Wow. After weeks of bitching, I finally get a satisfying episode of NFNS. An on-camera challenge that actually combines the food, camera presence, and expertise into one. And a totally justified winner. Sadly, the loser was not so justified.
We open with Paul stating the obvious, which is the final four being a stepping stone to the final two. Well so is the final ten and final nine. Amy says she wants to win for her family. Rory says she needs to be herself. JAG says he needs to simplify his food so that when he gets his own show he can "JAG it up." I have to words for you JAG. Ingrid. Hoffman.
They all head to the Institute of Culinary Education. Paul whines about possibly having to TEACH something because he has no formal training. Well neither does Amy but she brings the information ad nauseum. They soon find out that this is an Iron Chef challenge. JAG is thrilled. He thinks he has this challenge in the bag and reveals that Bobby Flay is his idol. Both Bobby Flay and Cat Cora are there for judging. Cat tells everyone they will be judged by taste, presentation, and originality. Bobby adds that they need to make the recipe accessible to the home cook. So in a confessional, JAG says the first of the twelve million simples that he will say throughout this competition. He needs to make his recipes simple. Sadly, the word edible does seem to be in his brain that day. Alton also says that they competitors not cooking will have to give floor commentary to show their extensive (NOT!) knowledge. JAG still thinks he has this one in the bag.
Alton also says that they will choose sous-chefs to help them in their challenge. The sous chefs are folks who've been previously voted out this season. Paul chooses first and chooses Michael. Amy chooses Tommy. An interesting choice since i think his cooking is pretty heavy and unrefined. But I will give Amy this, from the first episode, she's chosen good partners. Rory chooses Adrien and JAG is stuck with Colombe.
The first to face off are Rory and Paul. The secret ingredient is striped sea bass and Alton does all of the faux-Japanese samurai yelling that is de riguer for Iron Chef. Paul is freaked out by it and makes me wonder if he ever watches the food network. Paul and Rory get their sous chefs to butcher the fish so they can focus on coming up with a menu. Rory seems to work well with Adrien. He focuses on skinning the fish and she starts on sauces. JAG presents the menu. Paul thinks about his culinary point of view as party food on a budget. This dooms him right there because the Food Network already has Dan and Steve. Amy is REALLY competent. She seems knowledgeable and even personable which is the real challenge for her. JAG gets dinged for not knowing how to tell the difference between wild or farmed sea bass. JAG gets even stupider when he confessionalizes that he's not interested in competing with Alton Brown on food knowledge. It's not trying to show up Alton, it's about showing how much you know. Amy reports that Paul will be using Panko to bread his fish and says that panko is a Japanese breadcrumb. Alton asks about how they make panko and Amy wins the competition by going over and READING the ingredients from the panko bag. Way to think on your feet. I will say that she never seems flustered. She schoolmarm tendencies make her shine here. Much F4.
Bumper to commercial JAG is fratty. Bumper from commercial, Amy is endearing goofy. Amy is asking great questions abut the ceviche. JAG is giggling and jumping up and down for no reason. He covers by talking about Rorys sauce. Amy is really shining on the reporting. Paul has a neat station whereas Rory's is a mess. Both feel confident about their dishes.
Rory - She makes pan-seared sea bass with sugar grilled asparagus. Her point of view is the backyard bistro - basic ingredients with elegant presentation. The judges love the dish. The next is jalepeno-bacon sea bass fritters. It sounds wonderful Another home run. Te final dish is a striped bass napolen with sweet potato. Cat says it's a bad move to bake the sea bass. They think it's too dry and tough. Two out of three isn't bad.
Paul - His first dish is a tropical ceviche. Following his party theme is to make it for a pool party. The judges like th presentation but want more seasoning. Both Cat and Bobby give ideas on getting more flavor. His baked sea bass with blackberry and chive is deemed tasteless. In a weirdly non-arrogant way, Bobby says that if Paul came to his kitchen, he would send him home with a spice rack. Paul's final dish is fried sea bass with caramelized onions. The judges like the flavor but don't like the burned onions.
Wow they are totally pimping the Simply Delicioso show with INGRID HOFFMAN! I wonder if Giada is fuming because there's another woman on the food network bringing the rack.
