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The Next Food Network Star: 6/22/08

July 2nd, 2008 · by Cyndi · No Comments

Episode four of the Next Food Network Star; more speed, quick thinking, and some camera work.

Challenge #1: Demonstrate a “basic skill” to the camera in one minute. I remember a couple of seasons ago the contestants had to show they knew some basic cooking skills by performing tasks in front of a judge (without other contestants watching). Each had the same tasks to do. I think they were dicing an onion, filleting a fish, and julienning some carrots.

This time there was a single task, none the same, under a cloth. Position the contestant, lift the cloth, give a sentence description of what they are to do, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go. Some were insanely easy (cut up a pineapple) and some were insanely hard (clean a squid). Though of course, what was easy or hard depended on what you had experience with.

The judges actually didn’t care if you got it right. They wanted “authority” and camera skills. One of the ones they liked was from the guy who was supposed to open a coconut and instead didn’t manage to get a drop of juice out, because he acted like he knew what he was doing.

I would have done well with some (the pineapple, maybe the coconut) and with others I not only didn’t know how but couldn’t have even faked my way through it (cleaning the squid, shucking an oyster).

Challenge #2: Pick one of the offered whole fish (each a different kind) and one of the crazy ingredients (all sweet or odd things like white chocolate, fruit-loop-like cereal, or coffee beans). Fillet your fish and take it, plus 10 lbs of pre-filleted fish, and create two dishes. One is a dish that Red Lobster might put on its menu (the winner had that happen), so it had to appeal to a general audience. The other must use the crazy ingredient. Then plate for 30 people (the judges plus a Coast Guard crew) and give a presentation.

They had some prep time one day then the food was stored overnight and they had, I believe, 45 minutes to finish and plate.

I’m not totally sure what I would have done because I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the offered fish. I’d heard of most, but not cooked with them. One I’d never heard of was Arctic Char. But it was described as a cross between a trout and a salmon. So I wonder…is that Steelhead? If so, it’s one of my favorite fish. You just can’t go wrong with it. Grilled, pan-seared, or roasted. Very tender flavor, but not bland, without falling apart. It’s moist with a good fat mouth feel.

If I had gotten cod or a similar fish, I think a fish stew would have been great. And then a wrap or soft taco with some fried, lightly battered, chunks. The crazy ingredient would have to be in a sauce I think. Maybe on some shredded cabbage in the dish. Grape jelly would have worked, maybe even the chocolate. Coffee could have gone in the stew. I don’t know, this was a hard one. I’m real good on how to leave certain ingredients out. Don’t have experience with forcing certain ingredients to be in.

Others of my standby fish dishes could have worked out. Fish cakes (which I’ve never actually made on my own), ceviche (which I think would have worked out great, if I could have marinated it overnight…they didn’t go for another contestant’s fish tartar, but I think ceviche is mainstream enough to work, at least in California it is…even have it at the county fair), or some fish rolls would have been a nice mainstream dish (especially if I could have made them the day before and cooked them the day of).

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