Warrior Chef Redemption: Round 1

Kira: @Walking back into the Warrior Chef kitchen feels bittersweet. @I came really close to snagging the title just one season ago, but at least now I have a chance to redeem myself and win the entire title.

Tadashi: @I’m looking around and the entire competition looks a lot more intense this time around. @I know it’s going to be a long road to redemption, but I’m ready to put my head down and work through it.

Amanda: @I get back to my station and it feels oddly nostalgic. @I went so far, and so close to that final challenge. @I see Jo, Rose, and Nate, and they were all really talented on my season. @I’m starting to wonder why I signed back up for this again.

Jessica: Welcome back to Warrior Chef, everyone!

Lucas: @We are greeted by Jessica, and it just becomes that much more real that the competition is on.

Jessica: You guys know the drill on how this competition works. So let’s get into the creativity challenge!

A cart is wheeled in, carrying a variety of animal carcasses

Jessica: We know you are all talented cooks. That’s why we invited you all back to compete for a second chance. But what we want to see if what you guys can do with scraps of meat. Using what’s on the cart and a limited pantry, you’ll have 45 minutes to prepare a dish. And the winner of this challenge will receive immunity.

Karen: @Immunity? @That’s going to be a lifesaver. @Especially when everyone here is that good. @And lucky enough, everyone from season 1 has a huge advantage. @We had this exact creativity challenge already!

Jessica: You have 45 minutes, time starts now!

Fanny: @I won this challenge in my season, so I’m going to win it again this season. @I decide on making a venison consomme with yogurt dumplings and roasted mushrooms. @Last time, I went with a deconstructed curry pie, but I don’t want to repeat the same dish. @I know that from my season, Tadashi, Lucas, and Karen are all strong cooks, but this is my challenge to win.

Lucas: @I manage to take lamb bones and I decide on making a lamb sauce to go with some homemade gnocchi and some fried mint to finish. @I know we have really strong competition here, and I want to show them what I’m made of.

Tadashi: @Even though I have tough competition from just my season, I can’t underestimate anyone here. @Amanda, Rose, Justin, Kira, and Phung are all major threats too. @I’m preparing a niku jyaga, which is a broth with scraps of meat and potatoes. @I’m going to use dashi and the bones to really concentrate that flavor and then portion out the meat from the scraps for the actual dish itself.

Karen: @I almost won this challenge last time and I got really lucky that I landed the foie gras. @This time, there’s none of that. @I see chicken and I decide on a chicken jus with some crispy root vegetables and a piece of fried chicken skin to garnish on top with. @It’ll be tasty.

Amanda: @In my season, I almost won the first challenge with my lamb lollipops. @I grab the lamb and decide on preparing a lamb and tripe stew with tomatoes and white wine. @I’m using the pressure cooker to make sure that it’ll get done in time.

Justin: @Amanda is breaking out the pressure cooker and that’s pretty genius. @I decide on a ground meat infused carbonara pasta. @I was known on my season for making the best pasta by far and I don’t intend to drop that title anytime soon. @Phung is my biggest competition, because she nails everything she attempts.

Phung: @I know that this challenge was catered to me. @I know how to use scrap meat. @I’m going to make Vietnamese crepes with braised pork and some pork cracklings and then adding in some cilantro, bean sprouts, mint, and lime to garnish the entire dish with.

Henry: @I manage to get the duck carcass and I’m going to make a duck stock risotto with some orange salad on top of it. @I think that the rice and salad will be a clever way to go and I know how to make a delicious risotto, so this should be a really easy dish for me to nail.

Jessica: Time’s up!

Phung: @I see what everyone else made and I’m not too impressed. @My dish will definitely win me immunity tonight.

Jessica: Your judge is Warrior Chef critic, Aster Walker!

Fanny: @Aster is such a sweetheart and I know he’ll be a generous judge when it comes to saying what it is he wants from our food.
Aster: Welcome back, everyone! What I love about these Redemption seasons is how much talent we re-invite to the kitchen and how much higher the bar gets set!

Aster and Jessica try the dishes.

Jessica: So Aster, who failed to impress you with the scraps today?

Aster: Justin, the carbonara was delicious but the sauce overpowered the actual scraps.  They couldn’t be tasted under all of that fat. Henry, the risotto was undercooked and placing the salad on top made the vegetables too wilted. And Lucas. The gnocchi were just a tad overcooked.

Lucas: @I feel like crap for being on the bottom. @I really wanted to have a stronger start this season.

Henry: @Being on the bottom really sucks. @You don’t want to start a season as an underdog, you know?

Aster: So for my favorites. Fanny, the consomme, mushrooms, and dumplings all came together nicely. Tadashi, the niku jyaga was a clever way to organically incorporate the scraps and the flavors were delicious with the umami in that broth. Phung. The Vietnamese crepes were fantastic and the fact you got pork crackling in less than 30 minutes, it was brilliant.

Jessica: And who prepared the best dish?

Aster: It was a close call, but the best dish was… Tadashi’s.

Phung: Are you kidding me? @Who the hell is Tadashi?! @It should’ve been me!

Kira: Yikes. @Phung is being her usual self.

