Warrior Chef 3: Round 6

Phung: @I was almost sent home in the last round, but it doesn’t matter. @People have bad days. @You know what? @I can just win a challenge or two this round, and it’ll be my mini redemption. @The Phung Dynasty shall continue into a new era!

Lauren: @I’m surprised that Cherry got sent home, but we’re down to six really strong cooks. @Anyone can be going home at this point.

Gabe: @I’ve made it far, but I can go further. @I’m aiming for that finale now.

Michele: Hi, everyone! Welcome to the final six!

Kira: @Being in the top six feels good, but I want to make it to the finale. @We’re halfway done with the competition at this point.

Michele: So let’s start with our creativity challenge. We want you guys to prepare a delicious breakfast dish in just 30 minutes. Immunity is off the table, but we will be giving the winning cook $1,000!

Phung: @Want.

Lauren: @$1,000? @I need to step it up.

Michele: Your time starts now!

Phung: @I’m making banana-nut muffin doughnuts with a Nutella-Vietnamese coffee cappuccino. @I’m making the muffin dough and then deep frying them, because these doughnuts will win Warrior Chef for me. @The Vietnamese coffee kept me safe in the last round, and I’m just going to keep on going with that because I am here to win it.

Gabe: @For my breakfast dish, I’m preparing orange-maple crepes with brown butter sauce. @I want to do something simple and light, because I think breakfast shouldn’t be too fussy with bells and whistles. @That would get annoying really fast.

Henry: @I’m making a classic. @Bacon pancakes with caramelized ham, and an eggs benedict on top of the bacon pancake. @So I’m doing the egg and the hollandaise on top of the pancake and the ham. @I think it’s ingenious. @I haven’t won a challenge yet, but Justin just won his first challenge in the last round, so there’s still hope for me.

Justin: @I want to keep this winning streak going and the best way for me to do that is to push myself. @I’m making a zucchini cake with poached egg and a fresh crab salad. @I’m going with a savory breakfast because a sweet one is the most predictable way to go and I’m not about doing the most obvious thing at this point in the competition.

Kira: @I’m making a matcha-chia seed parfait with homemade granola and whipped coconut cream. @I’m trying to make a very light dish and make it vegan and gluten-free just to show that I am a fearless competitor. @I love chia seed pudding, so hopefully it will go over well.

Lauren: @I don’t really enjoy breakfast to be honest. @I’m making a rice porridge with a poached egg and some Kona coffee quick-braised ham. @Right now, Justin and Kira are the most consistently strong competitors, but Phung is a demon who I can’t just ignore. @She is definitely the strongest cook when she gets it right.

Michele: Time’s up!

Henry: @I’m feeling good about my dish and then I realize that I didn’t plate my hollandaise. @Crap. @My dish is going to be dry.

Michele: Your judge for this is Warrior Chef house critic, Lotte Amazo!

Lotte: Hi, everyone! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so thank you guys for preparing it for me six-fold!

Lotte and Michele taste the dishes.

Michele: So Lotte, who failed to impress you?

Lotte: Gabe, the dish was very underwhelming, especially compared to the other dishes. And Henry. Your dish was dry. I needed a glass of orange juice for that.

Henry: @I could’ve won the challenge if it wasn’t for that sauce missing. @This sucks.

Lotte: So for my favorites. Phung. The fact you managed to get yeast-leavened doughnuts that fluffy in the time allotted, and the overall concept of your dish was inspired and genius. You really do have a mastery over yeast that nobody else, myself included, seems to grasp. First the baguette in an hour, and then doughnuts in 30 minutes? I’m just stunned. Justin, the crab and zucchini combination was great and it was cool to see you incorporate that into a breakfast dish. And Kira. You managed to really impress me with an inventive breakfast that showed ambition as well.

Michele: So who won the challenge?

Lotte: It was a close call between all three dishes. But the best dish definitely went to… Phung for defying the laws of physics and proofing with yeast yet again!

Michele: Congratulations, Phung! You won $1,000!

Phung: Thank you! Thank you! I love you all, my loyal subjects! @I won!~ @I won!~ @Told you my doughnuts would win me this challenge. @Who said that you need yeast to proof for at least an hour? @They’re dumb because I’ve proven them wrong twice now. @Suck it! @That money will fund my “Dummies’ Guide to using Yeast” cookbook! @Expect it in a bookstore near you!

