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

Chrome Kitchen Crucible: Finale by Brandon C. Hovey

CKC Coat

If you missed Part I look Here

If you missed Part II look Here

If you missed Part III look Here

If you missed Part IV look Here

After reading the first story of T.C. Boyle’s Without A Hero entitled “Big Game,” I found myself eager to see the true ending of this episode of Chrome Kitchen Crucible.

Like “Big Game” I’m certain this is going to have a surprising ending.

I entered the url and was at YouTube in roughly under two seconds.

Before the episode began an ad for NutriLight Candles played.

Apparently, they are the world’s first weight- loss candle, and I’m not the first skeptic regarding their efficiency and effectiveness.

Thad appeared with a much younger man who had blaze orange hair and eyeglasses.

“Hello, Cyberspace!  This is Thad Williams host of Chrome Kitchen Crucible.  I am here with Jonnie Grunsteps, independent film-maker.”

Jonnie steps forward.  His dress contrasts with Thad’s and he speaks with a high voice.

“Greetings, ladies and gents.”

Thad smiles.

“Jonnie is going to take us on a journey to discover the end to the episode dated November 3, 2014.  Pradeep N’Kinter is the winner, but there’s more to the story than that.  Take her a way, Jonnie.”

“No problem, Thad!”  Jonnie gives a thumbs up.  He looks like a 1980s punk rocker.  He pulls up a chair for Thad and one for his own use.

“Roll the film.”

The screen fades to white and we see the front of Pradeep N’Kinter’s restaurant The Bluesman’s Curry.

I can see the interior of his restaurant now.  The camera shows a panorama of walls decked out with blues instruments ranging from acoustic guitars to washboards and harmonicas.  I can also see a multitude of satisfied diners with full plates quickly becoming emptied by ravenous appetites and epicurean desires.

A photo of that master bluesman Robert Johnson with a cigarette hangs above the door to the kitchen.

I imagine all the aromas within the restaurant’s interior, especially the kitchen.

This is where we find Pradeep N’Kinter.  Pradeep is busy as one would expect with a full kitchen and he proudly flambés a dish as the full frame of the camera captures him at work.

His voice can be heard as the camera points down into his pan watching the product become something new.

“Winning the show called Chrome Kitchen Crucible changed a lot. I renovated my dining room and kitchen.  Not as much as I wanted to as I realized a lot during the show.”

The voice over ended.

“Order up.” Pradeep called at the present time.

The voice over continued.

“I rekindled my love of what I do, and the competition made me better.  This restaurant is a better place than ever.  My parents are proud.”

The camera turns to a portrait of Pradeep’s parents hanging in his office with it’s open door just off the kitchen to the right of Pradeep’s range.

“I also learned the value of collaboration and I realized that with like-minded people and talented people you can accomplish anything.  I met a new friend on that show, and a new business partner.”

The camera turned to the server picking up the order and he walked out to serve a customer in the dining room.  The screen transitioned with a vertical line and a woman’s hands were visible.  She was offering a platter of something steaming hot!  It resembled a Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich).  The hands were none other than Samantha Karpice’s.  She waved to the camera and an engagement ring was on her finger.

“Hello again, America!”

Her enthusiasm had grown since I had seen her on the episode of Chrome Kitchen Crucible.

The camera zoomed out and I could see her food truck with The Bluesman’s Curry Logo emblazoned on the sides of it.  It sped away from the park it was positioned at and happy customers were chowing down on their lunches in the noonday sun.

Samantha’s voiceover was heard over the truck’s travels to its next destination.

“I didn’t win the prize on Chrome Kitchen Crucible.  But, I met a new business partner, and I met my new best friend, who’s now my business partner, and now my fiancée: Pradeep N’Kinter.  I am the new co-owner of The Bluesman’s Curry, and I’m the Co-Executive Chef.  My responsibility is mainly the food truck and I’m in charge of catering.”

The screen transitioned over to Samantha at the restraunt’s kitchen where she sliced up a prime rib roast.

