11 Apr PART 4, From Zeina’s Kitchen to Television
The idea of not making it to the final round never crossed my mind. I could not be sent home and I wasn’t.
The judges praised my dish. One of them even said it was the best of the first 3 she had tasted. I knew at that moment that I was safe, plus I noticed that while the judges deliberated, the staff was setting up my cooking station for the third and final round, something they normally would do only after hearing the verdict. They also knew that my dish had passed the test.
Round three. It felt like I had been cooking for 12 hours, but I still had so much adrenaline. I was ready for the last dish and starting to feel like I could actually win this! Even though curry was the main ingredient required in the last dish and I had never cooked curry before, I am not a fan of curry at all. I had practiced making Thai. My curry shrimp had to be better than everyone else’s final dish. Unfortunately, it didn’t matter how much the judges liked the earlier plates we served. They would decide the winner based on the final curry plates. And they were going to taste these final dishes without knowing who made what.
I was ready to compete against the three remaining contestants- all of them professional chefs! I felt excitement and relief knowing that in 35 minutes all of the cooking would be done. I danced on the spot, behind my front row cooking station, unable to stand still. I couldn’t wait to get started.
It didn’t take long before the smell of curry floated over all over us. Not my favorite scent but I was able to block it out and keep a smile on my face, being so happy and proud that I was still there cooking. I had made it through the entire show!
The half hour passed in the blink of an eye. “Five minutes!” I shouted.
This was it! Waiting for my noodles to crisp was so stressful. I worried that they wouldn’t in time. I started talking them…Yes, the noodles. “Come on, you can do this! You’re almost there. I need you, crisp a little more for me, please.”
Time was running out I had to plate. With under two minutes to go, I used my hands to take the hot shrimp right out of the pan and arrange them on my plate. It’s interesting how in this extreme state of adrenaline I didn’t even feel the heat.
With less than 10 seconds to spare I was the last one to present my plate, rushing to get it on the counter before the clock ran out. I place my dish under my designated number. The number 4, of course.
We were all done. With a sigh of relief, I knew I put everything I had into the competition. I left it on the table. It was all about the judges now.
I was confident after they tasted the first two competitors’ dishes. Their comments were not all positive, so I knew I still had a chance. Then, they tasted dish number 3. They were very pleased with it and had mostly positive comments. I was so nervous I new the that it would be between the third competitor and me. Judge Kimberly gave me a mixed review, saying that there was not enough sauce, but the shrimp was cooked perfectly, and the flavors were well balanced. Judge Mathieu loved my take on curry shrimp. He disagreed with Kimberly and thought mine was a perfect dish.
It took about ten minutes for the judges to return from their final deliberation. The time had come to reveal the winner. All four remaining participants were now standing behind their plates. In the blink of an eye, my heart sank, #3 was called and declared the winner.
It took me a few days and a couple sleepless night to stop analyzing my dish. My mind worked overtime thinking how I could have made it differently, better. Then finally, I accepted the results. I did the best I could. Her dish was better then mine and that’s why she won.
I will always remember this experience as a positive one. Having to work so fast and under pressure in an unfamiliar kitchen setting did not scare me. It reminded me of my strengths. I loved the rush and the competition aspect. Not to mention how validating it felt having renowned celebrity Chefs praise my cooking. I look forward to other opportunities to compete on television and I would like to have my own TV cooking show.
To be able to teach how to make delicious home meals in almost no time and the different techniques to cook many things at once, would be a dream come true.