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Chopped Review: “Heads Up!”

With ingredients staring right at them, the following Chopped contestants went head to head this week:

  • Bruce, Executive Chef: Competing in hopes of winning the money to finance the adoption of a baby. AKA: This week’s sob story (and it works).
  • Jordan, Executive Chef: Competing in hopes of proving himself to his father, also an executive chef. AKA: The pretty boy with daddy issues.
  • Eleanor, Executive Chef: Competing in hopes of financing the creation of her culinary board game – certainly a reason we have never heard before. AKA: The woman who can’t figure out how to use a microwave.
  • Ingrid, Sous Chef: Competing in hopes of helping her son pay for college. Sadly, she goes home before she can make a nickname for herself.
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This Week’s Judges: Amanda Freitag, Scott Conant, and Aaron Sanchez.

The Appetizer Round: The chefs have 20 minutes to create an appetizer using lamb’s head, microwavable chocolate cake, tatsoi, and artichoke liqueur.

Chef Bruce creates perhaps the only appetizer that does not revolve fully around a salad: Lamb Brain and Tongue Crostini with Red Wine Chocolate Sauce. Unfortunately, he overlooks cooking down the red wine in his sauce, making it practically inedible. Aside from that oversight, however, he gets excellent reviews for his use of the brain.

Chef Jordan puts together a Warm Tatsoi Salad with Fried Lamb’s Tongue. Like Bruce, however, his dish contains a major oversight: forgetting to remove the membrane from the tongue. He does seem to get points from the judges for his concept, though.

Chef Eleanor presents a Parisian Lamb Cheek Salad with Bacon. I sure would love to tell you what the judges said about her dish, but she would not stop interrupting them every time they spoke, making her the most irritating contestant I’ve seen in a while and earning her the nickname: The Woman Who Would Not Shut Up.

Chef Ingrid also created a Warm Tatsoi Salad, but served hers with Mole Lamb Head, which Aaron – a man who knows his mole – did not care for. The other judges said that she had good flavor but bad butchering, which, combined with her less-than-stellar mole, ends up getting her sent home.

The Dinner Round: The contestants have 30 minutes to create an entrée containing arctic char, concentrated vinegar, smoked butter, and purple spinach – a surprisingly tame basket for Chopped.

Chef Bruce makes Butter Basted Arctic Char with Warm Potato and Purple Spinach Salad, a dish with awesome flavors but a very intense vinegar taste.

Chef Jordan reaches into his Filipino roots and presents Sesame Seared Arctic Char with Vegetable Pancit, which was declared delicious.

Chef Eleanor creates Pan Seared Arctic Char with Mascarpone Cream Sauce, a generally solid, though uncreative, dish, though her heavy hand with the rosemary and whole raw chives as garnish ultimately seal her fate and send her home. Although I personally suspect that the judges were simply tired of her constant interrupting and eye-rolling. I sure was.

The Dessert Round: The two remaining contestants have 30 minutes to create a dessert using yellow rice, persimmons, sugar cane drink, and pine nuts.

Chef Bruce goes a bit of a traditional route with a Yellow Rice Pudding, which he serves with Candied Pine Nuts and Pig Candy. Though the flavors in his dish are excellent, with subtle nuances that bring it together, his rice is not fully cooked, a mistake that could easily cost him the $10,000.

Chef Jordan takes a bit of a leap and makes a Hybrid Horchata Champorado – essentially, he serves the judges rice soup. The judges applaud him for his creativity, though not all of the judges appreciate being served a soup for dessert, and his dish lacks the nuanced flavors of Bruce’s dish.

In the end, it is Chef Bruce’s ability to nuance and tie together flavors throughout his meal that win him the $10,000 (I may have shed a tear when he called his wife with the news) and send Jordan home wondering if he will ever win his father’s approval. Personally, I think he should bring his father on the show to go head-to-head – just please, don’t bring back Chef Eleanor to compete against them again. With all of her interrupting, we would never find out if Jordan’s dad really is proud of him or not.

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