Laurent Zirotti wowed judges with his croque monsieur and classic French frisee salad.
They liked his scallops, sauteed chanterelles and rice pilaf, too. But his lobster sauce was, by his own admission – and a “mon Dieu!” – too salty. Here’s the spoiler: it was the thing that kept him from advancing to the final round of episode 18 of season 18 of “Guy’s Grocery Games.”
The show featuring Zirotti, the chef and owner of Fleur de Sel in Post Falls and Fleur de Sel Artisan Creperie in Spokane and a semifinalist in the 2017 James Beard Awards, aired Wednesday night on Food Network.
The episode, dubbed “Global Grocery Games,” included “four chefs representing cuisines from around the world,” according to its official description on the Food Network’s website at www.foodnetwork.com.
“First, the chefs make their childhood favorite featuring a handpicked ingredient from Guy,” according to the Food Network’s website. “Then, they have to make their best rice dish while shopping with a tiny bag. Finally, the remaining two chefs must fuse their native cuisine with their opponent’s for a shot at a shopping spree worth up to $20,000.”
Zirotti is originally from France. So is his wife Patricia with whom he owns and runs the restaurants.
On the show, he sported a Breton striped shirt and a flat cap. And, during his introduction on the show, he said, “I love to cook French food.”
The first challenge was to make a childhood favorite.
“When I was a little petit garcon, I loved my mother’s croque monsieur,” Zirotti said, noting, “There’s nothing better than a croque monsieur.”
He explained the dish as a “grilled cheese sandwich on steroids.”
It’s “so rich,” he said.
To cut through that richness, he paired his croque monsieur with a classic French frisee side salad.
“This is an homage to my mom,” he said. “Je t’aime, maman.”
Fieri, of course, threw in a twist featuring a food item from his American childhood: contestants had to feature hash browns in their entrees.
“Hash browns?” Zirotti said. “How am I going to pull that off?”
He went first in the first round of judging and was one of two contestants deemed “safe” in that initial round. One judge said he did a “masterful job” on his croque monsieur with hash browns.
In the second round, the remaining three chefs were challenged to “make your best rice dish” using only ingredients that would fit in a tiny shopping bag. And, this is where Zirotti ran into trouble.
French cooking, he noted, is known for its sauces. “You can put sauce on a stick of wood and it would taste good,” he said.
But judges deemed his lobster sauce “over-reduced” and “very salty.” So, even though the texture of the scallops was “divine” and the rice pilaf and mushrooms had good flavor, Zirotti didn’t advance to the final round.
If he had won, Zirotti was planning to give his winnings to Second Harvest, where he teaches a cooking class once a month.
Fleur de Sel is at 4365 E. Inverness Drive in Post Falls. Call (208) 777-7600. On the web: fleur-de-sel.weebly.com.
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