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Chef Wanted Review: “The Austrian Wirsthaus”

This week on Chef Wanted, Chef Anne Burrell traveled to New York to help chef Kurt Gutenbrunner find a new executive chef for Blaue Gans, his restaurant featuring modern Austrian cuisine.

Though this episode was titled “The Austrian Wirsthaus”, it would have been better entitled “The One with the Stupid Mistakes," as there was not a candidate that did not make silly errors – in some cases costing them the job. 

The candidates:
Kenny, executive chef from Los Angeles
Carsten, unemployed executive chef originally from Germany, now from Pennyslvania
Ryan, executive chef from Orlando
Heather, executive chef from Dallas

Chef Wanted Lady

Test One: The chefs were asked to create a refined version of the traditional peasant dish, goulash.

Chef Kenny attempted to use a pressure cooker to prepare his Hungarian Goulash with Fermented Fennel – but it turned out that he did not know how to hit an “on” button and his meat turned out too chewy.

Chef Carsten was clearly the frontrunner in this challenge, having grown up on goulash, and did not disappoint with his Hungarian Goulash with Pork Neck and Spaetzle.

Chef Heather presented Deconstructed Hungarian Goulash with Shank Meat and Pork Neck, though she nearly killed Kurt and Chef Anne with the amount of spice in her dish.

In the end, though, Chef Ryan was sent home for not including enough meat in his Veal Cheek Goulash with Goat Cheese Spaetzle. I personally think Chef Kenny should be writing him a thank-you note for that mistake, as it was Ryan’s error that surely kept Kenny from going home.

Test Two: The chefs were assigned to create a dish using organ meat that would be accessible to the restaurant’s clientele – a tall order, indeed.

Kenny used beef heart to create Beef Heart Schnitzel, which proved to be a great improvement from his first dish.

Carsten attempted to prepare Bacon Wrapped Veal Kidneys, but the dish ended up being a case of good idea, poor execution.

Heather, however, was the real crowning jewel of this round, grabbing what she believed to be pork liver but were actually kidneys. To quote Chef Anne, “A chef should be able to tell the difference between a liver and a kidney,” though this could probably be extended to include anyone who has taken a basic biology class, or sat in a doctor’s office, for that matter.

Ultimately, owner Kurt was so appalled by this error that he ended her interview without even commenting on her final dish – and I really couldn’t blame him.

Dinner Service
Carsten took over the kitchen for dinner service first, and though he attempted to focus on making the most of his prep time, he made one rookie mistake that undid his planning: he failed to taste his soup before sending it out to be served. When the owner had to take control of the tickets to demonstrate what he wanted done, Carsten knew he was in trouble.

But what would an episode of Chef Wanted be without a good pep talk or two? And sure enough, Kurt takes Kenny aside, gives him the requisite pep talk, and things get back on track.

Kenny steps into the kitchen the next night, but his errors start to derail him much earlier: adding too much egg to his gnocchi dough, not prepping enough bone marrow, and ultimately serving raw bone marrow. If ever someone needed a pep talk, it was this guy. Luckily for him, Kurt pulls through with the pep talk and he is able to finish his dinner service – though not strongly enough to secure him the job.

While both chefs made some major rookie mistakes, in my opinion it was Carsten’s childhood in Germany – and deep, personal understanding of German and Austrian cuisine – that gave him the real edge and won him the job.

It’s hard to beat a man who has the cuisine practically running through his veins. If there is something we can all learn from this episode, though, it is this: know your offal, taste your soup, and, for the love of all that is good, don’t serve raw bone marrow.

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