Well well, so season 2 is upon us.
15 contestants is way too many to start with, so I can barely remember half of them. The new host? I will reserve my judgement (more on the hosting position a bit later). Let us jump straight into the challenges.
The flambé challenge was a nice one to start off the competition. Flames are nicely dramatic on TV, and it showed if the contestants know how to execute a particular chef-y yet not that hard cooking technique. Flambéing requires using a liquor with a high alcohol content that ignites easily. The objective of flaming the liquor is to burn off the alcohol, so that you are left with the flavor only. (This is why you won't get tipsy if you eat a stack of the classic flaming dish from the '70s, Crêpes Suzette .) Of course you do need to choose a liquor that fits whatever you are flaming it with.
The only real loser in this round in my opinion was Elia, who used red wine as her alcohol. How can someone trained in France  not know that red wine doesn't have nearly enough alcohol to flame? Her dish also looked like a pile of strawberries covered with shit. Making strawberries and chocolate look so bad is criminal.
The non-functional garnish anti-fetish expressed by guest judge Harold Dieterle (winner of season 1, if you are new to this) is a trend these days, but I am not sure if Carlos got overly penalized for this.
The winning dish by Sam  did sound very interesting - though shrimp with alcohol is a sort of cliché these days. But it was a well deserved win.
Skipping right over the filler and the typing of Marcel as this season's Stephen  and Miguel Michael as this season's Chunk le Funk , the main Mystery Box challenge was again, a pretty nice one. Box one for the orange group consisted of:
Box two for the black group was:
If you notice, they match fairly well. Ingredient 1 is a chef-y one that would make a lot of people say "ewww", but both snails and frog's legs are very neutral things that basically take on the flavors of whatever is added to them. Snails are like sponges in that sense, and frog legs are like very delicate chicken. (Yup, a mystery meat that really does 'taste like chicken'.) Ingredient 2 is an ingredient with a very distinctive and difficult to incorporate taste and texture. No. 3 is well, peanuts in some form. No. 4 is sort of the rogue ingredient, and no. 5 is a neutral, all-purpose kind of vegetable/accompaniment.
All of the top group's dishes looked great to me. If I had to choose one I would have gone for Mia's, since it looked like a refined version of down-home cooking, and that is the kind of cooking that I like the most. But I certainly had no problem with Ilan winning - his dish looked very pretty and restaurant-foodish. Besides, he's almost from my old neighborhood on Long Island.
As I posted in my daily links yesterday, there is an article about him  in the online version of Newsday, the Long Island, NY newspaper. If you want to try and recreate this dish for yourself, our favorite girl from last season Lee Anne Wong shows you how in the first episode of the horribly named The Wong Way To Cook  webcast. (Lee Anne looks really good though - she's a natural on screen. Give her a real TV show!)
Also, just in case, do not just go and pick up snails from your garden. Unless you have a source for farm-bred, clean snails, use the cleaned and canned ones that come with sterilized shells. I investigated this a while back since our garden is full of snails and slugs, and concluded that in this case, 'wild game' was not a good idea.
I was a bit disappointed, though not surprised, at the elimination of Suyai - she was totally out of her depth. Still I would have kicked Otto myself since a man of his experience, and a cooking teacher  no less, screwing up rice when he had 2 hours to do something is pretty inexcusable.
I'd also have liked to have seen Suyai stick around a bit more. It may sound odd that she turned to food as a profession to combat bullemia, but I understand that way of thinking in a way. I've had weight and eating issues for a lot of my adult life, and you may think that having a food blog would be counterproductive to attempts at healthy eating or losing weight. But rather than sabotaging my efforts in that direction, writing for and doing research for this blog has helped me learn more about healthy eating and cooking than ever before. But anyway, we say goodbye to the sweet blond girl and wish her well.