“Cast back on set” 3.22.11: We meet for lunch at 11:30. We pile into a couple of familiar white vans and head to a California Pizza Kitchen. We start walking to the door, when the PA’s call us back to the van- we’ve gone to the wrong restaurant. We get back in the vans and drive another 10 minutes to a CPK that was closer to the hotel… WTF?! We sit and order… no Hollywood lunch is complete without libations so we all order drinks. After a few minutes, one of the PA’s comes and says we’re limited to one drink each (even though we’re paying for them ourselves). This dosen’t sit well with the group. While we all LOVE all of the PA’s, people are no longer on their best behavior- the fear of being kicked off the show is no longer… we all have between two and five drinks with lunch;) This is going to make for better TV right?
When we arrive on set, Culinary is setting up stations… lots of them. Speculation starts: are we cooking? The thought thoroughly excited me. When we are assigned stations, we quickly see that nothing is connected… the stations are empty except for the block of Global knives we’re all tempted to steal. After a bit of waiting, we see the top 3 and the judges ask us how we’ve been and what we think of the top 3 contestants.
On the way up to the viewing gallery, we congratulate Adrian, Jennifer, and Christian. We watch them cook for an hour- they’ve all gotten better! Adrian is in the zone, composed. He’s the cast favorite to win the entire competition. Jennifer looks great too. She seems more confident and less frantic than before. After the cooking there’s the standard break. We go outside and comeback quickly… it takes a lot less time to photograph 3 plates than it did 18… Now we start the judging. I’m standing next to Pauline. It’s her first time in the MasterChef kitchen (she was eliminated in the apple round). We whisper to each other in the Gallery, and I call the events of judging shot for shot. Like an old pro I give her predictions of what the judges will say and how the verdict will come about. It’s like I’m clairvoyant. When the decision is made, Adrian is first into the finals. I’m ecstatic – I have goose bumps. From the time I watched him cook his signature dish, I wanted him in the finals. I wanted to be cooking next to him in the finals, but now I’m rooting for him to win. The final person into the finals is Jennifer- we’re all happy for her! Even Christian takes it well. All is right in the world with Jennifer and Adrian as the final two. We’re excited to see the final cook-off.
We’re waiting in the parking lot for everyone to do their interviews. Graham is talking to Tony and I [kind of rudely] interrupt and ask to take a pic with Graham. Soon everyone is taking their future facebook profile pic. Then Graham goes into his philosophy of running a kitchen, developing his chefs, cooking, and food in general. It’s incredible to see and hear his passion. He talks about the five stations at Graham Elliot [the restaurant]: Hot, Cold, Land, Sea, and Sweet. He says that the cook at each station is responsible for EVERYTHING– from sourcing the ingredients for their dishes, to all of the prep, cooking, and plating. He compares it to a band… there’s no hierarchy. Then he goes on about food, and judging… I needed this conversation. When I was sent home, one of the things Graham said was “when executed poorly, things like this dish give our style of cooking a bad name”. I felt like I let him down that day. I also felt like he was saying more for the camera than for me. It was great to hear him talk so passionately and honestly. This would become one of my favorite MasterChef experiences… a 5 minute talk in a parking lot with Graham Elliot.
At the end of the talk, Graham invited any of us to dinner on him if we’re in Chicago… Now if I could just round up some Alinea money: