24 in 24 Last Chef Standing Artistry Recap: Visually interesting plates

24 in 24 Last Chef Standing Artistry Shift, Michael Symon, Esther Choi, Eric Adjepong
24 in 24 Last Chef Standing Artistry Shift, Michael Symon, Esther Choi, Eric Adjepong / Food Network

When a visually impressive plate hits the table, the stomach anticipates a flavorful bite. On 24 in 24 Last Chef Standing Artistry challenge, the chefs needed to nail the visual and hopefully the taste lived up to the hype.

With the competition halfway completed, the remaining chefs are starting to feel the stress, tiredness and mental fatigue. Even though some chefs have earned a break or two, the constant pressure is extreme. It can lead to simple mistakes.

For the first challenge in this episode, the Food Network culinary producers went totally out of the box. The task required the chefs to transform microwave dinners into a beautiful masterpiece. There was no cooking involved. Rather, it was just repurposing the food for a good visual.

In some ways, it is almost like an image trickery that some food stylists appreciate. Ice cream made from mashed potatoes or sauces made from unlikely ingredients. It might trick the eye, but no one really would want to pick up the fork.

Only a handful of dishes really hit that visually compelling category. Most of the dishes looked like someone blended, smashed, or otherwise repurposed some leftovers into something. Luckily, not a bite was eaten at the judges’ table.

24 in 24 Last Chef Standing
24 in 24 Last Chef Standing chefs / Food Network

The top dish was created by Mika. She was able to create a plate that was visually compelling and made sense. Out of the collection of drab colors and lack of texture, Mika’s dish stood out.

By winning the challenge, Mika received an advantage in the next challenge. Considering this whole 24 in 24 Last Chef Standing episode was about visually compelling cuisine, color is a big factor.

Mika was able to pick her primary color and assign everyone else’s color. It was not just an advantage for her, but it was a way to stack the competition to her benefit. After all, who wants a plate full of brown food?

In addition to the color requirement, the chefs had to make both an entrée and a dessert. The dishes would be judged together. Anyone who watches food television competitions appreciates that a duo is often the kiss of death. Usually one component is just better than the other. It is rare that both options are equally as appetizing.

Mika chose yellow for her color. Given her preference for Latin cuisine, yellow was an obvious choice. The other assignments were Marcel – purple, Carlos – brown, Martel – white, Chris – red, Chris Oh – green, and Kess – orange.

This challenge seemed to show the chefs’ fatigue starting to take hold. Simple execution errors were plentiful. Kess could not find almond flour to make a macaron. Martel burnt his beets. Those missteps show how the mental aspect to this Food Network competition is a huge factor.

Even though Mika might have helped Chris Oh with his green color and tried to give Marcel a roadblock with purple, the challenge was not that simple.  

Winning the challenge and the $2,400 prize was Marcel. His beet forward entrée and dessert not only nailed the color but the flavor was on point. There might have been some monochromatic elements, but it was a celebration of taste and texture. It seems that the Marcel’s break served him well.

The curious element to this challenge is that the chefs are starting to make small mistakes. From Chris Oh’s lumpy custard for his dessert to the lack of toasting on Chris’ oat crust, those errors might exacerbate as the hours creep up to the 24 hour mark.

Unfortunately, the bottom chef was Kess. Her dish missed the color mark. Orange was not the vibrant look on the plate.

More importantly, her salmon was undercooked. That execution error coupled with the muted color caused her to be eliminated.

But, Michael Symon offered the chefs a buyout temptation. Even though exhaustion is starting to take over, no one opted to take the money and gain a nap.

Will the chefs find some clarity in the next shift or will the tiredness cloud their judgement? Be sure to watch new episodes of 24 in 24 Last Chef Standing Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network or stream episodes the next day on MAX.