This week on Chef Wanted, Anne Burrell teamed up with the owners of Victor’s Café in New York to find an executive chef for the family-owned Cuban restaurant. While last week’s episode was a lesson in not making stupid mistakes, this was a lesson in successful problem solving.
Ted, executive sous chef from Los Angeles
Guily, executive chef from Miami, originally from Puerto Rico
Daniel, unemployed executive chef from Miami
Maria, executive chef from Brooklyn
Test One: The chefs were tasked with creating their own adobo blend to use in their own dish. Surprisingly, though all of these chefs claim to be experts in Cuban cuisine, only one of them was able to actually succeed in making a standout adobo.
Chef Daniel presented a severely under-spiced Adobo-Rubbed Skirt Steak, while Chef Guily created an adobo with muted flavors in her Shrimp in Red Sauce with Fried Plantain. Chef Maria completely lost her head in that kitchen, turning out an overcooked Passion Fruit Chicken with Yuca Mash. Chef Ted was the only chef to produce a great adobo in his well-balanced Adobo-Rubbed Rack of Lamb with Sweet Plantains and Mint Mojo.
While Danile and Guily both produced mediocre adobos, it was Maria’s inability to keep her wits about her while grilling her chicken that sent her home.
Test Two: The chefs were asked to create both classic and modern versions of traditional Cuban dishes.
Chef Ted served Palomilla with Rice, Pigeon Peas and Pickled Green Beans for his classic dish, making it more of a healthy recipe with leaner meat and less carbs for his modern version, a move that pleased the owners with great flavors.
Chef Daniel also pleased the owners with his Pescado Criollo with Yuca Mash, and his modern version of Pan-Seared Sea Bass using an Olive and Caper Gremolada. Chef Guily, however, was not as successful, as her modern Sweet and Sour Pork did not much resemble her traditional Chuletas de Puerco, and she was the obvious candidate to send home.
While some episodes of Chef Wanted are notorious for the terrible dinner services, this episode will likely be notorious for the opposite: two highly successful dinner services, in which both chefs proved themselves to be self-starters, excellent leaders, and problem-solvers.
Chef Daniel took over the kitchen first for dinner service, focusing on the all-important preparation. However, his croquetas spent too much time in the freezer prior to frying and were still frozen upon service. It only took Chef Anne screaming the word “balls” at him about 10 times for him to show his staff what he needed to have happen, pull things together – shockingly, no pep talk needed! – and move on smoothly from the croqueta debacle.
Chef Ted enters the kitchen next, and while his many components cause him to start to lose some steam prior to service, it was the surprise of having to create a special dish for the owner’s husband and son that nearly threw him for a loop.
His quick innovation and delicious food earned him big points with the owners, but it was not having a single plate come back to the kitchen – an unheard of event on this show – that put his performance over the edge and undoubtedly won him the job.
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