I have to say, if you’re not going to win a competition show, being recruited to help cook by the last two standing is a pretty decent consolation prize. As was true for the entire duration of this series, I learned a lot on that day. Elizabeth and Geoffrey have very different styles of cooking and very different work methods. The hardest part? Going out to sit in the audience with my fellow competitors and knowing that I was soon going to have to join each team for 15 minutes. Wow. That’s like joining Gene Kelly in the middle of one of his tap-dancing routines without rehearsal. That Chairman doesn’t know when to quit, does he?
I started out on Team Geoffrey. After years of working together on Chopped, I know that we share a great love of French food and impulsive cooking. Geoffrey seemed as if he hadn’t completely decided what he was making and in his shoes, I would have been in the same position. “Take the cranberries the Chairman just gave us, the rice and sake and make me risotto as one of the dishes,” he shouted above the din of the kitchen noise. Make an entire dish? For him to serve to the Iron Chefs? I cooked some onions and butter in some sake and added the arborio rice. I stirred the rice, added some more sake, a sprinkle of sugar and a pat of butter and let the mixture simmer. Separately, I cooked the cranberries until tender with some spices (not too heavy) and set them aside for Team Geoffrey to reheat to their liking. The key to cooking food in a context like this is to get everything close to how you want it and perfect it at the last minute. The pressure was unreal. What if that ended up being the one dish the Iron Chefs didn’t like?
Just then the Chairman appeared again to open another gift and add more complexity to the situation. An ice cream machine — my nemesis. Geoffrey turned to me and said, “Can you whip up an ice cream base?” Just then the buzzer rang. Time to head over to Team Falkner.
Team Falkner was more intense, more frenzied. I loved that the team was all women and the determination on their faces was so amazing to experience firsthand. I stood in the periphery while Elizabeth frantically read me a list of little items to prep for her. Make whipped cream, ganache, chop herbs, section citrus and shave fennel. I wasn’t assembling any one dish like I did for Geoffrey, but I helped her clean up some of the details of her dishes. I grabbed everything I needed and just blindly tried to plow through the list. I felt like her menu was so ambitious, who knew if she would finish in time? And, to be honest, if I were in her shoes, I would have been in the same position. I heard Beau Mac cheering and Chuck laughing and the rest was a blur. I finished the tasks just as the buzzer rang again and returned to my seat in the audience. I was breathless and invigorated.