Warrior Chef 3: Round 5

Phung: @Walking into the kitchen, I’m glad that I was able to establish dominance. @The Phung Dynasty continues! @But Jaenice going home sucks. @She was funny and I really liked having her around. @James shall rue the day he sent her packing.

Justin: @I’m annoyed that I’ve been sort of coasting by. @I really want to win tonight’s challenges and just prove to the other contestants that I am the best one here.

Cherry: @I’m feeling ready to win the competition. @It’s a huge opportunity for me to really prove that being a former pot head isn’t going to stop me from being successful in my future.

Michele: Hi, everyone! So for tonight’s creativity challenge, you’ll need to prepare a dish worthy of a Michelin star. Unfortunately, after this challenge, somebody will be sent home. This is a sudden death challenge!

Lauren: @The moment she says sudden death, I am freaking out internally. @I don’t want to get sent home. @Not this way.

Phung: @I’m not worried. @I will crush it tonight.

Michele: You have 45 minutes, your time starts now!

Kira: @I’m excited for this challenge, because I know I can nail this one. @If I can win this challenge, then I win three in a row, and that’s exciting. @For my dish, I’m doing smoked quail with a taro mousseline, fried mustard seed, and goji berry compote. @It’s going to be Asian-French fusion, which I know so many high-end restaurants do.

Lauren: @I decide to prepare soft shell crabs with an orange-fennel salad. @I’m keeping the dish super simple. @So far, in this competition, Phung, Kira, and I have been trading wins, so I would love to just keep winning challenges.

Phung: @Lauren’s not my main competition. @Kira, she’s a threat. @Justin, he’s potentially a threat, but I can take him down in the long run. @I decide to make a chawanmushi, in honor of my soul sister, Jaenice. @I miss her greatly, but in the Phung Dynasty, there will be casualties.

James: @I’m going to make a apple cake with vanilla ice cream. @I’m making a dessert because it’ll be something that everyone will be shocked by that. @If I can even win one challenge at this point, it’ll show everyone here that I am a strong contender and that I can cook sweet or savory.

Henry: @I’m nervous about this challenge because I’m not super into the whole fine-dining genre. @I’m preparing a seared scallop with beetroot puree and a yogurt coulis with coconut. @I’m feeling great about this dish, because it’ll show a lot of finesse. @Scallops are super fancy, right?

Justin: @I’m preparing a kale tortellini with brown butter and crispy pancetta. @I’m keeping the dish simple, but I’m hoping that making a filled pasta in 45 minutes shows that I am a skilled and talented chef in this competition.

Michele: Time’s up!

Lauren: @I’m stepping back from my station feeling meh about my dish. @I see the others, and we have some seriously good looking dishes up there tonight.

Michele: Your judge is Warrior Chef house critic, Lotte Amazo!
Lotte: Hi, everyone. As a food critic, I love seeing how far chefs can take their food. Let’s see if anyone here is worthy of a Michelin star.

Lotte and Michele taste the dishes.

Michele: So Lotte, who managed to impress you the most?

Lotte: Kira, you made a really delicious quail dish and I was impressed by your techniques. Henry, the scallop was simple, but well executed. Your presentation was one of my favorites. And Justin. The tortellini was wrapped, filled, and cooked to perfection. I really enjoyed that a lot.

Michele: And your winner?

Lotte: I think it was a hard choice, but in the end, Kira, you made my favorite dish.

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

Kira: Thank you. @I’m just relieved to not be on the bottom. @I don’t know what to expect, but now I have immunity, and I’m guaranteed a spot in the final six.

Justin: @I’m so annoyed that Kira won. @Can I ever win a damn challenge? @At this point, I’m convinced that I’m going to be sent home next, because it seems everyone who is the bridesmaid in these challenges goes home.

Michele: And Lotte, who is on the bottom?

Lotte: James, the apple cake wasn’t baked enough. And Phung. Your chawanmushi was scrambled and just not refined at all.

Phung: @Crap. @I’m on the bottom and up for elimination. @What even is this?

Michele: So for the sudden death challenge, Phung and James, you must prepare a high-end canape. You have just 25 minutes, your time starts now!

Phung: @I need redemption. @I’m making the chawanmushi with uni and shiitake mushrooms, and this time, I’m making it in the tiny Chinese soup spoons. @I’m monitoring the steamer like a hawk, because I am not going home on a fucking egg custard, and especially not going home against James.
James: @I have the chance to knock Phung out of the competition, so bring it on. @I’m making a harissa rubbed prosciutto with deep fried fig and melted honey-goat cheese. @Phung is one of the biggest contenders for the title, and I want to eliminate her. @I need to beat her if I want to win the title anyways.

Lauren: @I am keeping my fingers crossed that Phung gets sent home. @As much as I love her sass, she’s a major, major threat, and her getting eliminated means that a huge obstacle is out of the way.

Henry: @I think everyone wants Phung out. @She’s really rude, and she’s a strong cook, so it’s just two more reasons why people don’t necessarily warm up to her. @If James does eliminate Phung, then we will all be really happy.

Phung: @I check my custards, and they are perfect. @I’m feeling great about my canapes. @I know how to make a perfect dish and it’ll show. @My food is strong, bold, and I will knock people out, one by one.

James: @I’m feeling really good about the deep fried fig. @My dish is possibly the best thing I put up in this entire competition. @Phung better watch out, because everyone always roots for the underdog.

Michele: Time’s up! Step away from your stations.

James: @Phung made the chawanmushi again, so I know I can beat her now.

Michele and Lotte taste James and Phung’s dishes.

Michele: Lotte, how did they do?

Lotte: Phung, you prepared the same dish, but this one was delicious and smooth. I really loved your dish. James, the fig was a surprisingly delicious addition, and the harissa and prosciutto was great. The goat cheese was a nice touch as well.

James: @I’m feeling good. @Phung, here’s the door.

Lotte: Overall, it came down to the main challenge. Who prepared a canape. Both of you served good food, but the challenge required it to be a canape. James, you served me something a little larger than that, and for that sole reason, you’re going home.

Michele: James, please return to the kitchen and leave.

Phung: *to James* You deserved it. This was for Jaenice, you ass!

James: Crap. Okay. @I wasn’t expecting that. @I thought I had Phung beat. @That’s really dumb that I’m going out on a technicality. @I really wanted to prove that I can cook good food, and it sucks, because I just stumbled slightly and failed.

James leaves the kitchen.

Phung: @And just like that, there were only seven left. @I’m feeling great.

Michele: And now it’s time for the elimination challenge!

A cart is wheeled in, carrying two whole lambs.

Cherry: @I just see the whole lambs and all I can think is… whaaaat? @We have to cook with these monsters?

Lauren: @I’m feeling a little nervous about having to butcher these lambs, because I don’t do that.

Justin: @I see the whole lambs and I’m ecstatic. @I actually know how to butcher the lambs, so I know that this is my challenge to really step up and shine.

Kira: @I know how to butcher lamb, so this won’t be hard. @I see some of the other cooks around the room, and they’re looking really nervous.

Michele: You have an hour to prepare your own dish using parts from this whole lamb. And your time starts now!

Phung: @I run up and grab an entire lamb for myself. @I’m not going to try sharing the lamb and wasting time helping other people butcher it.

Lauren: @Phung grabs an entire lamb and my jaw hits the floor. @Seriously? @You don’t need the whole lamb for yourself.

Justin: @Kira and I start breaking down the other lamb, because nobody else knows how to do it, and while we are fabricating it, I’m just thinking about what I can make from it. @Since Kira and I volunteered to do it, everyone agrees that we get first pick on which part we want to use.

Kira: @For my dish, I’m going to prepare a grilled lamb chop with red wine and grape jus and gruyere mashed potatoes. @I’m keeping the dish super simple, because the time it’s taking to break down the lamb, I need to simplify the dish and focus on making sure I execute.

Justin: @I’m making a lamb ragout with paparadelle, black garlic, and fire roasted tomatoes. @It’s going to be awesome, because I just take the lamb scraps and utilize those in my dish.

Lauren: @Justin hands me the lamb leg, which is what I was hoping for. @I’m making a braised lamb leg with grilled cabbage slaw and spicy tomato relish. @I know that lamb loves smoke and heat, those I’m going with that.

