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

Chrome Kitchen Crucible Part IV by Brandon C. Hovey

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If you missed Part I look Here

If you missed Part II look Here

If you missed Part III look Here

“For the dessert round, you will have ricotta cheese, lingonberries, frozen crepes, and circus peanut candies.”

Samantha and Pradeep’s faces were blank.

This was going to be a challenge.

“Twenty minutes, chefs!  The clock is ticking.”

Thad’s voice faded out over the jets of flame.

Samantha ran to the pantry and Pradeep turned to his oven and began the preheating process.  The camera zoomed in on the timer and it would be ready in four minutes.

The screen split and Pradeep smiled.

“I’ve got a plan. I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

He winked.

The screen became one and the chef tossed the frozen crepe into a saucepan.  He heated the crepe and threw in his circus peanuts.

The camera turned to Samantha Karpice.  She had put her circus peanuts and frozen crepes into a blender.

She sprinted over to the ice cream machine and started it up.

The screen split.

“I’m going to make a ricotta-vanilla fried ice cream.  I’ll make the ligonberry sauce to drizzle on top of the ice cream.  But, first I need to get the machine running.”

And so she did, and Karpice sprinted back to her station.

The camera panned to Gilbertez.

“Chef Samantha knew what to do with that machine.  She must be adept at making ice cream.”

Josi added to the conversation.

“I think she’s confident in her abilities, and she knows what she’ll do with her ice cream.  Both of our chefs are skilled. We can’t deny that.”

Stokely said nothing.

The camera turned to Pradeep.

He smiled at the sight of his frozen crepes now being thawed.

He pounded them down with a meat tenderizer.

“Vigorous tenderization, but not too vigorous, my friends,” Pradeep said this as he struck the crepes for the last time.

He grabbed cups used for making soufflés and lined the insides with the ricotta cheese.  Then he tossed in the circus peanuts.  Finally, he added  the ligonberries.

The camera turned to Thad and the judges.

“It looks like Pradeep is going to grace us with a tart or a pastry.”

Josi replied.

“I agree, Thad.  This is looking very interesting.  This explains his silence earlier.”

“I concur, Farrah.”

It was Gilbertez.

“Chef Pradeep is already advancing towards some lofty goals in just twenty minutes.”

“That’s right.  We’ve only twelve minutes left.”

Thad pointed to his clock.

Samantha had completed her sauce.

“Yummers!”

I giggled at her statement as she took a single taste of her ligonberry sauce.

The ice cream machine rattled and hummed as she stepped close to it with a clear plastic carton.

“This is the moment of truth.”

She said this as she opened up the discharge gate from which the ice cream would travel out of and into her carton.

It did.

The ice cream was a gorgeous off-orange color.

The screen split again showing her feeding the ice cream into her carton and another showing her talking to the camera man.

“Once I get the carton filled, I’ll add the thawed frozen crepes in there and we’ll have fried ice cream at last!  I’m looking forward to seeing what the judges have to say about this.  I know I’m going to survive the Crucible.”

“You have seven minutes left,  chefs.  Wrap this up now.”

“Thanks, Thad,”  Pradeep and Samantha said this in unison as the two of them continued their projects.

Pradeep put the lids on his tarts and slid them into the oven and set the timer for five minutes.

His screen split.

“By now, everyone knows I’m making a tart.  This was ambitious and maybe overly ambitious for me to attempt.  Samantha may not have the respect of the judges, but I respect her as a chef and I know that she is a worthy adversary.”

He paused and appeared to think of what to say next for a moment.

“There are only good chefs remaining, and I need to put out my best dish and to take risks.  Twenty grand is on the line.  I need to expand my restaurant.”

The screen became one and the camera panned over to Samantha.

She was scooping the ice cream and rolling the thawed, pan-fried and fragmented frozen crepes in the ricotta, vanilla, and circus peanut-flavored ice cream.

I don’t find this appetizing.  But this is a culinary competition on television, and with this in mind there is going to be some avant-garde cooking and a blind eye will be given to convention in some forms.

Samantha spoke aloud as she assembled and plated the fried ice cream.

“I grew up eating this as a kid after volleyball games.  I love fried ice cream, and I think you cannot beat a new classic like I’ve made today.  I took a classic dish and remixed it with circus peanuts and ricotta cheese.  To top it off, old-world flair: lingonberry sauce!”

Chef Samantha ladled her sauce onto the fried ice cream, and her plating was finished.

The camera turned to the judges.

“Do you like ligonberries, Farrah?”

“I love them, Sancho!  Do you?”

“They’re great, Farrah!”

Sancho turned to Marion and Thad.