Henry: @Straight up, Phung is a raving bitch when she doesn’t get her way. @That’s both her best and worst quality. @I fear for my life in her presence.

Tadashi: Thank you. @Winning immunity feels great, especially because I’m up against 11 previous competitors who all are thirsty for the win as much as I was.

Jessica: And now it’s time for your elimination challenge! For this challenge, it’s simple. Redo the dish that cost you the title last time and make it a winning dish. Some of you have competed in the Redemption Rounds before. For those of you who have, you have to redeem that dish, not the one that eliminated you the first time. 60 minutes, starting now!

Kira: @I lost last time because of my scallop dish. @The judges felt it was too simple and forgettable. @This time, I’m going to use those same flavors, but differently. @I’m making a scallop en papillote with fennel, lemon, pepper, and butter. @I’m going to serve that with a fennel couscous and hope that’ll be good enough to impress the judges. @I’m making my own couscous, so that’ll show a lot more skill. @I still remember in the first elimination challenge in my finale, I was dinged for not trying to make my own, so I’m going to do it here to prove to everyone why I am Warrior Chef-worthy. @I promised that if I had the chance to redeem this dish, I would and I would make it a winner. @Now’s the time to put my money where my mouth is.

Jo: @I got eliminated over a tuna dish last time because my black garlic marinade was too strong. @I’m going to redeem that dish by removing the black garlic entirely, and focusing on citrus, cucumbers, and avocado. @I’m going to make a tuna and avocado poke with cucumber ribbons and citrus granita.
Karen: @I got eliminated over pate choux fritters with shrimp and tomato-caper relish. @It was the amuse bouche challenge. @I lost it because my shrimp were overcooked. @This time around, I’m going to prepare the same dish, but dialing back on how long I cook the shrimp for.

Phung: FUCK ME! @I got eliminated for two dishes, not one. @My Shaking Beef tartare was bland and then the snapper and squid dish, my team fucked up my proteins. @So I have to prepare both dishes. @For my snapper, I’m doing a snapper crudo with chilies and lemongrass-coconut gazpacho. @For the squid dish, I’m going to have to prepare a fried calamari with ginger compressed vegetables.

Tadashi: @I still remember the dish that cost me the title my first season around. @I prepared a dessert, castella with white nama chocolate, honey comb candy, matcha ice cream. @It was deemed way too sweet. @So for this rendition, I’m going to make a matcha cake with honey-cream cheese chantilly and matcha ice cream. @I’m omitting the white chocolate, because it made my dessert too sweet last time.

Henry: @I was eliminated over my chicken dish. @It was a fried chicken thigh with parsnip puree, chips, and chicken jus. @I’m going to prepare it, but this time, make a chicken roulad with parsnip confit, chicken jus, and stuff my roulad with a savory bread pudding. @I got criticized for being boring, so I want redemption.

Amanda: @I feel like I have a huge advantage because I got eliminated in the 30 minute amuse bouche creativity challenge in the finale. @And I get an hour to re-do that? @Awesome. @I had a blood orange cured salmon with chervil and speck. @It was just too cluttered. @For this challenge, I decide to prepare a salmon sashimi with a speck-blood orange vinaigrette and some chervil foam.

Rose: @I lost the title because of my dessert. @The tespixhe, an Albanian pudding that is like a sugary cake-cookie. @The judges hated the texture, and voted for Vin instead of me. @I’m going to just prepare the exact same dessert, because I know that it’s delicious. @Last time, it came out dense. @This time, I will not allow that, so I’m adding in baking soda.

Nate: @I got sent home because a dish inspired by my most embarrassing moment aka when I was overweight. @It was a stuffed pork chop with thrice cooked chips. @The judges didn’t like it because it was too dry. @I’m going to do a bacon wrapped pork crepinette with yucca chips and a mustard aioli. @I think that changing it up with the yucca chips and mustard aioli will make my dish stand out a lot more in a good way.

Jessica: Time’s up!

Karen: @I’m thinking that I redeemed the dish by cooking it properly this time. @I’m a little older and a lot smarter this season, and I think I might be able to finally win!

Phung: @I know I crushed it. @In school, people think that I’m some sort of bitch or diva, and that I’m too bossy. @But I back it up with my actions and results.

Jessica: Your judges are:

Vanilla Cuylenberg – Warrior Chef 1 winner

Vin Rugnetta – Warrior Chef 2 winner

Lauren Wilson – Warrior Chef 3 winner

Jessica: Let’s start with the dishes by Karen, Amanda, and Nate!

Karen – pate choux fritters with shrimp and tomato-caper relish

Amanda – salmon sashimi with speck-blood orange vinaigrette and chervil foam

Nate – bacon wrapped pork crepinette with yucca chips and mustard aioli

Vanilla: Karen cooked her fritters well, but the shrimp were undercooked for me. I liked her relish. But the dish she put up was the exact same one she was sent home on. I was expecting to see her re-do the concept too.

Vin: Amanda’s sashimi was sliced excellently. Her vinaigrette was unusual, but it worked really nicely against the meatiness of the salmon and the herbaceous chervil. Overall, she’s proving why she was such a strong threat in my season.