Michele: And now it’s time for the elimination challenge! For this challenge, you guys have 60 minutes to prepare your signature dishes! Your time starts now!

Phung: @This challenge? @Normally they have it in the preliminary rounds but they didn’t do that this year. @Oh well, I’m going to just have to crush it here. @I’m preparing a seared duck breast with banana flower salad and lime reduction, as well as duck carpaccio with crackling and pickled bean sprouts. @I’m tasting the flavors this time because I want my duck to not suck like the lamb in the last challenge.

Justin: @I’m feeling good about this challenge. @I’ve made pasta throughout this entire competition so it’s only natural for me to… not do that. @I’m going to prepare a play on pasta, but it’s a German dessert. @It’s called spaghettieis, which is vanilla ice cream piped to look like noodles, with a strawberry sauce, some chocolate truffles, and a cookie to garnish. @I think it’s a funny thing to prepare here.

Lauren: @For my signature dish, I’m going to do a kahlua glazed pork belly with a raw egg-yogurt emulsion, pickled radicchio, and scallop dumplings. @I’m so ready to take down these guys and make my way to the final five.

Kira: @I’m nervous about this challenge, because I don’t want to disappoint and these numbers just show what the judges think of our dishes down to the margin. @I’m making a confit tuna belly with braised onions, caramelized mushrooms, and brown butter. @I’m going to try my best to show good French technique.

Henry: @I love crab cakes so I’m making a crab beignet with a spicy remoulade sauce and a corn and pepper slaw. @I’m hoping that the flavors really deliver. @I’m not ready to get eliminated and I want to show everyone why I deserve to be in the final five.

Gabe: @For my dish, I’m preparing a seared duck breast with guava glaze and a fried rice with chilies. @It’s Chinese and Mexican fusion, but I know that I can pull this off. @My biggest strengths tonight will be in my flavors and seasoning. @I want to nail it because I haven’t won anything yet.

Michele: Time’s up!

Phung: @I nailed it. @I know I nailed it.

Michele: So your judges are:

Aster Walker

Erwin Ko

Miriam Adjanti

Missy Skies

Guy Flannigan

Frank Torres

Michele: So let’s start with Phung’s dish!

-duck breast, banana flower salad, lime, carpaccio, crackling, pickled bean sprouts

Frank: Phung’s flavors were beautiful. The presentation was astonishing and I liked the amount of flavor she developed into that carpaccio.

Guy: The dish came together. Using the duck fat and salt to dress the flesh of the breast meat was a smart trick.

Michele: And now we have Justin’s dish!

-spaghettieis

Missy: He normally makes pasta, so this was hilarious to see. The ice cream was well made and the sauce was delicious.

Erwin: Overall, two thumbs up for a great dish. I have no complaints either. He did a really good job.

Michele: And next is Lauren’s dish!

-kahlua glazed pork belly, raw egg-yogurt emulsion, pickled radicchio, scallop dumplings

Aster: The pork belly was cooked nicely and I liked the pickled radicchio against the egg emulsion. She balanced her flavors quite nicely.

Miriam: I got a fattier piece, so it was not as enjoyable for me, the pork. But the dumplings alone were fantastic. I loved those.

Michele: And now we have Kira’s dish!

-confit tuna belly with braised onions, caramelized mushrooms, and brown butter

Miriam: The tuna belly was cooked well, but the dish itself, I was looking for brightness and that’s what I was missing.

Missy: I agree. The dish lacked acidity to really compliment the tuna. But the confit technique alone was impeccably done.

Michele: And this is Henry’s dish next.

-crab beignet with spicy remoulade sauce and corn and pepper slaw

Guy: Compared to some of the other dishes, his was very plain. That being said, the beignets were inventive and I liked those a lot.

Frank: The pairing of the beignets with peppers, corn, and remoulade was clever, but the amount of technique he showed compared to Phung or Lauren or Justin, just none.

Michele: And finally, Gabe’s dish!

-seared duck breast with guava glaze and chili fried rice

Aster: The duck breast was cooked nicely but the entire dish just ate heavy. I couldn’t really stomach most of that rice.

