Just imagine: you are told that you have two hours to create eight portions of a dish that will be judged. Not only that, you will not be told the mystery ingredient(s) until right before the two hour clock starts ticking.
Moments after they tell you the mystery ingredient, you're brought in to survey the ingredients that you will have at your disposal. You have ten minutes to design your entire dish. At that point, you must tell the judges what you will be making. If you veer from that later on, points will be deducted.
This particular challenge really tests the students’ ability to think quickly on their feet, exercise utmost creativity, and execute with precision within the allotted time. Unlike their signature dishes, this is not something they can really practice beforehand. It’s really a test of how they execute all the skills they have acquired thus far under extreme time pressure.
So, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. This year’s secret ingredient is . . . . . pork tenderloin!
The students actually seemed quite excited about pork (very different from last year where they all were really surprised and caught off guard!). Pork is quite versatile –you can do various things with the fat, the bones, the meat . . .
And the students ran with that . . . .
2 hours later, the contestants began presenting their dishes to the judges. Here they are, one by one . . .
Alex Schnell from The culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park made Pork Loin with Herbs in a Citrus Marinade accompanied by Barley Pilaf, Almonds, Scallions, Parsley, and a Citrus Mustard Sauce
Chunchira Eshleman from The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Las Vegas made Basil Pork Chops with Curry Sauce. There's host Ralph Pagano, interviewing Chunchira while she's frantically trying to churn out her sauce.
Emma Louth from Drexel University made Braised Pork with Brandy and Veal Reduction, Herb Root Vegetables, Fresh Ricotta. The judges loved her carrots, and one judge actually said if she'd presented earlier (she was last) he would have eaten the whole thing.
Marco Bahena from Kendall College made Rosemary Apple Stuffed Pork Chops, Baby Turnip and Mushroom Salad, Meyer Lemon Gastrique, Bearnaise, and Potato Crisp.
Mark Maier from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles seemed to take the Asian route with shitake mushrooms and noodles. I missed Mark's presentation, and thus I don't have the actual name of his dish.
Christopher Mckevitt from Lincoln Culinary Institute, West Palm Beach made Seared Pork Tenderloin with Tomato Butter, Ravioli Aperto with Fresh Ricotta, Carrot Ribbons with Fennel, and Rosemary Crème Brulee with Apples. Can you believe this guy was actually a tatoo artist before deciding to enroll in culinary school?
Jean-Francois Daigle from The George Brown Chef’s School made Roasted Rack of Pork with Roasted Vegetable Plin (Pasta Ravioli), Onion and Apple Compote, and Natural Jus. Check out the handmade pasta rolling action!
Nicholas Hymel from Nicholis State University – John Folse Culinary Insititute made Pepper Crusted Pork Loin, Fresh Sauteed Turnips, Crispy Potato Cake with Jus from Roasted Bones. He also gave all the judges a ginger-infused sparkling drink as a palate cleanser before his dish.
Anthony Messina from The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts made Za’atar Spiced Pork Loin, Parisian Gnocchi, Confit Vegetables, Mustard Emulsion. Don't you love the exquisite presentation of his dish? I'm not surprised - he used to work at Menton (among other places!).
Elizabeth Freer from The Culinary Institute of Charleston. I also missed the name of Elizabeth's dish! I believe there was polenta and some sort of sauteed greens alongside the pork.
The judges were generally pretty friendly, although they did ask probing questions and were not afraid to give constructive criticism.
And the winner of the Mystery Basket?
Jean-Francois Daigle with his Roasted Rack of Pork! (he must have been shaking that check back and forth really fast! Or many shaking with excitement?)
Jean-Francois wins $3000!
Here's the beautiful winning dish. You gotta love all that work he put into making his own pasta. Doesn't that ravioli just look lovely?
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