Lauren: Nate’s crepinette was cooked nicely but his yucca chips were dense and that aioli just made the dense dish even heavier. It was too much to finish in one go. He needed freshness, and half that portion per plate.

Jessica: And now we have the dishes by Phung, Kira, and Jo!

Phung – snapper with lemongrass, coconut, and chilies; calamari with ginger vegetables
Kira – scallop en papillote with fennel couscous
Jo – tuna and avocado poke with cucumber ribbons and citrus granita

Lauren: Phung… she’s doing what she does best. Overachieving. She prepared two dishes, and she managed to nail both of them. The snapper was cut nicely and the broth was great! And then the calamari with compressed vegetables was delicious.
Vanilla: Kira’s scallops were the best cooked piece of seafood I have tasted so far. They were buttery and succulent. And knowing that she took the time to prepare her own couscous was incredible!

Vin: Jo’s poke was an interesting idea, and it was a departure from his original concept. I remember he got dinged for black garlic, and he omitted it here. That was a good call. He definitely redeem himself here.

Jessica: Finally, the dishes by Henry, Tadashi, and Rose!

Henry – fried chicken thigh with parsnip puree, chips, and chicken jus

Tadashi – matcha cake with honey-cream cheese chantilly and matcha ice cream

Rose – tespixhe with citrus salad

Lauren: Henry cooked the chicken nicely and I liked the different kinds of parsnip applications. It’s not necessarily a winning dish in the bunch, but it showed that he knows how to cook chicken.

Vanilla: Tadashi’s dessert falls in the same category as Henry’s dish. It was alright, but you can’t expect cream cheese icing to be part of a winning dessert on Warrior Chef. It was good home cooking, but it wasn’t refined.

Vin: Rose’s dessert tasted chalky and the citrus salad just amplified that. I did not enjoy the flavors that much.

Jessica: Thank you, returning champions for coming back to judge. Have you guys decided on who redeemed themselves and who is going to be eliminated first?

Lauren: Yes, we have.

In walks Kira, Amanda, and Phung.

Jessica: Tonight… the three of you redeemed your dishes, and one of you won the challenge! Congratulations!

Lauren: Phung, you managed to produce two solid dishes, and it showed why you were such a major threat. Kira, you made your own couscous. That’s insane. Your scallops were beautifully cooked and we just loved your flavors.

Vin: Amanda, you contrasted the flavors and textures perfectly. This wasn’t clunky or confused. It was delicious!

Jessica: Vanilla, please announce the winner.

Vanilla: Four great dishes, but the best cook tonight was definitely…. Kira. Your scallops were the best cooked scallops any of us have ever tasted.

Jessica: Congratulations, Kira! You won the elimination challenge!

Kira: Thank you. @I proved to myself and to everyone here that I didn’t deserve to leave without that title. @I’m so proud that the judges agreed with that and gave my dish the win. @It’s definitely a warm return to the competition. @It’s like I never left!

Kira, Amanda, and Phung leave.

Phung: @I think it’s bull that I didn’t win, because I made two good dishes, not one. @But at least I’m on top, which I rightfully deserved to be.

In walks Rose, Nate, and Karen.

Jessica: One of you is going home tonight.

Vin: Rose, your dessert was just chalky and unpleasant. The dish just didn’t eat well for any of us. Nate, the yucca chips were dense and unpleasant. You switched around the mistakes this time. Good meat, but really bad fries.

Vanilla: Karen, the shrimp was undercooked for me. It was gummy and almost squeaky. The choux fritter was delicious, just not the shrimp.

Karen: @Hearing that I served undercooked shrimp, I think I’m a goner tonight. @I’m trying to stay strong, but it’s hard to at this point.

Nate: @Hearing that my yucca chips sucked, that’s not a good feeling. @I’m potentially going home first, and that’s my nightmare. @Nobody wants to go out first. @None of us did that badly last time around.

Jessica: Rose, I’m so sorry. Please return to the kitchen and leave.

Rose: Are you shitting me? @I can’t believe I’m going home first. @Bitch, I was a runner-up of my season! @I call foul play! @What the fuck is this?! @I’m not happy. @This is not why I came back. @These fools got so lucky I’m going home first.

Nate: @I was not expecting that. @I thought Rose was going to go to the very end, and she’s the first person going home. @This season, it’s tough. @Nobody is safe, that’s for sure. @I’m feeling vulnerable right now.

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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.

Warrior Chef 3: Round 4

Lauren: @I’m walking into the kitchen feeling great tonight. @Cherry and I somehow won the challenge, and I am looking forward to the next challenge!

Gabe: @I’m still shocked that Taylor got sent home. @He seemed to be one of the more confident cooks, but I guess he skated under the radar too long and he became forgettable. @I haven’t been on top since the first elimination, so I need to step it up.

Kira: @Lauren swept the last round and I honestly don’t know what to think anymore. @I expected Taylor and Justin to be my biggest competition, but Lauren, Jaenice, and Phung are all coming out of nowhere with really good food. @You definitely can’t judge a book by it’s cover in this competition.

Michele: Welcome back, everyone. So for the challenge tonight, we want you guys to prepare a dessert using…..

A cart is wheeled in, carrying pistachios.

Phung: Oh lord. @Pistachios? @Really? @And they aren’t shelled. @Fuck me.

