Category: Rachel vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook Off

Carnie and Dean have a love-in before heading to Beverly Hills for their final challenge. As a reminder, the prize is a $50,000 donation to the winning celebrity’s charity. Carnie’s is the Autism Research Institute, and Dean’s is Miracle Babies, which raises funds to help parents who have used or need to use neo-natal intensive care units (NICU).

They’ll be throwing a dinner party for 11 guests: Rachel and Guy, six chefs from L.A.’s hottest eateries, a representative from each charity, and someone whom Rachel describes as internationally known and the funniest woman she knows. Guy says that she won’t pull any punches, and Dean starts cracking up because he’s already guessed it’s Kathy Griffin. Carnie hollers in dismay.

The twist is that they’ll be walking into the kitchen completely blind. They won’t know what equipment they get, or what the pantry holds. They’ll be doing three courses, and the chefs and Kathy will determine the winner. They’ll have 30 minutes to make an appetizer, forty for the main course, and 20 for dessert. It sounds like they’re getting some surprise help, and I’m quite sure it’ll be the eliminated contestants. It’ll be interesting to see who they pick. Rachel is obviously reading her lines off the cards in her hand and it’s a little distracting.

Guy and Rachel take their chefs off to strategize. Since they don’t know what food they’ll have, Guy tells Dean to pick a theme. Dean says light, bright, airy and elegant. Guy likes elegant, and decadent! They’re not synonyms, Guy. But that’s the path he leads Dean down. Well, it worked with the lunch trucks. Carnie’s freaking out, thinking she doesn’t have any ideas in her head. Rachel helps her see that in fact, she does.

When they discuss the main course, Guy tells Dean that short of tackling Carnie, he needs to nail down his proteins. Carnie suggests chicken cutlets to Rachel. Rachel says OK, but she needs a back-up in case there aren’t any cutlets. Carnie says she can butcher a chicken if need be. Rachel replies that there might not be ANY chicken. Carnie freaks.

The two head into the kitchen and put on their well-earned official chef coats and start to prep for the appetizer. Carnie’s in a lather because she can’t seem to focus enough to actually see what’s on the shelves in front of her. Dean finds the scallops and lobster he was hoping for. He’ll make seared scallops, butter-poached lobster tail, and a mango gastrique. Carnie wants to make tuna dip but can’t seem to find any tuna.

Rachel and Guy walk in and start taunting them about giving/getting them some help. Dean’s the freaked out one, now. Probably because they’re on the clock and those two clowns are screwing around with this. Better than eliminated chefs are Dean’s BFF Scout and Carnie’s BFF, whose name I can’t understand. It sounds like Stany. Stany calms Carnie down to where the latter can find the tuna for her dip. Those of you who watch Tori and Dean’s shows know that Scout is one of the kids’ guncles.

Dean’s got so much going on, he’s completely taken over the kitchen and Carnie has to plate on the pantry floor. With one minute left, Dean starts plating. The producers’ trick of showing clips of unrelated things patched together to make it seem like something else has happened has got me worried. One of the chefs is saying “It’s too much” and a) for this course, Carnie kept saying she was following the K.I.S.S. rule, while b) Dean has an interview where he says he should’ve and didn’t.

The chefs introduce their dishes, and while I would swear I saw Dean chopping a mango, he says his dressing is orange-tarragon.  The too much comment turns out to be because Carnie served what looked like a soup bowl of dip with four chips and three celery stalks. Kathy says it’s not overwhelmed with tuna taste, though, and I want to try it. Obviously, I want to try Dean’s, too.

Dean and Carnie rush back to start their main course. Carnie’s in the pantry and talking her dish choices over with Stany, trying to keep the K.I.S.S. rule in mind. She dumps the chicken picatta idea for jalapeno and lime shrimp with pesto pasta. I’d cut out the jalapeno, but other than that, it sounds good. Dean can’t find a bone-in meat like Guy recommended, so he decides to do a flank steak-wrapped petite filet on top of smashed red potatoes. I always thought this was just a different name for mashed potatoes, but after they’re boiled, we see Dean actually smashing each one with his fist. Then he says he’s going to make asparagus tips sauteeed with pancetta and finished with a brandy flambe. Then he decides it would be good with a mushroom gravy, and hey, he likes cauliflower, so a curried cauliflower puree would show he can also work with curry and cumin. Oh dear. Talk about not keeping it simple. He agrees that the curry will probably make it disjointed. I’m cringing, knowing how well this type of thing would go over on Top Chef or even Masterchef. Sure enough, when we come back from commercial, there’s left than seven minutes on the clock and his filets aren’t even on the grill.  Carnie adds some tequila to deglaze her pan, and Stany stops her when she thinks she’s poured in enough.