Erwin: I felt that the combination was interesting and he cooked the rice and the duck well, and the glaze was well seasoned. I just didn’t think he did enough with his time.

Michele: So can we score the dishes?

Erwin: We can.

In walks the six contestants.

Michele: Six of you stand, but one of you is going to be eliminated. Judges? Let’s start with Phung’s score!

Phung – 10 + 10 + 10 + 9 + 9 + 9 = 57/60 stars

Phung: Boom! @I got 3 10’s. @Nobody is going to beat me.

Michele: And now we have Kira’s score.

Kira – 9 + 9 + 9 + 9 + 8 + 8 = 52/60 stars

Kira: Crap. @I’m behind Phung by 5 whole stars. @I might be going home tonight over my tuna dish.

Michele: And now we have Justin’s score!

Justin – 10 + 9 + 10 + 9 + 9 + 9 = 56/60 stars

Justin: Thank you. @Not enough to beat Phung, but I’m still safe. @It’s a good feeling.

Michele: And next is Lauren’s score!

Lauren – 10 + 9 + 9 + 9 + 9 + 8 = 54/60 stars

Lauren: @I got a 10, but Justin and Phung still beat me. @It sucks, but at least I’m safe.

Michele: Phung, you actually received the highest score and you won the elimination challenge! Congratulations!

Phung: Of course I would get first. @I managed to really blow the judges away and getting a 57/60 just shows why I am going to be Warrior Chef. @Winning back to back challenges just proves to everyone why they can eat my dust.

Michele: Lauren, Justin, Phung, the three of you are safe and can leave the kitchen.

The three leave.

Michele: Henry, you need 53 to beat Kira. Let’s see your score!

Henry – 9 + 8 + 9 + 8 + 8 + 8 = 50/60 stars

Michele: Henry, that means you’re currently in last place. Kira, you are safe.

Kira: Thank you. @I was getting nervous there. @It sucks that I was so close to the bottom. @I don’t like that feeling.

Michele: Gabe, you need at least 51 stars to remain. Here’s your score!

Gabe – 8 + 8 + 8 + 8 + 9 + 8 = 49/60 stars

Michele: Unfortunately, Gabe, with the lowest score, you are going home tonight. Please return to the kitchen and leave.

Gabe: Thank you. @I’m gutted. @I just got eliminated from Warrior Chef and I didn’t think it was my time to leave. @The final five are strong cooks, but I think Phung will win this season. @She’s been the strongest by far.

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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.

Warrior Chef 2: Round 5

Marisa: @We’re down to seven now, and I’m feeling really bad. @I keep scrapping by in the elimination challenges now, and it makes me feel uneasy. @I’m supposed to be in this competition to win the title for my mother! @I can’t keep dropping the ball here.

Talia: @Amanda, Marisa, and I have been doing alright in the season so far, and I’d love to think that one of us is going to be Warrior Chef. @But Vin and Rose are the power couple of this season and they’re going to be hard to take down.

Rose: @I’m not happy coming in second all the time. @I want to prove that I can come in first. @I sense it tonight. @I’m going to win. @I have to win.

Victoria: Hi, everyone! So for today’s creativity challenge, we want to see you guys make savory dishes out of coffee and cream! 25 minutes on the clock, starting now!

Vin: @I decide right away I want to prepare a coffee infused crepe with homemade sour cream, caramelized leeks, and pancetta-sauteed mushrooms. @I want to make sure that I can get the cream made in time, so I’m going to sous-vied the buttermilk with the cream and let that culture in the water bath. @I’m taking a risk here, creating my own sour cream, but if it pays off, then I’m going to win the challenge for sure. @I love eatings crepes and after seeing Amanda take out the win in the last creativity challenge with one, it’s my turn to show that I can make them better than she can.

Rose: @Vin is doing a sous-vied dish, and I’m thinking about what I can do to really show off. @I’m going to do a coffee crusted snapper sashimi with an olive oil and spring pea ice cream. @I’m going way out of the box on this one, because I know how to make this dish work. @I’ve won challenges in the past with my ice creams, so why not again? @This time, I’m using liquid nitrogen and a stand mixer, because I don’t want to add too much sugar into the ice cream base. @Additionally, I’m breaking down the fish by hand and curing it in salt and coffee before I slice it. @Have I done this before? @No. @But I’m here to prove that I’m the head bitch in charge, so I’m going to establish that I am. @We have four girls running around the kitchen, and I’m the strongest one.