Cherry: @So for my dish tonight, I’m going to be utilizing the lamb shank. @I’m making lamb shank with rice cakes and lamb broth. @I’m going to utilize the rice cakes from my Cantonese heritage to make a delicious texture the judges won’t expect.

Henry: @I decide on making a crepe with shaved lamb cheek and grilled mushrooms and frisee with harissa yogurt. @I’m going to take a risk here and do something out of the box. @Phung stealing the whole lamb for herself, it was selfish, and I hope she gets eliminated for it.

Gabe: @I’m using the belly. @I’m doing a braised lamb belly with mint-chili chutney and a corn puree. @Braising the lamb belly will be the risk I am taking here, but I know that I can pull that off.

Phung: @For my dish tonight, I’m doing a grilled lamb chop and lamb tongue, lamb carpaccio, Vietnamese coffee jus, caramelized lamb belly, and a ramp pancake. @I’m taking on a lot at once because I know I can execute it all flawlessly. @The advantage to having my own lamb is that I can use it all and showcase different textures.

Michele: Time’s up!

Lauren: @I’m feeling good about this challenge. @Phung might have tried to selfishly hog an entire lamb to herself, but my dish came out like how I wanted it to.

Michele: Your judges are:

Erwin Ko

Aster Walker

Miriam Adjanti

Michele: Let’s start with the dishes by Justin and Kira first!

Justin – lamb ragout with paparadelle, black garlic, and fire roasted tomatoes

Kira – grilled lamb chop with red wine and grape jus and gruyere mashed potatoes

Aster: The lamb ragout was delicious! The flavor he developed in the time he had and the fact that he utilized the off cuts for the lamb to prepare it, it was genius.

Miriam: Kira also delivered on a simple but well-done dish. The chop was butchered perfectly and I enjoyed her sauce and the puree was perfect. Smooth, velvety, but creamy. I had no complaints.

Michele: And next are the dishes by Phung and Lauren!

Phung – grilled chop, tongue, carpaccio, Vietnamese coffee, crispy belly, ramp pancake

Lauren – braised lamb leg with grilled cabbage slaw and spicy tomato relish

Erwin: The chop Phung prepared was undercooked. I appreciate that she was being ambitious, serving us lamb four different ways, but she didn’t really nail any single execution perfectly. I did enjoy her pancake and the Vietnamese coffee jus a lot.

Miriam: Lauren braised that lamb leg nicely and I was surprised by how much I liked the combination of grilled cabbage and spicy tomato with the braised lamb. The flavors of her dish came together.

Michele: Finally, the dishes by Gabe and Cherry!

Gabe – braised lamb belly with mint-chili chutney and corn puree

Cherry – lamb shank with rice cakes and lamb broth

Aster: Gabe braised his lamb belly nicely and I liked the chutney a lot. The corn puree just confused me. I didn’t really know where it belonged on the plate, because it was so bland and uninteresting compared to the rest of his dish.

Erwin: Cherry cooked her lamb shank nicely. The broth, I couldn’t even get to it because of how much rice cake she put in proportion. Eating her dish was like eating a bowl of glue and mud. I didn’t like it at all.

Michele: So can we crown a winner and decide who is going home?
Aster: We can.

In walks Justin, Kira, and Lauren.

Michele: Tonight, the three of you prepared the judges’ favorite dishes!

Aster: Justin and Kira, both of you did well with breaking down the lamb and your dishes were both well made. Lauren, the dish had great flavors and you surprised us with that grilled cabbage.

Michele: Aster, please announce the winner.

Aster: It came down to Lauren and Justin’s dishes for me. And the best dish belonged to… Justin.

Michele: Congratulations, Justin! You won the elimination challenge!

Justin: Thank you! @I won my first challenge ever and it feels good! @I’m definitely going to make that lamb ragout again when I open up my restaurant.

The top three leave.

In walks Phung and Cherry.
Michele: Tonight, both of you had glaring technical errors and one of you is going to be sent home.

Erwin: Phung, you didn’t deliver on any of your four lamb components. The chop was undercooked, the tongue and carpaccio were underseasoned, and you didn’t render out enough fat from the belly. We did enjoy your sauce and the pancake a lot, however.

Miriam: Cherry, the lamb shank was braised beautifully but the broth was nonexistent. The rest of your dish was basically taken over by your rice cakes, which weren’t good.

Cherry: Shit. @I’m feeling like I’m screwed at this point. @But they hated Phung’s lamb, so there’s hope for me.

Phung: @Cherry has been decently strong this season, but I know I can take her down. @Just send her on her way already.

Michele: Cherry, please return to the kitchen and leave.

Cherry: Thank you. *to Phung* Congratulations. @I’m going home tonight and it fucking sucks. @I didn’t think I’d be out this early. @I felt like with each challenge, I was getting stronger, and I didn’t quite reach my potential yet.

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Warrior Chef 3: Round 2

Lauren: @I’m walking into the kitchen feeling a lot more excited. @But I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. @If I think I’m the top dog for winning one challenge, then I’m definitely going home next.

Phung: @I’m the top dog in this kitchen, and I’m definitely going to win the next elimination challenge. @There’s no way that I’m going out next.

Michele: Welcome back to the Warrior Chef kitchen! So for this creativity challenge, you’ll have to prepare a dish, any dish you want…. without a knife.

James: @Without a knife? @How do you even do that?

Taylor: @I’m just racking through my brains for anything I can make without a knife. @This is going to be hard.

Justin: @I’m ready for this challenge. @I can make pasta without a knife, so I’m pretty much set.

Michele: So you have an entire hour to prepare your dish. Your time starts now!

Phung: @Right away, I know what I can grab instead of a knife. @I grab a food processor and a cheese grater, and I’m set. @I decide on making a pumpkin pie with whipped goat cheese and candied pumpkin seeds. @I’m going with a dessert because you’re stupid to try savory without a knife.

Jaenice: @I’m going to make hushpuppies with chorizo and shredded crab meat. @I grab the pizza cutter because I need something to cut up my crab meat with, and that’s where I’m going to go. @Phung and I are good friends at this point, and I want to see the two of us in the finale together. @It’ll be great times. @The rest of them can go fuck themselves, because they’re all boring little bitches. @Especially Henry.

Taylor: @I’m going to prepare a baba ganoush, but I’m trying to figure out what the heck to make with it. @I decide to make pita bread, but I don’t know if my pita will be proofed enough by the time the challenge is over. @It’s a risk, but I need to take those if I want to keep standing out.

Lauren: I’m going to prepare Kahlua pork with macaroni salad. @It’s classic Hawaiian food, and I can make that with a pressure cooker and no knives. @I’m confident in my dish, because it’s going to set me apart, making something savory.

Cherry: @I’m stoked that this challenge means that a lot of people are going to struggle. @I’m making crab rangoons with an apricot-Sriracha sauce. @I’m making my wrappers from scratch and using a pizza cutter to portion the dough. @I’m confident that the homemade wrappers will put me on another level from everyone else.

Elizabeth: @I’m making a miso glazed black cod with tempura vegetables. @For my vegetable tempura, I’m going to only do okra, mushrooms, and broccoli, because those don’t require knives to portion out for tempura. @I’m going to sous-vide the cod, just to make sure that the flavor is really packed in there.

Gabe: @I’m making chicken tamales with a salsa verde and roasted almonds and coconut flakes. @I’m confident with the choice to top the dish with almonds and coconut flakes because that’ll add a lot of texture to my dish. @After the last challenge, I really want to win this one. @Once you’re in the top 3, you want to continue to stay there.

Justin: @I’m preparing mushroom and beef ragout with paparadelle. @I’m lucky that our pasta machines are lined with the cutters, because I don’t have a knife to cut my own noodles with, and the pizza roller, I don’t trust that around my fingers. @I know that my biggest competitors are Phung and Kira, so I need to watch myself around both of them.

Kira: @I grab the scallops, because I don’t need a knife for those. @I’m going to prepare seared scallops with semolina gnocchiette, brown butter, pea tendrils, and black garlic. @I think it’ll be a great chance for me to show a lot of technique without needing to use a single knife.

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

James: @I step away from my dish and I’m feeling happy. @I see what Elizabeth made and it looks like cheap takeout.

Michele: Your judge is Warrior Chef judge, Chloe Lula!

Chloe: Hi, guys! As a vegan chef, I understand how difficult it can be to work with restrictions. That being said, I’m excited to try your dishes!

Chloe and Michele taste the dishes.