With a minute left, both sous chefs start plating. Carnie’s happy with her dish. Dean says his steaks aren’t consistent and he acknowledges the puree was too much. He explains to the diners that he wrapped the filet because he didn’t have access to fat. They head off to make dessert. The judges do find Dean’s offering disjointed, although they like his execution and flavors. One of the chefs compliments Carnie for taking the time to seed the tomatoes. But they didn’t taste enough of the peppers and tequila.

Back in the kitchen, Carnie’s peeling Granny Smiths for her Baby Apple Fritter Balls. Sounds good. Then she says she’s made donuts but not fritters, and she usually bakes them, but she knows the judges will want the real thing, so she’s deep-frying them. That can be tricky. I think Dean’s finally back to K.I.S.S. — he’s making grilled pound cake with macerated berries, caramel sauce, and syllabub. Well, that’s decadent! Carnie decides to serve her fritters with ice cream. I’d eat every dish at this dinner.

When the two present their desserts, Dean explains that the grilled pound cake was inspired by Kathy Najimy, who used that technique in her last battle. Very classy shout out, Dean.  Interesting, half the chefs think Dean’s dessert was too much, especially the amount of alcohol in the syllabub. The other half think it was perfect. Rachel and Guy leave them and Kathy Griffin to vote.

Final judgement. Rachel and Guy say the Food Network will give the other charity $10,000 and Carnie and Dean are thrilled. That is truly awesome. Then they bring out friends and family for the announcement. I don’t see Tori.

AND DEAN WINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! By one vote. Yeehaw!

See ya next season.

Nina Lisa



Well, if this food truck challenge is based on sales, I don’t see how Dean can win if it’s three against one. I hope there’s only two trucks.

Ha, I like Guy’s name tape.

Oh, good. It’s individual. I just hope Dean wins the overall so he’s not at risk again.

I guess Carnie’s win gave them the advantage. Makes sense.   So does their going with comfort food. That’s a fairly wide range and in most home cooks’ wheelhouse.

Dean’s right about messing up Asian food, from what I’ve seen on other cooking competitions. But he’s not feeling Italian and doesn’t have experience with Mexican? Not good, but if anyone can pull it off, Dean can.

Kathy’s doing her mom’s mac ‘n’ cheese with a Lebanese flair.

Carnie’s making meatballs with brown gravy over mashed potatoes. I kind of agree with Hines’ concerns. I have to hope she goes to pieces because I want Dean to win.

Hines is doing a chili cheese dog. That’s nice and simple. I’m saying this objectively because I don’t care for beans, therefore I don’t like most chili, especially on my hot dogs, but I know it’s a popular item. I like my hot dogs with cheese, ketchup, and onions. I don’t like sweet pickles, so I don’t care for relish, either, but it occurs to me that I usually keep dill relish on hand to make tuna salad. I should try a hot dog with ketchup and dill relish some time.

Guy’s ambitious. A three pork taco is going to be both time-consuming and a lot of work for one man to do. Aaand, he give Dean a vidoe from Tori, and now I’m crying! Those two are such an awesome couple; I just adore them.

Hines’ chili looks good (except for the beans).

Ooh, Kalamata olives in mac ‘n’ cheese would be yummy if the cheese was mozzarella and maybe some Parmesan. I usually brown up some ground beef with curry powder, and put more in the cheese sauce mix for mine. A Bechamel sauce will work, I think. Aaand — Kathy may be going down. I like her, but I gotta hope she crashes and burns so Dean can win.

See, all the prep and the amount of time it takes to cook pork is why I’m so concerned for Dean having to be on his own.

I agree, Carnie, those are the worst peelers ever.

C’mon, Hines, Dean’s being a gentleman letting you use his burner. Don’t take advantage by spying on him.

Interaction isn’t going to be as easy for Dean since he’s alone.  Glad Guy can help out with that a bit.

Good question, Lou! It is a basic chili cheese dog, after all!

My gosh, Carnie used chicken stock for the meatloaf meatballs? You always use the appropriate stock for the meat! You may have to make your own fish stock, but it really adds to the depth of the flavor of the dish.

Ah, I’m worried for Dean again. IMO, presentation doesn’t matter as much at venues like food trucks, and tacos, even soft ones, aren’t meant to be wrapped up in paper like burritos anyway. Just throw it on one of those little paper tray thingies and go.  I don’t think the others screwed up enough to cover those 30 votes, I would’ve liked to have seen/heard Lou Diamond Phillip’s comments, though.

Yes, Guy, Dean’s dish was complicated and time-consuming, and whose fault is that?

What the hell is “snap” and why does a hot dog need it?

