Season 1, Episode 2

The Games Begin

Now that the mentors have selected their teams, the real competition begins. In their first challenge, the cooks are tasked with elevating kitchen classics. Guest judge Chef Anne Burrell will decide which cooks will go to the elimination challenge, The Pressure Cooker, where they must turn a plain chicken breast into an amazing dish if they want to stay in the competition.
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The Games Begin

Ted welcomes the final regional teams to their first day of battle. "Today, the real competition and the eliminations begin for all of you," he says. Not only are the cooks affected by the outcome, but so are the mentors, because if a mentor loses both cooks, he or she will also be eliminated. For their first challenge of the day, the cooks must reinvent a classic dish and have it judged by a guest chef.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

SOS Signals Mentor Help

During the challenge a mentor can’t help his or her cooks without pushing the SOS button, which grants 60 seconds of extra time — and each mentor can use the SOS button only once. Stephanie decides to make Asian-style fish tacos and Marc wants to make sloppy joes, possibly with a Mediterranean flair. "I would love to see you make that with lamb," Michael tells him.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Capturing the Essence of Classic Dishes

Phillip decides to make mac and cheese with crab. Tyler has him use sourdough breadcrumbs for the topping to capture "rustic, beautiful, California cooking." Sheri wants to make spaghetti and meatballs with an Asian twist, but Tyler steers her to be "more traditional," using bread soaked in milk. "I have to trust my mentor, and I have to trust his instincts," she says.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Learning to Eat Meat Again

As a former vegetarian, Stephanie is now focused on learning to cook animal proteins. She says she feels she’s in good hands, having "an Iron Chef standing behind" her. Her Asian-inspired tacos are off to a good start, until she has trouble with her cast-iron skillet overheating. Luckily Michael uses the SOS button to help her out. "My fish is totally saved," she says. "Michael Symon knows exactly what he's doing."

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Tough Love in the Battlefield

Sheri starts on her meatballs, but halfway through she forgets to incorporate a component Tyler wanted her to do, which was to use milk-soaked bread. Tyler was hoping to use his SOS later in the round, but as soon as he sees Sheri's mistake, he can't help but run to save her. "You're gonna go home if you can't focus," he tells her.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Presentation Is Key

Seeing that Nikki has burned her individual mac and cheeses, Cat rushes down to help her out. She's concerned about the taste, but also about how Nikki intends to plate her dish. "Think about maybe a little petite salad on the side," she tells Nikki. Meanwhile Cat notices Ben isn't utilizing the grill to toast his tortillas, so she gets both cooks back in line.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Searching for Flavor

This week's guest judge is Anne Burrell, and she will decide who from each team will go to the Pressure Cooker, the elimination round. On tasting the dishes from Team South, Anne finds Ben's tacos are "good" but don't offer "a ton of flavor." Anne appreciates Nikki's Trinidadian take on mac and cheese, but finds Cat's addition of the salad unnecessary. Ben goes to the Pressure Cooker for his underwhelming tacos.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Learning How to Season the Hard Way

Anne finds Sheri's meatballs underseasoned and believes Sheri didn't make a test patty, which is actually the case. Anne commends Phillip for his super-creamy bechamel: "It's got a really nice texture, really nice mouthfeel." But she thinks the crabmeat gets lost among all the ingredients. In the end Sheri gets sent to the Pressure Cooker.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Hiding Behind a Story

Christina presents her mac and cheese to Anne, who right away notices the pasta wasn't seasoned enough. Anne says, "I feel like you gave me two separate dishes," referring to the mushroom layer. Hannah has a nice story for her North African sloppy joes, but it doesn't hide the fact that it lacked seasoning and "something to make it feel like it was all brought together." Hannah goes to the Pressure Cooker.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Presentation Belies Flavor

Anne goes in for a taste of Stephanie's fish tacos, commending her for the presentation, but finding the homemade tortillas too thick and the fish underseasoned. On Marc's dish, she says, "I like the idea of taking a spin on a sloppy joe to the lamb world." Her only issue is that it's too sweet. Ultimately Anne sends Stephanie to the Pressure Cooker.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Blanking on a Blank Canvas

Ted reveals the challenge for the Pressure Cooker round: "We're giving you an ingredient that is really a blank canvas," he says, as the four cooks must grill chicken. "I look at this boneless, skinless chicken breast," says Sheri, "and I give Tyler the panicked look." Luckily Tyler reassures her with his plan to have her first poach the chicken and then grill it.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Knowing When to Be Gentle or Fierce

Michael is concerned about Stephanie, who's pounding away at the breast to make paillard. "She has very little experience cooking protein," he says, "and she's very nervous." So he decides to push his SOS button and help her out. "You just got to be a little more gentle with it this time," he says. "All those years of being a vegetarian, you got aggressive."

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Don't Chicken Out Now

Alex sees that Hannah is really intimidated by this challenge because she dislikes chicken breast, so Alex presses her SOS button and runs down to help Hannah. "I want her to kind of plug in and connect with the ingredient," says Alex, showing her how to pound it and grill it. "I am not gonna give up on this chicken," says Hannah, "and this time, I know I've done it absolutely right."

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Focused and Assured

"I really want to make sure that Ben really pulls some bold flavor into this," says Cat before hitting her SOS button. She doesn't need to do much to help him except offer a few tips on seasoning his special bourbon-maple glaze for the chicken. She's proud to see he's super focused and tells him: "You know how to do this. You've done it, right, a million times at home, so do exactly how you do it at home."

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

The Chicken Breast Spectrum

"I have to say chicken breast poses a big challenge to you guys to see what you can do with it and to cook it well without drying it out," says Anne as she prefaces her comments to Sheri, "but the texture of your chicken breast is delightful." However, Anne is unimpressed by the pot. Tyler tries to explain his reasoning as a riff on pot-au-feu. Although Anne finds the pot too big, she calls it "a very respectable job."

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

The Results Are In

Anne loves Stephanie's chicken paillard, saying, "If I got served this plate of food in a restaurant, I'd be very excited about it." On the other hand she finds Ben's chicken "cooked to within an inch of its life." Regarding Hannah's dish, she sees the "bones of this dish are really good," but it lacked in execution. Anne names Stephanie's and Sheri's dishes as her top two, putting Ben and Hannah in the bottom two.

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

One Home Cook Down

Ultimately Anne decides Ben should continue on in the competition, which means Hannah leaves. "I think the idea of what you were trying to accomplish with your chicken was a good one," Anne tells her. "I just think that dish just lacked a little bit of finesse." Alex is now down to one cook, Christina. "It's very disheartening to lose a cook," says Alex, "and I feel like I disappointed her as a mentor."

Photo By: Emile Wamsteker ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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