Michele: So Chloe, who failed to impress you?

Chloe: Cherry, your rangoons, you didn’t drain them on a towel, so they wound up being really greasy.

Phung: @Seriously? @Everyone making fried food this season keeps forgetting to do that. @How dumb can you be?!

Chloe: Elizabeth, the dish ate really dry. It needed a sauce. And Taylor. Your dish was pretty unimpressive. I didn’t really like anything on your plate at all.

Taylor: Crap. @I reached too far and didn’t make anything good. @This sucks.

Michele: And your top three?

Chloe: Kira, you made gnocchi, seared scallops, and just showed a lot of technique. I completely forgot you were handicapped without a knife in this challenge. Phung, your pumpkin pie was phenomenal and I’m genuinely stunned by how much I loved that. And Jaenice. Your hushpuppies with chorizo, it was great. The texture was brilliant and you fried those perfectly.

Jaenice: @See, Elizabeth and Cherry? @That’s how fried food is done. @Dumb skinny Asian bitches think they know how to beat me in a deep frying battle? @Think again!

Michele: And your winner?

Chloe: The best dish belonged to…. Kira.

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

Kira: Thank you. @Winning immunity means that I can’t be sent home tonight. @I can take a lot more risks and not hold back!

Phung: @Kira’s the last person who needs immunity right now. @So long as idiots like James are in the competition, she’ll be far from in danger of going home.

Michele: So for your elimination challenge, you’ll need to get narrative. You’ll need to prepare a dish inspired by a special moment or story in your life.

Cherry: @I already know which moment appeals to me. @I’m going to win tonight’s challenge so easily.

Michele: You’ll have just one hour on the clock, your time starts now!

Lauren: @I have to tell a story through my dish tonight. @I’m just thinking about the moment I met my boyfriend, Dennis. @We were practicing kung-fu together and just clicked. @He’s Taiwanese, and I decide to make a dish inspired by our first date. @He prepared Taiwanese soup dumplings for me, and I’ll just recreate that dish, and it’ll be my story for this challenge.

James: @I want to make a dish inspired by what got me into cooking. @I’m going to prepare a baklava, which is layers of phyllo pastry with nuts, dates, and spices mashed together into a paste and stuffed in there. @I’m going to serve that with coconut ice cream. @I really wanted to make a delicious dessert to impress a Turkish girl in my class, and that’s what I presented to her. @I didn’t get the girl in the end, but I developed a love for cooking from it.

Justin: @When I think about stories, I remember my grandma’s journey from Italy to New York. @Transitioning to life in Brooklyn was tough on her, and the only real comfort she found was making burrata cheese. @I’m making Grandma Angela’s burrata with tapenade crostini and pork crackling. @It’ll be simple but really well executed. @Just making the burrata from scratch should show a lot of technique.

Elizabeth: @I’m making a gluten-free and vegan chocolate-pumpkin bread that is inspired by my best friend, Casey, who can’t have eggs or gluten. @Casey was the person who sent in my Warrior Chef application, so I really want to win this challenge for her and show how our friendship can take me to the end of the competition.

Cherry: @I’m going to make my story based on the first time I had pot. @It was a delicious brownie. @I’m making a matcha-white chocolate blondie with matcha crumble and matcha ice cream. @I want to have two baked components on the plate, because they need to be baked. @Yes. @Very baked. @So fucking baked.

Kira: @I’m trying to dig deep and think about my childhood. @Growing up in San Francisco, we had good seafood. @I want to make a cioppino but with coconut milk, lemongrass, and chilies instead of the tomato and white wine. @It’s a fusion of my Asian heritage and my upbringing, and that should be an interesting story to tell.

Jaenice: @I love Korean soul fusion. @I’m going to make spicy chicken wings with kimchi-red bean butter and misugaru waffles. @If that does not tell you right away that I am a black woman who eats Korean food, then I really don’t know what else would. @I’m going to win tonight’s challenge with my story, for sure.

Phung: @I’m going to make a banh mi, but make the bread from scratch. @I only have an hour, but I’m going to go with a yeast based dough, because why not? @It’s going to have pate, my favorite, lime cured beef, and lots of chilies and herbs. @I’m looking forward to serving this to the judges, because they won’t be expecting this in just an hour, but I will deliver.

Taylor: @I wanted to do something with hapuku fish, but we don’t have that in the pantry, so I grab the cod instead. @I’m going to prepare oven roasted cod with beetroot chips and an olive hummus with tomatoes. @I’m feeling really good about this dish, because it’s mostly Greek, and it’s something that my parents would make for me all the time growing up.

Gabe: @Right now, Kira and Phung are the two best cooks in the competition. @I want to make sure that I can knock at least Phung out by the end of this challenge. @For my story, I’m going to talk about the time I did peyote in the dessert. @I’m making a chayote squash and cactus pear spring roll with jalapeno crumble and a lime-cilantro dipping sauce. @I think that making spring rolls will set me apart and show a lot more innovation in the challenge.

Henry: @I’m making poutine, because that’s what my grandma, Bella, would make for me all of the time whenever I would visit her in Montreal. @For my poutine topping, it’s a duck gravy with duck confit and some homemade cheese curds, that I’ll pickle for some extra tang and flavor. @When I see the other competitors, I’m just thinking about which one of them will be going home next. @I’m not too threatened, because it’s still early in the competition.

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

Gabe: @I don’t feel too confident with the spring rolls, but I see Elizabeth made yet another gluten-free chocolate cake. @She’s so going home tonight.

Cherry: @I think I nailed it. @Matcha domination, right?

Michele: So your judges are:

Miriam Adjanti

Guy Flannigan

Lotte Amazo

Michele: First are the dishes by Kira, Jaenice, and Justin!

Kira: So for my dish tonight, I have an Asian riff on a cioppino. I’m Filipino, but I was raised in San Francisco, so my dish embodies both my heritage through my choice of ingredients, but also the city I was raised in, by being an iconic San Franciscan dish. The seafood just reminds me of the beaches in both California and the Philippines.

Jaenice: I’m a black woman, and I love Korean food. I combined both of those and created a Korean fried chicken with kimchi-red bean butter, and misugaru waffles. I’m bringing to you guys the Soul in Seoul.

Justin: This dish is inspired by my grandma Angela. She always would make burrata cheese from scratch, so I did the same. My dish is fresh burrata cheese with tapenade crostini and pork crackling. I did the pork crackling as well because we would always have porcetta at the dinner table, and my grandma was the heart of my family.

Miriam: Kira’s Asian cioppino was delicious. I think her story-telling wasn’t terrible, but she could have sold her dish a lot more. That being said, the dish was faultless!

Guy: Jaenice’s story very bizarre. But she fried that chicken beautifully and I loved her waffle a lot. The one thing I didn’t appreciate was that kimchi-red bean butter. I don’t know what she was hoping to accomplish with it, but it was putrid.

Lotte: Justin had the best story out of the three of them. But in terms of the actual dish, his burrata was bland, and the cracklings were soggy. And what’s left of his dish? Just a piece of toast with tapenade. What could have showed skill, he fell flat on.

Michele: And next we have the dishes by Lauren, James, and Phung!

Lauren: So my dish is inspired by my first date with my boyfriend, Dennis. He is Taiwanese, and he took me to try Taiwanese soup dumplings, which were absolutely phenomenal. So I prepared exactly those with black vinegar and ginger for you.

James: I made a baklava inspired by when I first got into cooking. I met a girl in my dance class, and she is Turkish. I wanted to impress her, so I made this dessert. I didn’t get the girl, but it made me passionate about baking.

Phung: Growing up in a Vietnamese household, we know how to make pate and we know how to cure our own meats. My mom taught me how to do use every part of the animal from a young age, so that’s what I did with my banh mi tonight. It’s a homemade baguette with beef pate, lime cured beef, and plenty of sprouts, chilies, pickled vegetables, and herbs. Enjoy.

Lotte: Lauren’s dumplings were actually really well done. I loved the juiciness and the texture of the wrapper and meat. It was a bit simple, but her story sold it for me.

Miriam: I liked James’ story, but maybe there’s a reason why his baklava didn’t win over the girl. For his dish, the phyllo was soggy and undercooked. It wasn’t pleasant.

Guy: Phung just blew me away. Her story was alright, but the fact she made her own bread in less than an hour. I’m at a genuine loss for words. That plus the fact that her sandwich was perfection. I need time to process that achievements behind executing this dish in that time frame.

