Monday, March 15, 2010

Emily Competes On Ultimate Recipe Showdown

Any reader of the wonderful blog, Sugar Plum, who saw Ultimate Recipe Showdown last night, had to have been very disappointed for Emily.

Rachel, who wrote a great description of the taping, and I were there along with Emily’s mom and aunt and uncle. We were gobsmacked that she lost. More about that in a minute.

Rach and I saw the second round, so we didn’t see Gail’s amazing winning pizza being made. We just kept hearing about it.

My question, which was not answered after seeing the show last night, is how could that pizza have been made from start to finish in an hour and a half, which was the time allowed for the signature dish??! The recipe says to raise the dough for 4 hours! So where did the pizza dough come from? Isn’t that kind of the most crucial part of the pizza? I also found it interesting that Gail used only one packet of yeast for 5 cups of flour. Is that why it has to rise for so long?

I thought that all of Emily’s adversaries were really nice people. Until I saw the show, I had no idea that Gail was a race car driver AND a cooking teacher. How could I not like that last thing?

Ricardo looked pretty great in person (and on television), and it only became clear when I saw the show how much the lady judges really liked him and how much Chef Psilakis didn’t. Well, he didn’t actually NOT like Ricardo, but he didn’t let him get away with anything because of his dreamy accent and tight shirt.

The Peanut Butter Chocolate Torte looked fantastic on television and I thought Kimberly did a nice job.

Did you have this same impression as I did, that none of the other contestants seemed to WANT to win as much as Emily? If she had won, it definitely would have changed the course of her life. She actually said that. I didn’t get that same feeling from the others. I do like to believe that things happen for a reason, and that one door closing means another (potentially better) door opens.

But the reason we were astounded at the final result was because we were sitting right there when Emily kept getting all of this amazingly positive feedback from the judges…and Guy. Plus I could have done without Guy asking her every two seconds, “Are you doing okay?” If he was so concerned, just give the dough and let her get out of there.

This is what the judges thought about Em’s first dish, (which Rachel and I didn’t see):

Katherine Alford: “I love the combination of putting 2 really classic dishes together.” But she didn’t like that the crisp coating on the chicken fell off.

Rosemary Ellis had a hard time with the hot sauce.

Chef Psilakis, who just sold his share of his restaurant, Anthos, to his business partner Donatella Arpaia said to Emily: “I love the fact that you’re so playful with the food that you make.” But he agrees that there’s too much Buffalo Sauce. Gail came in first, Kimberly second, then Em and then Hot Guy.

Here are the Gail’s and Em’s scores:


Taste 49 Originality 24 Appearance 14 Ease 9 Total 96


Taste 47 Originality 24 Appearance 14 Ease 8 Total 93

Peanut Butter Torte Gal, Kimberly, was only one point ahead of Em with 94 points.

Before the speed round, Guy says he thought Em’s nerves were “shaking”, just a bit.

Okay, fine, but look at what they said about her second dish, Creamy Pumpkin Soup with Hazelnut Frico. (I spell Fricco with two c’s, Emily spells it with one. Tomahto, tomato.)

Katherine about Emily’s soup: This was “an ambitious dish for time AND (for its) combinations of flavors”. ”She’s so ambitious. She really set the bar high.”

Oh, here’s Guy again, ”How are you FEELING, Emily?” Annoyed that you keep asking, that’s how!

Emily starts to make the fricco. We didn’t see it closely at the time, but looking at the cheese on television, it looks like they gave her FINELY GRATED cheese. I think she must normally use a more shredded cheese, because she says it looks powdery. Why should that be problem? Because the fricco is going to cook quicker than she’s used to.

Rachel and I were sitting there, smelling the fricco that was in the oven and we just knew she should be taking the baking sheet out. I swear I wanted to yell, EM, YOUR FREAKIN’ FRICCO are (is?) done!!! But I didn’t. (Should I have?)

The judges are worried that she won’t get the fricco on top of the soup in time. She does.

Gail was sweet and said nice things.

First up is Emily. Rosemary is happily surprised. She thought it might be a dessert soup, but it wasn’t and she really liked it.

Katherine says Emily’s “strength is layering flavors”. (She remembers her well from last year.) “Just beautifully,” she adds. Listen to this: “It’s one of the best examples of comfort food we’ve seen today.”

Emily is tearing up, because the remarks are so nice. Now HERE, listen to CHEF Psilakis: “I think you have to understand that you are INCREDIBLE at what you do.”

When I heard him say that, I started crying. I was soooooo sure Em was going to win.

He continues that the soup is “both savory and sweet and the fricco bridges that gap perfectly,” but he would have liked it thinner.

