This week’s contestants are:
Rick Moonen, from Las Vegas, who owns RM Seafood at the Mandalay Bay Resort. He also opened three restaurants in New York and brought them to three-star status.
Nils Noren, from New York via Sweden, who is the head chef at the French Culinary Institute.
Lachlan Patterson from Boulder, CO, who won a James Beard Award and Best New Chef from Food & Wine. He also trained with the legendary Thomas Keller.
Michael Chiarello from the Napa Valley. He took time off from the restaurant world to be a TV chef, but now he’s back in the restaurant world and perhaps feels he has something to prove.
Quickfire Challenge: Recreate a classic junk food as a fine dining dish, like Harold did in the first season when he made popcorn ceviche. They’ll be judged by the cast of Flipping Out, totally coincidentally a show on Bravo.
Rick Moonen doesn’t finish his dish on time, so he doesn’t even send his corn dogs out, and gets zero stars. Lachlan gets 3 stars, Nils gets 3 stars, and Michael Chiarello gets 4.5 stars for his “fish balls,” an interpretation of fish sticks.
Elimination Challenge: Cook a three-course meal for a hundred people all by yourself. The twist is that the “courses” are actually hors d'oeuvres, but need to be based on the standard three courses of a three-course meal: appetizer, entrée and dessert.
Michael has made an “appetizer” of shaved Brussels sprouts salad with a citrus vinaigrette and Marcona almonds. His “main course” was prawns with rice flour, chili and garlic oil. His “dessert” was balsamic marinated strawberries with basil gelato and chocolate crème fraiche. The judges like all three of his courses, although he has some problems with plating.
Lachlan made an “appetizer” called “fritta esotica,” fried pineapple wrapped in speck. His “main course” was grilled beef short ribs with anchovy parmesan vinaigrette and horseradish. His “dessert” was strawberry frangipane tart with yogurt semifreddo. The judges love his second course, but are not crazy about his first.
Rick made an “appetizer” of opakapaka & barramundi ceviche with a yuzu vinaigrette, avocado and grapefruit. His “main course” was a brandade of scallop & shrimp, fennel salad with truffle vinaigrette. His “dessert” was lemon panna cotta with ginger, macadamia, coconut and pineapple. The judges can’t give enough praise to his second course, but he’s hampered by earning no stars in the Quickfire.
Nils made an “appetizer” of scallop with smoked potato cream, apple and curry oil. His “main course” was salmon with Napa cabbage, chorizo, broccoli puree and Madeira sauce. His “dessert” was chocolate goat cheese ganache, cara cara orange gel and lapsang cream. He looks like an early favorite due to time management and his first two courses, but then everyone hates his dessert.
Total scores: Rick earns 17 stars, Lachlan earns 15.5 stars, Nils earns 17 stars, and Michael earns 19.5 stars to win the round and move on to the Champions Round.
This week's contestants are:
Rick Moonen, from Las Vegas, who owns Rick Moonen's RM Seafood at the Mandalay Bay Resort. It seems a bit egotistical that he refers to himself not once, but twice, in the name of the restaurant, especially since he's not exactly a household name. I'm not disparaging his cooking ability, but it's not like he's got the name recognition of someone like Emeril Lagasse or Rachael Ray or Bobby Flay, you know? Gael Greene tells us that Moonen also opened three restaurants in New York and brought them to three star status. Rick tells us that he had ADD as a child and his mother used to take him to the kitchen and have him cook to keep him occupied, and he still looks forward to cooking every day. Colicchio tells us that Rick is devoted to conversation issues, especially on the seafood front, so it's not surprising that his chosen charity is the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association, as they are working to make fishing more sustainable.
Nils Noren, from New York via Sweden, who is the Vice President of Culinary Arts at the French Culinary Institute. He explains that basically means he's the head chef. When he walks into the kitchen, Rick greets him and I think he calls him "Nels," which is kind of amusing. They shake hands anyway. Colicchio explains that Nils is from Sweden but moved to New York long ago. Nils says he's been cooking for twenty years, and he still loves it. He explains that he wanted to be a musician, but his concept of having a reggae band in Sweden didn't work out so well. Heh. He enjoys working at the Institute and training new potential chefs. Jay Rayner reports that "Nils Noren is very much the Swedish Chef." Like he makes meatballs and goes, "Bork bork bork?" Oh, he meant that he's precise and calm. I guess he wasn't referring to the Muppets there. Nils is competing for Friends of the French Culinary Institute, which awards scholarships.
Lachlan Patterson from Boulder, CO, who won a James Beard Award and Best New Chef from Food & Wine when he was twenty-eight years old. He can't be much older than that now, but I couldn't find his age on the web. It doesn't help that there's a stand-up comic by the same name, and most of the webpages were about him. It took me a while to figure that out, and for a minute I was really impressed that this dude manages to run a restaurant and have a thriving stand-up career, although I did wonder why he was so unfunny on the show. Anyway, he trained with the legendary Thomas Keller. He's playing for the Denver Children's Hospital because his daughter had some health issues at birth (she's doing well now) and he wants to repay them for how they helped his family in a time of great need.