Michele: Finally, the dishes by Cherry and Elizabeth.

Cherry: So I used to be a pot addict, so my dessert is inspired by pot brownies, which were a thing I used to live by. To overcome my addiction, I deferred to drinking green tea and that helped me recover. I made green tea blondie with green tea ice cream and green tea crumble. I made sure to have two baked items on the plate, just because I used to be twice-baked.

Elizabeth: I prepared a gluten-free and vegan chocolate pumpkin bread that I used to make for my friend, Casey. Casey was the one who signed me up for this competition, and I want to do her proud with this dish.

Lotte: Cherry’s story was a combination of dark and hilarious. The dish was really well-executed and the flavors balanced nicely. It was a great blondie sundae.

Miriam: Elizabeth’s dessert bread was dense and chewy, and her story sounded more like her justifying why she should win the competition.

Michele: So can we decide on our top and bottom 3?

Guy: We can.

In walks Cherry, Kira, and Phung.

Michele: Tonight…. the three of you prepared the judges favorite dishes, and one of you is going to win the elimination challenge!

Kira: @I really want to win back to back challenges. @It would be amazing to set the bar high from the get-go.

Cherry: @Wait, I’m on top? @That’s amazing! @Wow. @I didn’t expect that!

Michele: Miriam, please announce the winner!

Miriam: Two of you made phenomenal dishes, but one of you really pushed the envelope, and possibly defied the laws of proofing bread. Phung, however you managed to make that light, airy baguette in just an hour, we will never know, but you won this one.

Phung: Oh my god! @I’m top dog, bitches! @I just won my second challenge, and I’m proving why I am the one to beat. @Come at me. @I’ve either won or been on top of everything so far, and I intend to stay there.

Kira: @Phung is my biggest competition. @I don’t even know if there’s any stopping somebody like her. @She’s something else.

The top three leave. In walks James, Justin, and Elizabeth.

Michele: Tonight, one of you will be going home.

Miriam: James, your story was good, but your baklava was obviously the reason why you didn’t end up safe tonight, or winning the girl over in your story. Justin, the dish was just bland and soggy, but we liked your story about your grandmother. Elizabeth, your story sounded more like you trying to explain why we should give you the title, and your bread was just dense and gummy.

Michele: Elizabeth, please return to the kitchen and leave.

Elizabeth: Alright. @I’m feeling deflated having to pack my bags and leave this early. @I know that I had the potential to make it so much further than this, and I’m disappointed in myself for not being able to show it.

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 25

“It feels weird to be done already.” Tarou sighed, as he was putting away his things into boxes. Out of everyone, he finished his finals first, being done by the second day of finals. Valerie was finishing the day after tomorrow, and Timmy finished on the last day. Because he was spending the entire summer in Japan, he wanted to go back home to Queens to spend time with his family before heading out, so he was moving out earlier. “Wait, what’s this?” Tarou felt his phone vibrate. It was another email. “Wait, the program… oh shit.” He frowned. He misread the email. His offer was not just for the summer. It was from this summer until the following summer: he would be in Japan for an entire year. “Oh crap.” Hastily, he looked through the documents. He had already submitted his compliance for this. “Well, this is awkward.” He sighed. “Uh….” Thinking it over, the model decided he needed to commit to this. He could come back to school whenever, but working for Vogue, this could honestly propel his career to greater heights than he could have ever imagined. Tarou Shimizu, international supermodel, it was starting to sound increasingly like a possibility. Grabbing a pen and paper, he wrote a goodbye note to Timmy and Valerie. “Bye, guys.” He whispered, heading out.

“Ugh. He what now?” Valerie read Timmy’s text. She had finished her finals and finally turned back on her phone. Tarou was leaving for Japan for the next two years. That was the gist of what Timmy had said in his message to her. “Oh… well shit.” She whispered to herself. Unlike Tarou or Timmy, she was not going back to Queens at all after school. She was heading straight to compete on Warrior Chef: All Stars. Packing up her things, the Singaporean girl smiled to herself. It felt bittersweet to be leaving, but at the same time, this was her chance to do things right. “Redemption, here I come, hopefully.” She was ready to dive into the great unknown and finally be crowned Warrior Chef. “I’m ready to do right by everyone who has ever helped me get this far.” She smiled, putting her boxes into the moving van. Grabbing her suitcase and knife bag, she got into the taxi. “Where to” The driver looked over his chair at her. “JFK , please.” She smiled. “You got it, little lady.” And with that, Valerie left campus. Freshman year was on the lonelier side in terms of school friends, but the work friends she made were irreplaceable. Janice, I’m going to do my best to make you proud of me. Valerie smiled.

“It feels so empty.” Timmy yawned, finally returning to his room. He had finished his last final at this point. There was a sense of awkwardness, seeing Tarou’s emptied half of the room. It almost reminded him of their conflict. “No, it’s all in the past. We’re friends again.” The Taiwanese boy reassured himself, referring to the note the model had left for him. “Now, it’s time to get everything packed.” Timmy was going to be staying at an off-campus apartment during the summer, so he needed to first move all of his things into the apartment. Then he was going to spend some time at home before summer school begins. They were each going their own separate ways, yet Timmy did not feel sad. He felt excited about the opportunities still to come. Just because a couple doors closed does not mean that the entire world closed him off. ACU and TASA might have dropped him as an officer, but that does not mean it is the end of his college life. There were still many people yet to be met. To be befriended. Timmy, for the first time since he stepped foot into NYU, could not help but feel excited.

Arriving at the hotel where the All Stars contestants would be staying, Valerie got another text. It was a delayed message, an image of exactly what Tarou had written. Reading through it, the girl could not help but begin crying. “Oh, Tarou. Timmy. I’m going to win this for both of you. I swear on it.” She fought to not sob. “Oh, so this is our competition? Nice to meet you, newbie.” Valerie turned around, and saw the first of her competitors for the new season. “I’m sorry you have to see me this way. I swear, I’m not a big baby.” She insisted, wiping away the tears that had formed around her eyes. At the same time, Tarou was boarding his plane to Japan at the John F. Kennedy Airport. “Next stop, Narita Airport. Tokyo, here I come.” He whispered to himself, excitedly. Even though he was seated in the middle seat, the Japanese boy did not mind. He was too eager about what awaited him on the other side. He did not know what the future had in store for him. But the chance to become an internationally recognized model, that was incredible. Timmy was currently riding the bus on his way back to Queens. He was sitting alone, at the window seat, watching the city melt into the distance. In his hand, held tightly, was the paper Tarou had left for him. The Taiwanese boy was rereading it one last time before putting it away for good. The Taiwanese boy did not like to cry, but how could he not at what his best friend, the aspiring international model had written?
“Even when I was a fat, chubby little midget, I still had the two of you in my life. I am the person I am because of the friends I made, especially the two of you. Timmy, you’re going to be the best man at my wedding, whether you like it or not. We are more than just brothers, and nothing will ever change that. Valerie, your desserts always bring a smile to my face, but they also bring a smile to everyone around you. You will be successful in your future, because nobody can stop you at being yourself, and you are amazing. You guys mean the world to me, but I think we can all learn to be less sensitive about the little things. We don’t need to over think or overanalyze whenever somebody is acting weirdly or in an off-putting manner. If we have problems, we need to speak them and find ways to sort them out. And we shouldn’t worry about growing apart. Just because we are doing different things, and we do not know the next time we will see each other, we should not be sad or hung up about it. We can let things play out as they are, and roll with them. We’re simply living life. That’s how it is.”

-Tarou Shimizu

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 24

“Last push! We’re almost done! This is the final ticket, everyone!” Janice chanted. “Yes, chef!” Mako rushed the black cod to the pass. “Behind, behind!” “Chef, I’m following with the garnish!” Jackie shouted, holding a small pan with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. “Okay, service please!” Janice handed the completed dishes off to the services. “Yes! Last ticket! Can we start breaking down our station, chef?” Jackie looked at her, eagerly. “Yeah, go for it!” She smiled as the line cooks started cleaning up. What sucked about being on pastry was that Valerie had to wait for all of the savory dishes to be sent up before she could even start plating her own desserts. So she had to watch the other cooks clean up while her pastry team awaited the tickets. “Okay, so we have three panna cottas, one black forest, followed by two chiffon cakes and three rhubarb doughnuts.” She began listing off the dessert orders after what felt like an eternity to the pastry cooks. The wait was at first annoying for Valerie, but she eventually got used to it. “Alright, let’s go team!” It was her last service as executive pastry chef before she had to take her leave of absence for Warrior Chef: All Stars. She wanted this last service to end with a bang. “Yes, chef!” Megan and Daphne chanted.