Remember I said that about Ina’s Butternut Soup, that it looked way too thick? Emily’s didn’t look anywhere near THAT thick. But my thinking is that when money (or dinner) is on the line, you should always purée your soup in a blender, not in a food processor or with an immersion blender.

Having said that, I know that there was NO time and Emily was lucky she even got it cooked in time. (But I’m just looking at the recipe again and I see that there’s celery in it. More reason for a blender. It’s really the only thing I can come with as to why she didn’t triumph.) And I don’t think the slightly overcooked fricco was the problem. The judges didn’t criticize that at all.

After all the lovely things the judges DID say about her, Guy asks her for the 40th time, “Are you doing okay?” SHE was doing just fine, but we, in the audience, who were THERE, weren’t doing okay. We were sitting on the edge of our seats. We just wanted her to win NOW. The judges even looked at her with such affection, I thought it was hers. But again, we hadn’t seen the pizza she was competing against.

Even Guy says, “I think you’re in the running for this.” Ricky and Kim get eliminated. Gail and Emily go on the award (awkward) platform.

Gail is sweet and she says she would be happy if Emily wins and her dream comes true. She’s nice. They’re all nice, actually. This was a good group of folks, with quite a diverse bunch of recipes.

Okay, back to the action.

I see Guy kind of wink at Emily and I am completely positive she’s about to win.

I’m grabbing at Rachel like I’m drowning and she’s the life preserver. (Her poor arm.) We really and truly thought that Emily was about to be pronounced the winner.

We were barely breathing. Guy reiterates that Gail had a score of 96 in the previous round and the highest score of the day wins.

And then…and then…

Oh wait, first, Guy says, “The judges say, Emily, that you have a gift and I AGREE.” Okay, give her the check already!!!!!!!!!!!

Then…”Emily’s score is NINETY ONE.” Ugh. Arghhh. Ouch. Egads!

Gail is truly thrilled. Michael says her pizza crust rivaled some the best pizzas he’s ever eaten in New York.

Darling Emily comes in a close second and wins, not the money, but the respect and admiration of some very notable food professionals. That’s a pretty great outcome, even if it wasn’t the one we were hoping for.


DebCarol said...

I saw this. I think Emily was amazing. Honestly I don't know many people who could hold up under that kind of pressure. Her day will come - every time she competes she will learn something. Emily will knock it out of the park next time and like I wrote on Rachel's blog - Emily's fanbase is growing and growing. Way to go Em!!

Sheila said...

Emily is star. She was awesome to watch and I just know EVERYONE watching the show was focused on her. And I thought that frickin' fric(c)o looked AWESOME! Just GO for it Emily!!!!!

Loved your recap Sue! I was on the edge of my seat and had a blast tweeting back and forth. (Even if it did mean we had to watch it again for more details!) :-)

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I’m a bit prejudiced against the winning pizza since I don’t want any swampfood on my pizza. If she kept it to just the sausage, I might be happier for her!

Remember we got to eat that cake! It was pretty good too. I just don’t get how a dessert made it into the comfort food category.
I never thought about how to spell fric(c)o. I guess we need Giada to pronounce it and then we would hear one c or two. Would the plural be fricchi?

I don’t remember Ricardo being such a hottie when we were there, but I came to a new level of lust watching him on TV. I guess I just didn’t pay much attention to him while I was paying so much attention to Emily when we were there.

Yeah. Emily seemed to be the only one with a real purpose in winning. I think they played it up too much for the drama factor too. If only Emily had used less hot sauce and cut the chicken in chunks before cooking it instead of after she might have scored higher.

Emily said...

Fantastic review! I was on the edge of my seat when I read this. You brought up several things I had forgotten about.

That wink! I forgot about how Guy winked at me. When he was getting ready to announce the winner, in my heart I knew I hadn't won.

I don't think I could ever put myself through this again. I really was an emotional wreck!

Thank you for coming to the show and supporting me! It meant a lot! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sue said...

Hi DC,
I get flustered cooking dinner on a regular day with no one watching, so I can't imagine producing something so great under such pressure AND with a time constraint.

Hi Sheila,
Tweeting is fun when we're watching the same thing. I just wish we could have been watching Em win the $25,000.

I forgot about the cake! THAT was good. And you are so right about Ricardo. He looked almost as good on TV as Emily did.

It was so great being there with you. What other fabulous adventure can we have with Emily as the impetus? I'll guess we'll have to wait and see.

Thank you, darling Emily. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Seeing you in action was a real treat and I know it won't be the last time.

Cynthia said...

I too was disappointed for Em. If I had the money, I'd pay for her to go to culinary school.

Kitty said...

I think Guy developed a crush on Emily! Surely she'll be back because she seemed to be the crowd favorite. You'll get there, Emily!