Warrior Chef 3: Round 1

Kira: @I’m the first one who walks into the kitchen, and it’s a nice kitchen. @I’m ready to see what I can do in this season.

Taylor: @I walk to my station, and it’s just feeling that much more real. @I have a chance here to make a difference with my future.

Phung: @Looking at the pantry, I’m trying to figure out where the tupperware are. @I need to stock up some ingredients before I get eliminated so that I don’t need groceries.

Michele: Welcome to Warrior Chef!

Elizabeth: @Being a gluten-free baker, I think this competition will be a great opportunity for me to showcase my unique set of skills. @I’m ready to show the world what I got.

Michele: So we all know you’re here to prove why you are ready to take the culinary world by storm. So for starters, we wanted to make this first challenge something people are familiar with!
A cart is wheeled in, carrying three kinds of potatoes: russet, yukon gold, and sweet.

Michele: So for your creativity challenge, you will be responsible for two things! The first is to peel 1 pound of whatever potato you choose. The second, to take that potato, and create a dish out of it. The twist is that not all of you will get to cooking in this challenge. The last three people who are still peeling their potatoes will not be allowed to cook. For the actual cooking process, you’ll have 30 minutes, counting down from when the first person finishes. So everyone, 1 pound of peeled potatoes, your time starts now!

Lauren: @I immediately grab the russet potatoes, because they are the longest in shape, so I can get more peeled per pound, and I can advance to the second half of the challenge immediately.

Kira: @I’m currently a line cook, so I know how to peel a potato. @I grab the russet potatoes, because they are the largest, and that’ll be easier to get a pound out of them. @I see Elizabeth and James grabbing the sweet potatoes. @Good luck with those. @The shapes of them are already a challenge to peel around.

Elizabeth: @I grab the sweet potatoes because I know how to make a delicious dessert out of them. @The Yukon gold, in my eyes, they will be the trickiest to peel because the starch is too sticky.

James: @The sweet potatoes just remind me of Thanksgiving and I know that I can make a pretty awesome dish using those, so that’s what I’m going with. @I think it’s the smartest option.

Henry: @I grab the Yukon potatoes because they are very small, and I know that I can get through peeling them faster than everyone else.

Phung: @I grab the Yukon potatoes because I know how to make a delicious potato dish using the Yukons. @And if I lose the challenge, I’m going to just take the rest of the Yukons and pocket them for later. @Whoops.

Jaenice: @I love myself a sweet potato, so I go straight for that.

Cherry: @Jaenice, Elizabeth, and James all run for the sweet potatoes, but I think that’s suicidal, so I grab the Yukon golds, because they might take longer to peel, but they are an inherently smaller potato, so I need less time to cook them.

Teddy: @I grab the Yukon gold potatoes, because I see Phung grabbing them, and I know that she’s good at cooking. @Phung’s reputation on the East coast is legendary. @The girl who has won multiple culinary competitions in the area. @She’s the one to watch out for.
Justin: @I grab the russet potatoes because I want to make gnocchi, and those potatoes will lend themselves the best for being riced.

Kira: Check!

Michele: Kira, your russet potatoes are peeled perfectly, and you have a pound of them! You’re good to go!

Kira: Awesome. Thanks! @So now I have a full 30 minutes to prepare a potato dish, and the first thing I think about is a spanish tortilla with some speck wrapped shrimp and a paprika-chili crema.

Lauren: Check!

Phung: Check!

Michele: Lauren, you’re good to go. Phung, you are too!

Lauren: @I have 26 minutes left on the clock, and I don’t really know what I want to do with the russet potato quite yet. @I decide on a lobster, corn, and potato chowder, because it’ll be something I know how to execute.

Phung: @I’m going to make a potato croquette with pate butter and a Vietnamese styled cabbage salad with the fish sauce vinaigrette and pickled vegetables. @I have 25 minutes to make this, so my goal is to get the potatoes grated and into boiling water first, and then going onto the pate right after that.

Jaenice, Taylor, Teddy, and Justin, Cherry, Justin all finish their peeling, and move onto the actual cooking

Jaenice: @I’m going to make a sweet potato pie. @It’s going to be a tart with a blind-baked crust, because I don’t have enough time to bake the filling into the dough.

Elizabeth: @It’s down to me, James, Henry, and Gabe for the last spot. @There’s only 21 minutes left and it’s terrifying me.

Gabe: @I’m with Henry who picked the Yukon potatoes, and Elizabeth and James who chose the sweet potatoes.

Henry: @I see that Gabe’s struggling with his Yukon as well, but I might be able to overtake him at this point.

Justin: @I notice that the bottom four are still struggling to peel their potatoes, and that’s fine with me. @I’m making gnocchi with brown butter sauce and crispy fried sage, and a parmesan potato chip crumble. @I’m microwaving the potatoes to get them cooked in time and I should be golden.

Taylor: @I’m going to prepare a deconstructed moussaka, which is Greek meat, potato, and eggplant casserole. @It’ll be pretty awesome, if I can pull it off. @I’m using lamb ragout as my meat and tomato component.

Cherry: @I’m going to make a Yukon puree with black vinegar reduction and seared scallops. @I’m trying to blend my Chinese heritage with the potato, which isn’t really something we eat a whole lot of in traditional Asian cuisine.

Gabe: Check!

Michele: Gabe, you only have 17 minutes to prepare a dish! Elizabeth, Henry, and James, unfortunately, the three of you won’t be continuing in this creativity challenge.

James: @Damn it. @It’s embarrassing to not even get tasted in this challenge.

Gabe: @I’m struggling to get any ideas right now, but I’m not on the bottom, and I need to run with it. @I’m going to prepare a simple breakfast platter with chorizo, potatoes, and an egg. @I’m running out of time here, and I just need to get something cooking and not give up yet.

Michele: Time’s up! Step away from your dishes!

Taylor: @I think that my moussaka Napoleon will go over well. @It’s a really cool layered dish, and that’s original.

Lauren: @I see what the other cooks have made, and I know I lost this challenge. @Phung, she went overboard, and I’m amazed by how much she got done in the time allotted. @Justin made gnocchi in less than 30 minutes. @Just give one of them the win already and let’s get on with the next challenge.

Michele: Your judge is Warrior Chef judge, Aster Walker

Aster: Hi, guys! I’m always excited to see what new talent comes into this kitchen, and being able to judge the first challenge of the season is always a pleasure.

Phung: @Aster is a renowned critic in the Los Angeles area. @So he has yet to try my food. @PhungFood is going to blow him away.

Aster and Michele taste the dishes.

Cherry: @I’m nervous, because Aster has been the longest standing judge in this competition, and I know that he’ll be a harsh critic. @I’m shaking as he tastes my food.

Elizabeth: @Not being able to put anything up for Aster in the first challenge makes me want to try harder in the next.

Michele: So Aster, we already determined a bottom three for this challenge, so who made your favorite dishes?

Aster: Overall, there were some major standouts for me. Kira, the flavors you developed in your Spanish tortilla were amazing, and I liked that you paired that with the chilies and shrimp. It was really inspired. Phung, you pushed the envelope, pickling vegetables, making a croquette, and making pate. That was an unusual approach, but the flavors were excellent. Justin, you made gnocchi in less than 30 minutes. And they were flawlessly executed. It was a classic dish, but superbly done.

Michele: And who won the first challenge and immunity?

Aster: It had to go to…. Phung.

Michele: Congratulations, Phung! You won immunity going into the elimination challenge!

Phung: Hells yeah! @I won!~ @I won!~ @Go, Phung! @Go, Phung!

Kira: @Phung making that dish without even having the full 30 minutes, it’s going to put a huge target on her back. @She might be my biggest competition in this season.

Michele: So now for the elimination challenge! You’ll be cooking head to head! Phung, for winning the last challenge, you will have your pair-up decided in the end. Justin, you had the second best dish, so you get to choose first.

Justin: I’m going to go up against…. James. @He didn’t even plate up a dish, so he’s going to be an easy target for me.

Kira: I’ll have to pick Gabe. @Gabe’s dish just didn’t show that he’s a major threat in this competition. @I know I can take Gabe.

Jaenice: I’m going to pick Henry. @Henry was on the bottom, and he’s a natural target for me to choose.

Cherry: I want to go up against Elizabeth. @Elizabeth is not a real threat to me, and I know I can take her down.

Taylor: @So it’s down to me, and I can either choose Phung, who has immunity, Lauren,  or Teddy. I’m going to go with Lauren. @I don’t see Lauren as a huge threat. @She did show that she can peel a potato. @But her dish just was boring.

Michele: So the match-ups are:
Teddy vs Phung

Justin vs James

Kira vs Gabe

Jaenice vs Henry

Cherry vs Elizabeth

Taylor vs Lauren

Michele: For this elimination challenge, you’ll have an hour to cook a dish centered around a single ingredient! And that ingredient is…. eggs! Your time starts now!