“Working with Pradeep has taught me new things about cooking.  I can pursue what I want to because my passion for Asian cooking compliments Pradeep’s Soul-Indian fusion.  It’s a great life with him inside and outside the kitchen.

The camera then showed them both at their home.

“We’ve come a long way!  Thank you, Chrome Kitchen Crucible!!!”

The screen showed Thad and Jonnie back in their screening area.  The two of them swiveled towards me in their chairs.

“I love capturing happy endings, Thad.”

“I’m glad you do, Jonnie.”

Thad looked directly at the camera.

“Folks, you’ve gotten to see a winner leave with more than just winnings and a re-kindled passion for his trade.  You got to see Pradeep N’Kinter discover a newfound friend-for-life  and a business partner.  As Jonnie said, this is certainly a happy ending.”

“Indeed!” Jonnie interjected.

Thad’s tone changed in his next statement from enthusiastic to somber.

“The episode that Pradeep and Samantha were on was a turning point in my show’s history.  You may have heard some swearing in the background at this point.”

Footage of Stokely storming off was shown in the screen behind Jonnie and Thad.

“My former culinary goalkeeper was dismissed by his fellow judges: Farrah Josi and Sancho Gilbertez. They had been petitioning and begging our network executives to fire him for months.”

Stokely’s face appeared in the screen behind Thad and Jonnie.

“Farrah Josi can explain why this decision was made.” Jonnie said.

The screen transitioned to Jonnie and Farrah in the Chrome Kitchen Crucible studio.  Jonnie was in the attire he wore as I had seen him in earlier. Farrah was wearing a chef coat.

“Why didn’t you like working with Marion Stokely, Chef Farrah?”

“I’ve wanted to tell the world this for years, Jonnie.”  Farrah smiled as she prepared to tell her tale.

“I had the misfortune of hearing Marion Stokely berate and judge people since the inception and beginning of Chrome Kitchen Crucible.  The man would always tell contestants that their food is awful and they don’t have any talent.  Especially, if they had worked with his colleagues and they weren’t viewed well by them.”

Jonnie interrupted her.


Farrah smiled more.

“His perspective is flawed.  He’s a legend in his own mind.  And he holds himself on such a high pedestal he believes that no one can ever rise to his level of talent.”


Jonnie interrupted again.

“Farrah, wasn’t Stokely a culinary instructor for a while?”


Farrah and Jonnie disappeared and a beautiful college campus appeared.  In gold letters on the quad the identity of the school was given.

“Henise Culinary Academy”

A panorama of classrooms, buildings, and culinary equipment was visible.

A voiceover began.

“I’m Chef Samuel Wayne, President of the Henise Culinary Academy, I know I’m exposing myself to liability, but Marion Stokely was horribly rude to fellow faculty and our students.  Enrollment dropped by ten percent during his five-year period of employment.  We denied him tenure due to his rudeness and bellicose attitude and methodology while teaching.  Stokely plays the victim while victimizing others.”

The camera showed Thad alone back in their quasi-screening room.  He spun around in his swivel chair again.

“Interesting, huh  People don’t have nice words to say about Stokely.  Against the advice of our attorneys we contacted the man himself: Marion Stokely.  Jonnie interviewed him via skype.  Let’s go back to Jonnie.”

Jonnie appears and again he is in the same attire.  With the black leather jacket, he appears to be a Billy Idol impersonator.  Instead he is a filmmaker with the delicate task of interviewing a man whom Josi described as a ‘legend of his own mind’ or something of that sort. He is living a life on the cliffs of courage.

Jonnie’s voice cracks slightly as he begins his interview.

“Mr. Stokely, I’ll cut right to the chase.  You were fired from your past job by making some remarks that were obscene on national television.  Could you tell us how you feel and why you did that?”

Stokely has a blank stare.  His face doesn’t even crease with any wrinkles as he answers in a flat tone with a slight edge at the end of it.

“I was upset at how the host and the fellow judges were treating me.  They should respect me more.  I’ve learned a lot in the industry by being a chef and teaching people in the industry.”

