We are back for Episode 2 of America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation, and my hopes for these contestants’ dreams are about as high as Jeannie’s tartan shoulder pads.
Let’s get right into it.
Bring on the First Task.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a celebrity in the kitchen! No, it’s not Jeannie’s green apple timer . . . It’s James Beard Award–winning chef Karen Akunowicz, here to judge the contestants’ dishes today alongside Dan Souza.
The First Task is undoubtedly a tough one, challenging the contestants to identify the ingredients in a meal and then recreate the popular ATK recipe as closely as they can.
Soba noodles, purple cabbage, and cremini mushrooms start flying as tasting turns to cooking. And while last episode gave me the warm fuzzies with everyone getting along, I’m starting to sense that Marc has a nefarious plan to unnerve and outwit his fellow contestants.
“This competition is so important . . . at the end of this, you’re winning a career, and a lot of the ATK team have been together for decades!” he muses while slicing radishes (nefariously also).
“Are you trying to stress me out while I’m cooking?” last week’s Challenge winner Christina asks pointedly, and just like that, Marc’s plan is foiled. But he’s not the only cook with a master plan.
Peter feels confident that he has identified his dish and says coyly to the cameras, “Okay, they gave me a broccoli salad, now how can I make it better? I’m going with a variation of one of my old roommate’s broccoli salads.”
Sorry, can we read the assignment once more, please? Ah yes, it was, “identify the ingredients in a meal, and then recreate the popular ATK recipe as closely as they can.”
Oh poor, sweet Peter.
Will we ever face a judging that doesn’t stress me out about Peter?
At this point, no. Luckily, since discovering his mistake, Peter did try to fix his dish, aligning it as closely to his identified recipe as possible (which we learn is Broccoli Salad with Avocado Dressing).
But it turns out he was no match for the nefarious Marc, who won with his recreation of ATK’s Brussels Sprout Salad with Warm Mustard Vinaigrette. As he thanks the judges, I see Christina shoot him a suspicious look.
You and me both, Chrissy.
So what’s Marc’s advantage in the Test Challenge?
In the Test Challenge, the cooks are given a “mystery Dutch oven,” containing a protein and a cooking technique, which they will need to match seamlessly in a dish for the judges.
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Marc, as the winner of the Task, is given the ability to swap either his protein or assigned technique with any other contestant, which sounds pretty nefarious if you ask me. Nevertheless, having received prawn as his protein—despite famously having been vegetarian for almost two decades—he opts to swap it with . . . nobody. In what I will admit is an impressively confident move, he decides to eschew his prize and power on with what he was given.
The Test Challenge flies by, and with only fifteen minutes left on Jeannie’s apple timer, tragedy strikes for Corrina Sepulveda, whose veal cutlets are falling to pieces in the skillet thanks to a slippery breaded coating. On the other side of the kitchen, Brooke Baevsky’s pot of boiling oil is overflowing into the open-flame burner below it.
But before anyone can call the fire department or the kitchen can catch alight altogether, it’s time for judging.
Let’s hope Marc knocked his stir-fried prawns out of the park, because it’s time for the final judging.
Well, actually, judge Karen has noticed that a few of Marc prawn’s were raw, so sadly the long-time vegetarian—who refuses to taste his meaty dishes as he cooks them—didn’t quite hit the mark (so to speak) this time.
Antoinette had better luck, however, winning over the judges and the Test Challenge with her broiled clams. She’s earned her own post on ATK’s Instagram page, where over one million eyeballs will see her top test kitchen tips.
And now for the bad news.
Sadly, someone still has to go home. Despite escaping elimination in the first week, it’s poor, sweet Peter Cardoz who is eliminated.
“I know my dad would absolutely be proud,” he says as the cherry-red ATK elevator doors close mournfully in front of him.