“I like how your best service ever was also your last.” Janice laughed. She was proud of how far Valerie had come under her wing. “Thanks, chef.” Valerie beamed. It was bittersweet, leaving the restaurant. “We also have something for you!” Megan, Joseph, and Daphne walked into the walk-in pantry. “Close your eyes, okay?” Jackie laughed. “It’s going to be a surprise.” Mako teased. “Here it is!” The three chefs walked back out, carrying a large cake. “Holy crap!” Valerie was taken aback. She was expecting a good-bye gift of some kind, but she did not think it was going to be an entire multitiered layer cake. “When? How? What?” She never once saw that cake in the kitchen. When did anyone have time to make or even store it?” “We had it stored in Janice’s fridge in her office, originally. But then we moved it into the pantry when you weren’t looking.” Joseph laughed. “Congratulations, kiddo. You’re going to kick some major ass on Warrior Chef. Bring it home for us, okay?” “Will do!” She was almost crying at this point. “Come on, now is not a sad time! Let’s all eat some cake and celebrate!” Janice began pouring champagne into the wine flutes. “Wait, I’m underaged-” “It’s only to toast. Besides, you’re a college student. Live a little!” Jackie chuckled. “To Valerie! May your future in our industry be a bright one!” They all clinked glasses. The team at Wish has been like a family to her. Valerie, trying her best not to cry, drank the bubbly white wine, ignoring the slight burn of the alcohol.

Meanwhile, Tarou and Timmy were in the library, studying for their final exams. The school year was wrapping up and that meant that they had to sit down and begin memorizing every little detail from each lecture and powerpoint that the school provided them. Somehow, both of them were doing well in school, despite all of the external drama in their lives, but that did not mean that they could slack off now. “Finals, finals, fucking finals.” Tarou rolled his eyes. This was only the second “college finals” season he was experiencing, and like with his first time in the fall, it was just as unpleasant. Last semester, Tarou and Timmy had to pull all-nighters to land on the Dean’s List, and because of how little of a focus school had been for both of them this semester, it felt that much more daunting for them to study and perform consistently regardless. Realistically, it was the stress affect both boys. But they both knew once their finals were behind them, that was one less thing that either of them would have to worry about.

“It feels like it’s been forever that the three of us were studying together.” Nate sighed. He was with Timmy and Jeffrey, in a classroom that they rented out to continue studying. It was the next day, and finals were just two days away at this point. “But yeah, how have you been doing?” “I’ve been good.” Timmy smiled. “I heard about all of that Asian community drama from Gary.” Jeffrey frowned. The two of them were in the same fraternity. “Are you okay?” “Yeah, it’s all good now. It sucks that I’m no longer on e-board for any clubs, but at the same time, I have time to focus on my academics and myself.” He smiled. “That’s a great way to think. Also, Vincent was telling me the other day. You haven’t really been volunteering lately, have you?” Nate pointed out. Nate was double majoring in computer engineering and business, so he had classes with Timmy, Jeffrey, and Vincent. “Oh, shoot, you’re right.” Timmy gasped. He had completely forgotten about Y.E.S. Between all of his personal drama and ACU, he lost touch of the things he was genuinely passionate about: helping others. “Well, I’m here all summer, so I’m definitely going to volunteer there more often.” Timmy chuckled. “I’ll be sure to let Vincent know. I didn’t realize that he missed me.” The Taiwanese boy joked. “Yeah, say it exactly like that to him. I’m sure he’ll be real happy.” Nate rolled his eyes.

“Alexa, how do you feel about Lodging?” Valerie was referring to the course the two of them were currently enrolled in. “I’m thinking we’re fucked, but that’s just me.” A slim African American girl laughed. She was one of Valerie’s few friends at NYU. They were currently studying for Lodging, but had no idea how to study for it because the professor had been not teaching the correct material for the entire semester; rather than talking about hotels, he instead focused on architecture and hotel design, despite testing them on hotel terminology, making the class unusually difficult. “Well, I’m sure you’ve got this. Ms. Valedictorian.” The Singaporean girl poked fun at her. Alexa currently had the highest GPA out of anyone in the hospitality school, and one of the top five highest overall at NYU. “This is what I love about having smart friends. You make me want to get smarter so that I’m not the dead weight in this friendship.” Valerie laughed. “Oh, shut up. You’re great company.” Alexa insisted, beaming. “Everyone in Hospitality tends to be fake. You’re the most real person in this school.” “Aw, thanks, boo.” Valerie chuckled. Being around Alexa was fun, because despite her intellect, she was good company to have around between her great humor and love of baking.

“Tarou, can you read that book a little slower? I want to take pictures.” Sarah looked at the model, holding up her phone. “Uh… I’m trying to study.” The model pointed out. “Sh! You look so cute like that! Hold that face for me, please?” The Japanese male just rolled his eyes at the remark. Finals season was going to suck if it was going to be this unproductive. He was with Enya, Sarah, and Melissa at the performing arts library. And naturally, the three girls were busy fawning over the model and not taking their studies seriously. “How is it that the three of you made it on Dean’s List last semester like this?” He sighed. “It’s because we actually pay attention in class. Work hard, party harder.” Enya grinned cockily. “Yeah, you just need to spend more time with us, and understand our ways.” Melissa eyed Tarou, who rolled his eyes.

How it is: Chapter 23

“Hey, Val, do you have a moment?” Tarou noticed the Singaporean girl walking down the street and ran up to her. “Hi, Tarou. Actually, I needed to talk to you too.” She sighed. “Can we maybe go somewhere… more private?” The model suggested. “Yeah, that’s actually better for what I need to say too.” At that remark, Tarou could feel a creeping sense of discomfort boiling in his stomach. Was Valerie going to confess to him? Meanwhile, the pastry chef already could tell from the model’s facial expressions that Timmy did tell him; he most likely assumed that she was going to tell him about her feelings. But that could not be any further from what she was going to do in reality. After making their way into a nearby building, the two looked at each other. It was an intense silence. “So do you want to go first?” She gestured to him. “Nah, you look like you have something to say, and that you’ve thought about it for a while. Please tell me.” Tarou insisted. He wanted her to confess first so that he could at least hear her out. “So for a long time, I had a crush on you. Since high school, honestly. But after everything we have been through, I don’t have any romantic feelings for you anymore. So I just wanted to let you know that I still value you as a friend, but I feel like we are better off staying friends, and nothing more.” The model was dumbstruck. Save for the first sentence, that was not what he was expecting the pastry chef to say. “What did you have to say?” She looked at him expectantly. Truth be told, she was expecting him to reject her as well, so Valerie was relieved that they could meet a mutual agreement on this.

“Well, I was basically going to say that we should stay friends, and that Timmy told me about how you felt about me. But now I’m curious, what’s with the sudden change of heart?” “Well, I thought about it. A lot. And I even talked about it with chef, and she told me that I need to be blunt and think not about the emotional aspect of it, but rather, how this would affect us as friends. And the more I thought about it that way, the less I found myself attracted to you romantically.” She shrugged. “I see… well, I’m just glad we were able to sort out this awkwardness.” Tarou chuckled nervously. Despite everything, it still felt a little weird. “Look, Tarou, I think of you and Timmy as goofy brothers. You guys are two of my closest friends, and sometimes, that closeness can be a weakness for me. It makes the little things we do and say affect me on a much bigger scale.” She confessed. “But at the same time, it’s all in perspective. I feel like if you guys don’t see it that way, then I have no reason to either. We can be close without being so greatly affected by each other.” “Yeah, we can. And we will.” Tarou smiled in agreement. The two hugged it out and walked out. “So where were you heading?” “I was going to a study session.” Valerie sighed. Finals were coming up, and especially with all of the recent events, she needed to catch up on her studies. “Oh, don’t be late! Run! Run!” Tarou ushered her away. “Okay, I’m running!” She laughed, darting off.