“Marion and Thad, do you like lingonberries?”

Thad nodded yes and flashed his teeth.

“I love them.”

Marion Stokely was silent.

Thad cried out the remaining time.

“Chefs, you now have two minutes.  Start plating now.”

At this moment, Pradeep pulled the tart out of the oven and drizzled his sauce onto the tart. Samantha was doing the same.

I’m not a gourmet. But I can say that is anyone’s competition at this point.

The screen split as Pradeep dished his final tart.

“This was a very hard competition.  I can’t believe it is coming to a close.  I enjoyed the exercise of my mind and my culinary muscles.  Now it is up to my dish in this final dessert round to argue for my case.  I know I performed well today.”

He nodded and closed his eyes once.

“My competition has been outstanding too!  Samantha has earned my respect today.  She is a skilled chef and a worthy adversary for me.  I’ve learned a lot from her, and I hope she has learned a lot from me.  I’d love to work with her in the future.”

The camera turned to Samantha, and the screen split as usual.

“I’m nervous.  Today has been a roller-coaster, and I’m hanging on tightly.  I’ve done a good job today.  So has Pradeep.  I’m proud and honored I’ve had this opportunity.  I learned today that I can run with the big dogs of the culinary world.”

The camera zoomed out showing the whole arena in one screen.

“Thirty seconds, chefs.”

The contestants finished plating their food, and Thad called out the time.

“Please step back from your stations.  Servers, present the dishes to the judging panel.”

The contestants were in tow of the servers.  The servers presented their dishes and disappeared from the camera’s view.

Jets of flame erupted.

“This is our final round.  First up we have Pradeep.  Chef, tell us about the dessert you have in front of the judges.”

“This is a classic tart with transformed ingredients, Judges.  I don’t like to talk about my work.  I like to let it speak for itself.  This time, though, I’ll humor you.  I used the frozen crepes as the shell, which was a considerable risk as they are thin.  Finally, I filled it up with the melted lingonberries, circus peanuts, and ricotta.”

Stokely broke his prolonged silence.

“I take one lousy bite of this, young man, and I see and taste an over-glorified jelly doughnut.  Again, I’m shocked you are a culinarian.”

“What would you have done differently, Judge?”

Pradeep’s response to Stokely had Thad looking alarmed.

“Not even shown up to cook here, young man.  Your talent is mediocre and your competency leaves much to be desired.  I’m surprised you made it to the last round along with this young lady here.”

“I think that’s enough.”

Gilbertez said this, and now Thad looked surprised.

“I like what you have done, and please disregard what my colleague said.  He’s being unprofessional tonight.”

Farrah Josi nodded as Gilbertez asserted his views on Stokely’s misconduct.

“Marion, please try to be objective.  I’m not seeing you giving any genuine feedback today.”

Josi’s words made a deep impact. Stokely turned red. If this was a cartoon instead of a cooking show, I would have expected steam to exit from his ears.

Thad intervened before Stokely could reply to Josi’s admonition.

“Chef Josi, what are your impressions of this dish?”

“Thad, I think it is brilliant!  This is a well-balanced dessert that is an outstanding example of both traditional comfort food and how to push the envelope when necessary.”

“Thank you, Chef.” Pradeep replied.

Thad pointed at Sancho Gilbertez.

“Chef Sancho, your thoughts?”

“My colleague said it best.  You pushed the envelope today.  You transformed the ingredients in a distinguished fashion.  I can visually see the difference.  My only criticism is that you may have needed to manage your time better with baking.  My tart is doughy, and it really deters me from the other flavors.”

“Thank you, Chef.”

Thad nodded

“We’ve tasted Chef Pradeep’s dessert now let’s taste Chef Samantha’s dessert.”  He turned to her.  “Please inform us of what your final offering to us is.”

“I made fried ice cream.  The ice cream is vanilla-ricotta and circus peanut and the coating of the ice cream is made from the frozen crepes.”

I was a little surprised she didn’t let her dish speak for itself this time.  But she was nervous and wanted the judges to understand her dish before they judged it.

Josi spoke first.

“This is okay.  You transformed the ingredients.  I like the texture.  Flavors don’t make sense though.  The cheese, the vanilla, and the circus peanuts are working against each other.”

Gilbertez popped in.

“I agree with my colleague on all points.”

Stokely of course fired the final insult.

“In this final round, we aren’t deciding whose dessert or cooking is better.  We are deciding whose incompetence is more tolerable.”

Farrah was recognizing the trend of verbal abuse Stokely spewed at each panel after a round.  She did Thad’s job.

“Chefs, thank you for your efforts today.  Excuse yourselves while we deliberate.”

Thad looked startled.