Gabe: @None of them are shelled and it’s a nightmare even looking at them. @We are all going to easily lose 30 minutes doing mise en place.

Michele: So you have 45 minutes to make a pistachio dessert, time starts now!

Kira: @I grab a ton of the pistachios, and I’m thinking about what I can do so that I don’t have to shell them. @I’m making a pistachio infused vanilla ice cream and pistachio crumble with a rum caramel sauce. @Because I’m infusing the pistachios into my milk, I don’t need to shell those, so I only need a couple for the crumble. @I hope that the pistachio comes through enough.

Lauren: @I’m preparing a pistachio crusted cheesecake with honey-ricotta filling and orange marmalade. @I’m keeping the execution simple, because the cheesecake is a rare cheesecake that thickens by setting, not cooking. @My competition is pretty tough. @Phung, she’s intense. @But this is a baking challenge, and I need to continue proving myself to everyone that I am a well-rounded cook worthy of the title.

James: @I’m making a pistachio doughnut. @I’m feeling good about making the doughnuts. @I’m going to blend up the pistachios and then crust the doughnuts in that and then it’ll be delicious. @In the last challenge, Phung wouldn’t let me help, and that’s why we were on the bottom. @Tonight, this is going to be my food.

Gabe: @I’m not quite sure what to do. @I decide finally on a pistachio tart with a coffee-molasses filling. @I’m going to top the dish with whipped ricotta cheese. @I’m hoping that the pistachios will really work well with that. @I chose coffee and molasses because I think that the earthy notes of both will compliment the nut very well.

Justin: @I’m not sure what to do with the pistachios. @I give it some thought, and I finally decide on baklava cannoli. @But then I see that Lauren and Gabe are both using ricotta with pistachio as well, so I grab the goat cheese instead, because I want mine to stand apart from their desserts.

Phung: @Back off, bitches, I’m going to win this challenge. @I’m making a pistachio milk infused crepe with caramel braised pistachios, pistachio-honey ice cream, and pistachio crumble. @I know that I can nail this dish tonight and shine bright like a Phungmond. @I’m literally smashing these dumb nuts with pans just to get them open.

Jaenice: @I love a good pistachio. @I’m making a pistachio shortcake with blueberries, fresh cream, and lemon curd. @I’m feeling good about using the pistachio in just the shortcake and nowhere else. @Phung, she’s next to me smashing the living Jesus out of her nuts. @She’s going to bust a nut with her crazy bitch attitude. @Got to love me some crazy fat Vietnamese psycho.

Kira: @I’m going to make a peach and pistachio parfait with pistachio fritters and homemade creme fraiche. @I’m going to push myself and make the best thing I can in the time allotted. @The creme fraiche, I’m making using buttermilk, heavy cream, a cheese cloth, and a sous-vide machine. @After the last challenge, I really want to prove that I am not a weak link in the competition.

Michele: Time’s up!

Cherry: @We still have nine cooks, and I really want to prove to these guys that

Michele: Your judge is pastry lover and house critic, Kierra Johnston!

Kierra: Hi, everyone. I love desserts, and I love pistachios, so I’m expecting to be blown away tonight!

Kierra and Michele taste the dishes.

Michele: So Kierra, who failed to impress you?

Kierra: James, you ground the pistachios, shells and all, into the dish and that ate chalky and scratchy. And how did you make the doughnuts exactly?

James: I deep fried pizza dough.

Kierra: Yeah, that’s not going to cut it here. They were dense and rough.

Jaenice: @All of these dumb bitches trying to deep fry food against me? @Yeah, no, they stupid. @So fucking dumb. @I can’t even with this white bread.

Kierra: Gabe, the filling of your tart was acrid and bitter. Justin, the goat cheese overwhelmed my palate.

Justin: @I’m on the bottom and that sucks. @I really wanted to do better than that.

Jaenice: @Tsk, tsk. @Nobody seems to know how to make good baklava this season.

Kierra: For my favorites, Kira, you prepared a really complex parfait in just 45 minutes, and that blew me away. Phung, the braised pistachios were unusual, but it showed the pistachios in a way nobody else did. They were meaty, almost like an apricot. I liked that. And Jaenice, the shortcake was a clever application for the pistachio and I just loved your flavors overall. It was simple, but really well executed.

Jaenice: @I keep coming in second and I want to be number one. @I’m here to win.

Phung: @I’m on top, because I am the best cook here and nobody can take that right away from me.

Kierra: The best dish belonged to… Kira.

Michele: Congratulations, Kira! You got immunity and an advantage going into the elimination challenge!

Kira: Awesome! Thank you. @Getting immunity and an advantage is great. @I’m hoping that I can use that to knock off somebody who could be a major threat down the line.

Michele: Now for the elimination challenge! Kira, you have a huge advantage and that is you get to decide two people who you want to work with for the elimination challenge.

Kira: @I have immunity, so I know even if this backfires, I’m still not going home. I’m going to choose Phung and Lauren. @My logic there is that Phung is a strong cook, so that might set us up to win. @But if Phung tanks like she did with the last team challenge, she’s probably going home. @Lauren is a strong cook too, so if Phung isn’t going home, then at least Lauren would, worst case scenario. @I’m aiming to either knock out somebody weak, but worst case, somebody strong still goes home.