Amy vs. JAG. Amy doesn't think her chances are good because JAG worships Iron Chef and cooks quickly. The secret ingredient is chicken. JAG is whining that you can't prepare chicken simply which is beyond stupid. I'm coming up with my menu right now. That includes a Chinese-poached chicken with a ginger soy sauce and pan-fried rice noodle, a Thai ground chicken salad, and a Vietnamese caramel braised chicken thigh. None has more than five ingredients. All are easy to make. And THAT menu came off the top of my untrained head. So zip it JAG. This guy works my last nerve. And JAG says simple three more times. Simple count is up to seven now. JAG seems to be spending a lot of time thinking about his menu. Colombe to her credit tries to DO something while JAG is thinking. He brushes her off. I WISH this were like Top CHef and they would also get judges on kitchen management. Oh my god am I bringing the Amy love right now. She works incredibly well with Tommy and already has him butchering. JAG put Colombe to work peeling potatoes. Rory starts off ok listing JAG's menu. Paul also starts off ok asking Amy about her menu. When asked by Alton what about Amy's stew is Morrocan, Paul completely flounders. He's really clueless and trying to be cute about it. It's truly annoying. And seriously, even I could give that answer. Which is the spices and chickpeas and couscous. Rory also blows it by saying there's no difference between chilies and peppers. Alton reprimands her for that fun unfact, pointing out that chilies and peppers are botanically very different. Rory says her approach is to be sarcastic with Alton when she doesn't know anything.
Any brings the love even more by talkign about her dish and remembering to explain the term duxelle. She is so on right now. Paul blows it yet again when Alton asks him about where the can of plum tomatoes are from and Paul replies, "plummy." Alton pushes him further to READ the can and Paul cannot promounce "San Marzano." This is totally humiliating. I hate how he totally blows off any need to have actual knowledge. JAG's chicken is smoking up the whole room to the point where the fire alarm goes off. Everyone is coughing. Cat is giving huge thumbs down. JAG thinks it's a big joke. Paul blows it some more on the bumper back from commercial. Amy is singing Tommy's praises. Rory shows a sliver of competence by talking aobut JAG's dishes but Alton dings her on ignoring the bacon in his dish. Rory responds by saying she couldn't get a word in edgewise with all of Alton's talking. What is with Rory and Paul? They are so completely assholeish about this. The judges give her the daggers of death. In the plating, Colombe looks miserable as JAG sous chef.
Amy - Says that she is happy with the dishes she AND TOMMY put together. She's the only chef to acknowledge that she had assistance. Her fish dish is a casbah chicken lollipop, a spiced chicken wing that was pushed up to look like a lollipop. The judges are lukewarm. She does put out her point of view which is the gourmet next door. Her next dish is a chicken roulade with a mushroom filling and fried fingerling potatoes. The judges are over the moon with this one. Her final dish is a moroccan chicken stew and once again the judges think it's a winner. The chicken is perfectly cooked. Amy gives Tommy a big hug.
JAG - JAG says that his approach is Latino fusion. He says simple three mor times (simple count up to 10). His first dish is a grilled chicken and goat cheese won ton with balsamic vinegar. The judges hate the vingar in the dish and think it's overpowering. JAG says he's not used to someone dogging his food. Did this guy actually go to culimary school? Oh wait. He LIED about that didn't he! His second dish is his Latin chicken soup with white bean and cilantro. Three more simples - 13! JAG is at a complete loss when Bobby asks him what was Latin about his dish. Suzy is pissed that there's a charred piece of skin in her soup. JAG is SAAAAAD! His last dish is a grilled chicken with saffron cream and potatoes. Four more simples. Cat doesn't love the dish. And what I am liking aobut both Bobby and Cat is that they clearly want the chefs to do well. JAG just seems to wilt. Noone likes the dish. JAG whines that he COULD have come up with awesome recipes but he was wanting to cater to us neanderthal home cooks. Which seriously, I think of Scotte who makes gorgeous, flavorful (from what I HEARD!) food with what comes from the grocery store.s It's not an either or thing JAG. More of JAg's whining. WAAAAAAAH!!! He has daddy issues.
After commercial, JAG is bawling like a baby in his bed. Literally!!!! Paul is trying to comfort him. At judging, the judges like Rory's food. They ask Rory about her style and she goes back to the real food for real people. As a raging liberal who lives in a blue state. Shut it about the real people crap. We're all real people. With the exception of Ann Coulter who is a Republican fembot. The judges like Paul's point of view but think his food needs flavor. Both are ripped apart (and rightly so) for treating the commentary part as a joke. Paul responds by saying his weak point is teaching. And what are you doing with a food show. Rory asks a zillion rhetorical questions as if she's Donald Rumsfeld. Do I think there are problems in Iraq? Yes. Do I think Democrats love the troops? No. Do I think i screwed up this week's challenge? Yes. Amy gets another pound of love from the judges. JAG on the other hand spews out more stuff about dumbing down his style for the home cook He's so fricking condescending. I kind of hate him. Then he turns on the waterworks and I hate him a bit more.
Amy is the obvious winner. Then Rory. The judges make Paul and JAG beg for their life. And surprisingly, JAG and his condescension gets to stay. Paul has to go. I'm not at all sad about that and only wished that could have kicked out JAG as well.
Next episode - FINALE!