Teddy: @Already, I’m nervous. @I’m going up against Phung. @That girl can cook. @I see the eggs, and I decide to use it to bread some flounder, and make some fish and chips with homemade tartar sauce, using the eggs there as well.

Phung: @Teddy is not a real competitor to me. @I know I can take him. @I’m making a braised pork belly with soft-boiled egg, Japanese styled scrambled egg with some crab, and a homemade chili paste sabayon. @I’m ready to slam Teddy against some pavement and let him know who is the head bitch in this kitchen!

Justin: @I’m against James, and I’m feeling great. @I’m making an egg yolk raviolo. @It’s such an obvious dish for me, because I know it’ll showcase the eggs perfectly, and it’ll let James know just how strong of a cook I really am.

James: @I’m making creme brulee. @It’s a great egg dish, and I know that I can make it in the time constraint. @To spice it up, I’m going to make a matcha flavored custard and I’m going to sprinkle matcha powder into the sugar that I’m bruleeing on top.

Kira: @I’m feeling good going up against Gabe. @I’m preparing an egg congee with chicken adobo and crispy chicken skin. @Gabe didn’t really do so well in the creativity challenge, and if he keeps letting that stress get to him, I know I can outperform him.

Gabe: @Kira is intense, and she might be the best cook in this kitchen. @I’m definitely nervous, but I need to step it up so that I can take her down. @I’m making a coconut curd tart with lime meringue. @I want to do a dessert because it’ll show more range.

Jaenice: @I love cooking with eggs. @I’m going to make a Korean styled seafood pancake with a gochujang-egg sauce. @The sauce will be like soondooboo, but I’m blending it all up to give it a richer, but smoother texture. @Henry’s food looks like it came out of a WholeFoods. @It’s really snooty, but it’s not really anything hard to make. @I’m not threatened by him. @I can take him. @I’m from the South, you fuckers.

Henry: @Jaenice is a sassy person, but I know I can take her down a few pegs. @I’m making uni scrambled eggs with lobster knuckles and black truffles. @I’m feeling good about the combination of flavors, and I’m even going to garnish the dish with some caviar, just because those are eggs too.

Cherry: @Elizabeth should be an easy win. @She can’t even peel a potato quickly. @I’m making fried soft shell crab with an egg yolk-tamarind vinaigrette. @I’m stoke about the combination of shellfish and eggs, and I’m using the tamarind, because it’s not a really conventional ingredient and it’ll set my dish apart.

Elizabeth: @Cherry thinks she’s better than me, but I’m going to show her why she’s wrong. @I’m making ice cream. @It’s going to be a black sesame-miso ice cream with a gluten-free chocolate cake and meringue shards. @I’m trying my best to utilize the eggs in as many applications as possible to beat Cherry.

Taylor: @I’m making a shakshuka, which is a baked egg with a spicy tomato sauce that’s layered with different kinds of herbs and spices to really bring up the flavor. @I’m feeling good about going back to my roots, because it seems to be really well-received in this competition thus far. @Lauren is not going to beat me tonight. @Her biggest weakness is that she freezes up and doesn’t deliver.

Lauren: @Taylor made a really good dish in the first challenge, and I have to make sure I set the bar higher than that for this challenge. @I’m going to prepare a matcha ice cream sandwich with honey meringue. @For my sandwich, I’m going to prepare a matcha-yogurt chiffon cake. @I’m only using honey to sweeten my dish, because I want there to be balance.

Michele: Time’s up!

Phung: @I see Teddy’s dish, and it looks like crap. @Never mind beating me, he needs to worry about staying in the competition at this rate.

Gabe: @I see that Kira made congee. @It looks tasty, but I don’t really see the eggs in her dish. @I think with my dessert, it shows off more of the egg.

Michele: Your judges for this challenge are:

Erwin Ko

Vanilla Cuylenberg – Warrior Chef 1 winner

Vincent “Vin” Rugnetta – Warrior Chef 2 winner

Michele: Let’s start with the dishes by Teddy and Phung!
Teddy – flounder fish and chips with homemade tartar sauce

Phung – pork belly, soft-boiled egg, Japanese scrambled egg, crab, chili sabayon

Vanilla: Teddy’s flounder is really greasy, and I just couldn’t stomach that. The chips were nice, so was the sauce, but he dropped the ball on the protein.

Vin: Phung nailed that pork belly and the soft-boiled egg. Honestly, she just nailed everything. She’s flying really close to perfection here. The only fault is that it felt like too many things on a plate.

Erwin: Phung’s plate was cluttered, but everything was executed perfectly, and it all worked together, which to me was incredible. Teddy, he just dropped the ball.

Michele: So who won that match-up?

Vanilla: Phung.

Vin: Phung.

Erwin: I voted for Phung as well.

Michele: Alright. So now we have Justin and James’s dishes!

Justin – egg yolk raviolo with brown butter and crispy leeks

James – matcha creme brulee

Erwin: Justin’s dish was delightful. I really loved the texture of the pasta, being so silky and soft, and the crispy leeks and the brown butter sauce.

Vin: James, his creme brulee was creative, but the custard, mine was a little undercooked. And the brulee topping, it was acrid and bitter.

Vanilla: I got lucky, because my brulee was cooked through. Overall, I just preferred Justin’s pasta dish.

Michele: And how are we voting here?

Vanilla: Justin.

Vin: Justin.

Erwin: It has to be Justin.

Michele: So next up are the dishes by Kira and Gabe!

Kira – chicken adobo with egg congee

Gabe – coconut curd tart with lime meringue

Vin: Kira’s chicken tasted delicious, but the egg, just stirred into the rice, and not really seasoned, it fell to the wayside of the chicken adobo.

Vanilla: Gabe definitely showcased the egg a lot more, and the dessert was simple, but really well executed. And just how he showed his heritage, it was really innovative.

Erwin: Gabe’s dessert was really strong. Even if Kira’s dish didn’t showcase the egg, it would be hard to go against that.

Michele: So the winner?

Vin: I’m voting Gabe.

Vanilla: I second that.

Erwin: Gabe won this one for me as well.

Michele: And now we’ve got Jaenice and Henry’s dishes!

Jaenice – Korean seafood pancake with soondooboo-egg sauce

Henry – uni scrambled eggs, caviar, lobster knuckles

Erwin: Interesting that both of them prepare a seafood and egg dish, but I preferred Jaenice, just based on actual execution and the showcasing of the egg.

Vanilla: I have to disagree. Henry’s usage of the caviar was clever, and yeah, his dish was a bit excessive, but the flavors were great.

Vin: Jaenice made as good a dish as Henry without using nearly as expensive or luxurious ingredients, so for me, Jaenice deserves the victory.

Michele: So your votes?

Erwin: Jaenice.

Vanilla: Henry.

Vin: Jaenice.

Michele: And the next two dishes we’ve got were made by Cherry and Elizabeth.

Cherry – fried soft shell crab with tamarind-egg vinaigrette

Elizabeth – black sesame-miso ice cream, gluten-free chocolate cake, meringue shards

Vanilla: The soft shell crab Cherry prepared was fried beautifully, but where was the egg? Her vinaigrette was just too tamarind-heavy. I’m disappointed here, because eggs are not an easy ingredient to hide.

Vin: Elizabeth prepared an ambitious dessert, but her meringue shards were a bit too soggy for me. That part of the dessert wasn’t really enjoyable.

Erwin: It’s between a decent dish with no real usage of the egg, and an interesting dessert with technical flaws. It’s a bit of a hard call for me.

Michele: But can you guys make it?

Vanilla: I’d have to give it to Elizabeth.

Vin: I agree that Elizabeth embraced the egg a lot more.

Erwin: Elizabeth won, but just because Cherry’s dish hardly had any eggs in it.

Michele: And finally, we have the dishes by Taylor and Lauren!

Taylor – shakshuka

Lauren – matcha ice cream sandwich with honey meringue

Vanilla: Taylor prepared a really classic dish and the flavors were beautiful. The eggs were cooked perfectly.

Erwin: Lauren’s dessert just wowed me. The chiffon cake was light, springy, but still moist, her ice cream inside was delicious, and I liked her meringue.

Vin: I really loved her dessert. Lauren and Taylor both prepared really delicious dishes, and I’m honestly split on who took it for me.

Michele: So who won this match-up?

Vanilla: I have to give this to Lauren, because that dessert was so technically perfect that I could not fault it.

Erwin: I’m giving it to Taylor, because his dish showed the egg perfectly and I was really impressed that he stuck with his roots.

Vin: The chiffon cake…. it just won me over. I’m voting for Lauren as well.

Michele: Alright. So out of the winners, we have Phung, Justin, Gabe, Jaenice, Elizabeth, and Lauren. We need to choose a top three from them, and then a bottom three out of the six losers.

Erwin: I think we have made our decision.

Michele: Alright.

In walks Phung, Gabe, and Lauren.

Michele: Tonight, the three of you… prepared the best dishes and won your individual match-ups! Congratulations!

Gabe: @Being on top makes me feel a huge sense of validation. @I didn’t expect to come out with one of the best three dishes.