Lauren: @I’m not sure what’s going through Kira’s head, but I’m feeling nervous about being on a team with Phung. @Phung and Kira have both proven that they struggle in team challenges. @I don’t want to be on the bottom in this challenge with them, especially when Kira has immunity.

Michele: Everyone else, please draw knives!

Jaenice – 2

James – 2

Gabe – 2

Cherry – 3

Justin – 3

Henry – 3

Cherry: @I’m with Henry and Justin, and I’m disappointed. @I was hoping to be with Jaenice, because the two of us could probably stand up to Kira’s team.

Jaenice: @I’m with Gabe and James, and they’re both useless to me. @I’m feeling like I’m screwed tonight.

Michele: So tonight, you’ll be working in teams of three, and you’ll prepare two dishes. One is sweet, the other is savory. On top of that, you’ll have an assigned protein for your savory course, and an assigned fruit for the dessert.

A cart is wheeled in, carrying boar, venison, monkfish, figs, bananas, and apples

Michele: Kira, you get to choose the proteins and fruits for everyone.

Kira: We’ll take the monkfish and apples. I’ll give Team 2 the venison and bananas. And Team 3 will get the boar and peaches.

Jaenice: @We have venison and bananas. @I’m confident that we can nail our dishes tonight, so long as James and Gabe listen to me.

Cherry: @Never touched boar, and I don’t really like figs. @This is disgusting.

Michele: Just 1 hour to prepare two dishes, time starts now!

Kira: *to Phung and Lauren* So Lauren, I want you working with my on the savory dish. Phung, you need to do the dessert, okay? @Already, I know that with Phung, she’s not a team player, so I’m going to stick her alone on the dessert, and that’ll be the most productive way to handle this situation.

Phung: @I’m feeling good about doing the apple dessert. @I’m making a honeysuckle apple sorbet, financier with caramel poached apples, and apple cider spheres. @Kira is a strong competitor, but she has immunity, so I really need to just focus on winning.

Kira: @Lauren and I agree to prepare a leek smoked monkfish with monkfish liver butter, capers, and coconut espuma. @I think Lauren, Phung, and I are a strong team because Lauren and I know to let Phung do her own thing, and she will succeed that way if we really do enable her.

Cherry: @I’m with Justin and Henry, and they’re both decent cooks. @Justin is going to handle the fig dessert, and prepare a fig-hazelnut tart with goat cheese ice cream. @That sounds yummy, and something I would want to eat that.

Henry: @Cherry and I are going to handle the boar dish. @It’s going to be a roasted boar chop with polenta and wilted kale with some chilies sprinkled in there for a kick. @I really want to win the title because I want to have my own career that does not rely on going to college. @I hate school, and the culinary industry is the only one where I don’t really need a college diploma to thrive in.

Justin: @Working with Henry and Cherry is interesting. @Neither of them are really bad cooks, but I’d rather be in that team with Kira, because Kira and I would work well together. @For my tart, I’m making a hazelnut frangipan for the filling, with some figs baked directly in there as well. @The ice cream, a bit of balsamic, and the garnish is figs macerated in olive oil.

Jaenice: @I’m making banana pudding. @Right off the bat, I need to make myself some delicious banana pudding to just get through the fucking challenge. @But I’m with Gabe and James. @So for the venison dish, we are making barbecued venison. @Gabe is going to handle the cooking of it while James does the garnishes.

Gabe: @Jaenice is handling the dry rub on the venison, and I’m going to be searing and resting that and make a sauce. @Making Southern food is going to be an interesting challenge for me, because I don’t really do that.

James: @Jaenice is a strong cook and she’s been only on the top of challenges. @I think that it’s going to be an uphill battle for me. @I’m making mashed potatoes, grilled corn, and some wilted collards for our dish. @I’m ready to get some redemption and win the challenge.

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

Cherry: @I see the other dishes, and I’m not too impressed. @I think I’m going to make it into the next round, for sure.

Michele: Your judges are:

Erwin Ko

Max Hudson

Chelia Van Buren

Michele: Let’s start with Kira, Phung, and Lauren’s dish!

-leek smoked monkfish with monkfish liver butter, capers, and coconut espuma

-honeysuckle apple sorbet, financier, caramel poached apples, and apple cider spheres

Max: The leek smoked monkfish. Wow. That was already a huge home run. The fact that they incorporated the liver into the dish was really amazing. I was impressed.

Chelia: The usage of the monkfish parts was clever. The flavors balanced out and I’m really happy with that.

Erwin: The dessert was incredible. The sorbet, financier with the apples baked into it, and the little bubbles of cider, I was wowed.

Michele: And next are the dishes by Cherry, Justin, and Henry!

-roasted boar chops, polenta, chili kale

-fig-hazelnut tart with goat cheese ice cream

Chelia: The boar was cooked nicely and I liked the texture of the polenta. The chili infused kale had a great amount of kick and flavor to it.

Erwin: The tart was beautifully crafted and I liked the ice cream a lot too. Both dishes were pretty solid dishes.

