Last night John Tesar played a 53-year old geezer chef on a thrilling episode of Food Network’s Extreme Chef. He faced two younger chefs: Joe, a douchey New York dude who was once a private chef for Donald Trump; and Greg, a Portland chef who couldn’t cut it in medical school so he quit and went to the CIA.
Tesar was confident from the start. “I run 10 miles a day,” Tesar gloated. After that, he works all day and night. The competition took place on a 60-acre farm in Malibu Canyon and the premise had the chefs running all over the place to source ingredients.
HEARTY BREAKFAST was the segment. To obtain eggs, the chefs had to conquer a “crop-stical course” made of bales of hay formed into various tunnels and towers. Tesar, a virtual Jack LaLane, was first to the eggs (he picked duck!) and he won the first competition soundly with his ginger and duck egg French toast. (I think there was a fruit salad and some whiskey involved, but I can’t read my notes, and I refuse to rerun the show.) It only matters that when the Simon Cowell wannabe (and lookalike) host announced Tesar as the winner, Tesar took a modest Zen-like bow. Tesar is now the master of “the unconventional use of an egg.”
No, it’s not over. There are still 45 minutes left in the show. Here we go.
EXTREME CHALLENGE! Obnoxious host outlines new rules. Through the screeching music swollen with hundreds of violins, I hear him tell the chefs they have to harvest their own vegetables from the sprawling farm dotted with cute scarecrows. PLUS, they have to roll them around in a wheelbarrow. As winner of round one, or whatever they call it, Tesar not only gets to pick his protein, he has the power to decide what meat the other chefs get. Tesar shoves Joe the pork. (We hate Joe by now and are glad to see he gets the slowest cooking meat!) Sorry, I didn’t write down Dr. Greg’s protein.
The three chefs take off with their wheelbarrows. Tesar looks like he has been pushing one around his whole life. (hidden metaphor) Joe looks like a sweaty vegetable abuser as he rips a fistful of leeks from the ground and throws them into his hot wheelbarrow. Meanwhile, Dr. Greg seems content jumping through the fields. He stops at a row of purple carrots and exclaims, “Rad!” He lives in Portland. We let the comment slide.
Our man Tesar the geezer is first chef to the pantry! I don’t know what he got but he leaves with a devilish smile as he pushes his wheelbarrow towards the prep station. HOLD THE JOHN DEERES! Dr. Greg and his wheelbarrow are sprinting past Tesar toward the prep tables. Tesar suddenly looks 63. His glasses appear heavy and dusty. OH NO! However, poor douchey Joe has just arrived at the pantry! He curses as he pick through what is left. Even though he is losing, he walks back with the arrogance of Donald Trump. Putz.
All chefs are at their stations. WAIT! Something is missing. There are no utensils. No pots or pans. No microplanes. No immersion blenders. OH MY GOD. FIRST X FACTOR! To obtain cooking utensils, the chefs have to run through a dust storm. Huh? Yes, they brought in a bunch of industrial blowers and created a whirling cloud of dust. Like bandits with red and white bandanas covering their faces, the chefs disappear into the swirling dirt. We can barely see them as they rip through crates and grab whatever they can before they choke. None of them know what they have till they get back to the prep station. (I was on the edge of my couch for this!) Tesar scores in the dark: TWO saute pans AND a sauce pan. And a shovel? Oh well, he’s got the lamb. We’re so glad Joe has the slowest cooking protein and the worst pan he could have picked—a deep Dutch oven.
Tesar, ever the glutton for punishment, decides to do lamb three ways. (Old farm joke?) He’s cocky and confident at this point. He takes out the leg of lamb and carves tartare, carpaccio, and little medallions to roast. Cue the Now-Irritating Host: TWENTY FIVE MINUTES, CHEFS! NEXT X FACTOR.
First tight camera shot goes to Dr. Greg. I think he is going to cry. He is obviously wishing he’d become a urologist. Joe is stoic. He has perfected the hateful Trump stare. Tesar is ready to play. “YOU MUST PREPARE A DESSERT COURSE,” host dude screams over the violins. “YOU MUST USE MILK FROM A COW. AND YOU MUST MILK THE COW TO GET THE MILK.”