Phung: @I’m just dominating. @This season is going to be the dawn of the Phung Dynasty. @Mark my words.

Michele: Vin, please announce tonight’s winner!

Vin: It was a tough decision. Phung, you blew us away with your incredibly complex dish. Gabe, that dessert showed your heritage and it was well-crafted. And finally, Lauren, that chiffon cake sandwich was inventive and we were all impressed. Lauren, you are tonight’s winner.

Lauren: Oh my god! I just won the challenge?! @I’m feeling over the moon right now. @Winning the first elimination challenge is awesome!

Phung: @Drat, I lost. @Well, there’s always next time.

The top three leave. In walks Cherry, Teddy, and James.

Michele: The three of you made the judges’s least favorite dishes, and one of you will be going home tonight.

Vanilla: Cherry, your dish tasted good, but your usage of the egg was almost non-existent. We had no idea what you were going for with that.

Vin: Teddy, you made good chips, but the flounder was greasy, and your egg sauce was also really oily. It tasted like it was split.

Erwin: James, the creme brulee had promise. Your creme was good, but the topping was acrid and bitter. Torching the matcha was a mistake.

Cherry: @It sounds like we all made equal mistakes. @My egg was non-existent, Teddy made a greasy dish, and James made a bitter dish. @It really can go either way.

Michele: It was a tough choice…. Teddy, please return to the kitchen and leave.

Teddy: Alright. @It sucks. @I’m getting sent home first. @I thought my fish and chips represented me well, but in the end, I’m just going to be remembered for being the guy who couldn’t even make it past one elimination. @This is embarrassing.

How it is: Chapter 15

It was Thursday, early in the afternoon. “Hey, how are you?” Janice and Mako looked at Valerie as she stepped into the kitchen. They could both tell that she looked exhausted and bothered. “I did not get a lot of sleep last night. One of my best friends who had a crush on me, he basically bullied me into trying to kill myself, and then he called me a skank in front of everyone I knew.” Valerie clammed up at that point. She felt like she spoke an uncharacteristically large amount, given how quiet and reserved she normally was at work. She felt her entire right arm convulsing with rage. It was one of the few times she wished she was a butcher at the restaurant. She could really use a cleaver on something at the moment, just to blow off some steam. Imagining that the pig or chicken carcass was Timmy, since both of those descriptions suited him at this very moment. “Here, come with me.” Janice pulled her aside. The executive chef looked greatly concerned at what she was hearing. “Wait, but I have prep to do-” Valerie tried to interject. “Mako, you’re in charge! Keep making sure that prep is going on schedule! It’s a Thursday, so we aren’t going to be as busy, so you guys should be fine without us for a little bit.” She shouted. “Alright, chef!” Mako called back as the two girls walked into the restaurant’s seating area. “We can’t have you going into service like this. We are going to talk a little bit.” Janice explained.

“Alright, so I just need a second here to unravel what’s going on. So you’re saying that you wanted to kill yourself?” Janice looked at her. “Yeah.” Valerie sighed. “Why?” “It happened around the time the finale aired. All of the comments, saying how I was an idiot, it was just coming back to haunt me. And it was because I made desserts only on that finale, and I make desserts here, so work was a constant trigger.” She started. “Okay, well that was you over a year ago, alright? You were a dumb 17 year-old. You’re going to make mistakes when you’re that young. Hell, I make mistakes now, and I’m 26!” Janice confessed. “What?” Valerie looked at her in surprise. “Yeah! A couple services ago, I accidentally look a ramekin full of sugar to the pass, and sprinkled sugar on the venison loin. I tasted it, because it did not feel like the malden salt, but at that point, I had already put it on the meat, and we had to re-fire it.” Janice rolled her eyes. “But in your situation, trust me, I know what it’s like. Yeah, I won my season, but the way I won it was too controversial. People kept on telling me that I did not deserve to win, and that I was a gimmick. I got eliminated fourth, and only got back in because of the Redemption Creativity Challenge in the last round. It sucked. But I just started to ignore that, worked my ass off, and that’s why I got a Michelin star.” Valerie nodded. It was surprising for her to actually have this time to speak with Janice on a one on one basis.

“So what exactly did your friend say that made you try to act on these thoughts?” “He said that I would go from being a joke to a has-been.” Valerie frowned. “Look, you will only be a joke if you let others get to you like that. You are a hardworking and determined young woman, and that’s exactly why I promoted you to executive pastry chef. And I know you probably think this, but I did not promote you so that you can copy and replace Namie. I wanted you to lead the pastry department with your own techniques and vision.” Hearing that was a huge relief. “Thank you, Janice.” Valerie smiled. “Stop thinking about what others say about you. I don’t know about your personal life or decisions, nor I should ask, since it’s not workplace appropriate, but if they want to call you a skank or whore, don’t listen to that. Even if you are promiscuous or whatever, your work ethic and passion for your industry, that’s what they should be focusing on. People who spread rumors, they have too much time and insecurities on their hands. Don’t stoop to their level. Don’t let what they say get to you. Confidence comes from working hard and gaining experience. Doubt comes from sitting around, being too sensitive and unproductive. You have so much experience already, I just want you to take that and own it.” What Janice said, it was eye-opening to Valerie. “You’re right. I need to. Thanks, Janice” Valerie nodded. The two got up and returned to the kitchen. “And that friend of yours, cut him off. He’s not worth your time or attention. He owes you an apology. Until he gives you that, just forget about him. Focus on other things, and honestly, don’t wait around, expecting an apology either. Do things with your time.”

“Hey, feeling better?” Jacky looked at Valerie as she walked up to the pass with her cherry dessert. Like they suggested, Valerie opted for a honey-goat milk-vanilla panna cotta instead of the yogurt, and it tasted phenomenal. “I’m feeling good. How about you? How have you been?” She smiled. “I’ve been alright. You know, living the chef life.” They chuckled together, as the two walked back to their respective stations. “Alright, so next order. Three ube doughnuts, followed by that, two olive oil cakes.” Valerie read off the checks. “Heard!” Daphne and Megan chimed in. For the first time in a while, Valerie felt in control. Orders were coming in, and being sent out with no issues. Megan, Daphne, and her, they were working together seamlessly. I got the doughnuts out of the frier, and I’m tossing them in the cinnamon-sesame sugar right now, chef! Give me 30 more seconds!” Daphne cried. “30 seconds, heard!” “Here, chef!” Daphne handed Valerie three bowls and the components to go into it, which the chef quickly plated up. “Daphne, bring these two the pass.” “Got it!” The cook walked down with the three bowls on a sheet tray. “Here’s the olive oil cake, chef.” Megan presented Valerie the two plates. The chef quickly finished the plating on those as well. “Alright, Megan, bring those up to the pass.” “Thanks, chef!” Megan smiled as she walked up with the two desserts.

“Man, that was probably one of the best services we had in a while!” Megan smiled. “Tell me about it.” Daphne grinned. The three were cleaning down their station, and celebrating a very successful dinner service. “It’s good to have the Valerie we know and love back.” They looked at her. “Thanks, you two. I wouldn’t be the chef I am without such amazing pastry cooks. Literally everything you two brought up for me was perfection.” She beamed at the two older women. It was remarkable to think about how Megan was 27 and Daphne was 43 with a son, that the two would give her, a 18 year-old, so much respect. When Valerie was first promoted to chef, she was nervous. Even though she worked there longer than Megan had, she felt that Daphne was deserving of the promotion. “Say, Daphne. How come you did not take the promotion to executive pastry chef?” She looked over the mother. “Well, Janice and Namie did ask me, but I rejected the offer. Yeah, the pay is nice and all, but I have a family to raise too. If I was the executive, then I would have to be too preoccupied with menu planning and coordinating with Janice. And then don’t get me started on those events in the summer. You’ll have to travel a lot and it’s going to be a major pain. I’d prefer to just stay in New York with my family.” She sighed. “Besides, Ben’s getting to a difficult age. He’s 12 and thinks that he’s the boss of everyone now. I’d rather be here, keeping him in his place.” Keeping him in his place, huh? Valerie thought to herself. We all have a place where we fit in and thrive…

Warrior Chef 1: Finale Part 1

The final four arrive in San Francisco, where the entire finale will take place.

Tadashi: @I’m here. @This is it. @The finale has begun, and I’m one of the competitors. @My chances at that title, it’s getting more and more realistic.

Karen: @I’m one of the final four, and I’m feeling really excited but nervous. @Tadashi, Fanny, and Lucas, they’re all a lot older than me, and it’s pretty intimidating. @But I need to believe in myself.

The four arrive in the kitchen at the resort they are staying at

Carrie: Welcome to the Warrior Chef finale!

Lucas: @Right now, I’m thinking that the final three will be me, Tadashi, and Fanny. @Karen’s been pretty inconsistent recently, so I doubt she can stay in the competition for much longer.

Carrie: So for the creativity challenge, you’ll have to prepare a dish using…. kale!
A cart is wheeled in, carrying kale, ranging from flower to curly to lacinato to purple.

