Thursday, May 8, 2008

Top Chef Recap - Episode 9: Wedding Wars

We are huge fans of Top Chef around here. It's the one show that really is "Must-See T.V." for our family. The current season is set in Chicago, so we have been extra interested and enjoy watching for familiar landmarks and locations and so on. Here is a little re-cap of last night's episode, just in case you missed it!
The 8 remaining contestants hit the ground running with a QuickFire Challenge. They divided into two teams with Stephanie, Antonia, Richard, & Andrew in one corner, and Spike, Nikki, Lisa, and Dale in the other. The challenge was a relay race featuring each chef's knife skills. Each team had to peel & segment 5 oranges, prep 2 artichokes, clean a monkfish into 2 filets, and whip up 1 quart of mayonnaise from scratch. The teams were dicing and slicing neck-to-neck, and emotions were high! The whole thing came down to the mayonnaise round, with Stephanie whipping up her batch first and clinching the win for the team. Dale got mad, totally lost it, & punched a locker!
Lisa was glad to see Dale providing her with yet another reason to dislike him. The two of them really do not play well together.

She had this to say about the locker-punching incident: "Mrfff mruffffty muffle mrgfff mrfem"

Because Lisa regularly expresses her opinions with colorful language, she will be wearing a duct tape muzzle for her appearance on this blog. After all, this is a PG site! (well, ok, maybe PG-13?)

Then Antonia came on camera and explained what happened. "Dale punched a locker...then had to have his diaper changed," she said with a the smallest of grins.

Which is really not integral to the storyline, but pretty amusing nonetheless.

Then judges Padma & Tom announced the next challenge. The same two teams would be competing in a Wedding War, in which each team would be catering a wedding reception for 125 people the very next day. One team would prepare a buffet according to the Bride's tastes and requests; the other would prepare a buffet agreeable to the Groom.

The rules? Each team would have a short consultation with their client (bride or groom), 45 minutes to plan, and 1 hour to shop for ingredients with a budget of $5,000. The teams would then have 14 hours to prepare the food, requiring them to work straight through the night!

The winning team selected the Bride to work with. She requested a buffet of southern-style food, highlighting meat & potatoes. She also wanted a big wedding cake with lots of layers that was pretty.

The Groom told his team he wanted a menu featuring Italian food, specifying a German Chocolate or Hazelnut cake.

The teams flew into action and, as usual, whipped up a huge assortment of impressive-sounding dishes. As the game timer counted down, the contestants were becoming more exhausted and more strained, and the challenge of bringing both the dishes and the individual visions together (while operating on no sleep), became a little too much for some. Emotions were sky high throughout this entire episode, and in order to continue the story, I have to hand out a bit more duct tape. (excuse me for a second)

C'mon, Chefs!! My children watch this show! Get it together & watch your mouths.

Somewhere in here during a commercial break, the Bravo text poll question was, "Which Top Chef annoys you most?" Yeah. 'Nuff said. It was one of those episodes.

The teams handed out their appetizers and canapes, then served the wedding guests at their respective buffet tables. The array of food was delicious-looking, and seemed to represent much more than 14 hours of prep time!

(Check out some of the menu items and recipes here.)

The judges tasted and discussed the two teams' buffet offerings. They reflected on the "overcooked meat", "flavorless" items, and the "ugly battleship cake". They pronounced the bride's cake "impressive", the brisket "perfect", and the pizza appetizer as better than the Italian team's version. Clearly, they had decided on the winning team.

While the contestants anxiously awaited the verdict, they looked pretty miserable trying to keep their eyes open. The all-nighter was catching up with them! (Well, except for Andrew. Apparently his ADHD came in very handy in this particular challenge.)

The Bride's team was announced as the Judges' favorite, and Richard was awarded the Winning Top Chef position.

He immediately said he would like to offer the win to Stephanie, because she managed to create a lovely wedding cake for the bride (a job which nobody really wanted, yet was integral to their success). The judges applauded his move and told Stephanie that she would receive a $2,000 gift certificate from Crate & Barrel. Stephanie, in yet another fine demonstration of teamwork, announced that she and Richard would split the prize. In a show where the winner takes all, this turn of events was delightful to witness.

Then came the final decision -- the losing contestant from the losing team. The chef who would be promptly eighty-sixed. The steely expressions returned, the suspenseful music swelled, and...

...the loser was announced.

Despite an intense series of challenges, and an emotionally-charged episode, Nikki accepted her cut gracefully. "This show has been a great experience, and I am happy to go home to my family. I know that there will be another venture waiting for me," she said.

And so ended another great episode of Top Chef.

I have to say that the lessons illustrated about teamwork, leadership, cooperation, creativity, and doing the best you can (not to mention the mouth-watering food! The fooooood!!) they serve up each week keep Top Chef on my list of great family t.v. shows.....just watch the language, guys!!

Tune in next week for another exciting episode of Top Chef Chicago, served up on Bravo at 10pm EST. The previews promise tales of sabotage and intrigue...and my mouth is already watering.

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