“How did it go?” It was just a couple hours later, and Tarou was meeting up with Timmy for lunch. “It went well. We talked it out, and she was the one who told me that she was not interested in being in a relationship anymore.” He pointed out, much to the surprise of Timmy. “Wait, really?” He could not believe what he was hearing. “Yeah. She admitted she had feelings, but after thinking it over, she decided against acting on them because she did not want to affect our friendship.” Timmy had to give Valerie a lot of credit for that sort of maturity. Yeah, that was the reason why he fell for her to begin with, and hearing that made it harder for him to accept that they could not be together, but he had to respect their friendship before trying to compromise anything any further on his part. “You! You little motherfucker! How dare you bully our precious Tarou!” The two boys were startled to see an enraged Enya, Melissa, and Sarah storm up to their table. “You saw what I did to that table! And I can do much worse, you little bitch-”

“So it’s okay not to hate him anymore?” Melissa, frowning, sighed. She was hoping to snap somebody’s neck today. “Wait, I thought you said that you told all of your friends!” Timmy glared at Tarou. “Oh, I meant as in the people I was on board with.” He looked back at his friend before pulling him into a close huddle. “Plus, would you really consider those three my friends? They’re terrifying!” He noted in a hushed whisper before turning around to look at the disgruntled Melissa, who was being comforted by Enya and Sarah. “It’s okay, we can go to the gym and rent a punching bag.” Sarah suggested. Tarou smirked. “Yeah, so the two of us made up. The three of you are more than welcomed to sit and eat with us though.” The model offered. “Well, let me think about it…. fuck yeah, we’re sitting with you!” Enya laughed, as the three grabbed chairs and placed their bags down. It felt a bit weird for Timmy at first, being so close to people who previously wanted to slaughter him. “So, Tarou, what are your plans for the summer?” Enya looked at him, eagerly. “I’m going to be modeling in Japan.” He smiled. “OMG! I’m going back to Korea for the summer! You better visit me! I mean, either way, I’m definitely going to visit you!” She squealed excitedly. “Wait, no fair! We’re both going to visit you too, Tarou!” Sarah and Melissa chimed in. Timmy tried not to laugh as Tarou fought to hide his horrified expression. “Uh…. sure?” He shrugged. “Yay!” They all cheered.

“You really need to tell them that you’re not into any of them, or else they’ll continue to pester you.” Timmy frowned. “Yeah, but Mel scares the shit out of me. She broke a table in half with her foot. That’s just one foot. Imagine what she can do with two and two hands. I doubt my spine would even be in two pieces after I reject her feelings.” He shuddered. Sadly, Tarou had a point. “Well, I’m sure it will work itself out. Maybe?” “Honestly, I’ve just come to live with it. It’s not the worst thing, having your own fan club. Honestly, it’s funny.” He chuckled, trying to ignore the awkward moments where the three girls would make him greatly uncomfortable with their remarks and advances. “Well, whatever floats your boat, I guess.” Timmy shrugged. The two laughed as they finally walked back to their dorm. Finals were coming up, and it felt like this semester went by too quickly. But at least they were able to finish the year with their friendship still intact. “It’s really been a crazy first year. Hopefully, it’ll get better next year, right?” Timmy chuckled. “Better as in easier, or less drama?” Tarou snorted. “Hopefully both.” The computer engineer groaned. “At least your major will get you a high-paying job.” The model pointed out. “Well, if you become a supermodel, then same applies for you too, you know?” The Taiwanese boy smirked. “Let’s see how this first international gig goes, okay? I’m not going to rush into any conclusions, especially when modeling is just a side hobby to make money.” The Japanese male laughed. Although truth be told, he was excited to be going to Japan for the summer. This was going to be a whole new adventure for him.

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.

Warrior Chef 2: Round 2

Marisa: @Walking into the kitchen, I feel nervous. @I almost got sent home in the last round, and if I don’t prove myself tonight, then I’m definitely a goner in this round. @I don’t think I’d have enough confidence in myself to keep pushing forward.

Nate: @At this point, I think nobody sees me as real competition. @I want to show everyone that I am a great cook!

Victoria: Welcome back! So for this creativity challenge, we want to see what you guys can do with figs! You have just 30 minutes, time starts now!

Rose: @At this point, there’s ten people left. @I want immunity, because I refuse to go home in 10th place. @I’m making a fig and almond tart with honey-feta ice cream. @In 30 minutes, that’s a huge risk, but I want to take it and prove that I am a talented cook.

Vin: @At this point, Rose is my biggest competition, but I still love her. @She’s bae. @For my dish, I’m going to prepare a fig relish to go on my flounder filet and then an almond puree. @I think that the nut puree with the fish and the fig relish, it will be a sure-fire winner. @I want more immunity.

Jo: @I don’t work with figs often. @I taste it, and it’s starchy and sweet, but also really mushy. @I’m going to make a fig vinegar to go with a seared chicken thigh and some crispy rice. @I hope it works!

Duke: @I’ve never used figs before. @I decide to puree them, and make a fig puree to go with a seared lamb chop and some red wine gastrique. @I think those flavors work, but I’m not positive.

Enrique: @I’m going to make a fig and snapper ceviche with fried tortillas. @I’m going to incorporate the figs into the Mexican ceviche because I think they can stand up to some spice and acidity.

Marisa: @I love figs. @I know that I can make a fig and mascarpone ice cream with fig cake and bruleed figs. @I learned how to make this fig cake from my grandma, so I know that it’s going to be a great dessert. @I want to win this for her, and to show everyone that I am not some weak cook who is going to be picked off in a later round.

Nate: @I’m not too comfortable using figs. @I decide to stuff them with brie cheese and then tempura fry them. @I’m going to make a honey-brown butter vinaigrette to go with them. @I want the figs to be the star of this, so I hope I did that.

Amanda: @Everyone is pairing the figs with cheese, so I know that I can’t do that. @I’m making roasted figs with a sabayon and balsamic caramel. @I’m hoping that I can win this challenge doing a relatively simple dessert, but doing everything well. @Winning the first elimination challenge felt great, but I need to keep this momentum going!

Talia: @I’m going to make a fig terrine with goat milk ice cream and walnut crumble. @I’m going to use the liquid nitrogen to set the terrine faster. @I think that it will be a great dessert. @I would love immunity again, but we have to see how everyone else will stack up with me.

Trisha: @I’m doing a fig mille feuille with whipped goat cheese and a honey-lavender syrup. @I’m trying to keep the flavors simple, but focus on flavors that pair well with the fig and introduce some textures that will give it a bit of help there.

Victoria: Time’s up!

Vin: @I’m feeling good that I went savory with my dish, but a lot of people went with desserts. @I might be able to really stand out tonight.

Victoria: Your judge is Warrior Chef house critic and fruit expert, Chloe Lula!

Chloe: Hi, guys! Figs are delicious and they have a lot of potential in any application. I can’t wait to see how inventive you were with them!

Marisa: @Chloe is a really kindhearted judge. @In the preliminary rounds, she gave me a 9/10 for my signature dish. @I really want to impress her tonight.

Chloe and Victoria taste the dishes.

Victoria: So Chloe, who failed to impress you?

Chloe: Jo, the figs were just lost in that vinegar mixture you prepared it with. Duke, the fig puree was a bit too soggy. And Enrique. Using the figs in a ceviche, they wound up too heavy. They harmed the dish more than they helped it.

Duke: @Being on the bottom with Jo and Enrique sucks. @I know that I’m a much better cook than they are.

Victoria: Chloe, who impressed you?

Chloe: I had four favorites. Rose, the tart was delicious and pairing it with the feta cheese ice cream was brilliant. Marisa, you also made a delicious fig flavored ice cream, and your cake and the bruleed figs were great! Nate, the tempura fried and brie-stuffed figs were a delight. And Vin. The fig relish and nut puree worked beautifully with the flounder.

Nate: @Right now, I have a 1 in 4 shot at immunity. @My heart is pounding out of my chest. @I really want this.

Chloe: But my favorite dish belonged to… Marisa! Your cake was a beautiful recipe.

Victoria: Congratulations, Marisa! You won immunity going into the elimination challenge! Well done!

Marisa: Thank you. @I won immunity! @I’m so excited knowing that I’m entering the elimination challenge and I can’t possibly go home! @It’s such a relief.

Vin: @Personally, I’m shocked that Marisa won the creativity challenge, because I thought Rose had it.

Victoria: So now for the elimination challenge! Everyone, please help me welcome a very special guest!
In walks Warrior Chef winner, Vanilla Cuylenberg!