Carrie: But to make things interesting, it’ll be done in head to head cook-offs! Please draw knives!

Karen – 1

Lucas – 2

Fanny – 2

Tadashi – 1

Karen: @I’m cooking kale against Tadashi, who is from SoCal. @I’m feeling really screwed. @This terrifies me.

Lucas: @I’m up against Fanny. @I’m comfortable with this match up. @I think her experience with kale, versus an Italian cook? @Not even a question.

Carrie: You have just 20 minutes to prepare an innovative kale dish. And your time starts now!

Tadashi: @I’m thinking about what I can do, and I’m going to deep fry the kale and prepare a crispy kale and shisso tempura basket with a kale stem infused dashi. @I’m keeping the flavors simple, because that’ll help me stay focused on what I have to get done during my 20 minutes.

Karen: @I’m going to prepare a dinosaur kale infused pasta with some crispy fried purple kale, pancettta, and chicken liver mousse. @I think that the combination of flavors will really help the kale stand up. @Tadashi is going almost entirely vegetarian, but that might honestly be the smart thing to do.

Fanny: @The kale looks great, and I’m feeling like this is an opportunity to really make this dish memorable. @I’m making a kale napoleon, using layers of fried kale, and then pickled kale stems, homemade mascarpone, and apples. @If I can get the mascarpone made in 20 minutes, then I’ll be good to go.

Lucas: @The kale, I’m going to prepare a pork stuffed kale sausage with crispy kale, kale stem gremolata, and shaved apples. @I’m trying my best to keep the flavors straightforward and beautiful. @I’m trying to make sure that the taste of the kale runs throughout the dish.

Karen: @I decide for the mousse, to make a kale butter, and fold that into the pate, just to really get the kale flavor throughout the dish. @I see what Tadashi is doing, and he’s moving surprisingly slowly, but he’s tasting very intensely. @I’m feeling really hopeful that the basic level of his dish will give me the edge.

Fanny: @I check the mascarpone, and it’s completely loose. @I can’t use it. @So I grab the ricotta, and it’ll be my substitute. @I start quenelling it, and the ricotta soaks into the kale, and it’s just a mess. @This is really bad.

Tadashi: @I taste the tempura, and I’m just realizing how few components are on my dish, but I hope that the flavors really do speak for themselves. @If I can accomplish that, then I’ll be good.

Lucas: @The kale sausage is cooked properly, and that’s already a huge advantage. @The flavors of my dish, it’s good. @I’m feeling confident that I can take down Fanny, and I’m sure that Tadashi is going to beat Karen. @The girls who are left, I’m not threatened by any of them.

Carrie: Time’s up!

Karen: @We are this far down the line with the competition, and I’m feeling nervous. @I really want to prove that even though I’m just a freshman, I can still beat these older cooks and win Warrior Chef.

Carrie: Your judge is Warrior Chef house critic, Chloe Lula!

Chloe: Hi, guys! Kale is such a beautiful ingredient, so I cannot wait to see what you have made with it!

Chloe and Carrie taste the dishes.

Carrie: So Chloe, let’s go down the line with each match-up, starting with Karen and Tadashi’s dishes!

Chloe: So Tadashi, the tempura dish was simple, elegant, and light. I liked the flavors and the balance there. Karen, the dish was ambitious, making pate and pasta from scratch, and you delivered on texture and presentation. Overall, the better dish was made by… Karen.

Karen: Oh my God! @I won? @Against Tadashi?! @I’m feeling elated right now! @I can’t believe it!

Chloe: Lucas, the sausage was delicious and the combination of kale textures was really well done. Fanny, the napoleon was an interesting take, but the kale itself was a bit soggy. Lucas, you won this match-up.

Carrie: Congratulations, Karen, Lucas! The two of you won the creativity challenge and will receive an advantage going into the elimination challenge!

Lucas: @This final four are strong, but we all know Tadashi is one of the biggest threats. @Any advantage that will let us edge him out of the competition is greatly appreciated.

Carrie: So now for the elimination challenge! San Francisco is known for having several Michelin starred restaurants, and we want you guys to take inspiration from one of four restaurants and prepare a dish! Please draw knives!

Karen – Atelier Crenn

Lucas – The French Laundry

Tadashi – Saison

Fanny – Campton Place

Carrie: Lucas, Karen, you both have an advantage. If you do not like the restaurants you’ve drawn, you can swap with either each other or one of your competitors.

Lucas: @I’m happy with The French Laundry, so I’m going to keep it.

Karen: I actually would like to swap with Saison from Tadashi. @Atelier Crenn is a really difficult concept to replicate because of all of these ridiculous chemicals and modern molecular ingredients I’ve never heard of. @It’s high-end artistic French food. @With Saison, it is refined, but the flavors speak more than the presentation.

Tadashi: @I got Atelier Crenn, but my experience with Melisse should help me overcome that gap. @I hope that this challenge, I can win.

Carrie: So just 1 hour to prepare your dishes. Time starts now!

Fanny: @I got Campton Place. @It’s modern Indian and Californian cooking. @I’m feeling okay because I can prepare a garam malasa rubbed lamb with a pea-yogurt flan and cilantro-coconut-lime foam. @I’m hoping that using the usage of a homemade garam masala will show enough technique. @Everyone thinks that Tadashi is the strongest cook, but I think of myself as more of a dark horse. @I made it this far, I have proven myself, and I’m ready to take the title.

Karen: @I have Saison, and I know that I can nail this concept. @I’m preparing a butter poached langoustine and chanterelles roasted in garlic-brown butter and a leek-poached lemon peel puree. @I’m literally layering butter into the dish, because that’ll be key to making sure that it really hits home that French feel, but balancing it with the right acidity, just so that it won’t be heavy.

Lucas: @Having to prepare a dish for The French Laundry is awesome. @I’m making a pear-caramel tart, with a pear sorbet, caramel tuile cone, and a pear puree infused toffee with brown butter financier as the base. @I thin that it’s really ballsy, but if I can pull it off, then it’ll be French Laundry-worthy.

Tadashi: @The reason why Lucas might be in trouble tonight is because The French Laundry is 3 Michelin stars and the expectation is that much higher. @He might be sent home because he didn’t deliver to those expectations. @I have Atelier Crenn, and right away, I decide to take a risk. @I’m making an earl gray whipped goat cheese with carrot spheres, fried chervil, brown butter soil, and carrot juice cider. @I’m going to take a risk because that’ll just set me apart, and I’m hoping that my dish will resemble pulling a carrot out of the ground.

Fanny: @I test out my foam, and it’s getting stuck in the canister. @My cilantro, I should have steeped it into the coconut milk rather than blended it in. @I’m wasting time trying to pour out the liquid through a strainer and cleaning out the canister. @I’m so annoyed.

Lucas: @I get the financier out and it looks nice. @The dessert can be a huge success, but it’s just a manner of whether or not it’ll stack up against the other dishes. @I can see myself and Tadashi in the final two. @Karen and Fanny are strong, but they haven’t delivered dishes on the same level as the two of us.

Karen: @I taste the puree, and it’s got a lot of layers of flavor. @The smoky sweetness of the leeks, the sourness and bitterness of the citrus, and I already know that this will make my langoustine taste delicious. @I might actually make it to the final three!

Tadashi: @I’m feeling good about the dish and where it’s going. @In terms of my competition, I’m just not going to pay attention to them. @The moment I get caught up in what they’re doing, I won’t be able to focus on my dishes or my food.

Carrie: Time’s up!

Lucas: @I step back, and my dessert looks like a bit of a mess. @But then when I see the other dishes, I might still be in with a shot here.

Carrie: Your judges are:

Erwin Ko

Aster Walker

Miriam Adjanti

Carrie: Let’s start with Karen’s dish!

Karen – buttered langoustine, roasted chanterelles, leek-poached lemon peel puree

Miriam: The langoustine was cooked beautifully. I’m surprised that Karen knew how to cook it so well, but the flavors were elegant and straightforward.

Aster: The puree was such a nice touch and it contrasted the richness of the rest of the dish nicely. I’m happy with the chanterelles and the caramelization she got on those.

Erwin: The dish was simple, elegant, classy. It really did embrace Saison’s French-Californian style well, and she nailed the challenge criteria really well.

Carrie: Next up is Lucas’s dish!

Lucas – pear caramel tart with financier and sorbet

Miriam: The financier was cooked beautifully but there was just too much going on. I get he was trying to capture the whimsy of Thomas Keller, but I was left confused.

Erwin: He had way too many things on a plate that just did not bring anything new to the dish. I felt like it was running a marathon just to get through eating every component.

Aster: I appreciate the ambition, and nothing was cooked poorly. I just wanted him to zero in on making the portion more elegant, and less of a buffet plate. He lacked any real restraint when it came to plating it.

Carrie: And next is Fanny’s dish!

Fanny – garam malasa lamb with pea-yogurt flan and cilantro-coconut-lime foam

Miriam: The lamb was cooked beautifully. I really thought Fanny’s presentation was there as well. But the thing I’m disappointed about is how underseasoned her flan was.

