Peoria, Tazewell, And Woodford: Here, There & Everywhere

Chrome Kitchen Crucible Part II by Brandon C. Hovey

imgres     10-french-chef-knife

If you missed Part I visit here

Brent ran to the pantry with a panicked gait.  Samantha Karpice had a wide stride.  Chondra Roberts galloped, and Pradeep stormed towards the ingredients he desired.  Pradeep was the first back to his station.

He fired up the range and smiled as the pilot light ignited the gas stove.  The screen split in two and a brown background appeared in the screen opposite of his figure and his details were in white print on the orange background.

He spoke along with the text that was appearing on the orange background.

“I don’t want to be pompous or arrogant.” Pradeep said with a sheepish grin.

“I’m the only one here experienced with these ingredients.” He added with a more present smile and joyfully arched eyebrows.

“My plan is to take my heritage and incorporate that with the ingredients that I’m going to transform.  I’m making a lap cheong stir fry today!  I’m going to throw in some white fish to make a surf-and turf thing going on with it.  I’ll bread that with the panko.  My noodles will be udon, and I’m going to use the clotted cream as a cooling agent.   The spice shall be present after I use my curry sauce!”

Pradeep smiled as the screen became whole and he found himself whipping things together to craft a dish that may bring him victory for the first round.

I could tell that the other competitors were less than confident.

Chondra Roberts seemed confused, and she dropped pans and measuring cups.  She was appearing to be a farce.

Her confusion and obtuse movements were observed by the judges.  And, of course, Judge Marion Stokely injected a serum of disgust to incite the conversation amongst the judges.

“If that home cook wanted to spend a day as a stagiare, I’d tell her to keep being in microwave sales.   After all, that’s probably all she really does for being a home cook.  Heating up tv dinners like yours, Sancho!”

Judge Sancho Gilbertez chuckled.

“No comment, Marion.”

Judge Farrah cackled.

The camera panned over to Chondra Roberts, the lone home cook.

The screen split once more.  Chondra described her ‘plan’ in similar fashion to Pradeep.

“I’m going to do my best and show them what home cooks can do.  I’ve never really worked with any of these ingredients except lap cheong.”

Her countenance was fearful and her movements appeared to be hindered by invisible shackles that anchored her to her fear.

“I’m going to make an appetizer salad with kale, spinach, lap cheong, and I’ll thin out the clotted cream.  Ask me what I’ll do with the panko later.”

I fear for Chondra.  She is dwarfed by more experienced giants.

Samantha Karpice is doing things well it seems, she was already cooking and she was sweating profusely.  Her efforts were committed to win.

Her movements were deft and svelte.  She had the grace of a ballerina, but one wearing non-slip boots rather than pointe shoes.

“I’m going to make a charcuterie.  It’ll be fried lap cheong, sopressata for flavor contrast, and then a little bit of English bangers for another contrast point.  I’ll make a selection from the pantry later to choose a fruit to be used with the clotted cream, but since I don’t know clotted cream that well, I’m not sure what to do with it.”

I admired Samantha for her candor regarding her ignorance of the ingredient.  I also admired her confidence.  She was my age and she was already a skilled chef.

The panel of judges said nothing.  Perhaps that was a good thing.

Brent Love was already drenched in sweat and red in the face.  The screen split again to display his idea.

“Great minds think alike.  Sammy Karpice over there is frying her sausage, I’m frying the lap cheong as well.”  He frowned.

“I’ve no clue what to do with the clotted cream, but I’m going to use that as my pizzette sauce.  I figure a little appetizer pizza with the black olives will be perfect.”

He sprinted to the pantry and grabbed two packs of cheese: mozzarella and cheddar.

“I’m going to do my best.”

Stokely commented again.

“Tell me he’s not going to use cheddar cheese in his pizza.”

Farrah shook her head no.

“I wouldn’t lie to you, buddy.  He is.”

They all frowned as Stokely loosed another barb.

“Just goes to show you what they eat in that armpit of the world called the Midwest.”

I could tell even the judges were annoyed by Stokely.