Of course, this involves running to the barn where the cows are waiting. Ever the teat man, Tesar takes a pail and milks away like a pro. Dr. Greg is handling his cow pretty well, too. Perhaps he should have considered gynecology. Hateful Joe is standing beside his Elsie with a look that would scare The Donald. “Um, we don’t have cows on the subway,” Joe says. Huh? This allegedly Michelin-star chef takes a stinking subway? Besides that, why would anyone expect to see a real cow on a subway platform in New York. I figure he lost his mind in the dust storm. For a split second my allegiance switches to Joe. I think he needs the 10 grand to pay for a shrink and a few cabs.
Then, as the song goes, the cow kicked it over and winked her eye at the pathetic chef from Trump Towers. “He kicked me,” Joe said. (I screamed from my couch, “It’s a SHE you dumb ass!”) It didn’t matter. Joe claims the cow kicked him. I rewound the tape three times. Ruling: Joe shoved the pail into the cow’s leg. The cow was simply reacting to being approached by an awkward New Yorker. There was no contact. “That’s it,” Joe, the douchey chef, says as he walks off. “I put safety first.”
Then comes my favorite moment of the show. From his little stool beside the cow, Tesar looks up to the camera and says, “Look, he’s crying like a baby.” This was not a Trump moment for Joe. “He’s toast!” we scream.
Sorry, this is getting too long. The rest of the show was pretty painful. We knew Joe was gone. The only tension remained between the good doctor from Portland and Farmer John. Tesar sang with confidence when he presented his dishes. He dazzled the judges with his lamb three ways and his raw milk and chocolate creme anglaise filled with berries. “Not bad for out in the field,” Tesar said with a smirl. (Half smile; half smirk) I forgot what Greg made but it had a lot of fresh vegetables in it and the judges loved it. Mr. Not-So-G.I. Joe tried to justify his existence as a real chef by saying, “I always put safety first in my kitchen.” Judges didn’t buy it. Joe was sent back to his stop on the C Line.
Yes, there is another round. SHOWDOWN! Greg v John! Greg tosses out a taunting challenge: “I can beat that old man.” Ouch. Now, Portland or no Portland, I don’t like him. His wretched twisty hair is starting to drive me nuts. I want to whirl it in my immersion blender. Anywhoo, the two chefs have to prepare “one bite on a silver spoon” using four hidden ingredients. Of course, they have to run after a moving flatbed truck and jump on the back to get to them. As the two chefs sprint behind the truck, I begin to doubt Tesar’s claim that he runs 10 miles a day. Greg jumps on the truck like Spiderman and breaks into the case containing corn, truffles, Kobe beef, and Brussels sprouts. Hold it. A miracle: Tesar’s right by his side!
They run back to the prep station. HOLY CRAP, BATMAN! They arrive to find only a blow torch, a clamp, and a saw to work with. Undaunted, Tesar heads to the pantry and picks up some eggs. My gosh he is so confident. He wipes his sweaty brow and gloats, “I am the egg man. You can cook anywhere if you know what you’re doing.”
The Beatles reference is lost on the bad doctor and struggling chef Greg. He’s too young. Plus he is very busy sawing the fat off the Kobe beef (huh?) which he plans to cook with fruit. Again, we grant him Portland status and wait with anticipation.
The show now makes a wretched attempt to create drama during THE TASTING AND JUDGING section. Obnoxious Host with his now- grating foreign accent, readies for his close-up: “Chefs, this was the longest day of your culinary lives,” he screams. We wait while the camera moves from Greg to John and back again. “And the winner is…” Again with the panning camera. “Chef John!”
As the defeated chef (and doctor) Greg heads down a row of crops into the culinary sunset, Chef John—Extreme Chef John—hits Obnoxious Host with a quick knuckle touch before raising his fists to the skies. “Fifty is the new 30,” Tesar says. “I am the Extreme Chef.”