Erwin: The texture of the flan was beautiful. I liked the texture of her foam a lot too. But the flavors of the foam and flan were too subtle, so the garam masala overpowered it.

Aster: The dish basically tasted like lamb with creamy textures. There was not much contrast. But the thing I appreciated was the presentation and concept.

Carrie: Finally, the dish by Tadashi!
Tadashi – earl gray goat cheese, carrot spheres, chervil, brown butter soil, carrot cider

Miriam: The usage of the carrot, and deconstructing carrot cake into this elegant plated dessert, I really loved it. The cider, I was apprehensive, but it acted as a cool palate cleanser. This was a really incredible dish.

Erwin: The fact he made his own cider out of the carrot juice was already enough for me to shower him with praises. The one thing I’m disappointed about is that Atelier Crenn features this carrot jerky, and each contestant saw the cookbooks for the restaurants they had to base their dishes on. He missed that opportunity.

Aster: The dish itself was artfully plated and the concept was really clever. I’m blown away that he was able to accomplish this in just 1 hour, but the flavors were there. I’m impressed by his abilities.

Carrie: So can we decide on who is going to win this challenge, and which contestant is going home tonight?

Miriam: We can.

In walks the final four.

Carrie: So tonight, we agreed two dishes really stood out. Karen, Tadashi, both of you impressed us tonight!

Aster: Karen, the dish was simple but the flavors were delicate and beautiful.

Miriam: Tadashi, that carrot dessert was brilliantly done. We really just couldn’t stop raving about it.

Karen: @I beat Tadashi in the creativity challenge, and I really want to beat him tonight for a second time. @If I can do that, then I really do have a shot at Warrior Chef.

Carrie: Tonight, the best dish belonged to… Tadashi.

Tadashi: Thank you.

Carrie: Congratulations, Tadashi! You won the elimination challenge! Karen, you are also safe. The two of you can leave.

Karen: @I didn’t win, but it feels good to know that I made it to the final three!

Tadashi: @Right now, I have seven wins, and it feels great. @I need to keep producing strong dishes, and win the entire competition.

Karen and Tadashi leave.

Fanny: @It’s between me and Lucas now. @Only one of us can make it through.

Erwin: Fanny, our issue with your dish was that your garnishes were bland, so it made eating the entire dish really uninteresting.

Miriam: Lucas, you just had way too much going on. We appreciate the ambition, but the dish was hard to eat.

Carrie: Tonight, one of you is going home.

Lucas: @Fanny went simple and mis-executed. @I went complex, and went overboard. @I’m feeling that it’s going to be a nail-biting decision.

Carrie: Whoever is going home does have a second chance. We have the Redemption Rounds finale coming up next, so you will have an opportunity to beat the reigning champion and return to the finale. That being said, Fanny, please return to the kitchen and leave.

Fanny: Thank you for the opportunity to compete. @I’m not leaving sad. @I’m leaving determined. @I still have another shot at the title, and I’m ready to take my second chance and really fly with it.

Lucas: @I barely dodged a bullet. @That safety net of the Redemption Rounds, it won’t be here in the next round, so I need to be careful from now on.

How it is: Chapter 13

Spring break was finally over, and tensions were still awkward between the three. “Hey, there’s this cool promo for the upcoming Kingdom Hearts game! Want to go?” Tarou looked at Timmy hopefully. “Sorry, I have an Asian Awareness Event for ACU.” Timmy shook his head. They were going to have an event with all of the Asian organizations, and the logistics behind it were incredibly difficult to manage. Timmy himself was in charge of coordinating with all of the freshmen and sophomore representatives from the other clubs on how to advertise to underclassmen. Even the Japanese Business Association was involved, but Tarou himself did not need to go, because he was the treasurer, not a representative; the club only required presidents, vice presidents, and representatives to be at their events. This was their club’s expectations when it came to event attendance. As for their norm as roommates, it was Tarou excitedly inviting Timmy to things, and Timmy rejecting him in favor of ACU. At least, that’s how Tarou felt. Timmy did feel bad that he could not make time for Tarou, but he also wanted a chance to grow as an individual himself. But how could he get that across to Tarou? Tarou only cared about spending time together.

“Hey, do you have time to talk?” Valerie texted Timmy. The pastry chef was in her room, sitting at her desk. No response. Again. She had been trying to reach out to him during the break, but the Taiwanese boy kept on ignoring her. She felt like he saw her as this freak for her previous attempt at killing herself. Feeling deflated and offended by his attitude towards her, she put down her phone and tossed it onto her bed. She tried to get him off of her mind. Grabbing out her sketchbook, she started doodling. Janice wanted her to create a new dessert menu for April to capture the spring, so she had to start sketching out what she wanted the plating for each dish to look like. With it being April, she definitely wanted something that was a nod to cherry blossoms, while another dish needed something Easter-themed. Blood oranges, meyer lemons, fresh fruits that represent that spring has finally arrived! Just thinking about it, Valerie could not suppress a grin of excitement. With the ideas rolling, she chuckled to herself. At that point, Nothing else beyond conceptualizing these different desserts was even on her mind. She was slowly easing back into her one true love: having the creative freedom of being a pastry chef.

Feeling rather lonely, Tarou decided to take a walk through the city. Misaki was out with Justin in Brooklyn on a date, so that left him with limited options. He would not even entertain the notion of spending time with Timmy, Enya, Sarah, or Melissa. The former was being the source of his frustration, while the latter three would probably try to date rape him. Passing by a restaurant, he noticed the familiar blue shooting star logo printed on the window. “Wish.” He read aloud. “Oh wait, Valerie!” Tarou was immediately reminded of his friend. The restaurant was closed since it was still early in the afternoon, but he figured why not try to meet up with the pastry chef before she had to go to work? He excitedly gave the girl a text. “Hey, are you down to hang sometime?” The model was starting to realize how much he missed her; the girl was usually so consumed with work that she had little to no time for things like a social life, but to Tarou, it was still worth a shot. Within minutes, he got a reply. “Hey, yeah! Want to grab dinner tonight?” She offered. “Sure thing! Where did you want to meet up?” “Come to the restaurant! I’ll prepare something for you! I’m looking to practice some of my new desserts.” Tarou chuckled to himself. This was going to be a great day ahead of him.

In her room, Valerie was excited to receive that text from Tarou. She was sitting alone, watching cat videos on YouTube when her phone buzzed. “Finally, something different than my normal, boring routine.” She sighed in relief, getting up and getting changed. It was almost 2, which meant that she had to get ready for work. “Hm, well Tarou can be my taste tester for the day.” She smiled. Janice wanted her to plan that new menu for the spring, and she figured, why not have Tarou try the dishes along with her normal staff, just so that she can have something to do with her friend. That, and having Tarou, such a positive influence, at the workplace, it would help get her mind off of whatever residual insecurities she had from being a runner-up. Racking through her brains, she recalled the different items she had in mind. “Alright, so I should probably get the ice cream done first, and then after that, the chiffon cake batter.” She listed off, walking out the door. She had a lot of things she needed to prepare, but she had a general idea of what she needed to do and in what order. Being a seasoned pastry chef has taught her how to multitask and delegate well. That was the exact reason why Janice had promoted Valerie to the executive pastry chef position in the first place.

It was at the end of her first semester, when Namie had already announced that she was leaving. It came as a huge shock to Valerie and Jacky, who were just line-level cooks at that point. After a very stressful dinner service, Janice pulled aside Valerie to speak in private. The girl had no idea what to expect. “You wanted to see me?” She was nervous. Being the youngest and most recent hire in the kitchen, Valerie was half-expecting to be fired for some reason. Just thinking about what Janice could possibly want from her, it made her incredibly uneasy throughout the entire night. “Yeah.” The executive chef wore a stoic expression when she looked at the 18 year-old. “How would you like to be promoted to executive pastry chef?” “Huh?” Valerie’s jaw almost dropped at the proposal. “I gave it a lot of thought, and it was not a decision I took lightly. But looking at how you performed on the line, every night, in every service, you have skills far beyond any of the other pastry cooks. On top of that, Namie herself, I asked her who she wanted to succeed her. She said that you could carry out the vision of Wish the best. I trust her judgement as much as I would my own in this regard.” Janice explained. “Oh wow. I’m still in awe right now. This… it’s definitely not what I expected.” Valerie stuttered. She thought she was going to lose her job, not get a promotion. “Will you take the promotion, Valerie?” “Yes!” The girl beamed. “I will be your next executive pastry chef!”

