In one of the best episodes I’ve ever seen of anything from reality TV, Top Chef totally delivered a classic episode last night with the glory that was Wedding Wars. Instead of repeating the disaster of Restaurant Wars again, they pulled a page from Season One’s play book and opted for Wedding Wars. And thank God they did. I’ve never seen better character development, fights, bullshit drama, or enjoyed the one-liners as much. Here’s our weekly recap of the shenanigans in Chicago (Chi-nanigans?).
Like it always does, Casa de Chef began the episode, and we had to deal with the Top Chef formula of putting four people in front of you. If you actually pay attention every week, one of the four they present ends up going home. This week, Andrew and Spike started douching out over the fact that Mark had left, and Antonia noted the fact that there are eight people left, and for the first time ever, four of them are women. Unfortunately, Lisa and Nikki are the shitty female contestants, and sure enough, Nikki interviews next about how you have to be a fighter to stay in the game. Ironic, considering later events. This was the first part of the show where I was convinced that she was going home.
The cheftestants walk into the Top Chef kitchen and immediately notice that there isn’t a guest judge for Quickfire Challenge. Tom is with Padma, and the latter quickly tells the chefs that they’ve reached the halfway point, so winning the Quickfire doesn’t grant immunity to the contestant. The eight are split into two teams (Spoon and Fork) and they consist of Blaise/Steph/Antonia/Andrew versus Dale/Spike/Lisa/Nikki. From now on, they’ll be referred to as Team Awesome and Team Douche, respectively. To be honest, I’d switch out Andrew for Dale and have a team of my favorites of the season versus the people I’ve hated the most. Regardless, Padma explains that the Quickfire will be a relay race involving mostly knife skills, as the teams make their way through oranges, artichokes, monkfish, and making mayonnaise from scratch. Nikki freaks out about making mayonnaise since she hasn’t done it by hand since culinary school, and Dale is already pissed. I love Dale more and more with every episode, but he sealed the deal this time. When Nikki whines about the mayo, he asked the camera, “Why are you still here?” We were all wondering the same thing, bud. Team Douche has an early lead but Spike loses it entirely on the artichokes, and by the end, Team Awesome is declared the winner. They get an advantage in the Elimination Challenge, which turns out to be not that big of a bonus (I thought they’d get extra money at the store or something). Dale throws a mini-temper tantrum, as he screams “FUCK!” and punches a dent into a locker. The rest of the chefs judge him for his outburst, but to be perfectly honest, I can’t imagine holding in my anger if I had Spike, Lisa, and Nikki as my teammates.
Padma and Tom explain the Challenge once two people join them in the kitchen. Corey and JP walk in, and it’s revealed that they’re getting married the next day. Rather than do Restaurant Wars this season, the judges slash producers decided that they should do Wedding Wars instead. The chefs freak out, especially since a lot of them have no real catering experience to speak of and they have less than a day to prepare. Padma announces that each team will have $5,000 to create dishes for 125 people each, as one team will create a spread for the bride and the other for the groom. Since Team Awesome won the Quickfire, they get to choose which they would like, and Blaise picks the bride. Strangely enough, he doesn’t really seem to consult with his team, but he gets praised for the decision later on. Andrew decides to seriously disturb the viewers by declaring he has a culinary boner and can’t wait to cook for fourteen hours straight. Steph redeems Team Awesome by saying that no one likes to do wedding cakes since they’re a “big ol’ pain in the ass.” I’m not sure if the show noted or I noted that everyone on Awesome has won an Elimination Challenge at least once, but it’s definitely something worth acknowledging. To solidify my love of Awesome and the classic one-liners of this episode, Antonia rips on Andrew, who suggests a chicken nugget for their menu. She knows that you can’t use a crunchy chicken in a catering job since it never comes out perfect, but blows him off for the most part.
The teams shop at Restaurant Depot and Whole Foods and split into pairs for each task. The only two things of merit that come out of this are that Nikki’s team, which she will be “leading,” knows she gets flustered and can’t handle collaborative thought. On Blaise’s team, however, he says, “I watch a little Martha Stewart, I wear pink shoes, I can pick out our flowers.” Perfect.
So they show up to the Top Chef kitchen with 14 hours to cook for 125 people. Team Awesome is working excellently together and communicating well. Team Douche is falling apart because Nikki is refusing to lead, and Dale is taking on far too many tasks because his team is slacking off. Lisa is watching Dale and waiting for him to fuck something up because she’s obnoxious and bitter. This team is actually pretty difficult to watch because it brings the term “dysfunctional” to a whole new level. Spike decides to steal the sea bass from Dale so he can claim a dish at the end of the day, and Nikki prefers to talk shit about her teammates and whine instead of actually controlling the team.
Near the end, Colicchio visits the judges, and the best part of it is that he calls Lisa cake out on being hideous. To be honest, when I saw it, I instantly thought of Mussolini’s Typewriter. Does anyone else remember that and slash or think of it as soon as they see that monstrosity of a groom’s cake? Every time they showed her cake, I wanted to weep for the couple that was about to eat the food Team Douche had prepared.
