Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge review: A melting pot of Thanksgiving flavors


Move over grandma’s turkey recipe. On this week’s Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge, the chefs prove that this food holiday is a melting pot of flavor.

Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge is going to change how you look at the traditional Thanksgiving meal. While the turkey might be the star of the table, the flavors on the meal do not have to be bland and boring. Are you ready to dig into this week’s Food Network episode?

After the first chef was eliminated in the Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge premiere, the five remaining chefs had a tall order in the first challenge in this episode. Each chef was tasked with creating a particular meal while still channeling Thanksgiving flavors. Thanksgiving pizza anyone?

Looking at this particular challenge, it is a great example for the home cook. Who hasn’t looked at the leftover turkey and said, not another sandwich? Why not transform those leftovers into some quite tasty.

The key to this challenge was to reimagine the comfort foods while not completely losing sight of both Thanksgiving flavors and the comfort foods themselves. In some ways, this first challenge was harder than it seemed.

One key to getting this challenge right was the Thanksgiving spices. Even if the dish was totally out of the box, the Thanksgiving spices seem to bring it all back to the eating holiday.

After seeing all the dishes, including tacos, pizzas and more, there was one clear winner. Robin’s burger was a clear favorite with the judges. Not only did the burger have all the Thanksgiving flavors, it stood on its own as well. It was juicy, bold and was the perfect bite.

While all the other dishes were good, there were flaws in each of the dishes. From an underdeveloped soup to too much cranberry in the lasagna, those issues kept these chefs out of contention.

Robin’s advantage for winning the first challenge was that he was able choose flavor for the main challenge and he assigned the flavors to the other chefs. In many ways, this advantage was huge. No one wants to get stuck with a flavor profile that they can’t execute.

Each chef had to create a Thanksgiving inspired meal that focused on a particular global cuisine. Given that cooking is a giant melting pot, this concept shouldn’t have been too difficult for the chefs. Even if a chef doesn’t normally cook a particular style of food, everyone should be familiar with most flavors.

Truthfully, this particular challenge had a lot of opportunity for the chefs and some of them seemed to miss the mark. The chefs who pushed beyond the obvious and didn’t get flustered did well. The other chefs seemed to just make a dish.

One of the most successful dishes was Eric’s Thai inspired meal. While Robin thought that he was giving Eric a difficult cuisine, Eric stepped up to the occasion. The roast duck with cranberry coconut rice felt like a big celebratory meal.

While not a Thanksgiving turkey with Thai flavors, the dish captured the spirit of a Thanksgiving feast. There were layers of flavor and overall the plate of food had a connection.

That concept is an idea that anyone can borrow when cooking Thanksgiving dinner. The connection between cook and food is vital. When someone puts their heart into a dish, the food really shines.

Also, Robin shined with his Chinese inspired Thanksgiving meal. The soy braised turkey had a touch of elegance that stunned the judges. Also, his use of warm spices conveyed the Thanksgiving feel.

Again, Robin made the connection between the two difference styles. Each bite was a reminder that the holiday is about being grateful and making a connection. This plate of food accomplished that task.

While Eric and Robin’s dishes impressed the judges, the other three chefs’ dishes had some faults. Although nothing was a complete disaster, the little slips couldn’t be overlooked.

Christian tended to nail the Indian flavors, but his turkey was dry. Everyone knows that a dry turkey is the ultimate Thanksgiving don’t. Still, his plate of food was good enough to keep him in the competition.

Truthfully, if it wasn’t for the dry turkey, Christian should have been a top choice. His approach to this challenge was creative. Even though he had a slight mishap, he is a strong contender in the Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge.

The two women chefs were slightly less successful. Jen seemed stumped from the beginning. In many ways, Mexico shouldn’t have been a hard challenge. With the abundance of flavors and ingredients, she should have executed better.

From the beginning, Jen was in her head. Without a clear plan, she seemed destined to have a bad day in the kitchen. Her undercooked potatoes were a symptom of that situation.

Kelly was not happy about having to cook Italian food. After the dismal lasagna in the first challenge, this cuisine didn’t really spark her interest. As Carla Hall said, her meal was more soul food with Italian toppings.

In many ways, Kelly’s dish was just ok. There was nothing exciting or innovative about it. With so many possibilities, this dish was just underwhelming.

Still, the judges looked at the totality of the plate. Since Jen had undercooked potatoes, her dish caused her to be sent home. After last week’s tasty offerings, it was disappointing to see her eliminated.

With just a couple more episodes left in this season of the Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge, it will be curious to see which chef can string together several strong dishes. Only the chef who can find the balance between creativity and tradition will win this Food Network competition.

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What did you think of this week’s Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge? Which chef do you think has the best chance of winning?