Amanda: @For this challenge, I’m going to make coffee infused pasta with a ground beef ragout, which I’m going to finish with an herb scented cream. @I’m grinding up my own beef from scratch, because I want there to be a nice 85:15 meat to fat ratio. @In the last challenge, my pasta was well-received, so I’m going to do another pasta this time, but infusing the dough with coffee to make it have a nicer elasticity and flavor. @Rose looks like she wants to kill somebody. @She keeps coming in second place, and it must be rough on her.

Talia: @Amanda is taking a risk, but I’m going to do something I know how to handle. @It’ll be a coffee crusted steak with creamy mashed potatoes and roasted carrots in garlic and anchovies. @I’m taking the risk of pairing anchovies with coffee, but if it works, then I’m going to win immunity tonight. @I know I can cook a steak and mash potatoes, so that won’t be the major issue tonight. @Hopefully my dish is going to be so well-received that it’ll just blow the judge out of the water.

Jo: @I’m really nervous because I don’t like coffee, and I don’t like cream. @Put the two together, and I’m very unhappy. @I’m making coffee crusted salmon with creamy potato mash. @I’m not good with this kind of challenge, because I’m not really inspired by the ingredients and we only have 25 minutes. @But I’m hoping breaking down the salmon will earn me back some extra points here.

Nate: @I’m stoked to have coffee, because I’m from Boston. @They don’t just call us Beantown for no reason. @I’m making a savory coffee churro with an anchovy cream vinaigrette, mache, baby kale, and charred gem romaine with shallots. @It’s a panzanella basically. @I’m excited because I think that this combination will work in my favor. @I’m doing the churro inspired by a Chinese dish, and it’ll just be blending together cultures into something almost entirely new.

Marisa: @Nate is doing some weird churro salad, and I’m just thinking about what I can pair the coffee with. @I decide on a coffee and pancetta risotto with raclette cheese to finish it. @I’m also finishing it with some heavy cream, just to incorporate the ingredient. @I’m worried about the dish holding up, because risotto is temperamental, and on top of that, I just don’t want my risotto to be very muddled between the cream, coffee, and cheese. @I’m a lot of ingredients in there.

Victoria: Time’s up!

Nate: @I’m looking at my dish and I know I nailed this one. @Give me immunity, already. @I earned it.

Victoria: Your judge for this challenge is food critic Kierra Johnson!
Kierra: Hi, everyone! I’m excited to see what you all have planned with such a classic combination. This is going to be a fun challenge to judge.

Talia: @She’s from the Midwest, and so am I. @I really want to impress her tonight. @That would be a dream come true for me.

Kierra and Victoria taste the dishes.
Victoria: So Kierra, how did they do?

Kierra: Overall, no bad dishes tonight. I did have a top three, however. Nate, the panzanella with coffee churro was clever and the cream in the vinaigrette was definitely a unique touch. Vin, the crepe was delicious and I loved the leek and creme fraiche. And Rose. The combination of peas, cream, coffee, and fish, it was not something I expected to work. But you converted me on that. I was blown away.

Rose: @I think it’s between me and Vin for who won this one. @Nate made an interesting salad, but it’s a salad. @Vin and I both pushed the envelop.

Kierra: And the best dish was made by…. Rose.

Victoria: Congratulations, Rose! You won immunity going into tonight’s elimination!

Rose: Thank you. @I knew it. @I knew I was the winner. @If they said I wasn’t, then I’d be shocked. @I pushed myself so hard.

Nate: @Rose is strong competition, so I want her out. @But maybe next round, since she’s got immunity tonight. @Damn it.

Victoria: And now for the elimination challenge!

A knife block is placed in front of the cooks.

Victoria: Everyone, please draw knives!

Rose – vegan

Vin – carb-free

Nate – lactose-free

Amanda – vegan

Marisa – lactose-free

Talia – carb-free

Jo – vegan

Victoria: So for this challenge, you’ll have to either prepare a vegan appetizer, carb-free main, or lactose-free dessert.

