Two Sundays ago, seminal American television program Guy's Grocery Games aired an episode where all-star chefs teamed up with professional athletes to go shopping in a giant grocery store and then use the things they pick out to make food in a cooking competition. One of the athletes featured was former Giants shortstop Rich Aurilia. As this was obviously a milestone in both television history and our lives, I thought I would recap the Aurilia-centric moments for posterity. Let's pick it up at the beginning, as he gets introduced.
"You gotta love this guy," says a Guy who you definitely do not gotta love. "A former MLB All-Star who now owns his own winery." Rich comes out, to wild applause from me, because he is Rich Aurilia. He tells the camera that he feels confident because he cooks every night for his kids. He's playing for Make-A-Wish in San Francisco. His opponents are Raiders fullback Marcel Reece, WNBA player Jennifer Lacy, and former 49er linebacker Takeo Spikes.
When the athletes get paired up with celebrity chefs, Rich is immediately dealt a crushing blow. The first chef goes to Spikes, and it's Lorena Garcia. That's right, 2012 Taco Bell Commercial Chef Lorena Garcia.
Spikes, as you might expect, is thrilled. Who wouldn't be?
The other two get their chefs assigned to them, and Rich waits. Who will he get? Will it be someone impressive? He takes a moment to say a silent prayer, or maybe take a short nap.
And the chef is . . . Robert Irvine!
I'd like to pretend he was the only one who ran through a banner because he was celebrating what a special snowflake Rich Aurilia is, but they all did that.
Jennifer Lacy gets paired up with Marc Murphy, and Marcel Reece is assigned Brian Malarkey. Guy Fieri refers to these four groupings as "Triple-G dream teams." That sentence tells you all you need to know about this show. If you find it insufferable, well, there's a lot more where that came from. If you find it enjoyable, congratulations on being drunk.
The first challenge for the teams is to make a "Winner's Dinner." And they can only take seven ingredients. Rich Aurilia is not thrilled by this stipulation. Robert Irvine thinks it's pretty swell.
The teams all run off down the aisles. Rich is having a grand old time. Wheeeeeeeeeeee!
Rich and Robert decide to go with something opulent. Steak and Lobster? Steak and lobster!
Rich talks about his creative process while cooking. "I played shortstop for a number of years and I was kinda captain of the infield, but today, I'm just taking a backseat to the professional and I'll listen to anything Chef Irvine has to tell me. He's high energy and he doesn't accept anything less than the best." But as this swanky neck towel shows, he does know his stuff in a kitchen, at least when it comes to fashion.
The teams finish and are judged. Rich and Robert's dish, a take on surf and turf with white asparagus and a riced mashed potato, receives high praise, though one judge says the steak is a bit overdone. Here's what it looks like:
It seems good that it gets praised, but all the dishes receive high praise. Will Rich and Robert make it? We'll find out after this commercial!
Instead of a commercial, please enjoy this placeholder image of Lorena Garcia making a silly face:
So who goes home? Guy makes the solemn proclamation: "For the first time in Triple-G history, no one goes home." But now two teams will be eliminated after Round 2. And Round 2 will consist of making a pregame meal. See, it's a sports theme. It's pretty subtle, so don't feel bad if you missed it.
Because nothing in this show can be easy, each team rolls a die to determine what everyone will be making, what equipment they'll use, and how long they'll have to run through the grocery store. Rich and Robert roll the meat die, which leads to some tense moments involving the possibility of canned meat, but in the end they roll eggs. They will also have to use a spiralizer, they'll have two minutes and thirty seconds to shop, and they have to include beef jerky.
Good luck, guys. I literally don't even know what a spiralizer is.
Rich and Robert decide to make a jerky and sausage stuffed chicken, with a squash and zucchini spaghetti. Robert seems to do most of the planning and cooking, and is very good at both. Rich knows he hit the jackpot. Allow me to quote him: "Robert Irvine. Man, I hit the jackpot." See? Told you!
Later, Rich has to simultaneously contend with both the spiralizer and Guy coming over to talk with him. He comes through it, barely, and I decide it would be fun to put a filter on the photo so it looks like a Cook's Illustrated ad from 1995.
Rich and Robert are the first to be judged at the judges table. Their food looks like this:
One judge is ebullient. Another says they played it a little safe. Will they make the finals? The cuts come in, after a commercial!
Instead of a commercial, please enjoy this placeholder image of Guy Fieri holding an oversized die that says "Canned Meat":
We come back! And the two teams that go home are Takeo Spikes and Lorena Garcia:
And Jen Lacy and Marc Murphy:
Rich and Robert are still in! Their competition: Marcel Reece and Brian Malarkey. It's gonna be tough to beat them, or maybe that's just a thing you say to ramp up tension. Definitely one of those two.
The assignment for the championship round: make a cheat day dish. Anything they want! The twist: they can only get one ingredient at a time, and the clock is ticking. That is another thing you just say to ramp up tension.
So what's the plan? Take it, subtitles!
They settle on a duck pasta. Marcel and Brian are going to make an apple berry cobbler. It's a battle of dinner versus dessert. San Francisco versus Oakland. Baseball versus football. Finally, the eternal questions will be settled, unless Rich and Robert lose, in which case it's all just a game and you shouldn't take it so seriously.
Late in the round, Robert decides to also make a chocolate mousse. It's a big risk, according to multiple people on the show whose opinions I will accept without questioning them. But the mousse doesn't work out, so they make it into a chocolate martini. Throughout this whole process, Rich lets Robert lead, because Robert Irvine is a professional chef and Rich Aurilia is no dummy. Now, Rich isn't doing nothing: he helps out where he can, including here, as he does some last-minute plating.
And when they're done, all they can do is hope. But since the show needs to – say it with me – ramp up tension (hold for applause), we go to commercial.
Instead of a commercial, please enjoy this placeholder image of Rich Aurilia toweling himself off:
Marcel and Brian's dish meets with praise, but also a small amount of criticism. Then Rich and Robert's dish meets with praise, but also a small amount of criticism. It's a real pickle as to which team will win! Would it be this dish?
Would our heroes be victorious?
No. The judges felt something was missing from the pasta, and in the end that doomed their team. How do you feel, Rich and Robert?
They couldn't quite win in the finals, but Rich Aurilia and Robert Irvine put together a strong game, and they should be proud of themselves. They should also probably shower, considering the sweat that's soaking through Rich's shirt, but they can be proud while they're de-disgustifying themselves. Good work, guys. Good work.