And we're back with Aussie tall drink of water Curtis Stone offering 12 award-winning chefs the chance at up to $250,000 for the charity of their choice. They'll be judged by Saveur Editor-in-Chief James Oseland and renowned food critic Ruth Reichl. Unlike the previous two seasons' heats, this go around, all the chefs will go head-to-head, and one will be sent packing each week. Kind of robs me of the chance to say, "If you can't take the heats..."
The chefs enter the kitchen. We first get to know John Currence of City Grocery in Oxford, Mississippi, who thinks this competition is going to take everything he's got. Next up, Suvir Saran of New York's Devi, who quips that his good looks and elegance will help him through. Los Angeles restaurant Playa's John Rivera Sedlar thinks it's an achievement just to be invited to join the competition, while Alex Stratta of Vegas-based Stratta is relying on a wing and a prayer. The chefs continue piling in sizing each other up. Many are surprised to find their oldest friends among their competitors. Then Five & Ten's Hugh Acheson of Atlanta makes a flailing Black Swan joke. Stick to your day job, buddy.
After all the chefs have arrived, Curtis welcomes them to this 10-week roller coaster ride, which starts... now! He tells them they'll be competing schoolyard style against the chef standing next to them. He directs their attention to a shelf stacked with boxes containing various mystery ingredients. Each chef will choose a box and then has to incorporate the ingredient from not only his/her box but also from his/her competitor's box. Each pairing will result in one winner, with the best dish overall winning $5,000 and immunity for the chef who made it.
The chefs' 20 minutes starts immediately. Celina Tio of Julian in Kansas City, Missouri, is facing off against Suvir Saran. She got canned corn beef, and he got marshmallows. She says it's her worst fear come true. Suvir goes so far as to say he's insulted by these ingredients but has to prove that he's a master by making the most of a craptastic situation. Among the other horrid options are sardines and dragon fruit. They've been doled to Hugh Acheson and Beast's Naomi Pomeroy from Portland, Oregon. Naomi says she's worked with sardines before and isn't intimidated to rock a dragon fruit-sardine salad. That makes one of us, sister. Meanwhile, Alex Stratta and Tabla's Floyd Cardoz of New York drew cockles and Marmite (vegetable extract). Stratta's all, "I'm gonna spread that bitch on bread. What?!"