Mint, parsley and black olives? I can see the last two, especially with the bechamel, but mint? Je ne comprends pas.

“Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition”! Dean is through! I admit I got a very slight feeling that’s where Lou dropped his golden ticket. Something about the way he said good luck.

I like how Dean is cheering the others (I know we’re shown mainly Hines) on.

Kathy, I think putting it in a pan and tasting it as you go is how the best cooks work. Recipes are more for a list of potential ingredient ideas. Unless you’re baking.

Carnie’s in the zone! Go, Carnie!

Yeah, I thought three minutes for shrimp wouldn’t be long enough. Raw food usually sends people home on Top Chef; I don’t think it’ll be any different here.

I think it’s fairly even between Carnie and Kathy in terms of presentation. I think more garnish vs. less food is a wash. I do think Carnie has a slight edge in the overall flavor and composition.

The dishes I’d like to try from this episode were: all of them. I’d pick the beans off the chili dog and whatever I didn’t like off Kathy’s dessert just to try them, because I think they’re all fantastic cooks.

Yep, not really surprised. Good show, Carnie!

I’m writing this the afternoon of the finale, so break a leg, Dean!

I think if Johnny had left the sausage in the casing, he would’ve won. Or at least had a better chance. I’m very worried about Dean-O now, but Johnny does have my respect and I hope his husband knows what a catch he’s got.

This isn’t the first time Rico Rodriguez has had to judge a food competition. I don’t recall what show had their cheftestants serve lunch to the cast and crew of Modern Family some time last year, but I remember then being impressed by his knowledge of what he did and didn’t like, and ability to express it. So much better than the staged interviews at the party where some kid is trying to sound like a food critic and their pal is reduced to saying, “Me, too.” after an excruciatingly long pause while they try to remember their line.

I was way psyched to see that Dean has his own blog: because when I went there I saw that he’s got his first recipe up. Here’s hoping for the rest of them, including Dragon Breath!

I also want to try Johnny’s sausage sandwich and Carnie’s dog and ketchup (I usually eat my hotdogs with cheese, ketchup, and onions, so the addition of bacon sounds wonderful!), Carnie’s sloppy Joes to see for myself about the flavors, Johnny’s chicken fries, Dean’s pizza, Kathy’s S’more Krispies, and Hines’ quesadillas.

Help me next week by crossing your fingers for Dean and sending good wishes his way!

Nina Lisa

And once more, technique wins! Whew! Big ol’ sigh of relief from this viewer, let me tell you! And since “Papa” Dean already critiqued his food and expressed his doubts, let me just jump on that wagon for a second (I believe this would be called armchair cooking?). First, the tuna salad. First, I have to note that we weren’t shown or told absolutely everything he tried to brighten it up. And he probably did add lemon or some kind of acid in an effort to do that. Maybe a little flavored vinegar? Maybe some chopped green onion? I don’t know.

I’m also really concerned about what I’m going to call the “ingredient mismanagement”. This is the 2nd time there wasn’t enough of something to turn out the way he’d originally envisioned it. But again, we weren’t shown exactly what happened, so I don’t know if he discovered there wouldn’t be enough cheese in time to think about adding in a second flavor. I don’t know what Gruyere tastes like, but I thought the one customer’s suggestion of white cheddar might’ve helped.

And then, of course, was the adult milk shake. Two things with this: first, I agree that adding the alcohol was really risky. I could well see the concoction not meeting the whole “diner experience”, since I’m pretty sure they’re supposed to be family friendly by default.  The other risky ingredient was the egg whites.  So many people freak out at the idea of raw eggs in their food (because of the admittedly real possibility of salmonella), and I’m pretty sure restaurants that serve these items (two that come to mind are Caesar dressing and tiramisu) are required to coddle their eggs first. And quite frankly, when I’m serving my tiramisu to people I don’t know well, I make note that both of those particular ingredients are in it. I just list them under possible allergens, along with gluten, dairy, and chocolate.

All that said, I wanted to sample both his dishes. I also wanted to try Johnny and Chilli’s dishes.  I’m bummed that Chilli had to go; I was really beginning to like her.  While I don’t mind the occasional Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, and I love Butterfingers, I don’ think I would’ve liked her milkshake, although I thought it was a good, old-fashioned type of milkshake you’d expect to find in a diner. I hope her charity does well.  For the other team, I wanted to try Hines and Carnie’s dishes. Kathy’s vegetarian club didn’t even sound good to me (and about the only way you’ll get me to eat avocado is in guacamole, so I’d be okay with Johnny’s avocado mayonnaise), but I respect her decision not to use the vegetarian bacon because it tasted bitter.   If the onions in tapenade didn’t provide enough crunch and texture, I don’t know what would’ve. As for the smoky flavor, again, no clue, unless she used a smoky cheese as well, since it seems like she used up all of Dean’s cheese options. (Yes, I know Guy’s team got to go in first.)