Marisa: @I have to prepare a lactose-free dessert. @This will be interesting. @I’m trying to think of what I can prepare without any dairy.

Rose: @Vegan? @No thanks. @I’m cashing in my immunity. @I don’t even care. @I’ll watch you guys suffer while I just laugh.

Victoria: 45 minutes on the clock, starting now!

Nate: @I have to prepare a lactose-free dessert. @I’ve got this one in the bag. @I’m Chinese! @I’m making an almond milk panna cotta, inspired by almond jelly, with lychee-coconut sorbet and some caramelized pineapples sprinkled with black sesame seeds for crunch. @I’m confident that this is going to be my first elimination win.

Vin: @I have carb-free main. @That kind of sucks, because I can’t use rice. @I decide to prepare a curried pork chop with a fennel and orange salad and raisin chutney. @I’m hoping that the raisin chutney will make my dish substantial, without there needing to be a carb on the plate.

Amanda: @I have to make a vegan appetizer. @I immediately think about making gazpacho. @I’m going to prepare a green grape, marcona almond, and shallot gazpacho. @I’m going to use the liquid nitrogen to chill it down. @I need to keep taking chances here, because that’s how I’ll improve as a cook in this competition.

Marisa: @Lactose-free dessert. @Crap. @That means no dairy. @Almost every dessert I can think of making, it needs butter or milk or cream. @I decide to make an olive oil and meyer lemon cake with a fresh fruit salad and some coconut milk foam. @I’m going to use the canister to help froth up coconut milk for a creamy finish.

Jo: @Vegan appetizer. @That’s rough. @I’m making mushroom dumplings with grilled Chinese broccoli and edamame salad. @I’m hoping that what I lack in meat, I can make up for with the flavors of the vegetable and developing those.

Talia: @Carb-free entree. @No pasta, no pancakes, no waffles, no love. @I’m not excited about this. @I decide to make a pine nut “rice” in place of normal rice. @From there, I’m going to prepare a jambalaya with pine nut “rice.” @I know that the texture will be there, so it’s going to come down to the flavors.

Rose: @I’m not going to try tonight. @I have immunity and I’d rather just relax and not think about the challenge. @I’m going to make myself some Eggs Benedict, because I’d want to eat that in honor of Duke getting sent home. @Show the world a proper hollandaise sauce, aka one without olive oil.

Victoria: Time’s up!
Marisa: @I see my foam is separating on the plate and I’m feeling bad about the dish. @I might be going home tonight.

Victoria: Your judges are:

Erwin Ko

Aster Walker

Miriam Adjnati

Victoria: Let’s start with the vegan appetizers!

Rose – none

Amanda – green grape gazpacho

Jo – mushroom dumplings with edamame salad

Erwin: I’m disappointed that Rose did not put up a dish. She had immunity, and she basically tossed it away.

Aster: Amanda’s gazpacho was delicious and I loved the flavor and texture she achieved. I forgot it was vegan. The marcona almonds helped with the texture.

Miriam: Jo’s dumplings were nice and I really enjoyed those. But the salad he served on the side, it was bland and the Chinese broccoli was raw and unpleasant.

Victoria: Now the carb-free entrees!

Vin – curried pork chop, raisin chutney, fennel salad

Talia – jambalaya with pine nut rice

Erwin: Vin’s pork was cooked immaculately. It was succulent, juicy, and it glistened. The curry spices he used worked really well. I loved the chutney, which was sweet and tangy, and the fennel had a wonderful texture.

Miriam: I liked where Talia was going and using the pine nuts in place of rice was ingenious. But the flavor of the jambalaya was bland. No heat, hardly any salt. She could have made a good dish, but she dropped the ball.

Victoria: And finally, our lactose-free desserts!

Marisa – meyer lemon-olive oil cake, fresh fruit salad, coconut foam

Nate – almond panna cotta, lychee-coconut sorbet, caramelized sesame pineapples

Aster: The cake was moist and I loved the flavor of that cake. But the rest of the dish was haphazardly plated. The salad was not really dressed or cut properly, and the foam was split and you could taste something oily about it that ruins the rest of the dessert.

Erwin: Nate’s panna cotta was delicious and I loved the sorbet he topped it with. The caramelized pineapple on its own with the black sesame was my favorite bite of the whole day.

