Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge review: What happened to Friendsgiving?


This week’s Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge takes a new twist on the food holiday. But, are these chefs still friends after this Friendsgiving?

Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge understands that sometimes that holiday dinner is more festive with friends than family. While Friendsgiving is growing in popularity, does this competitive potluck really offer flavorful gratitude around the table?

For the first challenge, the four remaining chefs are split into teams of two. While team challenges can prove somewhat difficult, these chefs seemed to have cooking harmony. Could that stress-free cook lead to some tasty teamwork?

These two meals might not be a traditional Thanksgiving fare, but that idea is part of Friendsgiving. With goose and Cornish game hen as the proteins, these dishes had a touch of traditional but brought a lot of creativity to the table. That creativity is essential to a great Friendsgiving.

Looking at the Korean fried goose, Eric and Robin’s dish, this plate of food focused on the creativity factor. The sauce really brought the flavor. Although the goose, itself, was a little tough, the cracklin (fried skin) was a great added bonus.

For Christian and Kelli, the fried Cornish game hen played on the traditional but still felt fresh. There was a sense of hominess to this dish. The grits paired with the brightness of the green beans made a lovely balance of flavor.

In the end, it came down to Carla Hall as the decision maker. With Alex Guarnascelli picking the Korean fried goose and Christian Petroni picking the Cornish game hen, Carla was the tiebreaker.

Winning the first round and the advantage was Christian and Kelli. In a way, it seems that a slightly more traditional Friendsgiving reigned supreme.

The main challenge had the chefs create a “Black Friday” meal. While this idea might have seemed like a leftovers challenge, it was more of the “Chopped” mystery box challenge. The task was to take several different ingredients and incorporate them into one cohesive meal. All ingredients had to be used in either the entrée, side or dessert.

For their advantage, Christian and Kelli could choose their ingredients first. Finding ingredients that work together is key. Still, all these ingredients may not have a common thread.


This challenge is really an express of how these chefs think. Most chefs can create a delicious meal with ingredients that they enjoy using. Even cooking a meal with a theme can help to keep a chef on track. This broad, almost unclear, ingredient list really tests a chef’s adaptability and ingenuity.

Looking at the four different meals, each one had both highs and lows. The key to deciding who would make the Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge finale would be which flaw was bigger. It was a close decision.

While FoodSided wasn’t at the judging table, the meal that we picked as a finale dish would be Eric’s Sheppard’s pie with shortbread dessert. The Sheppard’s pie was a smart use of ingredients. This dish should be a blue print for home cooks thinking about using Thanksgiving leftovers.

Although his fried tomatillos were a miss, the concept was commendable. Still, the creativity in trying this dish deserved reward.

Lastly, the use of the caramel corn in the shortbread was smart. Although the dessert was more like an ooey, gooey cake, the flavors were on point.

Christian continues to impress with another cohesive dinner. His Hawaiian inspired Black Friday dish really showcased his creativity.

From the beautifully cooked pork to the use of the wasabi peas in the macaroni salad, the flavors blended well. Unfortunately, his bread pudding was underwhelming. As the judges commented early on, that bread pudding better be out of this world. Unfortunately, his dessert was just pedestrian.

Kelli struggled with one of her ingredients. The pickles, which she used in a pickle salad, were a throw away. There should have been a more creative use of this ingredient.

While the judges were impressed with her soup and its depth of flavor, they were a little concern with her dessert. Although the apple turnover turned out tasty, there was a little question over the continued use of the fryer.

Lastly, Robin took a lot of risk with his dish. Cooking wild rice in such a short amount of time (without using a pressure cooker), was met with the judges’ praises. The flavors of that dish really shined.

It is interesting that the judges didn’t comment on the beet purée on the plate. Watching at home, that color on the plate was somewhat garish.

Also, Robin’s dessert wasn’t as successful as it could be. While pumpkin should have been the start flavor, it was overshadowed by cranberry. Again, the color seems a little off.

The first chef making the Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge finale was Robin. Making that wild rice earned his spot.

With one of the remaining three chefs heading home, it came down to the little details. Since one of her dishes was a throw –away, Kelli was sent home.

Which of these three chefs have the best chance at earning the Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge title? It will come down to that finale meal. It is time to impress or go home.

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Did the judges make the right decision on the Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge finalists? Which Friendsgiving or Black Friday meal would you have preferred to eat?