The two contestants walked away.  Pradeep became the focal point of the camera.

“Samantha may have screwed up her dessert, but this is still anyone’s competition.  I am still nervous.”

The camera panned over to Sam tailing behind Pradeep.

“I’m done for.  Pradeep is going to win this competition.”

The camera turned back to the three judges and Thad.

“Judges, you will be deliberating over the commercial break on who is the winner based on overall performance.”

“Indeed we will, Thad.” Josi said.

I imagine she is trying to prevent Stokely from making any more outbursts.

Thad replied quickly hoping to do the same.

“When we return, we’ll know who survived Chrome Kitchen Crucible.”

Over the commercial break, I brewed a cup of coffee with my Keurig.  I was in disbelief that I had sacrificed an hour of my life on the altar of popular culture: television.  I had ventured past the point of no return and now I was going to see this to the end.

I thankfully dodged a commercial for season tickets to my local NCAA Division II College’s graduate league football team.  I could care less about seeing all but dissertation doctoral students trying to reach an athletic end zone while their academic performance was somewhere in the fifty yard line.

As I took the first sip of my medium roast coffee, I heard Thad’s voice over the jets of flame as the camera captured the Crucible once again.

“After careful deliberation, our judges have reached a verdict.  The contestants are about to enter to hear the final decision.”

The portcullis rose and then Samantha and Pradeep entered the arena again.  They treaded lightly and all energy they had before was gone.  Their faces were now haggard.

They stood before the judicial panel.

Thad stood in between the contestants and judges and with the camera angle he was the focal point of the scene.

I could not see the faces of the judges.

Thad spoke.

“Our contestants have battled in three rounds: appetizer, entrée, and dessert. Now we shall finally see who will have survived the Chrome Kitchen Crucible.

At the sound of the show’s title, jets of flame erupted once more.

Thad resumed his duties.

“Judges, please inform us of your decision.”

Stokely started to speak.

“If I had my way I wouldn’t give your winnings to either of you.”

“That is not an option, Marion.”

This was Josi interrupting.

Gilbertez chimed in.

“Marion, you’ve not had anything constructive today.  Why don’t you take a break?”

“What do you mean?”  Stokely replied.

Gilbertez looked at Stokely as the camera zoomed in on the three judges.

“Just shut up.”

Stokely stormed out of the arena.

The camera zoomed out from the judicial panel.

Josi spoke.

“Only good chefs remain in front of us.  This is a challenge, and your skills were tested today in the Crucible. We decide that the winner will be…”

Harsh obscenities could be heard in the background.  Was it Stokely?

The frame froze for about five seconds.

“The winner is Pradeep N’Kinter!”

Pradeep smiled.  Samantha did not seem to be upset.

The jets of flame roared.

“Chef Samantha, you are leaving the Crucible.  Your dishes fell short at several places, and for this we have to forge you out.”

Samantha’s poise and grace again were visible.

“Judges, I’ve learned a lot today.  From this opportunity, I’ve rediscovered my talent in the culinary arts.  I’m proud of what I accomplished today.  I would like to thank you for this honor.”

“You are very welcome.” Gilbertez replied.

Karpice shook the hands of the judges and Pradeep N’Kinter the victor.  She then exited threw the portcullis and the jets of flame rose up again.

Thad turned to Pradeep as the camera zoomed in on both of them.

“Chef Pradeep, congrats!  You have survived the Chrome Kitchen Crucible, and you have won $20,000!  Thanks for competing with us today.”

“Thank you, Judges.” He replied with a smile that was as bright as the flames rising above Thad.  “I appreciate this opportunity to learn and improve my cooking.  You’ve given me a fresh perspective on the culinary arts.”

I wondered what that was.

The screen showed Pradeep and the camera zoomed in close.  His voice was audible.

“I’m ready to expand my restaurant.  And I know very well how I’m going to do that after today.”

The camera zoomed out from her, the judges, and Thad.  The screen turned dark and white letters appeared.

Please visit www.youtube.com/***** for a detailed explanation regarding events that happened from this episode.

“Huh?”  I said aloud.

I have been vacuumed into a reality show.  I suppose I’ll visit the net now.

No.

I’ll read some of that TC Boyle short story collection and then see what happened.

To Be Continued,,,,,,

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2 comments on “Chrome Kitchen Crucible Part IV by Brandon C. Hovey

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

  2. Philip kaveny
    February 14, 2015

    This has the quality of a New Yorker Feature article . The Kind my wife starts reading me at breakfast on Sunday Morning and can’t stop. I think it is interesting that it works on three levels . Also it shows a flow from media to text great potential for tablet reading

    Like

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