'The Chopping Block' visits Central Park

Panyarice_thechoppingblock_240 It was a big night tonight on " The Chopping Block." For the first time on the show, Marco actually got to fire someone! Yes, it was three weeks in the making, but Marco finally got to flex those muscles and can people tonight. If only he'd made someone cry.

Also on the upside, the challenge was much more of a traditional cook-something good using the time allotted variety. They could only use food that they saw in Central Park. They didn't have to get it from the park, but it had to exist there, including various proteins that one imagines could be present there (strangely, no rat). It was a challenge that was both understandable and which seemed to have a great deal of validity (fresh foods using local ingredients).

Of course, understandable doesn't mean successful. Red couldn't debone their fish and ended up having to change their idea halfway through. Black came away as the victor, meaning that they were going to have a manager to help the front of house during service. It was huge for them as there would be no reservation book, they'd just have people coming in off the street.

Red, the loser, got no one and boy did they need someone to help them smooth things out. Panya was still fighting with Vanessa, Panya saw Vanessa as standing in her "path" to victory. Obviously they're all standing in each other's path as only one person can win, but Panya seemed to be sabotaging the entire team by allowing her anger to come across so clearly and refusing to work with the other people. Vanessa wasn't without blame, but to me Panya seemed the aggressor.

If any of you run a restaurant out there maybe you can explain this next bit to me. Dean wanted to put Angie's crab cakes -- the ones everyone loved last week -- back on the menu. Angie apparently didn't want them there. Why wouldn't she want a successful dish of hers on the menu? This week they were cooking for people coming in off the street, not the same party that they had last week, so it's not like anyone would see the crab cakes and say "oh, those again," so I don't understand her reluctance.

They did hear an "again," but it came from Marco because Dean was Black's head chef once more. Angie stupefied me with that one too. Dean offered her the opportunity to run the kitchen, but Angie wanted no part of the job. Surely she wants to win this competition and knows that she'll have to eventually prove to Marco that she can handle running a kitchen, right?

Who knows, maybe Angie thought she'd appear as out of her depth as Kelsey did taking over the reins on the Red side. The woman had no idea how to call out a ticket to the kitchen. If she can't do that, why would she think she can run a restaurant?

In fact, people in both restaurants seemed hugely out of their depth tonight, but Marco wasn't really helping them either. He told them that their menu ought to be "inspired" by stuff they found in the park and ought to include four entrees from the park. The kitchens figured that meant that some of the items on their menus (including four entrees) ought to be made from ingredients that were in the park. What he actually meant was that he was going to eliminate from their menu anything -- including starters -- that weren't based on what they saw in the park.

No, it wasn't unfair of him to require that all the dishes be based on food the teams saw in the park, but he should say that it was a requirement, not just that it ought to be true of four entrees. To make it a hidden requirement and force both restaurants to change some starters a few hours before service seems more than a little unfair to the kitchens.

What I was thrilled to see this week was that the show eschewed a food critic. Instead, all the customers filled out Zagat reviews, and the lower rated restaurant was the loser. The Red folks ended up going down again (not that Black did well by any stretch of the imagination). Even though the food scored the same in both places, Red scored lower on both décor and service.

Guess what happened during the elimination? Panya instantly got attacked (though strangely it came from Anapol), and she turned right around and went after Vanessa. She then proceeded to state that there was "racial tension" on the Red team. Everyone, including Marco dismissed the charge. Marco didn't comment on it at all. What he did say was that he wouldn't accept a disruptive force on the team, and that clearly Panya was a disruptive force. She and Michael were dismissed this week.

Not only am I not sorry to see Panya go (though I will miss Michael), I'm thrilled that we actually got a firing this week instead of someone else just quitting. Fingers crossed, I think things are looking up.

What say you, did the show take a step in the right direction this week?

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