At the commercial break, this week’s text message poll is introduced, and it asks the audience which chef is most annoying – Lisa, Dale, or Spike? I would say Spike should win hands down, with Lisa, Nikki, and Andrew rounding out the top four. Dale shouldn’t even be a contender. Unfortunately, he wins FORTY SIX percent of the vote and Spike only lands fifteen. Fifteen fucking points. Who did all the voting, Spike?!
Meanwhile, the show is back and they’re up to the wedding. My notes say, “JP’s mom looks like a drag queen. How embarrassing for her.” The judges for this round are introduced – Tom, Padma, Gail Simmons from Food + Wine, and Gale Gand, the owner of Tru in Chicago and most likely the best pastry chef in the entire city. She seems quite nice, and lacks the brutal honesty and disdain that a lot of guest judges usually hold in excessive quantities. More shots of the wedding, and now my notes say, “In other news, clapping at weddings is tacky. Discuss.”
Both teams send out their appetizers first, and Team Awesome has short ribs in bleu (I was raised the French way and refuse to write blue) cheese and almonds that are wrapped in phyllo bread, pulled pork sandwich with a handmade pickle, and pizza with prosciutto, goat cheese, herbs, and parmesan. They go over quite well. Team Douche serves sausage pizza with flatbread and bruschetta. The guests and judges hate the crostinis Douche used because they’re too crunchy.
Everyone heads into the full reception for the dinner food, and the bride has changed into a new dress. What bride has two wedding gowns? Seriously, woman, what the fuck were you thinking? I could understand a different dress that allowed for more movement on the dance floor and was less formal, but not a second gown. Corey and JP are really starting to bother me.
Antonia tells us that “Andrew is not allowed to talk to the guests. Seriously!” Team Awesome is not only talented and hilarious, but they’re smart. Good call on keeping the culinary boner in the back of the house. On the other team, Dale is in the kitchen and cooking everything for his team, which basically puts him in the weeds for the entire wedding.
Team Awesome is serving the following dishes for the Bride’s Spread:
– creamed spinach with star anise
– filet mignon with horseradish sauce and red wine syrup. Sounds incredible.
– braised beef brisket.
– potato gratin.
– almond and basil crusted chicken breast.
The judges love the brisket and the filet, but hate Andrew’s chicken. They call him out on using the same dish in the Kids Can Cook challenge, and he made it better then. They also complain about how crispy chicken can’t be catered because you can’t keep it crispy. Sounds familiar.
Team Douche is serving the following dishes for the Groom’s Spread:
– mixed vegetables with cheeses.
– butternut squash tortellini with brown butter and sage.
– Chilean sea bass with artichokes, capers, olives, and tomatoes.
– pork and beef ragù with orecchiette. I am immediately impressed that Padma actually pronounced it right, which just goes to show how low I set her bar.
– filet mignon with horseradish cream and herb roasted fingerling potatoes.
The judges hate Nikki’s tortellini but love the ragù that Dale made for his orecchiette. The mixed vegetables are a nadir for the table and the spread itself is dismissed as uninspired and unoriginal. As for the cakes, Steph made the Bridal Cake as five layers of dark chocolate and lemon with white fondant and fresh flowers. Lisa, of course, made a German chocolate cake with hazelnut. Or transformed Mussolini’s Typewriter into an edible, poop-colored edifice. My notes still think Nikki is going home.
The Bride’s Team is called to the Judges Table and they are almost universally praised. The only problem the judges had were the spinach and Andrew’s chicken. Blaise is given the win, but he wants to give it to Steph for her amazing job on the cake. They decide to split the $2,000 prize at Crate and Barrel. For a second, I wanted to write Cracker Barrel, which would basically assure them free breakfast for life on any road trip. Mmmm….spiced apples….
Gale Gand does her best “possessed Ina Garter” impression.
I can’t tell at this point if I’m happier that Team Awesome won or Team Douche lost. Nikki starts off great by throwing the team under the bus and saying she was never the leader. She just happened to know the most about Italian cuisine, so she gave advice, but she definitely did not lead. Which, to be honest, I can attest to – she was a total trainwreck and had no right whatsoever to claim she led much of anything. Tom calls Lisa out on having such an ugly cake, but admits it tasted pretty good in the end. Dale has a meltdown over doing so much work for such shitty people, and Spike goes into new douche territory by calling him a bitch in front of the judges. Nikki is chastised for not stepping up when she was the expert in this food genre, Spike is criticized for not executing his dishes well, and Dale is yelled at for doing so many things and spreading himself so thin that he couldn’t create great dishes. However, it’s quite apparent that the judges realize Dale was being shit on by his teammates and just tried to make it through the challenge.
FINALLY, after weeks of agonizing clichés, whining, and that obnoxious nasal voice, Nikki gets sent packing. I am ecstatic at this news, and simply can’t wait for Lisa and Spike to follow suit.
In next week’s episode, we get to look forward to Antonia ripping Spike apart, Lisa being an insanely bitter and cynical bitch who goes apeshit once she convinces herself that someone “sabotaged” her. Spike screams at Colicchio about how his opinion doesn’t really matter, and Andrew generally creeps everyone out.
So, basically, it’s just like every other episode up to this point.