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Cajun Chef Ryan

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Lessons Learned from Hell’s Kitchen (HK) Contestants

October 27th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Enjoy learning something everyday in the culinary world and even primetime television can find a golden nugget here or there, and without trying. Hell’s Kitchen (HK) Season 6 ended a few weeks ago with the top contestants vying for the coveted head chef position at the Araxi restaurant in the Whistler Resort, British Columbia, and site of the Olympic Winter Games in 2010.

Dave Levey iamge

Dave Levey, of San Diego, CA (Hometown: Chester, New Jersey) won the competition and right to work for one year as the top chef under James Walt, executive chef of the Araxi Restaurant and Bar, his stint begins on January 4, 2010, just six weeks before the games begin.

According to Walt, the first two weeks for Dave will be working all the stations to rotate experience throughout the Araxi kitchen. The hope is that he will be ready when the 4,500 reservations start pouring into the dining room as the Games kick off on February 12 and run through the 28th.

A few weeks before the Hell’s Kitchen series came to a close the top five contestants had the opportunity to prepare a meal in 45 minutes and judged by the Bon Appetite editorial staff along with Gordon Ramsay. The recipes for this competition were available for download on the Fox HK site and upon reading and reviewing the document; each contestants writing style keenly reflects in their individual ingredient and procedure formats.

The learning points from HK contestants include a sauce, salad, a dressing and a gumbo. Every chef will prepare their own variations of common and basic preparations; it is always a treat to see how a chef prepares their version of a Beurre blanc, gumbo, marinade, vinaigrette dressing or salad.

Ariel Fox iamgeAriel Contreras-Fox of Los Angeles, CA did a Pan-Seared Black Cod with Shiitake Ponzu and Baby Bok Choy. Until reading the recipe, Ponzu was unknown to my culinary database, so research showed me a few variations including hers with mirin, soy sauce, water, yuzu juice and corn syrup. I have worked with mirin and soy sauce, but yuzu juice was a new ingredient for my vocabulary. Not only did Ariel shed light on a preparation, but an ingredient as well. Since Ponzu is a citrus-based sauce, the yuzu provides this for the preparation. According to About.com Japanese food, Ponzu means various citrus juices. The sour sauce made with citrus juice, soy sauce, vinegar, mirin, dashi stock, or katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), or Kombu (kelp) is often called Ponzu shoyu or Ponzu sauce. Ponzu sauce typically is used for dipping shabu shabu, mizutaki, and so on.

Ariel’s recipe uses 1 cup of light soy sauce, 1 cup of warm water, 1 ounce of mirin, 2 ounces of yuzu juice and 1 ounce of corn syrup. In the remaining recipe, she also deglazes the pan with the sauce, reduces the sauce, and serves it over the pan-seared cod.

Come back tomorrow for the second lesson learned.

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Tags: Television

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 JessieNo Gravatar // Oct 28, 2009 at 12:13 am

    I’ve watched Hell’s Kitchen several times and I know it must be hard having to come up with your own variation of certain dishes or sauces. This is a great article!

  • 2 Cajun Chef RyanNo Gravatar // Oct 28, 2009 at 8:08 am

    AbleReach comment on this post through Stumble Upon toolbar: Ponzu is marvy stuff to play with. Corn syrup version sounds pretty boring to me, but then again I like to cook as close to the vine as possible, for flavor and for feeling in touch with the ingredients. I’ve played with combining lime jiuce, soy sauce & rice vinegar (or even white wine that’s started to turn somewhat gracefully) as “ponzu.” It’s great on a salad – tear up leftover chicken, bed of wilted greens, touch of toasted sesame (seeds or oil)

  • 3 Jessica @ How Sweet It IsNo Gravatar // Oct 28, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    This is a great post. I actually have only watch Hell’s Kitchen a few times, but hopefully I will catch it more often now.

  • 4 BiancaNo Gravatar // Oct 28, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Great article. I love watching Hell’s Kitchen so thank you for posting this!