We don't watch as much reality television as we used to, but when it involves a former On the Line subject like Carlos Anthony, consider it scheduled on our DVR. Alton Brown's devious host duties on Cutthroat Kitchen also make for a compelling hour of competition.
Last night, guest judge (and So Cal Restaurant Show "Emeritus Host") Chef Jet Tila lent his expertise on a brutal Food Network episode. It was a double dose of local representation. Here's a recap of the Taco Asylum chef's successful stint.
Round One: Gnocchi
In addition to mocking the competition, Carlos starts off with this gem, "I want to take this money and make it into a pillow and sleep on it every night." He almost didn't, considering chef was one of three who forgot to grab eggs. To make things worse, competitor Guily bestowed upon him some potato skins in lieu of whole spuds. Dang. Jet wasn't a fan of that shredded gnocchi texture, but the use of ricotta saved his butt for another round.
Round Two: Drunken noodles
Considering they were cooking for the Royal Thai Governments' official culinary ambassador to the United States, this appeared to be the most stressful round for the remaining trio. The stir-fry flavored with fish sauce and spicy elements got them looking like deer in headlights. Revenge was also on Carlos' mind as the second dish was announced, and he jumped at the opportunity to burn the lady chefs. He was prepared to spend all the money, but used $7,000 to give Chef Kelly flaming cocktails as a heating element. Good ol' Guily was forced to conduct all her cooking with a "keg of fire".
In return, chef had to build an entire prep station out of empty cans and cardboard and use it (Crafty move, Guily!). His response, "I stopped bidding because college wasn't too far off. I remember using beer cans in creative ways." Carlos enthusiastically jumped in and somehow made it work. The drunken noodle expert wanted more sweetness to balance out the flavors of chef's dish, but it was enough to make the finals.
Final round: Thumbprint cookies
Dessert seems to be the kiss of death for most competitors. Usually filled with chocolate or jam, this baked sweet was a fight to the very end. Chef Kelly attempted perfect cherry almond cookies, but dealt with conducting all prep in and on a flour table. In retaliation, she got Carlos good by having his thumbs taped to his hand. Butterfingers ended up with bad dough and flat cookies. Frying didn't save them, but the anti-griddle did, flash-freezing his mistake and giving some structure to his dessert.
Jet Tila was not impressed by Carlos' use of the "Mom card" to fabricate a winning story behind a doughy flavor. Yet in the end, a solid berry compote led Chef Anthony to victory. Congrats to you! Now take your mother out with that extra $9,900.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.