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

Miriam: Yes.

In walks Vin, Nate, and Amanda.
Victoria: The three of you impressed the judges, and tonight, one of you won the elimination challenge!

Vin: @I’m feeling like it’s my time. @I’ve got to win this one. @My dish tasted really good and that chutney was bomb.

Nate: @I’m on top with Amanda and Vin, who keep taking all the wins. @I need to snag one. @This is my time. @I swear upon it.

Amanda: @I’m stoked to be on top with my gazpacho. @I knew it was the right choice and the judges agreed!

Victoria: Aster, who is our winner?

Aster: We all loved your dishes, but the best one was made by…. Nate!

Victoria: Congratulations, Nate! You won the elimination challenge!
Nate: Thank you! @I’m excited that I won the challenge and beat Amanda and Vin. @I knew I had it in me.

The top three leave.

In walks Marisa and Talia.

Victoria: Unfortunately, one of you is going home tonight.

Marisa: @Hearing that it’s between the two of us, it’s not easy. I don’t want her to go home, but her leaving means me staying.

Miriam: If we could, we would have eliminated Rose for doing nothing, but she had immunity. Marisa, the coconut foam ruined your dessert. Talia, the dish was bland and underwhelming. It was a tough decision.

Victoria: Marisa, please return to the kitchen and leave.
Maria: *to Talia* Good luck, okay? Make it to the finale for me. @I’m feeling horrible about being eliminated. @I thought I made the most of the challenge and that I tried my best. @But my best was not enough and it sucks to hear that.

Talia: @Seeing her go is rough. @She’s one of my closest friends and I did not think saying goodbye to her would be this hard. *tears up*

How it is: Chapter 22

“Chef, do you have a moment?” Service was just wrapping up as Valerie approached Janice on the line. “Yeah, what’s up?” The Singaporean girl wanted the executive chef’s advice on a couple things: should she compete in Warrior Chef: All Stars, as well as what to do about Tarou. Even though she’s only seven years older, Janice would still know more about what to do in these kinds of socially awkward situations than the young pastry chef would have. “So the first thing is that I got invited to compete in Warrior Chef: All Stars, and I was wondering if I should do it.” The executive chef smiled in response to that. “I think you need to do it, Valerie. You’re extremely talented, and honestly, you could easily win a Redemption competition if you put your mind to do it.” Janice assured her. “Wait, so you think I should? Because that would mean that I would have to take a leave of absence.” Valerie noted. “I’m sure it would be fine. Hey, Daphne!” Janice turned to the eldest pastry cook. “Yes, chef?” “Do you want to be promoted to executive pastry chef? Valerie’s going to be away, competing in Warrior Chef: All Stars, so we need somebody to fill in the position!” The mother was stunned by the offer. “Hey, it would be an honor. But I think Megan is more deserving.” She noted. “Alright, then I’ll ask Megan. Either way, somebody will just get promoted and we will hire a new pastry cook.” Janice decided. “So you don’t have to worry about leaving us behind. Valerie, you are talented and you will easily wipe the floor with everyone in that competition. By any chance, do you know who you’ll be up against?” Janice looked at her, curiously. “It just said that I will be going against former finalists, runner-ups, and memorable contestants from all of the past seasons.” She summarized. “Ah, I see. That’s going to be pretty intense, then. But you are a former runner-up yourself, and you made it that far for good reason. Go in there, and kick some major ass like I know you will.”

Janice’s words put a large grin on Valerie’s face. “Alright, is there anything else you wanted to talk about?” “Oh, right.” The Singaporean girl remembered the entire issue with Timmy. “Yeah, so I don’t know if you remember, but I have a friend, Timmy. And he has a huge crush on me, but I rejected him… because I have a crush on his best friend. And it’s just really awkward because we’re all childhood friends, and the more I think about it, the less I want to be in a relationship with either of them.” She frowned. “Ooh, so a love triangle? That’s…. very awkward.” Janice crossed her arms. “But you don’t want to be in a relationship with either of them, right?” “Yeah, and I don’t want to hurt their feelings either.” “Jesus, Christ, people are sensitive these days.” The executive chef rolled her eyes. “Valerie, don’t think about that right now. Do you feel comfortable being with either of them, in terms of a relationship?” “No.” She shook her head. It would be far too awkward. “Then there you go. That’s your answer.” Janice laughed. “I know I’m coming off as very black and white about this, but it’s because there’s no point in dwelling over things that you can solve easily, if you remove the emotional aspect. Sometimes, as human beings, we need to make the tough call.” Valerie nodded in agreement to that statement. “Thanks, chef.” “No problem. Hope it all works out for you.” And with that, the two executive chefs finished breaking down their stations and started heading out. “Now how do I do that?” The Singaporean girl sighed to herself. Just a day ago, she told Timmy she had feelings for Tarou. And disregarding the likely possibility that he told Tarou this already, Valerie felt uncomfortable going back on her emotions and relinquishing her feelings for him.