“Alright, so here’s my first new item. It’s a cherry sorbet with yogurt panna cotta, cherry kanten jelly, and yogurt crumble.” Valerie presented the white and red dessert to an impressed Tarou, Mako, and Joseph. “What do you think?” “Presentation-wise, it looks really modern. I like how you used the liquid nitrogen to crumble up the yogurt. It reminds me weirdly of Snow White. Here, I’ll go in for a taste.” He scooped some of the dessert into a spoon and into his mouth. “It’s a bit on the tart side, not going to lie. Maybe just do a vanilla panna cotta instead of the yogurt? I think that the yogurt and cherry, having so much of it across the board is a bit overkill.” He sighed. Tarou is a dessert lover, as evidenced by photos of his childhood, where he was not only overweight, but also pictured wit some sort of pastry or dessert in hand. “Alright, I’ll be sure to change that.” “I have to agree with Tarou there. I thought it was too sour.” Mako and Joseph chimed in. Valerie rolled her eyes.  “Uh, don’t go turning into Butch Valerie, okay? We don’t want to die tonight.” Mako whimpered, hiding behind Joseph comedically. “Or at least kill Joseph so I can take his job.” Valerie just ignored his joke. “Okay, well here’s my next dessert. It’s a blueberry chiffon cake with lemon curd-coconut oil gelato and coconut-blueberry-ginger mousse.” Each of them took a bite. “Okay, that was amazing. The cake was perfect, the gelato, I did not expect to love it, but I loved it. The mousse added moisture back to the cake.” Tarou grinned. “I think maybe more texture, so a coconut crumble, but aside from that, I agree. Everything you put up here, it does not need improvement.” Joseph nodded in agreement. “Thanks.” Valerie smiled. It was a high praise, coming from Janice’s own chef de cuisine.

“Thank you so much for coming over to work and helping me, Tarou. It was a lot of fun.” Valerie beamed. It was the first time in a while that being at work made her so happy. And she owed it all to Tarou. “No problem. I’m honored to be your guinea pig in this case.” The model chuckled graciously. The two were sitting with the rest of the restaurant’s staff, enjoying their family meal together before the dinner service began. Both of them felt like they had a friend in the first time in a while. But this feeling of camaraderie was cut short with time. “Dinner service is starting soon, and as much as I’d love for you to stick around, I’d rather you not see me as a complete bitch. I’ll talk to you later?” She looked at him. “Yeah, for sure! Thanks again for inviting me.” Tarou waved as he left the restaurant. “Well, you better snatch him up. He’s a major hottie.” Daphne giggled. “Yup!” Megan agreed. “I didn’t know you were friends with a model, Val!” Jacky teased. “Well, I never felt the need to mention him to you.” She fought off the urge to blush. “I’m glad that he came over though. I felt like I needed that.” She sighed. “I haven’t seen you smile in the workplace before today. since the whole Warrior Chef debacle. I think this was good for you.” Daphne agreed.

It was late at night, and Tarou had finally made his way back to the dorm. “Hey, is your event planning coming along?” Tarou yawned, stepping into his room. Timmy was in bed, almost ready to go to bed. “It went alright. What did you do today?” He looked over. The model tensed up nervously. “Valerie invited me over to Wish to taste her upcoming dessert menu.” He confessed. “What?” Timmy looked at him, bewildered at his statement. He had this murderous look in his eyes. “What?” Tarou returned, unable to say anything else at this point. He did not want to escalate the situation. “Why would you talk about her in front of me?” “I did not want to lie about what I did today.” Tarou frowned. “I’m sure you’d be more pissed thinking that I went behind your back to see her.” He shrugged. Timmy was not saying anything at that point. “Why are you even mad at me? You’re the one who refused to talk to her! So it’s only obvious that she’d come to me!” Tarou growled angrily. “You know I have a crush on her, and you still go behind my back? Why didn’t you just say no?” Timmy glared at his roommate. “Why do I have to sacrifice my social life to make you happy? That makes zero sense!” Tarou frowned. “It’s not like you were able to hang out with me either!” The Japanese boy had a point. Timmy had been pushing him away with his ACU duties. That retort left Timmy dumbstruck. “Good night. I guess I’ll sleep in the hallway.” Tarou rolled his eyes, grabbing his sheets and pillow.

Warrior Chef 1: Part 5

Karen: @Walking into the competition today, I’m feeling really shaken. @Vanilla was one of the strongest girls in the competition and she’s out. @Anyone can get sent home in this competition.

Lucas: @Vanilla going home just meant she wasn’t a well-rounded cook. @Overcooking venison is a poor mistake to make. @If she was going to be a winner, she should’ve known better than to cook it the way that she did.

Carrie: Hi, everyone! I hope you’re ready for this next challenge!

A cart is wheeled in, carrying various animal carcasses.

Karen: @Oh my god. @I see so many dead bodies, and I almost gag. @It’s like Jason Vorghes just made his way through a farm in the woods.

Carrie: So for today’s challenge, we want to see what you guys to make using the scraps from a butcher shop. This includes the animal’s bones and just bits and pieces of meat that they managed to miss. You have just 35 minutes to make a dish, time starts right now!

Lucas: @I grab what used to be a rack of lamb, and I see the fat cap just dangling off of the bones. @I’m going to render lamb fat, and cook that with the bones to make a stock. @I decide to prepare a lamb crepinette with some mint and pea puree and a lamb sauce. @I think it’s going to be awesome.

Tadashi: @Cooking with waste is pretty cool. @I grab these big beef rib bones, and I have a good idea. @I take my scraps, grind them up, and then make a meatball mixture, which I’ll wrap around the bones and roast like a meat lollipop, almost. @It’ll give the meat so much more flavor and I love the idea of it.

Jackson: @Tadashi is playing around with giant beef bones, and I think he’s silly. @I decide on taking the scraps of pork fat, and I’m going to make a pork fat infused apple pie. @I think that making this will show a ton of risk, but I don’t have enough time to make a composed pie, so I’m deconstructing it into a crostata.

Fanny: @I’m excited about this challenge because I can nail it. @I grab the leftover pieces of the chicken, and I’m going to pressure cook them in a quick curry. @I’m going to then make that into a ragout, and serve that inside of a homemade phyllo puff. @I’m going with something completely out of my comfort zone, because I really want to impress the judge tonight and I want to win immunity.

Karen: @I managed to land some foie gras, which I’m surprised people would actually discard this. @I’m making a foie gras butter with lemon-thyme crostoli and whole grain mustard. @I’m feeling really good about this dish because it’s simple but the flavors do speak for themselves and the balance is there.

Leona: @I see that Karen lucked out with the foie gras. @It’s not hard to make that delicious. @I’m doing something much more challenging in that my dish does show technique. @I’m making grilled bone marrow with braised beef ragout and blood orange vinaigrette. @I’m confident that my dish will deliver a knockout punch.

Carrie: Time’s up!

Tadashi: @I’m feeling great about my beef lollipops. @I see Leona also grabbed beef, so it’ll be a direct competition between the two of us, I feel like.

Jackson: @I think my apple pie is the most creative thing here. @Nobody else went with a dessert, and I’m going to stand out for this.

Carrie: Your judge is Warrior Chef judge and expert meat authority, Kierra Johnson!

Kierra: Hi, everyone!

Karen: @She’s won a lot of barbecue circuits and has written a book about butchering game animals. @I think she’s going to be a harsh critic for this challenge.

Kierra: I love cooking with meat and meat is my life. I can’t wait to see what dishes you guys have made using butcher scraps. Every part of the animal can be used, and I just love that concept.

Kierra and Carrie taste the dishes.

Carrie: So Kierra, who disappointed you?

Kierra: Jackson. The usage of the pork fat was great but the pie itself was underbaked and the flavors were just not melding together. And Leona. The grilled bone marrow just melted into nothingness and I couldn’t really taste anything because it all oozed out of the bone itself.

Leona: @Really? @I’m on the bottom? @I only deserve to be on the top. @This is bullshit. @I don’t believe it.

Carrie: And who are you favorites?

Kierra: Karen, the foie gras, it was a bit of an easy go for you, but the balance of flavors were there and I loved your crostoli a lot. And Fanny. You managed to impart a lot of flavor into that chicken ragout and making your own phyllo was incredible. Tonight, it was a bit of a landslide win. Fanny, you earned that challenge win tonight.

Carrie: Congratulations, Fanny! You won immunity!

Fanny: Thank you, love. @I won immunity! @I’m not going anywhere and I proved that tonight by winning this challenge and showing I know what I can do with unusual curveballs. @Chef better be proud of me.

Carrie: So now for the elimination challenge! For this challenge we want to see you make a dish inspired by your own personal vice. You’ll have an hour to make it Your time starts now!

Fanny: @Even though I have immunity, I really feel like this is a challenge I can excel in, because I have had many struggles, being a model and boxer. @As a model, I struggled a lot with my weight and being a boxer, I just tried my best to give a knockout punch. @I want to do an homage to my old diet, which was a green smoothie. @I’m making a spicy tomatillo salsa verde, just to give it that punch, with smoked crema sorbet and spicy pork floss tuiles.

Lucas: @Being raised in a cutthroat environment back home, it was always you had to be first, or you weren’t a winner. @It was really hard for me to come to terms with losing, especially when you have an older and younger brother who just succeeded in everything. @Whenever I’d lose, it was humiliating. @I want to incorporate that sort of sense of humility or humanization into my dish. @So I’m going to make poached crab legs with peppercorn butter and fried capers. @I’m keeping the crab legs in the shell, because the struggle of breaking them represent my own struggle with coming to terms with looking or feeling like an idiot whenever I fell on my face.

