E3 Happy Holidays - Time to Focus

I started off the competition strong and hope to continue. Today I wake up and continue my routine.

4:20am the alarm goes off.
4:22am get in the shower. 
4:35am get dressed, put coffee on and begin meditation.
4:55am finish meditation and walk downstairs to get on the bus. 

The day begins. It is still dark and and I am unfamiliar with the land. Unsure as to where exactly we are in the city of LA and where we are going this is all still a mystery. We are whisked of to hair and make up and then rushed to wait. 

When the time to cook comes, the theme flashes on the screen 'Happy Holidays' - fitting as it is in the middle of September and we are all sweating balls off.  Chef Naomi Pomeroy walks out on stage. I have to admit that I am not as familiar with her as I would like to be, however, after a quick chat with Tristen and Marcus I am brought up to speed. 

The essence of her cuisine is; Bold, Delicious, Gritty. We are tasked with making a chicken curry, a dish that represents Marcus's holiday experience. He challenges us to cook a 'festive fau.' He demonstrates a chicken curry with chicken oyster and actual oysters. He keeps suggesting that we cook with the humble part of the bird... the dirt, the liver, the heart, the innards.

To be honest, this is something that I am not too familiar with. I don't love innards... I wish I did, it would make me feel cool,  but the reality is that I don't really enjoy the taste. 

Ok, so time goes on and the challenge begins, I am rocking and rolling. Feeling REALLY good about the way things are going. I am making a seared squab breast with a garnish of confit squab, chicken liver, heart, necks, preserved lemon, apple and other wonderful things. 

Time ticks down and Marcus chooses my spoon! I am proud and excited. But horrified as I look to see my spoon is incomplete. I forgot the garnish. Fuck. 

The spoons are being tasted by Chef Pomeroy and the results are close. Ludo's team gets picked first. Anthony team gets picked second. 

Are you kidding? Me vs. Nigella's team? Big shot to the ego. Well... as it turns out everything is OK and we are safe. But this was way too close for comfort. It is a wake up call that I really need focus, dot my i's and cross my t's. 

The individual challenge is now my time to shine. Although my family didn't eat duck often, to me it represents the holidays. I decide to draw from my past experience at Bouley and incorporate an Apple Rosemary puree that is emulsified with brown butter. It rocks and pairs perfectly with the duck. 

Roast duck, apple rosemary puree, ginger emulsion, crispy Brussels sprout. Delicious. 

The comments come in. Anthony Bourdain says 'This is a terrific spoon with a huge chunk of sage that blew out the whole spoon' WHAT!? There was no sage on the dish! #NoSage. 

Marcus compliments my aggressive seasoning. Mission accomplished. 

Fortunately for me the dish earned me one gold star from my mentor Marcus! I can't say how good it feels to get the recognition of my mentor. This means more than a gold star, but safety. As the field narrows, this provides me security if our team falters on a team challenge or if I stumble on an individual challenge. It is a good day. 

I am convinced that my positive energy, focus and love for the food is making a difference in this competition. It is an affirmation that I will continue to do well if I put my heart and soul into every bite.

Unfortunately, my teammate Joe got a few red stars and will be going into the taste off. The taste off is hardcore. It is really intense as everyone is watching you, gazing down at you and yelling. The way that it is edited on TV is far from what it is actually like. The cut out the sound from our mic's. I wish it was uncut. The energy is real. 

In the thunder dome Joe worked hard, but a few missteps made his dish the weakest and unfortunately he will be going home. Joe is a fighter, a great man, father and friend. His energy and enthusiasm is unparalleled and I am happy to have cooked along side him. 

I retreat back to the hotel smiling. However, now there are only two of us on Team Marcus. A drastic change from starting off so strong. Tristen is my biggest competition and now we are going head to head every day. We are a team and will continue to operate that way until it is the finals. But now holding the most gold stars in the competition, I can sleep well tonight. 

Tomorrow it starts all over. 

I walk away from today's challenge