Jonnie already has a question feeding up the ramp.

“According to my research you didn’t go to culinary school.  Am I right?”

Stokely has an answer.

“No.  I didn’t.  I went to the school of hard knocks, and I got a unique perspective because of it.”

“Okay, Mr. Stokely.  Can you tell us about your teaching approach?  The critiques you gave the contestants on Chrome Kitchen Crucible were so vague no one was sure what you were trying to teach them.  Frankly, some people would call them rude.”

“I don’t know what gives you the chutzpah to say things like that to me.  I criticize people the same way I was taught in the school of hard knocks and how my parents criticized me.  Let me tell you a story of how I was taught one day.”

“I’m all ears.” Jonnie said.

“When I was a young cook at Fido’s Burgers in Lebanon, Tennessee I made three Doghouse burgers.  That was the flagship burger of that restaurant.  I had forgotten to put on the right sauce.  And I was taught never to do it again even though I made the same mistake three times.”

Jonnie looked like he was locked in to Stokely’s tale.

“My boss tossed the burgers in the trash can and called it unacceptable. I learned from that.”

Jonnie just nodded and asked his next question.

“Do you think that mode of teaching works for everyone?”

“I don’t know.  I think some people are too sensitive or are just stupid.  These young chefs, especially on the last episode were just downright horrible.”

Jonnie kept nodding.

“Can you tell us what they could have done better, sir?”

A blank bit of time passed.  No words came from Stokely, and Jonnie tried again.

“Mr. Stokely, can you tell us anything regarding how they could have prepared their food better and how they would have improved their techniques?”

“I think they just should never had become chefs.”

“Why’s that, sir?”

“ Because I know this business and I know what it takes to be the best.”

“You’ve never really been in the business successfully, though.  Your restaurants have closed so many times over the years and you’ve never been able to keep employees…”

“This interview is over.  You just can’t understand someone who’s been taught from the school of hard knocks.  You see, I know the industry and I know talent.  Pradeep and Samantha are just going to fail.”

The screen returned to Thad and Jonnie.

Thad laughed.

“Jonnie excused himself and found Marion Stokely to be quite hostile.”

Thad turned his head to the left where Jonnie was standing.

“Jonnie, in your investigation did you find out what he’s doing now?”

“He’s currently working as a volunteer cooking teacher at a community organization in greater Chicago.”

Thad’s eyes lit up with horror and amusement.

“I’m sure they’ll benefit from his wealth of experience.”

Jonnie sheepishly grinned.

“Sure, Thad.”

The camera zoomed in on Thad’s head and shoulders.

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us today.  We’re happy to see Pradeep N’Kinter and Samantha Karpice find success and love after the episode they appeared together in.  We are also very happy that Marion Stokely can provide his expertise and talent to a host of other people who need his tutelage.”

A techno song played as the screen faded to black, red letters appeared on the screen: “A GRUNSTEPS PRODUCTION © 2014 GRUNSTEPS ENTERPRISES”


I said this aloud as I found myself amazed and educated from following this story all from watched that silly reality show, that modern Roman arena called Chrome Kitchen Crucible.  Trump wasn’t there to say someone was fired, but Marion Stokely was there to only find fault.

I’m a former journalist, I’m used to constructive criticism.  Stokely’s wasn’t constructive at all: it was hypercritical, rude, and unnecessary.  I’ve heard that hard-knocks excuse before from other hypercritical people.  Now I am certain that approach worked in the 1930s to 1960s and was tolerated then.

Perhaps verbal abuse was tolerated in the earlier portions of the twentieth century?

However, societal changes in the 1980s to the present have created a more educated, emotionally intelligent society, and above all a more-sensitive one.  Stokely’s approach has as much use as a pair of swim trunks in that blustery and blistering cold outside my window.  His approach is antiquated and that hides any use one has for it.

I’d tell you he probably means well.

I’m not that gentle, though.

“Unless we are willing to help a person overcome his faults, there is little value in pointing them out.”

—        Robert J. Hastings

“How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.”

― Benjamin Disraeli



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