a real contender to win the challenge.
Erwin: Zack’s scallop was cooked nicely, with that crust being gorgeous. The risotto, it was inventive to use avocado to make it rich and creamy. I liked the flavors and the presentation. It was simple, but well-executed.

Aster: Leona’s mac n’ cheese was on the heavy side. Her pasta was cooked nicely, but the brown butter, speck, and cheese, it was a lot to stomach. I loved the usage of porcini, but that’s about the only thing that made this stand out to me.

Carrie: Now we’ve got the dishes by Tadashi, Fanny, and Vincent!

Tadashi – poached spot prawns, uni bisque, lemongrass oil, kale-sesame gremolata

Fanny – Halal chicken and rice

Vincent – turkey ice cream, cornbread crumble, rosemary caramel, cranberry jam

Aster: That bisque had such a beautiful texture. It was velvety, gorgeous, and the gremolata, oil, and prawns, it all paired so well together. This dish respected the ingredients and the produce, and there were so much balance between everything.

Thyme: The things that Fanny’s dish lacked included that delicious na’an bread that goes with this dish. And her salad, it just detracted from the flavors. Raw radish, it does add freshness, but the watery quality of it just diluted the not-so-intense flavors in the chicken. It tasted really bland because of that.
Erwin: Vincent’s ice cream, I spat it out. It was disgusting. The rest of the dish does work, but the turkey ice cream, he infused it with garlic, and that just killed the entire experience for me. Garlic and sugar, combining those two, it makes a dessert taste rancid or foul.

Carrie: So can we decide who won the challenge, and who’s going home?

Thyme: We can.

In walks Lucas, Zack, and Tadashi.

Carrie: Tonight…. the three of you prepared the judges’ favorite dishes, and one of you will win the challenge!

Aster: Lucas, your clam chowder was the simplest dish tonight, but it was so well executed that I couldn’t fault it.

Thyme: Zack, your risotto was genius. Using whipped avocado to make a richer texture, I just loved it.

Erwin: Tadashi, your bisque had a deep, deep flavor, and we all loved the complexity of the dish. It was refined and gorgeous.

Tadashi: @It’s hilarious, because Lucas made a seafood soup, Zack made a seafood risotto, and my dish was a seafood risotto turned seafood soup! @Funny how great minds think alike, am I right?

Carrie: So Thyme, who won the challenge?

Thyme: Everyone here made gorgeous food, and it was a tough call. But the best dish belonged to… Tadashi.

Carrie: Congratulations, Tadashi! You won the elimination challenge!

Tadashi: Thank you. @I won my first elimination challenge and I feel awesome! @I can’t believe I took a mistake and turned into a winning dish! @It’s unbelievable!

Lucas: @That wasn’t even the dish Tadashi meant to put up, and he STILL won. @This guy is a monster.

Zack: @I’m glad that I got on top, but I need to keep this momentum going . @Let’s go! @Next challenge! @Bring it on!

The top three leave.

In walks Jackson, Vincent, and Fanny.

Carrie: Sadly, the three of you are on the bottom and one of you is going home.

Erwin: Jackson, our issue with your dessert was that your tart was filled with untreated strawberries and all of your garnishes, it was confused.

Thyme: Vincent, your ice cream just ruined that entire dish. I couldn’t eat anything.

Aster: Fanny, the radishes and the lack of na’an, you just took a few too many shortcuts, and the combination of flavors, it was bland.

Carrie: One really talented cook is going home. Tonight, that person is… Vincent. Please return to the kitchen and leave.

Vincent: Alright. Thank you for this opportunity. @I thought I was going to go a lot further than this. @I’m so pissed. @This sucks! @Chef Flay did not mentor a loser. @I should have been Warrior Chef! @Hands down!

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