It’s all about entertaining on this episode of America’s Test Kitchen: The Next Generation, and . . .
Wait, sorry . . . can we rewind for a second there? Did Marc just say that he moved to Las Vegas in his early twenties to open a luxury pet photography studio with catered champagne and tea services?
Anyway, let’s just get into the recap.
This episode is already pretty entertaining. What’s the First Task all about?
Today the contestants are being asked to craft innovative, creative, and delicious food boards in the style of a certain party that they’ll be assigned.
And no, we’re not talking about anything like the viral TikTok butter board trend but something a little bit more . . . elevated. Luckily, we have author of the Boards cookbook and ATK food stylist Elle Simone Scott, alongside pastry chef and TV personality Gesine Bullock-Prado to judge everyone’s boards.
Before you can say crudité, Jeannie has spun 60 minutes onto her zesty lemon timer and the contestants dash off to their stations.
Let’s get this party started.
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Before long there are already nerves about these food boards, as Brooke has decided to make ice cream . . . without an ice cream maker. In the last few minutes of the challenge. In a bag filled with ice.
What could possibly go wrong?
Incredibly, with a mere 30 seconds left in the challenge, Brooke plates up the ice-bag ice cream for her Movie Night board, and we all give a collective sigh of relief. Setting down the ice-filled bag, I get a sense that she might want to use it on her biceps after all that furious shaking.
Let’s get to judging before that ice cream melts.
Lights, camera, snacktion! That, at least, is the name of Brooke’s Movie Night board. She wins major points with the judges for her from-scratch ice cream and clever presentation. Which just goes to show that with a bag full of ice and a dream, you can even impress the likes of Elle and Gasine.
Jessica’s Birthday Surprise Snack Board also shows just how far you can go with a thread of pipe cleaner and a few lengths of tinsel, seriously impressing the judges with her festive plating and fun yet kid-accessible flavors.
And that’s exactly what earns her the big win, which is made even sweeter as it comes after a string of bottom-placing dishes.
But there’s no time to celebrate as we’re onto the next challenge.
So what’s Jessica’s prize?
As the winner of the First Task, Jessica is allowed to ask for five minutes of uninterrupted help from Elle during the challenge, and her competitors’ eyes widen at the undoubtedly powerful advantage.
But what exactly will Elle be helping with? In this week’s Test Challenge, the contestants have 45 minutes to present two festive appetizers worthy of a big gathering that represent their own home towns.
To really pile on the pressure, the winner gets an all-expenses paid trip to Hartford, Vermont to attend an intimate baking class with Gesine at her bakery, Sugar Glider Kitchen.
As we begin the challenge, I can’t help but notice that Basil and Christina are both cooking a duo of shrimp, meaning that they’ll be dueling with duo dishes.
But before I can dwell for too long on that, we’re down to the final 15 minutes, and Jessica brings Elle in to taste her soup and a salmon spread she’ll be serving with bagel chips. Elle confirms that both of the dishes are delicious, and she waits for her next instructions. But Jessica simply continues with her plating.
“That’s it, that’s all you want from me?” Elle asks suspiciously.
“That’s it!” Jessica cries out as she runs between her board and the stove.
With no further marching orders, Elle simply slinks away after helping for about 45 seconds of her allotted 5 minutes.
That feels like a bit of a wasted advantage. Let’s see what the judges think!
There are some lovely dips. A few delicious sliders. But let’s be honest, I want to see what Jessica was clearly so confident about that she didn’t need Elle’s help with.
When it’s Jessica’s turn to face the judges, she presents her Carrot Ginger Soup and Salmon Spread and Jeannie immediately launches into her first question, clearly unable to hold back her curiosity.
“So, how many of your five minutes with Elle did you actually use?”
Immediately a little chastened, Jessica starts talking about how the time simply flew by and she had no idea how long she spent with Elle. But the judges were watching, and they weren't impressed with how she used her advantage.
“When you’re working here, it’s vital when you’re going into something new or unchartered, that you ask the chefs and experts around you which direction you should go,” Elle says as Jessica’s blush deepens.
Luckily, her soup and salmon spread is enjoyable but admittedly could have used some direction from food stylist and ATK superstar Elle, and Jessica clearly learns her lesson.
It’s Brooke who ultimately wins the day—sore arms and all—and she immediately bursts into tears at the thought of how proud her family will be that her native Israeli food won a challenge. Seeing how happy the win has made her, Elle also wipes a tear in a pretty beautiful moment.
But the good times come to an end when Jeannie announces that Basil Maqbool’s appetizers failed to tell the story of his hometown and impress Elle and Gasine, and he’ll be heading home.