Max: I think that the dessert was flawlessly executed with so many different textures of the fig. But for the boar, I’m wishing that they incorporated more boar into there.

Michele: And finally, the dishes by Jaenice, James, and Gabe!

-dry rubbed venison, mashed potatoes, corn, and wilted collards

-banana pudding

Max: The venison was cooked perfectly and I really liked the seasoning on it and the other garnishes. But there was too much on a plate.

Erwin: The venison wasn’t seasoned properly. The dry rub just lacked salt, and that’s what I’m missing here.

Chelia: The banana pudding, it was way too pedestrian. They could have done so much more. The flavor was nice, but that’s really just it.

Michele: So can we decide on which team is on the bottom and which team won?

Chelia: We can.

In walks Kira, Phung, Lauren, Cherry, Henry, and Justin.

Michele: Tonight, the judges agreed that you were the two teams that wound up on top of the elimination challenge!

Cherry: @Being on top is amazing, because I know I am a strong contender for the title now. @This year is my year.

Michele: Judges?

Max: Henry, Justin, and Cherry, you three put up a delicious dessert and the boar with the chili was a clever combination.

Chelia: Phung, Lauren, and Kira, that monkfish dish was impeccably done. Your dessert was complex and really inventive.

Michele: Erwin, please announce the winning team tonight.

Erwin: It was a really tough decision, but the best two dishes were made by… Kira, Phung, and Lauren.

Michele: Congratulations, you three! You won the elimination challenge!

Kira: @We won! @I finally proved that I am not a bad luck charm in these team challenges. @Winning, it feels amazing.

The top six leave.

In walks Jaenice, James, and Gabe.

Michele: Unfortunately, the three of you are on the bottom, and one of you is going home.

Erwin: Who prepared what on this team?

Jaenice: I handled the dry rub on the venison and the banana pudding.

James: I handled the sides for the venison.

Gabe: I actually cooked the venison tonight.

Chelia: Jaenice, the pudding tasted good, but the concept was weak from the get-go. And your rub, it lacked salt.

Chelia: Gabe, have you cooked venison before?

Gabe: Never. I tried to treat it like steak and get it to medium rare.

Chelia: You nailed the cook on it. It was still juicy and moist. You did a great job there.

Gabe: Thank you. @I’m feeling safer than the other two, but I think James is going home, because Jaenice did a lot of work here too.

Erwin: James, you actually had really good sides. I think the problem here is that you made too many sides. There was too much going on in the savory dish and your dessert had been completely neglected by your team.

James: @I made good food, but I’m not on the winning team. @It fucking sucks, man. @But I think Jaenice is going home tonight. @Bye, boo.

Michele: Please wait in the stew room as we make our decision.

Jaenice: @Right now, I’m nervous. @I’m definitely stronger than James and Gabe, so they better not eliminate me.

Chelia: The biggest issue we have is that the workload clearly wasn’t distributed here. Do we send home Gabe for not doing nearly enough, or Jaenice for the bland venison and boring dessert?

Max: I think it can be argued for either side.

Erwin: Alright.

In walks the bottom team again.

Michele: Unfortunately, one of you is going home tonight. Jaenice, please return to the kitchen and leave.

Jaenice: Thank you for this opportunity to compete and for letting me put up some great Korean-Southern food. @I’m pissed that I’m going home. @This is some serious bullshit. @I’ve never been on the bottom before, and I’m out. @Great.

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 2: Round 6

Amanda: @The mood is definitely somber today. @Marisa was a good friend, and a great person in general, so seeing her go home was hard. @I know Talia and I are both taking it really badly.

Talia: @I just need to try my best from here on out. @Every time I cook, I need to know that I’m trying my best for myself, and for my friends.

Victoria: Hi, everyone! So for today’s creativity challenge, we want to see what you guys can do with… chicken and waffles. The winner of this challenge will not receive immunity, but they will have a huge advantage going into the next elimination. You have just 30 minutes, and your time starts now!

Rose: @I don’t eat chicken and waffles. @That’s… not really my kind of food. @For my dish tonight, I’m preparing chicken liver pate with a celery-pepper slaw and an orange and tahini waffle. @I think that doing pate instead of fried chicken, it will be something more in my wheelhouse.

Vin: @For my dish tonight, I’m going to make a grilled chicken with waffle fritters and a curry infused barbecue sauce. @I’m taking a risk combining the curry with barbecue, but I think that the smokiness and sweetness will work well with the spices. @The waffle fritters, I’m going to deep fry cornmeal batter, then press it in a waffle iron to finish it.

Nate: @Right now, I’d say that Vin, Rose, and Amanda are the three strongest cooks here. @I want to knock them out, one by one. @I’m preparing a blanched partridge with scallion waffle and a sweetened soy syrup. @I’m going to blend dim sum with chicken and waffles, and that’s going to be my innovation.

Amanda: @Nate’s doing Chinese fusion, and I think that’s pretty cool. @I have to think back to my own French roots, and dig up something from there. @I love using garlic, and I decide to prepare a garlic and chicken liver mousse with a honey infused crepe and some crispy chicken skin to garnish. @I’m worried because I’m up against Rose, who is also making a pate type of thing, but I just have to make mine better.