“Tarou, can I be honest with you?” Timmy looked over at his roommate. They were in their room, on their respective beds, getting ready to go to sleep. The other night was still bothering him greatly. “What’s up?” “So when I was with Valerie, talking it out, I confessed to her.” “Confessed to her? Wait, no, you didn’t-” “Yeah, I told her how I was feeling.” “And?” Tarou looked at his friend, expectantly. The Taiwanese boy paused awkwardly. “She rejected me.” “Hey, it’s okay. So she wasn’t the one. That’s not the end of the world, buddy.” The Japanese boy walked over to his friend, patting him on the back reassuringly. “It’s not just the rejection that hurt me, though.” Even though Timmy had harbored feelings for Valerie for the past 13 years of his young life, he could never bring himself to muster up the courage to say anything until that night. And for him to be outright rejected, that was tough. But to know that the person Valerie had her eyes set on was the very person comforting him, and after everything that just happened to the three of them, this was a lot for the 18 year-old freshman to handle. “Hey, what’s wrong?” Tarou looked at his friend, gravely concerned. Taking a deep breath, Timmy calmed himself down. “She…. she likes you, man.” He croaked. “Timmy, you don’t have to worry about a thing, okay?” Tarou looked at Timmy, reading the boy’s worried expression. “But what about when you guys lived together?” “Nothing happened. I swear.” “But what about her feelings for you?” “Are you kidding me? The last thing I want to do is jeopardize our friendship after the whole ordeal we went through just to repair it. Fuck that.” The model rolled his eyes. “If it makes you feel any better, the first thing I will do tomorrow is talk to Valerie about this, and reject her.” He offered. “Okay, you don’t have to go that far. But I feel awkward now because of this. I liked her, she likes you, and you don’t like her. It’s like a weird….love….line?” The computer engineer’s words were failing him at the moment. He was fatigued from all of the stress from this entire semester, and just wanted to relax and recover from it all.

“Hey, Timmy, are you alright?” A 13 year-old Valerie looked at the 8th grade Timmy, who had just fought off a bunch of bullies who were picking on Tarou. “Yeah, it’s no big deal.” Timmy laughed, hiding a large cut on his forearm. “No, you’re hurt!” She pulled his arm, revealing the gash. “Timmy?” The chubby Japanese boy whimpered, feeling horribly guilty. “I’m so sorry…” He was crestfallen at the sight of the wound. “You’re coming with me to the nurse’s office.” Valerie ordered. “Hey, I’m okay! Really!” Timmy tried to insist. “Nope, you’re not!” Despite his protests, Timmy appreciated how insistent and direct Valerie was. Unlike most girls at their school, who were passive aggressive, bitchy, and so keen on playing the damsel-in-distress roles in social situations, Valerie was open with how she felt and conveyed her intentions very clearly. She was brave, caring, and fearless. She was not afraid to stand up to anyone, much like how Timmy was against Tarou’s bullies. This girl, she was different in a way that Timmy really loved. He could be himself around her, and he thought that she was the one for him. “Here, let’s just wipe the wound with some of this first.” She reached for a dark brown bottle, containing rubbing alcohol. She dabbed the open tip of the overturned bottle with a cotton pad, before returning the bottle to where she found it, and gently brushed the dirt off of Timmy’s cut. The Taiwanese boy fought the urge to blush. He was so close to her. Against his better judgement, Timmy began memorizing her features. He could see the small freckles on her cheeks, the light pink shade of her lips, the way her hair parted to the right. He really was in love with her.

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.