Last night, America's Next Great Restaurant traveled to Vegas. There, the four remaining contestants prepared three dishes of their choice to serve to the Las Vegas public (which included Penn and Teller).
The catch? For the first hour of service, the contestants were not allowed to touch the food. Instead, they had to trust their employees! They hired and trained two employees for the job.
How did the four contestants (Stephanie of Harvest Sol, Sudhir of Spice Coast, Joey of Brooklyn Meatball Co., and Jamawn of Soul Daddy) do? Let's just say the embarrassment did not stay in Vegas...
The Brooklyn Meatball Co. served traditional meatballs in a Sunday sauce and turkey meatballs with pesto and an edamame pasta salad. The main problem the judges had with Joey was his food. Some thought the center of the meatballs tasted like they were cold or possibly undercooked. Bobby Flay told Joey, " I don't know what happened... This was not your best meal."
When Sudhir of Spice Coast was questioned about his weaknesses and couldn't come up with any, judge Curtis Stone thought this was a bad sign. Still, everyone was in agreement that Sudhir's employees' performance was stellar. He picked people who liked Indian food and seemed stoked to share it with the rest of America. His food was also a hit, though he played it safe by only serving versions of previous crowd pleasers: mango-cardamom milk shakes, chickpea and cauliflower quesadillas with paneer, and curry chicken tacos with a green chili sauce. Chipotle founder Ells seemed to love the wheat tortilla from the quesadillas (future wheat tortillas at Chipotle, perhaps?).
Soul Daddy surprised the judges by serving an ambitious menu with a lot of new offerings:
cajun salmon with stuffed tomatoes, barbecue ribs (with homemade barbecue sauce) served with green bean salad and sweet potatoes. He hired an enthusiastic spokesperson who explained how soul food could be healthy too. In deliberations when talking about Jamawn, Lorena Garcia said that she takes into consideration when somebody has learned during the course of the competition. Jamawn has definitely done that.
That leaves Stephanie, who had her worst episode yet. Not only did her employees not understand her concept well enough to explain it to the judges (many cringe-worthy moments for the television viewer) but she showed an ignorance about food. She made a major menu decision (deciding not to serve lamb because it was conventionally raised) and then had to justify her decision to the knowledgeable chef judges, who could see she didn't know what she was talking about. Her slow-roasted short ribs served over roasted kale and with a tomato salad and her grilled vegetable and lamb sandwich (the lamb got put back in!) were "good," according to the judges, but not mind-blowing.
Soul Daddy (who was again the favorite among the public tasters) advanced, as did Spice Coast. The Brooklyn Meatball Co. also made it through. The judges seemed less convinced of Joey, but as Ells mentioned, "a lot of
the public who was sampling food liked the meatballs, and that's
important for us to consider."
Favorite judge interaction
Curtis Stone: "I think meatballs is a no-brainer, like it'll work." Steve Ells: "But does it do anything positive for food culture in this country?"
Curtis Stone: "The thing I love about three of these concepts is that they are very American. [But] Indian?... I think it's the most alienating of the four ideas."
Moment of wisdom
Bobby Flay: "Potential is only a good word for a certain amount of time..."
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What do you think? Any favorite moments? Meat, spice, or soul? What do Americans want?