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Chef Wanted: “French Connection”

This week on Chef Wanted, Anne Burrell travels to the beautiful Raleigh, North Carolina, to find a new executive chef for French brasserie Coquette. French cuisine is not something you learn in just a few days, so these candidates really need to know their stuff if they expect to get this job.

The candidates: Mike, executive chef from New Orleans; Mark, executive chef from Boston; Pippa, unemployed executive chef from Pennsylvania; Bryant, unemployed executive chef from Los Angeles.

chef wanted ep

Test One: Create one savory crepe and one sweet crepe, using the same main ingredient for both of the fillings. Chef Anne really said it best: “Did you make crepes, or crap?”

Chef Mike chooses sweet potato as his common ingredient, creating a savory Duck Sweet Potato Crepe, and a sweet Sweet Potato Crepe with Kumquat and Roquefort Cheese, which the restaurant owners felt highlighted the sweet potato well.

Chef Mark picks mascarpone cheese as his filling ingredient (Chef Anne: “So, you’re showing us the versatility of cream cheese?”), and serves a Rolled Crepe and Mascarpone Crepe and a Strawberry and Whipped Mascarpone Crepe. Indeed, the owners are not impressed with his level of creativity.

Chef Pippa makes her crepes using apples – an Apple, Gruyere, and Ham Crepe, and an Apple Compote Crepe with Chantilly cream. While the crepes are not the most beautiful, they do end up being quite delicious.

Mark should have listened to the wisdom of Chef Anne, as his lack of creativity is exactly what sends him home.

Test Two: Create a new rabbit dish, using as much of the rabbit as possible. There is a lot of room for error in this test, as each cut of rabbit must be cooked differently.

Chef Pippa prepares Rabbit with Mustard Three Ways, which the owners declare to be well cooked and delicious.

Chef Mike serves Rabbit le Cordon Bleu, which turns out to have good flavors. Unfortunately, Mike fails to learn from the mistakes of chefs gone before him, and goes the route of the familiar by using only the tenderloin of the rabbit.

Chef Bryant ambitiously creates a Rabbit Sauté, which the owners feel demonstrates good direction in spite of its overly ambitious nature.

Elimination was a case of history repeating itself when the owners send Mike home due to his lack of creativity with his rabbit dish.

Dinner Service
Bryant steps into the kitchen for dinner service first, creating a “French with a twist” menu, with every item cooked to order. What he foolishly fails to realize, however, is that creating each and every item as the tickets come in – including the salads and soups – causes tickets to back up rapidly and puts him in the weeds.

Has this man ever worked in a restaurant kitchen before?

Chef Bryant quickly realizes his mistake, however, and pulls his kitchen staff together for the proverbial Chef Wanted Pep Talk, after which the appetizers start rolling out more quickly, and service ends smoothly, with customers loving the food.

Chef Pippa takes over dinner service the second evening, planning a menu based on French bistro cuisine, which proves to include too much rabbit, causing her to have to create another entrée just as guests are entering the restaurant. To make things worse, customers are disgusted by her fatty rabbit rillettes, and the owner literally ends up throwing money in the trash with every plate that comes back to the kitchen.

Unfortunately for Chef Pippa, this is not a problem that a pep talk can fix. After realizing that they have a restaurant full of hungry, angry customers, the owners realize they must do something, and ask Pippa to leave the restaurant and end her dinner service before entrees even begin to go out, making Bryant the winner by default.

While it took this episode a while to get moving, after last week’s less-than-exciting episode, it was refreshing to see some conflict in this episode. As much as I did not want Pippa to fail in the way that she did, it’s hard to argue that it made for interesting TV – which is, after all, why we watch.

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