Tadashi: @Having to prove to my parents that I was not going to fail in this industry was my personal vice. @I’m going to make a dish that shows my intelligence and my depth of knowledge with flavors and technique. @I’m making sunchoke veloute with pickled beetroot, roasted cauliflower leaves, and chickpeas in pork broth spheres. @I’m confident that my dish shows a lot of technique, and hopefully, the presentation will look like the blood and tears I had to shed to get past all of the struggles.

Leona: @Being from the Bronx, I think that’s already a vice in itself. @I was raised different, and people look at me like I’m bad in the head. @I want to show that I can make good food. @I’m going to prepare mofongo and take the judges to Africa. @I’m going to make the mofongo with plantains, plenty of spices, and then serving it with some brook trout.

Jackson: @My biggest personal vice is just not learning enough about baking from my grandma when I could have. @Tonight, I’m making Rachel’s black velvet cake with cream cheese-Oreo frosting. @I think it represents the darkness behind me not being able to talk with my grandma more when I had the chance, and how I had to overcome that with a lot of focus and determination.

Karen: @I think my own vice would just be being constantly underestimated. @I’m pretty small in stature, so most people don’t take me seriously. @For my dish tonight, I’m going to prepare a fairy tail eggplant lasagna, which really is meant to represent how good things can come in small packages. @I’m making the entire dish from scratch, just to show a lot more technique.

Zack: @Working under Gordon Ramsay, it teaches you to be a perfectionist. @For me, the vice I had was just accepting my faults as a person. @I’m going to prepare a shattered lemon tart, inspired by Massimo Bottura’s own iconic lemon tart. @It is imperfect, but beautiful in its own way. @I see the other stations, and I see what Fanny is making, and it looks like a green smoothie. @If that beats my lemon tart, I’ll be extremely disappointed tonight.

Carrie: Time’s up!

Jackson: @I’m feeling a bit nervous about my cake, but then I see that Fanny made some bizarre dish, and she might be the one going home instead.

Carrie: Your judges are:
Missy Skies

Guy Flannigan

Erwin Ko

Carrie: Let’s start with the dishes by Leona, Jackson, and Lucas!

Leona – mofongo with brook trout

Jackson – black velvet cake with cream cheese-Oreo frosting

Lucas – poached crab legs with peppercorn butter and fried capers

Missy: Leona’s brook trout was cooked beautifully and I liked her mofongo a lot. The flavors were really strong, but she needed a sauce.

Guy: The black velvet cake that Jackson prepared, it was dry and overcooked. I didn’t really enjoy it at all.

Erwin: Lucas’ crab legs were nicely cooked and I loved the accompaniments that he prepared with those.

Carrie: Next, the dishes by Tadashi, Karen, and Fanny!

Tadashi – sunchoke veloute, pickled beetroot, cauliflower leaves, chickpeas pork broth

Karen – fairy tail eggplant lasagna

Fanny – tomatillo salsa verde, smoked crema sorbet, and spicy pork floss tuiles

Erwin: Tadahi’s veloute was…. just beautiful. I was amazed by the flavors. His presentation was gorgeous and I was amazed.

Guy: Karen’s lasagna… the sauce was under-seasoned and the lasagna itself, I actually like the flavors, surprisingly enough.

Missy: Fanny’s dish, it sounded really strange. But the flavors came together beautifully and I loved the idea of taking a green smoothie and turning it on its head.

Carrie: So can we decide on who won and who lost this challenge?

Erwin: We can.

In walks Fanny, Lucas, and Tadashi.

Carrie: The three of you… prepared the judges favorite dishes! One of you won the challenge tonight. Erwin, please announce the winner.
Erwin: I’m honored to crown the best dish, because it was really that good. Tadashi, you won the challenge. Your sunchoke veloute was inspirational.

Tadashi: Thank you. @I won! @I’m really surprised, but winning the vice challenge feels like a huge relief. @I’m excited!

The top three leave.

In walks Jackson and Karen.

Carrie: Unfortunately, one of you is going home.

Karen: @I don’t really know how to feel at this point. @I thought that the lasagna showed a lot more of a risk, but I guess not.

Jackson: @If I go home over a cake, it’s going to be embarrassing. @I’m feeling very scared at the thought of going home.

Missy: Jackson, the cake was dry, Karen, the lasagna was bland. It was a tough decision for who to send home.

Carrie: Karen…. you are safe tonight. Jackson, please return to the kitchen and leave.

Jackson: Alright. Thank you for this opportunity to compete. @I’m feeling really bad about how I got sent home. @I made a dish that I couldn’t stand by and I definitely disappointed my grandmother.

How it is: Chapter 9

In middle school, Timmy’s feeling for Valerie just continued to grow. Before, it was just because Valerie chose him and Tarou over their female classmates. But even during puberty, Valerie just blossomed. “Ugh, you two are so lucky you don’t have to wear a bra.” She groaned. “These things are like sandbags on my chest.” She was awkwardly referring to her bosoms. Both Tarou and Timmy were at a loss of what to say. Timmy was the youngest of three brothers and Tarou was an only child, so neither of them ever had to hear about bras, breasts, or periods before talking to Valerie. And since Valerie had very few female friends, she would just complain to them about her puberty-related predicaments, much to Tarou’s visible discomfort. Even then, Timmy was still intrigued by her. To him, she was always such an interesting person. At first, it was because she was the only girl who was not his mother who was close to him. But then those feelings, they expanded when he got to know her better. Hearing about her dreams and goals, and seeing the lengths she went to so that she could accomplish them, it was inspirational.

Valerie wanted to be a chef since she was really young. She used to travel with her grandparents throughout California, eating at fine dining restaurants, such as The French Laundry. By the time she turned 16, she was interning throughout her summers at a variety of restaurants. First, it was a local country club in Queens, where they all lived. But then, she started commuting to Manhattan to work for Mario Batali, and spent an entire summer in Chicago with her uncle, working under chef Stephanie Izard. Timmy still remembers that summer. It was before their senior year and Valerie was away the entire time. They would call every week, just to catch up. “So, how’s Chicago?” “It’s really cool! It reminds me of the city in a lot of ways, and I just love it.” She confessed. “I’m surprised by how not-homesick I am. That’s probably the biggest shock.” “Well, that’s great to hear!” Timmy was relieved, knowing that she was happy. “Hopefully, we’ll all be going to college together like we planned.” She laughed at them. “Definitely! Going to NYU with you and Tarou, it’ll be the best four years of my life.” He chuckled in agreement. Spending any time with Valerie was fun. She was a loyal and loving friend, and Timmy greatly appreciated that.

“So, I’m going to be competing on Warrior Chef, but that means that I’m switching to online courses to finish my education.” Valerie was sitting down with Timmy and Tarou. It was their senior year of high school, and she just heard back from the casting crew of the show. “Wait, really?!” They both looked shocked. While Tarou was excited, Timmy felt a little sad. He would not be spending their graduation together with her. But Valerie had already heard back from NYU, and got in with early decision. “I’ll see you guys on the other side of this experience, okay?” She smiled at them. “I can’t wait to hear about it!” Tarou grinned at her. “Unleash hell! Let them see what Stephanie Izard and Mario Batali taught you.” The Japanese boy chuckled. “Good luck, okay?” Timmy beamed at his crush. “Thanks, you two. I’m going to be sad that I won’t be graduating with you guys, but at the same time, this is really exciting and I can’t wait to compete! I want to make a strong impression in this competition from the get-go.” “Knowing what you can do, those other teenagers will not stand a chance. You’re going to be Warrior Chef. I know it.” Timmy assured her.

The concept of Warrior Chef was that high school students with an interest in the culinary field would compete in several challenges to determine a winner. In her season, Valerie was one of 16 high schoolers, and one of eight girls, to be competing. Much to her delight, she was able to start the competition on a strong foot, the entire first round and more importantly, the respect of everyone in that season. Everyone knew that Valerie was the strongest female cook. In the end, she wound up winning a total of eleven challenges. Valerie had the entire summer to work under Janice Arrington and slowly forget about losing the competition. While it was hard then, what helped her get over the pan was not thinking about it. She did not have the entire nation harping her on social media over her decisions at that point. Reliving the rounds going up to the finale, it actually bolstered her confidence. Valerie felt that no matter how she was portrayed in that final challenge, she would have enough fans and support to keep her going. But it was just comments of disappointment and judgement. Everyone thought she was an idiot. Nobody supported her decision to stick to dessert.