Vanilla: Hi, guys!
Amanda: Oh my god! @I’m looking at the previous Warrior Chef winner! @I’m so shocked right now.
Talia: @Vanilla won her season because she had the Redemption Rounds. @In our season, we were told we didn’t get that. @I personally don’t see her as a pure winner because she returned to the competition on a technicality.

Victoria: So for this elimination challenge, you’ll be cooking in pairs. Marisa, for winning the last challenge, you get to choose who you want to be partnered with!

Marisa: I’d like to work with Jo! @I choose Jo because he seems to be a bit of a wildcard. @I can’t tell if he is a strong cook or a weak cook, but I have immunity, and I’m going to use this chance to really scout out my competition.

Jo: @I don’t get why she chose me, but I’m really worried. @If we are on the bottom, she has immunity, so I’m definitely going home if our dish is the worst.

Victoria: Everyone else, please draw knives!

Vin – 1

Rose – 1

Amanda – 2

Talia – 2

Enrique – 3

Trisha – 3

Nate – 4

Duke – 4z
Talia: @I’m stoked to be paired with Amanda. @We’ve got this.

Vin: @Rose and I have been on top together a lot now. @If we don’t win this challenge, hell probably will freeze over.

Victoria: In pairs, you’ll be cooking a dish based on one of five ingredients Vanilla has brought for you guys! Vanilla?

Vanilla: So we have corn, peaches, lamb, apples, and scallops. These are all ingredients that served me well in the Warrior Chef competition when I won, so hopefully, you guys can do them justice.

Victoria: Marisa, please select which ingredient you and Jo will be using.

Marisa: *to Jo* What do you feel comfortable doing? @I want Jo to be the one spearheading this dish because I have immunity. @I want him to be in 100% control of what he wants to make and I will try my best to help him.

Jo: Let’s go with the lamb. @It’s probably the best ingredient on the table and it’s the one I feel more comfortable making a dish out of.

Vin: @I’m annoyed Jo took the lamb, because that’s what we wanted.
Rose: @Vin and I look at each other, and we know we can nail a dish using the scallops. We’re choosing the diver sea scallops.

Amanda: Talia and I want the apples.
Talia: @We can definitely make a delicious apple dessert, so this is going to be a really easy challenge for us.

Enrique: *to Trisha* We need to do the corn.
Trisha: Okay. @I’m not comfortable using the corn, because I have no idea how to make it to focus on the dish. @But Enrique is confident, and I feel he is a weaker cook, so I want him to be in his comfort zone.

Nate: Crap. @Duke and I are stuck with the peaches.
Duke: @I don’t feel comfortable about this. @Nate and I both cook Asian. @Peaches have so little to do with either of our repertoires.

Victoria: You have just 1 hour to prepare a dish featuring one of Vanilla’s favorite ingredients! Vanilla, want to do the honors?

Vanilla: Gladly! And your time starts… now!

Marisa: @So Jo wants to prepare a garlic rubbed lamb belly with fuyu persimmon puree and anise-lamb jus. @I have no clue how to do any of it, so I’m just going to follow his instructions with each component.

Jo: @For the jus, we are going to roast the bones with the spices, and then reduce them with water. @The puree, poaching the persimmons in milk. @The lamb belly, we have that in the oven, roasting and rendering.

Vin: @So we have scallops, but we can’t just do a seared scallop. @That’s so boring. @We decide to prepare confit scallops with toasted curry spices, as well as milk-fried scallop roe, and a yogurt-lemon puree.

Rose: @Vin and I are going to combine our two cuisines through Indian-Middle Eastern food. @The two of us won our first challenges, were on top of the last three challenges, and we want to keep staying on top, because that’ll show everyone how good we are.

Amanda: @Vin and Rose are terrifyingly talented cooks. @But Talia and I are strong too, and we are going to prove ourselves. @We have apples and that’s going to be a really easy one for us.

Talia: @We are preparing tarte tatin cobbler with caramel-apple gelato. @We are going to caramelize the apples in the pan, and then pour a vanilla-semolina batter over that and bake it in the pan. @This is going to be great!

Enrique: *to Trisha* We got this, baby!~ @We are making a corn tamale with corn salsa and some lime-grilled shrimp. @I’m going to prepare the tamale, and then I’m leaving Trisha to do the shrimp and salsa.
Trisha: @I’m really nervous to be cooking this because I don’t know Latin food, and he’s making me do the salsa. @The shrimp, I can handle, but the salsa, I’m not quite sure what goes into it.

Nate: *to Duke* Okay, what the hell are we doing?

Duke: Hmmm… @The first thing that comes to mind is peach cobbler. @But we don’t even know how to make a cobbler.

Nate: @I know how to make crepes, so we finally decide on a malt crepe with caramelized peaches, vanilla whipped cream, and fresh peach fruit salad with honey and lemon. @I just hope that this works, or else it’s my ass on the line.

Duke: @We are relying on Nate to handle the crepe itself, or else we just have caramelized and raw peaches with some cream.

Trisha: @I feel like Nate and Duke are also struggling with their dishes, so it might be between the four of us for who is going home tonight. @I’m frustrated because I didn’t want to go into this competition as a weak link.

Talia: @The cobbler, I take it out of the oven, and it looks like it’s going to kick some ass. @Amanda gets the gelato out of the ice cream machine and it looks great as well. @I get a hotel pan ready and pour liquid nitrogen over the cobbler to bring it down to room temp right away. @If I serve the cobbler hot, then the gelato will just melt.

Rose: @I taste the confit scallops, and they are wonderful. @I never confit a scallop before, but the buttery flavor was there and it’s awesome. @Vin and I, we work so well together. @We are kicking ass.

Victoria: Time’s up!

Jo: @The dish looks good, but I see what the other teams have put up. @We might be in trouble tonight.

Victoria: Your judges are:

Vanilla Cuylenberg

Aster Walker

Erwin Ko

Victoria: Let’s start with Jo and Marisa’s dish!

-garlic lamb belly, fuyu persimmon puree, anise-lamb jus

Erwin: The belly was rendered nicely and I liked the puree a lot. My biggest issue was that jus. The anise was too strong.

Vanilla: The star of the dish was supposed to be the lamb, but I felt that the persimmon became the center of the plate. I liked it overall, but it didn’t feel like a lamb dish.

Victoria: Next is Vin and Rose’s dish!

-confit scallops, toasted curry, milk-fried scallop roe, yogurt-lemon puree

Vanilla: I was nervous that giving them scallops might result in a seared scallop. I was pleasantly surprised that they went this route.

Aster: The confit scallops were unusual but brilliant. The curry spices added a nice smokiness, the fried roe had such a beautiful texture to them. The puree was lovely.

Victoria: And now we have Amanda and Talia’s apple dessert.

-tarte tatin cobbler with caramel-apple gelato

Erwin: The cake component was baked nicely and the caramelization on the apples were well done. Overall, they embraced apples.

Vanilla: The apples came through and really transformed this dish into what it was. I was very happy with what they served me.

Victoria: And this is Enrique and Trisha’s corn dish!

-corn tamale, corn salsa, and lime grilled shrimp

Vanilla: I really loved the inventiveness, using the corn three ways in the salsa, the husk for the wrapper, and the corn meal for the filling.
Erwin: The shrimp were cooked nicely. But the actual tamale was a bit dry. It was just hard to eat the dish, because there was a lack of moisture, even from that salsa.

Victoria: And finally, we have Nate and Duke’s dessert!
-malt crepe, caramelized peaches, chantilly, honey peach salad

Aster: The crepe was prepared nicely and I liked the caramelized peaches. The salad was creative, but the peach was lost in it.

Erwin: It wasn’t a bad dessert, but it was way too simple for something prepared by two people in an hour. I felt like they were playing it safe, because they were banking on another team failing.

Victoria: So can we decide on our winning and losing teams?

Vanilla: We can!~

In walks Rose, Vin, Amanda, and Talia.

Victoria: Tonight, the four of you did Vanilla’s ingredients justice, and two of you will win this elimination challenge!

Rose: Knew it. @If we don’t win, then I’ll be shocked.

Talia: @I hope we win. @Vin and Rose have been strong so far, but their streak ends here. @This win has our name on it.

Victoria: Vanilla, please announce the winner!

