We’re back from Vegas with the top 16 cooks and kick off with another mystery box challenge. The contents are all breakfast ingredients, but the judges aren’t looking for a breakfast you’d eat at home. Bummer. I was hoping someone would just serve Gordon Ramsay a bowl of Special K. No, they want a refined, restaurant quality dish. And there’s a twist. There’s an extra box at a station in the front. “It’s here because you all have a lot to learn,” says Gordon. …So this box is going to teach them…? Nope. Graham Elliot’s going to cook with them.
While this is Nick’s dream come true, as he would have “paid money to cook with Graham,” I’m left wondering why Graham needs to participate in this challenge. Gordon answers my question: “The contestants can learn organization from Graham.” Sure enough, Graham’s getting his station set up in a calm, orderly manner, while 16 cooks behind him are racing around like mad men. Graham announces that he’ll do three dishes, one for each judge, while the contestants only have to do one.
But I’m still perplexed here. If the point is for the hopefuls to learn from Graham, why is Graham cooking concurrently with them? Surely the cook all the way in the back of the room can’t see what Graham’s doing up front, nor can anyone really devote any serious time or attention to soaking in Graham’s skills, techniques or methods, as they’re in a timed battle to stay in this competition. This would’ve been more effective as a straightforward lesson, both to the cooks in that kitchen and to us viewers.
They finish and Graham gets to present his three dishes first. They look amazing, but they better, right? Olivia sums it up in her tween speak for us: “Oh my God. Graham’s, like, a legend.” There’s a smoked salmon and asparagus soft scramble, a full English brekkie for Gordon and a French toast and banana dish for Christina Tosi. They all heap praise on Graham, and this is a weird and sad use of airtime. On to the contestants. There were three standouts the judges were “dying” to see. The first is Nick.
Up he comes with a great looking plate he calls a Three Way Breakfast. There’s French toast with a berry, mint, and lemon compote, a breakfast deviled egg (replete with maple syrup and bacon), and a sausage and asparagus medley. It looks sublime. I want to eat it all then lick the plate. The judges concur that this is a standout home run, and Gordon’s happy Nick’s not playing it safe. Hey Nick, where do we get the recipe for those deviled eggs?
Next up is Katrina, who giggles when her name is called and “cannot believe it. It’s so nice to be recognized in the top three.” She thinks her hard work and knowledge have really paid off here and the proof is in her dish. Upon it sits a blood sausage, mushroom, and asparagus frittata beside a stuffed tomato the size of a fist. It’s delicious, says Graham, but the tomato probably didn’t need to be the size of Texas. A simple slice may have sufficed. Gordon welcomes her back to the top three and is “amazed” by her “fearlessness.” Eh? “Most people would’ve shied away from the blood sausage, but you went for it.” I mean, yeah, most people wouldn’t touch the stuff because blood sausage doesn’t exactly scream “breakfast.” I’m not sure if including it makes her fearless, but it does solidify that Gordon’s got a serious soft spot for this woman and I’m struggling to figure out why.
The final dish, heavy in technique and plated in a “stunning” fashion, belongs to Derrick. No one thinks this is more deserved than… Derrick. “I’ve been listening, learning, and it shows in my dish. I feel like a rockstar.” Dude. We get it. You play the drums. His dish does look glorious, with a trio of offerings. His salmon benedict, French toast and crème anglaise are masterfully cooked and plated, and it’s no surprise the judges pile on the adulations following their bites.
While Gordon’s slowly teasing out who the winner is (by unanimous decision), Derrick’s soundbites are peppered in during Gordon’s pauses. Of Nick’s plate, Derrick sneers, “I don’t think of deviled eggs for breakfast.” And “Katrina has great flavor, but I don’t think she’ll ever understand the art of plating. [Mine] is the prettiest plate. I’ve pushed myself outside of the comfort zone. I deserve this win.” Tell us how you really feel, homie. His self-righteousness is somewhat justified by virtue of the fact that he does win this challenge. He celebrates by saying something awkward: “Finally! I might be small, but I am mighty. This is going to be a great way to show everyone how big I really am.” I’m sure he meant his stature, but all I could think was “is this a veiled manhood reference?”
NEXT: Earth to Veronica…