|Suvir Saran – Executive Chef: Dévi, New York, NY.
He is competing for Agricultural Stewardship Association. Devi has consistently received popular and critical acclaim and has earned a three-star rating from New York Magazine and two stars from The New York Times. It is the only Indian restaurant in the U.S. to have earned a Michelin star Saran is Chairman of Asian Culinary Studies for The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Saran is the only U.S.-based contributor to the largest Indian cookbook ever published, India Cookbook.
Naomi Pomeroy – Owner: Beast in Portland, OR. She is competing for Seed Savers Exchange. Bon Appètit named Pomeroy as one of the top 6 of a new generation of female chefs in September 2008, and Food & Wine magazine recognized her as one of the 10 Best New Chefs in America in 2009. She used to run an underground supper club in their northeast Portland bungalow called Family Supper. And I love this part – “After a couple years of dodging authorities, using salvaged doors rigged as tabletops and defrosting shrimp in the bathtub, they decided to go legit.” Awesome.
Mary Sue Milliken – Co-Chef/ Owner: Border Grill Restaurants and Truck, Los Angeles, CA. She is competing for Share Our Strength. Milliken is well known as one half of the dynamic “Too Hot Tamales” with longtime business partner, and former Master, Chef Susan Feniger. Milliken was the first female chef to work at Chicago’s prestigious Le Peroquet in the late 1970s, and later joined a handful of progressive women chefs to found Women Chefs & Restaurateurs.
George Mendes – Chef/Owner of ALDEA , Manhattan, NY. He is competing for Charity: Water. Here is a sentence that I really don’t understand, after graduating from CIA, “he sharpened his cooking skills as garde manger, entremetier and poissonier at the original Bouley in Tribeca.” Those are not real words. Later, Mendes became the executive sous chef at the three-star Lespinasse in Washington, D.C., and returned to New York to help his friend Kurt Gutenbrunner, open his Austrian restaurant, Wallsé. Again – a made up words.
Traci Des Jardins – Chef/Co-owner: Jardinière, Mijita Cocina Mexicana and Chef/Partner: Public House and Manzanita, San Francisco, CA. She is competing for La Cocina. Jardinière won Esquire Magazine’s “Best New Restaurant,” a nomination by the James Beard foundation for “Best New Restaurant” in 1997 and the San Francisco Chronicle has listed it as one of the “Top 100 Restaurants” in the Bay Area each year since opening. She seems to have a restaurant on every corner in San Fran, including one at AT&T Park. She’s pretty cool. She sits on the advisory board of Bocuse d’Or USA joining fellow chefs in the quest to elevate culinary excellence in the United States.
John Currence – City Grocery Restaurant Group, Oxford, MS. He is competing for No Kid Hungry. He won the 2009 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef, and virtually every award for chefs given in the state of Mississippi. Of course, unsure of the level of competition on that one. He has served as chairman and president of the Mississippi Restaurant Association and president of the Yoknapatapha Arts Council
Floyd Cardoz – Former Executive Chef/Partner of Tabla, and soon-to-be Executive Chef/Partner of a new Danny Meyer restaurant. He is competing for Young Scientist Cancer Research Fund. Cardoz was the executive chef of Tabla, a groundbreaking restaurant that served New Indian cuisine. The restaurant spawned an entirely new category of modern Indian restaurants across the country and internationally. He is also the consulting chef for El Verano Taqueria located at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. More baseball – cool.
Hugh Acheson – Chef/ Partner: Five& Ten, The National, Gosford Wine – in Athens, GA and Empire State South – in Atlanta, GA. He is competing for Wholesome Wave Foundation. He learned stylized French cuisine, wine and etiquette at the renowned Henri Burger restaurant in Ottawa, as well as in San Francisco as the chef de cuisine with Chef Mike Fennelly at Mecca,. He developed a style of his own forging together the beauty of the South with the flavors of Europe and opening the critically acclaimed Athens, GA restaurant Five & Ten in March of 2000. And he looks like an old intern of mine – unibrow and all.
Quickfire Challenge – Go head to head with another chef using random boxed ingredients. And oh boy, were they random. Hugh doesn’t believe his combo of sardines and dragon fruit are even from the same sector of the earth. More like from a corner of Middle Earth, I think. Typical of a first episode, before the chefs really know how hard these challenges are, three of the 12 Masters failed to plate dishes or complete dishes.
Mary Sue – Chili Cottage Cheese Cake Meuniere vs. John – Buffalo Frogs Legs… and no cottage cheese. Bert dug Mary Sue’s, but even if he didn’t, Mary Sue wins.
Suvir – Corned Beef and Marshmallow Chaat vs. Celina – nothing. Does it really matter how the dish was? Suvir wins.
Hugh – Pan-Seared Sardines with Dragon Fruit Salad vs. Naomi – nothing. Again, does it matter? Hugh wins.
Alex – Cockles and Leek Soup with Marmite vs. Floyd – Marmite Soup with Cockles. Bert can’t taste Alex’s marmite, but found Floyd’s much nicer. Floyd wins.
Traci – Celery Salad with Peanut Butter Vinaigrette and Licorice and Orange Salad vs. Old John – Bacon Licorice Peanut Butter Hors d’oevres. Ruth like’s Traci’s delicate and delicious dish, while she found Old John’s intense. Traci wins.
Either I was asleep watching, or they never showed George vs. Sue. Well, George won since he was on the team with all of the winners during…