Vanilla: Tonight, you both delivered in different ways. That apple dessert showed apples in their finest, whereas the scallop dish taught me something new. For that reason, the winning dish was… Rose and Vin’s confit scallops.

Victoria: Congratulations, Rose and Vin! You both won the elimination challenge!
Vin: Yes! @I called it. @Rose and I won!

Rose: Thank you. @Winning the challenge feels great! @I honestly think that the finale is going to be Vin and I.

Amanda: @We didn’t win, but I’m glad that I was still on top of this challenge. @It feels good to be recognized for your hard work.

The top four leave.

In walks Enrique, Trisha, Nate, and Duke.

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

Aster: Who prepared what on each of your dishes?

Enrique: So Trisha did the salsa and the shrimp. I prepared the tamale.

Nate: I handled the crepe and the salad. Duke caramelized the peaches and prepared the whipped cream.

Erwin: Trisha and Enrique, we felt the dish was dry. The salsa didn’t do much for the dish to help with that. The tamale sort of scratched the back of your throat. But you guys did cook the shrimp well.

Trisha: @Hearing that makes me feel a little less scared. @I cooked the shrimp and the judges liked it!

Aster: Nate and Duke, we liked every component except for the salad because that was muddled from all of the other fruit. Your dessert in general, it was really safe.

Nate: You see, the issue we had was that neither of us really ever cooked with peaches, or had substantial pastry experience.

Vanilla: Unfortunately, a Warrior Chef should be well-versed in all kinds of aspects of cooking. Saying that you only do savory is not a good excuse.

Duke: @Crap. @Vanilla saying that, it’s an eye-opener. @I need to brush up on my pastry skills if I do stay.

Victoria: Unfortunately, one of you is going home tonight. The judges have talked it over, and tonight… Trisha, you are safe.

Trisha: @Hearing that I am safe is a huge relief. @But out of the three boys, I don’t want to see any of them go home. @They’re all really nice people. @I’m going to miss whoever gets sent home.

Victoria: Nate, Duke, and Enrique, between the three of you, the person going home is….. Enrique. Please return to the kitchen and leave.

Enrique: Okay. Thank you for this. @I’m feeling like shit because I’m the one going home. @I really wanted to prove to the other cooks that I knew what I was doing and I’m going home on something I normally know what to do. @Them getting rid of the Redemption Rounds is frustrating for me, because I know I could have cooked my way back into the main competition. @It sucks!

How it is: Chapter 21

“I’m back!” Valerie groaned, walking back into her room. It was a long, exhausting service, but the pastry chef felt like she worked off most of her aggression from that earlier encounter with Tarou. “Uh…” She paused, noticing that Tarou had company and that all of his stuff was packed up. “What the hell is he doing here?” She glared at Timmy, who started to scoot behind the model. “He’s here to apologize for being a little ass-nugget.” Tarou smirked, getting up. “I’ll leave you two to talk it out.” Tarou sighed, grabbing his things. “Timmy, I’ll see you in our room later tonight. And if either of you want to kill each other still after this, just let me know. I’ll try to stop you guys.” He chuckled, closing the door behind the two. “Well… this is not what I was expecting to do right after I finished a long service.” Valerie sighed, sitting on the edge of her bed stand. “Look, I’ll start.” Timmy stuttered. She looked at his expectantly. “ God, this is weird.” He frowned. “Uh, spit it out or else I’m kicking you out of my room.” She glared at him. “Well to start, I’m so sorry I called you a skank. I was hurt and confused, and I didn’t know what to do.” The Taiwanese boy could feel his heart pounding as it slowly began to sink to his stomach. “Confused? Last I checked, you knowingly drove your best friend away. I never did anything directly to you. I just housed Tarou because he felt unsafe around you. If you want my two cents on it, you were a shitty friend, and you’re lucky he even accepted your apology.” Timmy shrank a little at her remark. She was telling the truth. After subjecting Tarou to negligent behavior for being bisexual, Timmy was lucky that Tarou was still willing to be friends after that.

“A lot of the reason why I got mad at you, it stemmed from… my feelings for you.” Timmy finally admitted. “Uh, what?” Valerie fumed. She was bewildered with his response. That was not what she expected to hear. Maybe something along the lines of feeling unaccomplished in comparison, but she was not anticipating Timmy to harbor romantic feelings for her. “So you called me a skank… because you like me? How fucking romantic.” She crossed her arms and rolled her eyes at that. This made zero sense to her. You do not treat somebody you like that way. “I was jealous! Tarou ran away to you, and he knew I had feelings for you, and I panicked because I thought he was trying to steal you from me-” “Okay, there is a laundry list of things that are wrong with your entire thought process. Where do I begin? Oh wait, let’s start with the whole ‘stealing’ part. I was not yours to begin with. Am I your slave or servant? Hell no. I’m not your property, so Tarou could not have stolen me. Secondly, if you liked me, you would have respected my decision to house Tarou, rather than try to publicly shame me in front of me peers and friends. And you only have yourself to blame for driving Tarou into my arms, so to speak. He would not have come to me if it was not for the fact that you were treating him like the bottom of a shoe sole.” The girl could feel her blood boiling, but remembered that this cowardly boy before her was here to apologize to her. Taking deep breaths, she calmed down. “Look, I’m sorry I blew up at you. I know you mean well and you’re here to apologize and I need to hear out everything you have to say. I was getting frustrated, though, because you are somebody I thought of as family, and to hear how little you thought of me in return, it really hurt.”

“I’ve had a crush on you since we were little. You were always somebody I looked up to, because of how outgoing and capable you were. You did not act like the typical girly girl growing up, and I thought it was awesome.” Timmy started again. “Just seeing my best friends basically run away from me, it made me realize what an ass I was. I was so angry at myself for that, and I just blew up and lost it during that event. All of that stress and these mixed feelings, I did not know how to handle it.” He was trying his best to not burst into tears and lose his composure in front of Valerie. “Timmy, I’ve known you for a long time. Your biggest issue is that you hold in all of these emotions and you get really passive aggressive. I was hoping that it would all change for you when you got into ACU, but instead, what happened was you got worse. You could not be honest with Tarou, and it caused both of you to act the way you guys did. I will admit, I was not a good friend in this situation either. I should have confronted you, or at least, helped Tarou confront you when this became an issue, but instead, all I did was house Tarou and hide him away from you, escalating the problem.” Valerie sighed. “But want to know what I love about college?” She smiled at him. “What?” “It’s a chance for us to learn and grow as human beings, while still not having the stress or pressure of society looking down on us. We have that safety net of still being students, technically.” She shrugged. “And that’s why I want this to be a learning experience for all of us on how to be better people.” He nodded in agreement. “Now, as for your romantic feelings for me, thank you for confessing. But I’ll be honest. I did have feelings for Tarou, until we started living together and I realized that now is not the time for that.” She frowned. “Oh.” Timmy paused. He did not know what to say to that.

“How was it?” Tarou was unpacking his things back into their room when Timmy returned from his talk to Valerie. “Well, I see you’re not covered with blood, so that’s a good sign.” He chuckled. “We made up, and I think it’ll be fine.” Timmy nodded shyly. “That’s good to hear.” The model got up and pulled his best friend into a hug. “Oomph!” The Taiwanese boy groaned. As much as he missed his best friend, Timmy did not miss the constant hugs as much. Though he could make an exception in this case. “Also, I needed to tell you about something.” The model pulled out a letter. “So I applied to be a part of Vogue’s Summer Collection in Tokyo, and they accepted me! I’ll be going to Japan for the summer!” Tarou beamed. “That’s incredible! And you’re going to be awesome.” Timmy grinned back. “What were your plans for the summer?” Tarou looked at his friend curiously. “I’m probably going to be taking summer classes and getting ahead of the program.” He admitted. The Taiwanese boy was thinking about squeezing in a minor, so he wanted to get his requirements out of the way for his major first. “Oh, so you’ll be staying in New York. And Valerie, did she tell you?” “Tell me about what?” “She got invited to compete in Warrior Chef: All Stars. And she accepted! So she’s going to be away competing!” Tarou explained. Timmy shrugged. It was a bit sad to think that the three of them were parting ways after making up, but that was how life was sometimes. “I’m glad for both of you. You both deserve everything good that happens to you.” “Same goes for you, buddy. You’re a hard worker and you put your head down and just focus. Don’t let the haters get to you. Val and I, we got your back.” The model assured his friend.