Well folks, the Top Chef we all know and love is finally back. Those touchy, feely pod people are gone and our beloved petty, bitchy and snarky Cheftestants have taken back their places in the Top Chef kitchen. Last night’s show was all about war. The episode was coined “Wedding Wars”, and while that may seem to be a contradiction in terms, for these competitors, it was a fitting description (and I’m not just talking about the food)!
As the Cheftestants gathered in the Top Chef kitchen for this week’s Quickfire Challenge, they were joined by the lovely Padma and Guest Judge…..No….Wait a minute. It’s Tom Colicchio. There is no guest judge. Hmmm. Well, the Cheftestants look utterly thrilled to see HIM there…..not! But their trepidation quickly gives way to anticipation as they discover that the Quickfire this week is the ever popular (and my favorite) relay challenge, which is all about speed and technical skill.
The chefs are divided up into two groups for this one – the Forks (Steph, Antonia, Richard and Andrew) and the Spoons (Dale, Lisa, Nikki and Spike). They are given four tasks to accomplish in succession, with one chef responsible for each task on each team. These were supreming five oranges, turning and cleaning two artichokes, cleaning and filleting a big, ugly monkfish and whipping up a quart of mayonnaise, by hand. The team that successfully completes all four tasks first, wins. The sucky part is that from here on out, there is no more immunity offered to the QF winners. Boo!
Aaaaaaand weeeeeee’re off! Team Fork’s Antonia starts off against Team Spoon’s Lisa supreming those oranges. Peels are flying, but Antonia just can’t keep up with Lisa’s pace and Team Fork quickly falls behind. Then, just when you’re thinking “uh oh” for the Forks, they pick up speed and end up neck and with the Spoons. Stephanie clinches the win for the Forks with her bionic whisking technique. And the cow jumped over the moon.
Time for the Elimination Challenge. This is where Padma announces that the long-awaited and much anticipated Restaurant Wars challenge ain’t happening this season. You remember that one, don’t you? It’s the one where the Cheftestants divide into two teams and “launch” their own restaurants. They are given a specified budget and are responsible for everything from soup to nuts, including design, decor, service, wine and food. Next to the finale, it is the absolute highlight of the season. Everyone looks pretty bummed about this decision, including me! I loved the Restaurant Wars! To make this revolting development even worse, Padma tells the chefs that instead of the Restaurant Wars, they will be competing in something called the Wedding Wars. She then introduces them to one of the most milquetoast (blah) couples I have ever seen and explains that the Cheftestants will be catering this couple’s wedding in a mere fourteen hours. This includes flowers, table decorations and (gasp!) wedding cakes!
As the winners of the QFC, Team Fork gets to choose which side they want to cater for, the bride or the groom. They choose Corey, the bride which leaves JP, the groom to Team Spoon. Corey is from the South, so she wants traditional meat and potatoes food. She also wants a delicious, multi-tiered, layered wedding cake that actually looks pretty too.
JP is all into Italian food and Nikki is all over it. The other Spoons are psyched. JP wants Italian. Nikki is Italian. They figure they’ve got the win in the bag. They’re gonna let Nikki roll with it. But…um…someone forgot to tell Nikki, because she refuses to take charge and totally absolves herself from all responsibility except for the dishes she actually prepares herself.
While Nikki is off in her own little tortellini world, the other Spoons, especially Dale, are simmering. While they all looked to Nikki for guidance and direction, Miss “I Own an Italian Restaurant in Staten Island” has left them all to fend for themselves. This may have been a calculated plan on Nikki’s part. I think she figured that if she led the team and the team went down, she would be sent packing. She was probably right. However, as the self-professed expert on Italian cooking, her unwillingness to take a leadership role worked against her. This caused untold consternation for Dale. He bitched and moaned his way through the entire challenge and pretty much acted like a spoiled brat. I wanted to smack him!
Team Fork, on the other hand, seemed to understand the concept of “united we stand, divided we fall”. With Richard assuming the head chef role, the team worked together as a cohesive unit. They were smart enough to realize they were competing against the other team, not each other. As a result, their food was better, their attitude was better and they won.
At the Judges’ Table, celebrity pastry chef, Gale Gand, joined the panel. They uniformly praised the Forks and panned the Spoons. Richard took top honors for his tasty dishes and leaderships skills. Special kudos were also given to Stephanie for making a lovely five-tiered wedding cake in only fourteen hours. In an incredibly classy move, Richard passed his win along to Steph for all her hard work on that cake. In another classy move, Steph decided to “share” her prize with Richard. Awwwww! Are you feeling the love here, people? I only hope that the Spoons were paying attention when they watched the show.
While the judges did like Spike’s sea bass and Lisa’s chocolate-hazelnut groom’s cake, Team Spoon lost because….well, because they didn’t perform like a team should. Everyone did their own thing and no one did it particularly well. After pulling an very intense all-nighter, everyone’s nerves were raw, but Dale seemed to handle it the worst. He had a total tantrum on the chopping block and accused his team mates of slacking off the whole challenge. He and Spike got into it and Spike called him a bitch. Ouch! I have to assume that this unprofessional and immature behavior was at least partly due to sleep deprivation. Some people just get really cranky without their eight hours.
In the end, the judges felt that Nikki was the weakest link and sent her to pack her knives. I have to agree with their decision. Although I liked Nikki, she just wasn’t a strong enough contender. Her food was inconsistent and she really had poor leadership skills. She seems like a nice person. I’m sure she’ll do fine.
Oh, and one more thing. Has anyone else noticed that Gail has been looking a little like, shall we say, a fashion disaster lately? What’s up with that? I think she needs to spend a little time hanging out with Project Runway’s Nina Garcia. Maybe they could have lunch or something.
Now on to the giveaway. This week’s giveaway winner is…….Maryann of Finding La Dolce Vita ! Congratulations Maryann! Thanks for participating! If you’ll email me with your choice of prize along with your mailing address, I’ll send a package out to you pronto!
Remember, if you haven’t won anything yet, there is still time. We’re only halfway through the competition and I still have plenty to give away. All you have to do to be eligible is leave a comment on this post by 10:00 p.m. next Wednesday. I’ll pick a winner using the random number generator .