Dean’s restaurant experience definitely seemed to help his team this time around, even if the end results weren’t what I hoped (I wanted the team to win, not just Dean to not have to go home), so I hope his experience at being a family man and good with kids in general will help next week, now that they’re another man down.

Nina Lisa

Mainly because I would’ve lost it betting on Team Guy. But not on Daddy Dean.  I didn’t know he had actual restaurant experience, so I’m hoping next week in the diner he’ll really shine. I’m actually sorry Cornelia was the one he had to beat; she gained several points with me when she indicated she likes to go barefoot in her vegetable garden and take care of it, and I think, from the dishes shown so far, she’s probably the better vegetarian cook than Kathy.  And hey, those vegetarian cooks taught me something tonight.  I knew portobello mushrooms are often used as a substitute for meat in hamburgers and other beef dishes because of the taste, but I didn’t realize it’s actually considered a protein. And I didn’t realize eggplant is also considered a protein. I always thought vegetarians only got their proteins from beans (and eggs and cheese if they’re not vegan).  So even though I don’t particularly care for mushrooms unless they’re the canned button ones, or buried in the other pizza toppings, I admit Cornelia’s mushroom dish looked absolutely yummy and I’m tempted to try them now.

I also want to try Johnny’s chicken and water salad, Dean and Cornelia’s corn dishes, Kathy’s eggplant farm-igan, and Dean’s lamb chops and potatoes (how cool was it that he was able to execute a plan B for his potatoes and make a “deconstructed” baked potato, something I don’t always see the Top Chefs do when their menu goes to crap in the same amount of time? Of course, maybe if he’d loaded more baked potato toppings on there, no-one would’ve noticed the lack of salt. And can he just stop with deconstructing everything already?)

I was also impressed, and am glad Guy commented on, Johnny’s ability to redo the salad in the time he had. I suspect (and let’s face it, I’m hoping, because if her team loses, Dean’s guaranteed to stay another week) that Carnie’s mania in the kitchen will hinder her team in the diner challenge. But maybe the clip of her calling herself Lucille Ball is just to throw us off.

I admit I was afraid Dean had overdone it with the unnecessary garnishes, and that his use of prosciutto would give away the fact that he wasn’t the vegetarian cook, but I’m glad some of the garnishes showcased his skill and technique and that his thinking outside of the box gave him the win.

Nina Lisa

So, Dean can cook, no surprise there. So can Chilli, Carnie and Hines. Kathy Najimy and Cornelia Guest (a self-proclaimed socialite shown as having dated both Mick Jagger and Sylvester Stallone) both cook vegetarian/vegan, but fall into the stereotypical “bland” trap. I hope this means all those vegetarian cooking books I downloaded so I’d have more ideas for serving veggies aren’t totally useless.  The big surprise to me is that Johnny Weir can cook. I don’t know why that’s such a surprise. His chicken meatballs sounded delicious, but how hard would it’ve been to toss a little applesauce in there to add moisture if he didn’t want to add fat, instead of drowning them in truffle oil? Of course, the last time I tried something similar, I was making turkey sausage, and I both overworked it and had to buy pre-ground turkey since I can’t run a meat grinder. Point Johnny.

But even as annoying as Gilbert Gottfried is, I almost felt sorry for him when he blanked on cooking anything, and then wound up making PB&J for the “blind” taste test, which defeated the purpose since that’s evidently all he can make.  At the same time, as soon as Rachel said they had to make something they’d make for a midnight snack, I said, “Oh, the PB&J would be good for this.”  And when Gilbert got to the kitchen, in his interview he made the comment that he can’t cook.  Well, then, why’d you even enter a cooking competition in the first place? Surely there are better ways to draw attention to your charity? (I’d post a link but I’ve forgotten the name and can’t find a decent mention of it online).

Food Network has recipes from the Season 1 celebrities; I hope they post some from this season, too. I’d like to try Hines’ wings, Chilli’s tilapia, Kathy’s hummus, Johnny’s chicken meatballs, Dean’s deconstructed S’Mores and Carnie’s bread pudding. I’m still rooting for Dean.

I found the first season quite fascinating. I always feel like we really get to know the celebrities on shows like this, despite the ubiquitous Frankenediting. As a huge Tori and Dean fan, I know he’s actually been to chef school, and am rooting for him. I’m not looking forward to having to listen to Gilbert Gotfried.  I also like Carnie Wilson, Johnny Weir, Kathy Najimy and Hines Ward.

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