Once again on this week‘s Recipe to Riches, the show’s formula stayed pretty much the same. But for some reason, the whole package seemed to fit better than ever before (perhaps familiarity breeds acceptance, not contempt). The best part of each week’s episode is without a doubt the batch-up challenge, where ordinary home chefs are confronted with making inhuman quantities of their recipes—even with the help of their professional mentors, it’s a test of their leadership and ingenuity, and it makes for some good TV. This week, the appetizer challenge, was no exception. Our episode recap and tasting panel, after the jump.
This week featured the show’s first GTA contestant, Diana Petrini of Woodbridge, who brought a family recipe for some delicious-looking olives that were stuffed with minced beef and veal before being breaded and fried. She got dealt the toughest hand in the batch-up challenge, which required a whopping 500 portions of each appetizer, with each olive counting as only half a portion. After what looked like hours of inefficient olive pitting, the producers took mercy on her and handed over some pitted olives (the moral, apparently: be careful what you ask for in your ingredient list). Petrini was up against New Brunswick’s John Grass, who made a bacon and cheese–wrapped chicken appetizer he called chicken grenades, and Sara Bradeen of Montreal, who valiantly decided to introduce tourtière to the rest of Canada. Sadly, in a running theme for the show, Bradeen had difficulties multiplying her quantities up 500 times, and so her minced meat went bland, taking her out of the running (with both tourtière and pouding chômeur eliminated, things aren’t looking good for a new poutine-like breakthrough from La Belle Province). For the marketing challenge, Grass—a former football player with a heart of gold who now works at a family-run nursing home—employed a troupe of firefighters to shill his man food outside a somewhat deserted looking Simcoe Place. For her olive lapedonesi, Petrini decided to go with a “high-end cocktail party” in Dundas Square, of all places, where, inevitably, she encountered a construction crew. In the end, it came down to a risk (funny-sounding battered olives) versus a sure bet (bacon, cheese and chicken). And it probably didn’t help Petrini that Galen Weston Jr. doesn’t like olives. In the end, Grass took the win.
The bright orange box with a cartoon Grass holding a red chili like a football didn’t exactly inspire confidence in this week’s product. Nor did the 10 little skewers, all shrink-wrapped and frozen together (it took some force to pry them apart). But the first thing out of the mouths of our tasting-panel members after the first bite: “Wow. These are good.” The chicken inside actually had the flavour and texture of chicken, and the bacon wrapping kept everything moist. Some people found the spiciness a little much after a few seconds, and others didn’t love the gooey “shredded pizza mozzarella and Monterey Jack” cheese mix (much of which leached off during cooking). One panel member likened the grenades, favourably, to Doritos. When we returned to our desks, the soporific nutritional effects began to kick in: each little two-skewer serving contains 12 per cent of your recommended daily sodium intake and 21 per cent of your saturated fats. In other words, this is indeed total man food. Said one taster: “When I saw that football player guy on the box, I thought ‘This makes sense.’” Check out the grenades in our box-to-plate gallery »
Next week on Recipe to Riches: savoury pies, with Burnaby’s Melaney Gleeson-Lyall, Brampton’s Wayne Reid and the show’s only Toronto contestant, Tikka Smiley.
(Images: John Grass and homemade chicken grenade, Food Network Canada; tasting photos, Andrew D’Cruz)