Pradeep finished first, and he began plating his dish at the three-minute mark.  Samantha plated second at the two-and-a -half minute mark.

Brent Love sweated profusely and his face was now bright red.  He sliced the pizzette and put it on the plate as Thad cried out the two-minute warning.

Love raised his hands as he finished plating his first dish.

“Round One Complete!”

Farrah laughed again at the contestant.

I doubt the judges respect him.

Chondra Roberts plated within ten seconds of the timer ringing.  She panted and said nothing.

The appearance of her dish was the worst.  I was reminded of TV dinners, not of a quality home- cooked meal.

The judges already didn’t like her.  I had a feeling she was going to leave The Crucible.

“Time is up, Chefs, hands up and away from your stations.”

Thad’s announcement was met with the chefs standing back and away from their kitchenettes.  Orderlies in white chef coats entered and took the chefs’ plates away on carts.

Thad looked at the four contestants, as the camera zoomed in on his eyes again, in a spaghetti Western fashion.

“Chefs, it is time to see if you survived the first of your heat treatments today in The Crucible!  Approach and be judged.”

The camera then zooms out and brazen jets of flames, louder than before appeared behind Thad.

I’m glad I wasn’t there in person to see such a frightening effect.

Thad’s face and body were now visible once more.

“First up, Chef Samantha Karpice.  What did you prepare for us, Chef?”

Samantha stepped forward and introduced herself with an infectious enthusiasm and a quiet undertone of confidence.

“Today, Judges, I have prepared for you a charcuterie which you can eat in no particular order.  I’ll let you dig in, and let the work speak for itself.”

The three of them dug in without saying a word.

Silence.  Only smiles came from the judges.

Gilbertez spoke first.

“Chef Samantha, this is a solid dish.  You are setting the bar high for your competitors.”

“Thank you,” she replied.

Farrah Josi then chimed in.

“I appreciate the fact that you transformed the ingredients, but you also kept things under control since this is an appetizer.  I applaud you.”

“Thank you, Judge.”

Stokely now broke his silence.

“I agree this with my colleagues.  This is good.”

I knew the catch was coming.

“You’ve really surprised me.  Truthfully, I can’t see someone your age doing this.  But, you made the mistake in presentation.  There should be less space between each portion.”

“I understand, chef.”

“No, you don’t understand, Chef Karpice.  You’ve made a culinary error, and you’ve disrespected our craft, and you’ve disrespected me.”

“I’m watching you, Samantha.”

I’m not shocked by Stokely’s rudeness.  Samantha is holding back tears, I don’t think presentation is the highest factor of the overall score.

I’m also a layperson, so I can’t understand the error.

Samantha’s reply shows her respect for her craft and her deference for the judge.

“Yes, Chef, I will do better.”

Stokely does not reply.

“Samantha, what makes you think you can win Chrome Kitchen Crucible?”

Thad’s inquiry was met with a response that wasn’t forced.  It was genuine, but also not practiced.

“This is my chance to show my skills that I’ve developed practicing the culinary arts to prospective employers, and my skills are proficient enough to allow me to hold my own in this competition.”

Classy answer from a classy lady, I think.  Such eloquence and such charisma exude from Samantha Karpice, a chef-errant.

“Thank you, Chef Samantha,” Thad replied.  “Next, we have Chef Chondra Roberts.”

Chef Roberts stepped further forward than Samantha.

“Chef Roberts, what have you prepared for us?”

“I made a…”

Stokely took one bite and spat it out.

“You made a disaster that’s what.  This is not something I’d serve my dog, nor my garter snake.”

He pointed his finger and the odd liquid that just maybe was the clotted cream.

“This is a joke, woman.  You destroyed the clotted cream, you didn’t transform it.”

Stokely knocked the plate off of the table.

“Cleanup, please,” Thad said.

Two orderlies entered the room with a broom and dustpan.  They were on camera for a lone second.

Judge Sancho Gilbertez piped up next.

“The Lap Cheong was okay.  But, I’m not seeing panko on my plate.  Can you tell me where it is, please?”

Roberts’s befuddlement turned into a fear.

Farrah helped her find the words.

“Where is the panko, Chondra?”

