With only eight contestants remaining in the competition, the heat is turned way up in the ATK test kitchen. The cooks are being reminded that any dish could be their last.
Before we descend too far into the depths of our anticipation, Jeannie gestures towards a gallery of images set up behind her on the kitchen bench.
Well, what could this mean?
Well, it means that in the First Task, the contestants will be taking the classic ATK dishes pictured behind Jeannie and giving them their own personal twist.
But on top of their twist, there’s another—each meal will need to be inclusive of a wide array of dietary requirements and preferences, to accommodate every member of the America’s Test Kitchen audience.
Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter
Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!
As such, Jessica will be making pizza . . . without the dough. Garrett will be making spaghetti bolognese . . . without the pasta. And Brooke will be making shakshuka . . . without the tomatoes. Get the picture?
Chef and cookbook author Jamie Bissonnette (who, in true Boston fashion, is “wicked stoked to be here today”) and ATK’s ingredients guru Jack Bishop will be today’s judges, seeing if the cooks can substitute ingredients without sacrificing flavor.
With no time left to waste, Jeannie’s twisting her hamburger timer and the cooks dash to their benches.
With innovative approaches being flung in different directions by all the cooks, Jeannie begins to worry about one contestant in particular: Marc, who is substituting the crab in his crab cakes with its crustacean sibling, lobster.
“The judges will really be looking for originality here, do you think you’ve done enough to show them that?” she asks.
I notice at this point that Marc, offering an explanation about innovative flavors and his vegetarian aversion to shellfish, is starting to look a little panicked.
Robbie, meanwhile, whose chicken fried rice has now become chicken cauliflower rice, is having his own meltdown with only three minutes left in the challenge. After dozens of minutes of drying his cauliflower to achieve a crispy fried texture, he accidentally tips half a bottle of soy sauce into his cast-iron skillet, drenching the vegetables and causing a boil instead of a fry.
Yikes! On to the judging.
Marc’s lobster tail “crab cakes” are one of the first dishes to be judged, and as expected, the judges were underwhelmed, despite the dish being admittedly “very tasty.”
Robbie’s dish is judged later on, and while Jack and Jamie did think his cauliflower fried rice was a little on the salty side, it didn’t turn out to be a complete disaster.
Okay, but who took the win? Christina’s tortilla-free enchiladas and Antoinette’s meat-and-cheese-free lasagna were both hits with the judges, but it was Antoinette who won the challenge, earning herself a bonus in the next round. Her Almost-Vegan Lasagna is now available on the ATK website!
So what’s the Task Challenge all about?
In today’s Task Challenge, the contestants will be taking leftovers and turning them into delicious gourmet meals in just 45 minutes. That’s about it—go cooks, go!
But as the contestants scatter to gather their ingredients, Jeannie suddenly stops the clock and calls them all back to address some “important business.”
With produce-laden baskets in tow, the contestants gather around to discover that Antoinette’s advantage from winning the First Task is the power to steal a basket from a rival and assign everyone else an entirely new basket.
And as the clock is reset, the games begin.
Jessica, for one, is “spiraling” after being given Brooke’s basket, completely unsure of what her fellow contestant was planning to make with the mishmash of ingredients she’s gathered.
It seems as though Jessica’s not the only one feeling out of her element, with Rashmi, Brooke, and Garrett also reeling after accepting their new baskets.
That was one heck of a challenging Challenge.
It sure was! But luckily, the cooks embraced it head-on, presenting leftover meals reinvigorated with their own ideas and flavors.
Garrett in particular received rave reviews from Jack and Jamie with their Southwestern Black Bean Soup going down a treat.
Unfortunately, the former champion herself Antoinette didn’t necessarily impress with her Ham and Cheese Fritters, being described by Jack as “one dimensional.” Despite the negative feedback, you still can’t wipe the grin off this confident cook’s face.
Rashmi, on the other hand, isn’t feeling so self assured. Presenting her Salmon Cake with Tomato Chutney to the judges, Jamie praises her chutney but admits that the cake itself is fairly dry and flavorless.
After a long day cooking and a disappointing result, Rashmi begins to cry as Jeannie runs over to console her.
“I’m so proud of my food and I can do so much better than this. I’m so sorry,” Rashmi says between sobs.
An emotional judging leads to an emotional win . . . and an emotional elimination.
After much discussion between the judges, Garrett is determined as the winner of the challenge, meaning that they will be taking over the ATK social media accounts for a whole day, presenting a cooking demonstration and getting their face—and their food—in front of millions of eyeballs.
And now we come to the least successful dish. Unfortunately, Rashmi leaves the test kitchen—with a proud smile—and the determination to continue cooking delicious, flavorful food.