Jo: @For my dish tonight, I’m going to prepare chicken stuffed waffles. @I’m making a farce and then I’m going to put that in the batter when I griddle it. @I’m serving that with a spicy mango-pineapple chutney, because I want there to be lots of flavors that will help the chicken taste like something.

Talia: @If I lose a chicken and waffle challenge, I’m going to be pissed. @This is my chance to show that I can make a winner out of this kind of dish. @I’m making waffle battered chicken skewers with a spicy maple-tomato relish. @I know that Vin is doing a waffle-fritter too, but mine is going to be better, because I’m using buttermilk in my batter, as well as beer, just to make it super light and crispy.

Victoria: Time’s up!

Amanda: @I can see that my dish is too simple. @I think that Rose’s dish, compared to mine, it’s gorgeous. @I’m really jealous of her concept right now.

Rose: @Amanda clearly tried to copy me and it failed. @She’s not going to ever beat me in this competition.

Victoria: Your judge is Warrior Chef house critic, Kierra Johnston!
Kierra: Hi, guys! I love seeing classics revamped and in food journalism, you’re always looking for innovative dishes. I’m looking forward to trying your new takes on such an iconic part of southern comfort food.

Kierra and Victoria taste the dishes.

Victoria: So Kierra, how did they do?

Kierra: Overall, nobody produced a bad dish. I thought that three of you were just slightly more creative. Rose, the pate was clever and delicious, and I thought the way you embraced that waffle, and used tahini and orange, it was brilliant. Talia, you battered the chicken in waffles, and I’ve never seen deep fried skewers like that before. Your relish was brilliant too. I just couldn’t get enough. Jo, the chutney, I could bottle that. The idea to stuff the farce into a waffle was hilarious, and I just loved that you really went for it in this challenge.

Jo: @Honestly, it felt more like she was laughing at my dish rather than laughing with it. @But I still have a one in three shot here.

Victoria: Kierra, who won?

Kierra: Three great dishes, but the best one definitely belonged to… Talia!

Victoria: Congratulations, Talia! For winning this, you will receive a huge advantage going into the elimination challenge!

Talia: @I almost won a challenge making chicken and waffles, so if I did not win this challenge, then I would be disappointed. @I got my redemption on this and getting that huge advantage in the next challenge rocks!

Victoria: So now for the elimination challenge! In teams of two, you will prepare a dish fit for royalty. Talia, this is where your advantage kicks in. You get to decide the pairs.

Talia: Crap. @Honestly, everyone here is really strong, and we have all won at least one challenge. @I have to think about the personalities, because from a cooking-skills perspective, we are all dead even. *to Victoria* Is this a double elimination?

Victoria: No, the weaker performer on the weakest team deemed by the judges will be sent home.

Talia: Oh okay then. For myself, I’m going to pick… Rose. @It was honestly between her or Amanda, but I think Rose has had more successes in team challenges, and it makes more sense.

Rose: Awesome. @Talia’s been really inconsistent this season. @She’s had highs and lows, and I don’t like the fact that I can’t fully trust my own partner.

Talia: Amanda, I will pair you with… Nate. @I think Nate’s a strong team player, and I want Amanda to stay in the competition. @By not putting me and Amanda on the same team, I am lowering the odds that one of us is going home.

Amanda: @I’m happy working with Nate, but slightly surprised that Talia did not want to work with me. @I’m sure she had a good reason for it.

Nate: @Amanda is strong, so am I. @I think we are going to be a great team. @Bring it on. @I’m already thinking about what kinds of royal dishes we can make.

Victoria: And that means, Vin and Jo, you two are together!

Talia: @Vin’s strong, Jo’s relatively strong, but I’m hoping Jo’s immaturity will sink their team and send Vin packing. @I want Vin out of the competition, because I think he’s probably the biggest threat.

Vin: @I’m stoked to be working with Jo, because he is consistently strong. @I don’t think there was really any strategic choices that Talia can make given how strong the six of our were, but I’m interested in seeing how this challenge will play out.

Jo: @I’m not quite sure what the logic was here, but I’m hoping that I’m going to win the challenge with Vin. @That’s be great!

Victoria: You have just 45 minutes, and your time starts now!

Rose: @I want to prepare breakfast in bed, and I want it to be purple to fit the idea of royalty. @I’m making ube infused Japanese hotcakes with birch syrup and a creme fraiche sorbet. @I’m going to nail this challenge because that’s what I always do.

Talia: @Rose’s idea is awesome and I’m going to help her execute the syrup and the creme fraiche sorbet. @I’m feeling good about our team and our concept. @I see the other dishes and I’m not too worried. @I think we’ll win this.

Vin: @It’s a dish fit for a king. @Jo and I only have 45 minutes, and that means we can’t do some sort of extravagant whole roasted animal. @We are going to prepare a roasted lamb rack with fondant parsnips, a mint-spring pea chutney, and a port jus.

Jo: @I’m going to handle frenching and cooking the rack while Vin does the chutney and the parsnips. @I think that our dish has the potential to really wow the judges, but I think it also comes down to what the judges taste from the other teams. @I think that this final six, it’s one of the strongest final sixes in Warrior Chef.

