Three aspects of the final are worrying me. The strict one-hour time limit means I won't be able to research and experiment, learning and perfecting techniques as I go. And I feel like I have one culinary hand tied behind my back, without an oven, food processor or spice cabinet to turn to for help. Finally, there's having the eyes of the judges and spectators on me while I work. There is a reason for restaurant kitchens being behind closed doors, after all.
Still, all four of the finalists will face the same constraints. And I'll have a large crowd of friends and family cheering me and my sister, Maura, on. She's agreed to be my assistant, and she's a calm Type B personality who happens to be an excellent and confident cook.
I've learned so much already through this competition and am inspired to continue building on that know-how. Since I was able to incorporate homegrown veggies into the recipes I developed, I plan to include them in upcoming classes at my School of Food. Even kids would be able to replicate the Thai, Mediterranean, and Mexican dishes I created, and could proudly serve the leftovers to their parents and siblings.
Although I'd like to prep for the final, without knowing the mystery ingredients, I'm not sure how. I once qualified for the original UK version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." I was told on a Friday that the producers would let me know on Monday if I should come down to the studio that same day. I spent an entire weekend studying world capitals, the British Monarchy and Eurovision song contest winners, among other trivia. It was all for naught. For the Cook of the Week Challenge, I won't be scouring recipes or watching any cooking videos on YouTube. Instead, I'll enjoy the weekend and look forward to having fun at the finale.