The Exile Kitchen

The Appetizer Round

Chef Jurg Wagenlehner stood straight and tall, his hands behind his back. His nerves were on end and his stomach was knotted up; it was growling, ferociously growling. How did he get here? Why did he put himself through this? Was this agony worth the $10,000 prize? He wasn’t so sure anymore.

Chef Jurg, of course, had the story that he told the judges. The story about the cancer, now in remission, and how he had had to reinvent himself after his wife’s unexpected death. It worked pretty good when he threw in some other things about kids, lawsuits, and drug addiction. The judges always seemed to be suckers for a good sob-story. It didn’t even matter if it was true.

It was the first round, the appetizer round, and Todd, the host of the show, was poised to unveil, “whose dish was exiled.” Todd lifted the ‘food dome.’ Is that what it’s called, Jurg wondered? Maybe it was a cloche’ or a couverture de plat? He wasn’t sure. He didn’t care. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that his dish wasn’t beneath that silver dome. The chef who had prepared that dish would be exiled and unable to take part in the next round.

With a magnificent flourish, Todd lifted the dome. Chef Heidi’s dish was beneath – her knees buckled and she collapsed to the floor in tears. Three security men came on stage, handcuffed her and bundled her off. She would never cook in this country again.

Chef Heidi had prepared an interesting appetizer, Jurg thought, the mystery ingredients had been: black eye peas, Mascarpone Cheese, wasabi, and Kirschwasser. She had conjured up a ‘Fondue’ of sorts. She made wasabi black eye peas individually and tediously skewered with toothpicks, designed to be dipped into a gelatinous mass of heated Mascarpone and Kirschwasser. She had garnished her creation with gherkins and a sliced baguette.

It must have been horrible.

Once Chef Heidi was removed from the stage the three remaining contestants: Chef Jurg, Chef Mick, and Chef She-Ra received a thirty minute break to prepare for the entrée round. Jurg used his time to shower and change his underwear.

The Entrée Round

“Chef Prep Plate”

“Chef Prep Plate”

Todd introduced the three remaining chefs to the mystery ingredients that they must use in this round. These included: Filet Mignon, summer squash, and something green. Jurg did not recognize it . He did not know the name that Todd used for the green thing , but he knew what he was going to do with it. They each had thirty minutes to prepare their dish.

Chef Jurg wanted to grill the Filet. He wanted to prepare it rare, or bleu, or Englische Art (as his mother would have said). He wanted to julienne the summer squash and do something flamboyant with it, he wasn’t yet sure what. The green thing – well, he would grind that up and make a sausage.

He began with the green thing, grinding it up with cottage cheese and feeding it into a sausage casing. He parboiled the sausage and then set it into a pan to fry in a shallow bath of olive oil. He was still at a loss on how to jazz up the summer squash and he finally decided that he should change the colour. One of the things that the judges always looked for was a ‘transformation’ of the mystery ingredients. He found no food colour in the pantry but he found a can of pickled beets. Draining the beet juice into a saucepan he added his matchsticks of summer squash and set them to simmer on the stove-top. Turning finally to the filet he placed it on the grill and cooked all four sides for about a minute and a half each.

At this point he had only three and a half minutes remaining. He began to plate his dish. A flourish of Au Jus made from an envelope and heated in the microwave decorated the plate. He cut the casing from the green sausage and curled it in the center of the plate. Summer squash matchsticks, now blood-red and curled from cooking in the beet juice, he arranged in three piles around the coiled sausage. He placed three slices of Filet, each about 2cm thick, atop the other ingredients and then spooned more Au Jus over the whole thing.

“Time’s up,” announced Todd, “step away from your workstation.”

Chef Jurg lifted his hands, stepped back and smiled. He felt strong and confident.

Too much fun.