She didn’t do it nicely.

“I forgot it.”

“Heh, heh, heh.”

Stokely belly laughed.

“I knew you were a home cook.”

Thad looked at Chondra Roberts for a moment, and I thought he was going to ask why she was competing like he did for Karpice.  But, he didn’t.

“Thank you, Chef Chondra.”  Thad then turned to Brent Love.

“Chef Brent Love, show us what you prepared for us today.”

Chondra sobbed as Brent stepped forward.

“Greetings, Judges.  I’ve prepared a delicious appetizer pizzette for you.”

“It looks nice,” Farrah said.

She took the first bite while her companions grimaced.

“It is good, but I don’t like the cheddar cheese.”

Gilbertez piped in.

“I agree.  Not bad, but your choice of cheese was a failure.”

Stokely exploded after Sancho’s comment.

“Good pizza, but you hurt your final score because of cheddar cheese.  Where’d you go to culinary school?”

“I didn’t.”

“Well, you did better than the home cook, but you’re only one step above her.”

He took his second bite of the pizza slice, and set it back on the plate.

“I’m done.”

Thad smiled with happiness as he didn’t have to worry about recalling his cleaning crew to the stage.

“Chef Pradeep, please show us what you made.”

“Judges, I made for you a stir-fry.  Like my fellow contestant Samantha, I shall let the dish speak for itself.”

“Very well, chef.”  Thad smiled.

Farrah took the first bite.

“Lovely!  Job well done on taste, texture, and appearance.”

Sancho popped in.

“I agree with my fellow judge.  This and Samantha’s are the best we’ve seen today.”

“Thank you, judges.”

Stokely as usual had the last word apparently.

“Best dish so far.  Gook work, Chef!  Thad, we’re already to judge.”

“Before the commercial break, Marion?  Really?”

Thad paused with a shrug.

“Okay, we have the results!  Who’s going home?”

Stokely stood up to render his verdict.

“Chef Chondra Roberts could not withstand the pressure of the crucible.  Your dish was a disaster, Chondra.  You failed miserably.  I only hope you cook in the microwaves you sell from now on.  If you have kids, you are torturing them with your cooking.  I pray no one has to suffer your culinary disasters ever again.”

Roberts tears erupted, and two orderlies in white chef coats escorted her out of the arena.

She had lost, the other three chefs remained.

The screen split, showing her seated and her face showed that she failed.

“I know I messed up.  Maybe I’m bad at cooking.  I can’t really tell.  Other people sure like my food.  I bring stuff into work all the time.  I don’t use my microwave then.”

She sobs again.

“I’ll never know.”

The camera turns to Thad.

“Chefs, it is time for the second round.  Return to your stations.”

Three orderlies came out with another set of ingredients in crates.  The crates were presented to the three contestants.

Thad turned to the judges, and the camera angle captured the area behind him to the three contestants at their stations.

“Open the crates.”

The contestants did so.

“Your ingredients are duck breast, cream cheese, chives, and plantains.  Time starts now.”

A commercial break had begun.  Time to grab a beer and a sandwich before the show returned.

Meanwhile, I heard a voice describing a new piece of gym equipment endorsed by a martial artist.


4 comments on “Chrome Kitchen Crucible Part II by Brandon C. Hovey

  1. Pingback: Chrome Kitchen Crucible Part III by Brandon C. Hovey | Peoria, Tazewell, And Woodford: Here, There & Everywhere

  2. Pingback: Chrome Kitchen Crucible Part IV by Brandon C. Hovey | Peoria, Tazewell, And Woodford: Here, There & Everywhere

  3. Pingback: Chrome Kitchen Crucible: Finale by Brandon C. Hovey | Peoria, Tazewell, And Woodford: Here, There & Everywhere

  4. Philip kaveny
    February 14, 2015

    I want that knife I can feel it I can smell, but maybe not I might cut myself. Presentation is every thing and I remember when I took my Wife then a 24 year old Graduate to Karl Ratches the only four Star German Restaurant in Milwaukee They presented my rare prime as if it was grand Opera and I acted like I owned the restaurant and they treated me as if I did


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