The one person Valerie would really want to speak to was Tarou. Since they were young, she always felt like she could relate to him. Then seeing him transform from what he was into an aspiring model, that was when her feelings turned romantic in nature. Tarou came off as confident and capable, but since they grew up together, Tarou was never nervous or afraid of her. He supported her as much as she supported him. Valerie knew that a relationship with Tarou, it would only help both of them grow as individuals and as a couple. But she did not want Timmy to feel uncomfortable, especially when the three of them were friends for such a long time. It was a major factor for why she always refused to confess her feelings to him. That, coupled with her fear of him rejecting her. Especially in the state she was right now, the last thing she needed was for yet another person she admired to tell her that she was not good enough.

Meanwhile, Tarou finally returned to the room from his event. “Hey, can we please talk?” He looked at Timmy, whose eyes were still red from crying earlier. “No. I don’t want to.” “What?” “I’m not ready yet.” He shook his head, before going back to ignoring the taller male. “What the hell do you mean you’re not ready yet?” Timmy did not respond. At this point, he felt like Tarou was being emotionally and verbally abusive to him. The constant yelling and screaming, it was beginning to take a toll on him emotionally. Just looking at Tarou, it made him uncomfortable. “Well, alright then, you fucking baby.” The model was already exhausted, and the last thing he needed right now was for Timmy to, per usual, treat him like shit or an obstacle. He did not need to be this protective of Timmy, and at that point, he decided it was for the best to keep his distance. “Hey, Alex. I just wanted to let you know that even if I do get the event coordinator position for ACU, I have to decline.” Tarou sent that message via Facebook to the president. “Oh, thank you for your honesty.” Alex sent back. The mode knew it was burning a bridge, but he did not care. The last thing he wanted was for Timmy to feel even more suffocated by him. Timmy was an immature brat who needed time to adjust to everything. Tarou was starting to realize just how inexperience the smaller male really was with life compared to him and Valerie. And a lot of that inexperience came from the Japanese boy smothering him with protection.

How it is: Chapter 5

It was almost a nightmare, having to relive this moment on the other side, watching it happen again on national television. “Austin…. you are Warrior Chef! Congratulations! You won the title and the grand prize of $100,000!” Valerie’s heart sank. She was sitting alone, in her room, watching the finale of Warrior Chef. “Not winning the title, and knowing that you were so close, it hurts. I thought that I had it in the bag, but I guess not.” A slightly younger Valerie looked visibly upset as confetti rained down, and everyone in that season went up to congratulate her competitor, a tall young man named Austin. Looking back on her decisions, Valerie felt embarrassed. She knew that pastry was her strength, and in that finale, she wanted to showcase it by preparing four desserts instead of a progressive four course meal. In the first challenge, she won using a mix of sweet and savory, preparing a carrot macaron with goat cheese mousse and sorrel sorbet over dehydrated carrot and oat crumble. But then with her other three courses, she went full-on pastry, and the judges decided that because she refused to follow the challenge rules, she could not win the title. In short, she lost because of a technicality, not because she was actually a weaker cook. Regardless, Valerie felt regret and hindsight settling in.

A buzzing could be heard from her desk as the pastry chef picked up her phone and checked the notifications. “Hey, congratulations on making it to the final two! You did amazing! You were easily the best pastry cook in that competition.” Tarou had sent her a text. “You’re still my favorite pastry chef, even though I don’t like desserts that much.” Timmy messaged her as well. It felt nice to know that they still supported her, even though she lost. One part of her felt relieved, knowing that she can finally talk about this entire experience. But another part of her felt deflated that she lost the way she did. Had she prepared two savory courses and a dessert, she might have actually won. The judges outright said that in their deliberation, that if she decided to do a progressive menu, given the amount of technique and skill she had shown throughout the season and with the pastries she was presenting, she could have easily won the competition hands down. Before watching the finale, Valerie did not know why she lost the title. She did have a gut feeling it was because she chose to go with four desserts, but did not think that it would come back to cost her the title in the way that it did.

At work, Valerie was hoping that her emotions from losing would improve. She still remembered that working here with Namie, she focused on keeping her head down and completing the tasks at hand. It helped her calm down and move past the initial pain of losing. But being the executive pastry chef was just more stress on her. Firstly, it was a Friday, and dinner service was crazy. Secondly, every time she picked up a whisk or a piping bag, she just remembered her experiences in that finale. Preparing mousses, creams, baked components, frozen components, and seeing the judges say that preparing four desserts was her ultimate undoing. Those critiques, it hurt her pride. The last thing she wanted to do right now was prepare desserts, when they costed her the title and $100,000. And on top of that, she felt that losing affected her authority, where she felt like she lacked the confidence and validity to be leading her pastry cooks. Austin is opening his first restaurant with the money he won, while she was working for somebody else. Unfortunately, Valerie’s emotional strain towards making desserts only worsened as the service drew on. “Hey, Val! We just got a petit four sent back. Your macarons were filled with the wrong ganache!” Janice shouted. Oh crap. Her heart just sank. Once again, her desserts were inadequate. They failed her in the finale, and they were failing her here at work. Valerie could just feel her doubts getting louder and louder. And she found herself unable to sound them out. Trying to shake off the doubts, Valerie corrected her macarons and re-sent them out for the guests, much to Janice’s visible frustration.

“Well, that was a crap day.” Valerie sighed to herself as she began the walk back to campus. Normally, she would stick around after service and celebrate with Jacky, Megan, Mako, Joseph, and Janice, but today, she was exhausted and ashamed of her performance. That was nothing that she did that was worth celebrating. The worst thing about this was that she knew that she could do better too. She has had stronger services as an intern than she had today.And in Warrior Chef, she put up dishes that demonstrated her strengths in the savory kitchen. It was not that she was weak with savory, she just wanted to do the dishes that expressed her love and passion for food the best. Having to re-experience losing, it was not fun for her. And there were only a couple of people she felt comfortable talking about this to. “Hey, you made it this far. You have a lot to be proud of.” Austin, the cook who beat her in Warrior Chef, sent that message. Unlike Valerie, when Austin found out he had won, he enrolled in culinary school in the CIA using his winnings, and was already announcing the opening of his first restaurant, which was scheduled for the fall. Winning that title opened a world of possibilities and opportunities for him, just like how it did for Janice all those years ago. And for Valerie, she just felt that much more unaccomplished. Even though it had been an entire year since she competed, compared to Austin, what had she accomplished? Nothing.

A year ago, a slightly younger Valerie, then a senior in high school, walked nervously into the judge’s room, in Tokyo, where the finale was taking place. It felt surreal. Earlier that morning, her, Joey, and Austin were anxiously awaiting the final two challenges. After the first one, Valerie won an advantage of picking her sous-chefs for the final elimination challenge, and Joey was sent home for making a slightly weaker amuse bouche. Even though Valerie got first pick, selecting her close friends Claire and Coco, it was her decisions to stick with pastry that put her in a bad position. There was a part of her doubting that choice to do only dessert, but desserts were how she got on top of challenges, and it was going through the competition and hearing the praise of her pastries that made her realize that she wanted to one day open her own dessert bar.  So in spite of the doubts, she still pushed forward and put up three amazing desserts in just an hour. She was proud of what she was putting out: each dessert looked and tasted impeccable, and showed her true range as a pastry chef. But with each course she saw Austin preparing, there was just a tinge of doubt that she was making a mistake doing only desserts.

It was heartbreaking to hear the judges’ decision. “You did an amazing job. You have a lot to be proud of.” One of the judges in the finale reassured her. “Valerie, you did incredible.” Coco, a small brunette, and Claire, an athletic blonde, hugged her. They were her sous-chefs in that final challenge. “Thank you.” She hugged them back. Even then, she still felt horrible. If she did such a good job, why did she still lose? At that point, she had a gut feeling that her all-dessert menu cost her the challenge, but she did not hear what the judges said. She did not know why her desserts, which she prided herself on, could not trump the menu Austin put up. But then seeing the judges say on national television that regardless of how amazing her desserts were, she could not beat Austin without doing at least two savory courses, it was heartbreaking. She felt idiotic. She basically handed Austin the title by not following the rules of the challenge. She lost on a technicality, and not even one that was out of her own hands. It was her conscious decision to make four desserts. Why did she think it was okay to do that? The answer that Valerie found was not a pretty one. It was her pride. She wanted to stake her ego on that title, and she only has herself to blame for losing a season that she easily had the potential to dominate.

Finally back in her dorm room, Valerie curled up in a ball on her bed and let loose the tears. It was hard to keep them in at that point. She just wanted to get all of her emotions out of the way so that she could move forward with her life. She could not believe she did that. And she knew that everyone would think poorly of her choices too. She would get many people telling her that she was an idiot for trying to bend the rules, and that she was asking to lose that season. Just knowing that the very thing she is paid to do is what cost her the title, it was heartbreaking. It made her feel as if she was less qualified to fill Namie’s shoes as the executive pastry chef because she lost the way that she did. Namie was a Warrior Chef winner, and she was talented enough to move on and start her own business. But what about Valerie? She was stuck with Namie’s old job, and coming in second to yet another winner on the show. She honestly did not expect to take losing this badly. She never really saw herself as a sore loser, but knowing that she lost in a cooking competition when food was all she ever talked about, it was rough. A part of her own identity, she was beginning to question.