Amanda: @Nate’s Chinese and I’m French, and we both love cooking with duck. @So we are going to make a quick duck confit with a savory coconut flan, five-spice and orange butter, crispy duck breast, and duck fat vinaigrette with escarole.

Nate: @I’m handling the duck butchery and the butter sauce. @Amanda got the confit going ASAP and she’s working on the flan while I start rendering off the duck fat. @I’m feeling good about our dish.

Vin: @I see that Amanda and Nate are doing duck two ways, and I realize that we need to step up our game as well. @So I grab the pressure cooker. @I’m going to confit the lamb breasts and add that onto our plate.

Jo: @Vin’s adding a new component to our dish, and I’m worried we have a lot going on, but at the same time, I’m more focused on tasting everything just to make sure it all goes together. @I see that Talia and Rose are going with a breakfast theme, and it’s… not really what I’d do personally.

Rose: @I check the hotcakes, and they are fluffy. @I added in three egg whites, whipped stiff, and that did the trick. @Talia’s syrup tastes great, and I know that we are going to demolish the competition.
Jo: @I realize what our dish is missing. @So I run to the fridge, and I found them! @Black truffles. @I’m going to shave these over the parsnips to add more flavor. @I’m also making sure to hide them from Nate and Amanda, because I don’t want them to use any truffles on their plate.

Vin: @I see that Jo has a lot of truffles, and he’s hoarding them. *to Jo* Did you take all of them?

Jo: Yeah.

Vin: Okay, that’s not cool. *Grabs two of the five truffles* Nate, catch!

Nate: @Vin throws this black blob at me and I catch it. @It’s a truffle. @We don’t really need them in our dish, but it was a nice thing for him to do.

Vin: Talia, here!

Talia: @I don’t need truffles, because we are making a dessert, but that was nice of him to think of us.

Vin: *to Jo* I get the need to win, but you don’t screw over people like that.

Jo: @I feel like crap right now. @I don’t even know who I’m supposed to apologize to in this situation. @It’s just embarrassing.

Victoria: Time’s up!

Vin: @I’m feeling great about the dish, but I know Jo feels bad about the whole truffle-hogging situation. @It’s definitely awkward.

Victoria: Your judges are:

Aster Walker

Miriam Adjanti

Erwin Ko

Victoria: Let’s start with the dish by Rose and Talia!

-ube infused Japanese hotcakes with birch syrup and creme fraiche sorbet

Aster: The hotcakes were fluffy and I get that the purple color represented royalty. I felt that the sorbet in this case, it didn’t work with the dish. It was a cold sorbet on warm pancakes, and you get this mess on a plate.

Miriam: I agree about the sorbet. It just melted by the time it got to us, and with the syrup, it was too sweet and overall, this dish felt juvenile. It had the potential to be good, but it just veered off too much with the syrup and sorbet.

Victoria: And now we have Vin and Jo’s dish!

-roasted lamb rack, confit, truffled fondant parsnips, mint-spring pea chutney, port jus

Erwin: This… was phenomenal. The confit, I was impressed that they got the lamb shoulder so tender. The flavor of the rack was great and the parsnips and chutney and port all worked together so nicely.

Miriam: They thought through every component of the dish and I’m just in love the nuances. The mint chutney had spices in it that worked with the lamb, the truffle in the parsnip worked, and I’m surprised that it all worked together.

Victoria: And finally, we have Amanda and Nate’s dish!

-duck confit and breast, coconut flan, five spice-orange butter, vinaigrette, escarole

Aster: The duck confit was not as cooked as it should have been. But I loved the breast and the coconut flan a lot. The butter worked, but I wanted less oil on the plate. There was a lot of fat on the dish.

Erwin: I felt like there were hits and misses on the dish. I liked almost every component except for the confit. But the best thing on that dish was the escarole in the duck fat vinaigrette with crispy duck skin. That, I could eat every day for every meal. As a dish fit for royalty, they definitely plated an extravagant concept, just with mistakes throughout.

Victoria: So can we decide on which team won and which dish was on the bottom?

Erwin: Yes.

In walks Vin and Jo.
Victoria: Tonight… the two of you won the elimination challenge! Congratulations!

Vin: @I finally won another elimination challenge and it feels great! @Knowing that I could win something this far into the competition shows that I am a consistently strong cook. @This rocks!

Jo: @This is my third elimination win and fourth win overall. @I’m really proud of myself for getting this far in the competition, but I know that the finale is close.

Vin and Jo leave.

In walks Rose and Talia.

Victoria: Unfortunately, the two of you are on the bottom with the weakest dish, and one of you is going home tonight.

Talia: @This sucks so badly. @How did my advantage go to shit?

Miriam: Who prepared what?

Rose: I did the hotcakes.
Talia: I prepared the sorbet and the syrup.

Erwin: Well, that makes this easy. Victoria?
Victoria: Talia, please return to the kitchen and leave.

Talia: Alright. @I’m really pissed that I’m going home next @I expected to win the competition and it just didn’t play out that way for me. @I’m feeling angry and robbed. @I deserved to go much further in the competition.

Talia leaves.

Erwin: It was an obvious decision. Rose, you prepared beautiful pancakes. It just came down to Talia’s components hindering them.

Rose: Alright.

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.