Bravotv.com: This week we have Stefan and CJ, who have a very strong rivalry.
Gail Simmons: This definitely is the first episode where there was a real rivalry, and it was clear they had bones to pick with each other. I think that happens with Stefan and a lot of people.
I've come to like Stefan over the years I've known him. He pushes people, though. There's an extreme cockiness and arrogance to him. I really believe he doesn't mean for it come across that way. I could be giving him too much credit, but I feel like there's an element that is lost in translation, so to speak. There's something about the intonation of his voice that makes him seem more arrogant, and I think he doesn't realize how it comes across. CJ just calls him out on it, which I appreciate -- so there is an element of rivalry between them for sure.
Bravotv.com: And that comes across in their challenges for each other.
GS: They both really went for it in their challenges, trying to be smart with each other and do something that the think the other wouldn't be able to manage. Stephan's smoking challenge is a good one -- it's hard to smoke something well in such a short time -- and something we haven't had before. They both cooked beautiful dishes. Stefan's salmon was perfect in its execution. Texturally it was so light and delicate and delicious. The dill, mustard, and potato together are a classic combination for a reason. It was just really safe. Not just safe, almost boring. As much as I enjoyed eating it, it wasn't that creative, and considering it was his challenge, I was expecting a little more.
Then there was CJ's pike-perch. He's changed his cooking style so much in the past year. This dish was really creative and interesting, exactly what I was looking for from this challenge. Show me real smoke, but show me delicate usage so I'm not getting a acrid mouthful. Show me smoke that does something different and improves the dish. That's what CJ did. He brought in so many other flavors. The perch had a little bit of a tricky texture, but it didn't bother me at all. I enjoyed it.
Bravotv.com: And then CJ's butt challenge. . .
GS: I thought that was kind of funny. It wasn't so much that he thought Stefan wouldn't be good at cooking butts. It was more to be cheeky and funny and do something a little out there – use the butt of any animal, which really can mean the hind legs and that whole area.
I loved how their styles were completely opposite. Stefan did a Thai coconut soup with pork butt dumplings. I found the dumplings a little bit spongy. But it was a delicious dish. The soup was really thick. He called it a soup, but it really ate like sauce, so it was intense. I couldn't have eaten a whole bowl of it, that's for sure.
CJ made Fava Beans, Morrels, and thinly sliced Grilled Pork. It was so much greater than the sum of its parts. The sauce felt so rich and had so much depth. I was amazed he made it in 30 minutes. He seemed to have given it so much preparation and thought. It was impressive.
Bravotv.com: So CJ sweeps the first two rounds.
GS: But not by a wide margin. Stefan really did a great job too.