After last week’s not overly exciting episode, I’m ready for a Mystery Box challenge. This week each of the three judges chooses ingredients that they use in their own restaurants to put in the mystery box. Some are exotic, some not so much. Leung chooses Taro, kimchi, sea urchin and smelly durian fruit. Bonacini chooses chanterelles, cipolini onions, quinoa, mostarda and squab. Some of the cooks look surprised to learn that squab is pigeon. Aprile’s ingredients are monkfish, miso, and pork belly. This doesn’t look like too difficult of a box. I’d make squab breast served with whipped taro, chanterelles and onions. Use a bit of the fat from the pork belly for extra flavour. What will the contestants do?
First thing we see – Carly and her complete lack of self-confidence. I found her frazzled state in her audition endearing, but we’re halfway thorough the competition, she needs to get it together. For this challenge she makes monkfish and a flatbread. It’s a very disjointed looking dish. Kaila decides to stuff and roast the entire squab. With only an hour, this is ballsy. Pino has the same idea, but he lacks Kaila’s confidence that it can be done so quickly and decides on some kind of soup instead. Tamarra makes her own noodles with a squab broth and mushrooms. Danielle gets fancy with a sea urchin veloute and monkfish. Marida also goes with the monkfish and seems to be moving away from her normal flavours. Wanting to impress Leung, Eric is determined to cook with the durian. We don’t get to see what Mike or Julie are working on.
The hour of cooking time comes to an end and the judges call up their favourites. First – Tamarra. They really like the flavours of her dish. I think it looks a little heavy on noodles – some of the box ingredients probably should have stood out more. It does look good though. Danielle is called up second, and her dish looks restaurant-quality. The veloute is lovely, and the taro crisps are a nice touch. Also, I admire her ability to cook while wearing all white. This is a skill I will never have. Marida is called up third. Her monkfish is well cooked; she had a deft hand with the seasonings. The judges announce they want to taste a fourth dish, to see if a risk paid off. They call up Kaila and her whole roasted squab. It’s cooked beautifully.
The winner is decided – it’s Danielle! It seems like she’s won half the individual challenges so far in this competition. As the winner, she does not have to compete in the elimination challenge and also gets to pick the theme of what the others will be cooking. The theme for this week’s challenge is Canadian desserts. There are three options – butter tarts, blueberry grunts, and Nanaimo bars. However, the cooks won’t just be reproducing these dishes, they need to re-imagine and create an elevated version of them. My first thought? Mmm, I could really go for a butter tart right now.
Danielle states that her targets are Marida and Kaila, who she considers her biggest competition. She chooses the Nanaimo bar, which I think is a good choice. Most of them express that they’ve never made one before, or even know what goes into them.
Eric “I’m going to keep swearing that I can’t bake even though I continuously make good desserts” Chong starts making a chocolate tart. Carly says she’s making a round chocolate? with walnuts, liquor and coconut. Okay. Tamarra thinks she has this challenge in the bag. Pino says he’s making a no-bake tart, but then realizes halfway through the challenge that he actually does need to bake his crust. Mike tries to make a buttercream for the first time, which looks like it might cause trouble, but I have no doubt he can handle it. It’s not that difficult. Eric burns his caramel twice while running between the kitchen and the pantry like a maniac. This challenge sure seems to be challenging people. Kaila is being ambitious as always, while Julie seems to have no idea what a Nanaimo bar is. Carly asks Tamarra a plethora of questions about how to prepare each component of her dish, while Pino chills his pastry cream so much that he can’t distribute it properly. Marida uses the wrong chocolate for her truffles. Besides Tamarra, who is cool as a cucumber, people are all over the place.
I have to say, I’m surprised with how many people admit that they’re bad at desserts. Savoury dishes can be your forte, but you have to know that making desserts will be involved at multiple times during the competition too. Brush up on some of those skills before you come on the show.
Anyway, to the judging! Pino is called up first and his tart looks like a big old mess. The custard looks way too thick, the chocolate “drizzle” on top should have been left off as it looks lumpy. The judges aren’t impressed with the taste either. Eric is next, with a very pretty chocolate mousse tart. He did manage to make a quick caramel at the end to replace the two that he burnt. The judges are impressed with the final product. Carly brings up her chocolate, caramel, coconut… lumps. The presentation is awful, and from what the judges say it doesn’t taste that great either. Tamarra made black and white perogies, using the typical nanaimo ingredients. The presentation is whimsical, and the judges like the perogies. Good job, Tamarra. Julie is next, with a dessert that tastes good (raspberry, chocolate, espresso, yum) but doesn’t really resemble a nanaimo bar in any way. Mike made a tart with an oatmeal crust, buttercream, macadamia nuts and blueberry. The judges like it and Alvin even says he’d serve it in his restaurant. Marida presents a trio of truffles, which are unfortunately dry. The judges thought it lacked excitement. Danielle might have hit one of her targets. Kaila made three different panna cottas – coconut, vanilla and chocolate. Ambitious. Unfortunately, one of them didn’t set at all. The judges do like the tastes though. With all the dishes tasted, the judges deliberate.
First the winners are announced. Tamarra’s confidence paid off and she is given top honours. Winning with a dessert for the second time, is Eric. Dude, you really have to stop playing the “I’m not good at desserts” card now. And then come the worst dishes – Pino, Marida and Carly. The person who will not be continuing in the competition is Carly. I was convinced the judges were going to send two home, but Pino and Marida are safe. I’m not too surprised to see Carly go – she hadn’t really done anything outstanding. She seemed to be a very good team player, but lacked the confidence to create great dishes on her own.
The lesson from this episode – don’t look down on desserts. If you want to win, you need to be able to do it all.
Eight are left.