Friday, May 9, 2008

Which Top Chef Wedding Buffet Was Worse? Hard To Judge

The latest episode starts with Andrew and Spike playing around. Uh oh, which one does that mean is leaving?

They show Nikki’s cleavage. What could THAT mean?

The Quickfire challenge begins. Tom is there, which the chefs are curious about. The ante is being upped, Padma says and the winner doesn’t get immunity this week, just an advantage in the Elimination Challenge.

They’re bringing back an all time favorite challenge - the relay race, which “cheerful” Tom particularly likes. They divide into 2 teams: Stephanie, Antonia, Richard and Andrew. And Dale, Nikki, Spike and Lisa. I remember that relay race with Hung going through those chickens like they were tissue paper. So does Stephanie.

They don’t have long to figure out who is going to do what. The tasks: Cutting oranges into pithed and peeled “supremes”, preparing artichoke hearts and leaving the stem on (after peeling it), filleting a huge ugly monkfish, and making mayonnaise by hand.

Dale is completely fed up with Nikki being scared of making mayo. “Why are you still here?” he says about her to the camera.

They start with the oranges, Lisa versus Antonia. Lisa is shaking, but going really fast. She wins that one. Then Spike goes against Andrew with the artichokes. Spike’s team loses its lead, because he destroys an artichoke and Andrew is going really fast.

Richard has to fillet the monkfish against Dale. They‘re both really fast. They finish at the same time. Finally, Steph makes mayo against Nikki. Stephanie finishes first. Dale gets really mad, hits a locker and curses.

The Elimination Challenge is a variation of Restaurant Wars. It’s Wedding Wars. They get introduced to a bride and groom, who are getting married…THE NEXT DAY. The chefs have to cater the wedding. WHO WOULD DO THAT? Who would leave the catering of their wedding to a REALITY SHOW and only have it handled the day before?!! Plus the bride and groom own a restaurant and catering venue and so they know exactly what to look for and how really crazy it is to do this.

The winning team gets to choose which team to cook for: the bride’s or the groom’s. There will be 125 guests for each one. Richard’s team takes the bride’s side. Spike says they’re complete morons. Yeah, WHO would do that?

Andrew: “I have a culinary boner right now.” I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole.

The groom says he loves bruschetta and Italian food. He and Nikki hit it off perfectly.

The bride says she loves anything fried. She and Richard are both from the Atlanta area and they bond over that. Andrew makes a terrible suggestion of chicken nuggets.

Nikki says Dale doesn’t work well with others. Dale says, “No one really likes each other on this team.” And he doesn’t think his teammates are that strong. They are heavily depending on Nikki. I think that cleavage may be a sign that she’ll be gone.

Two from each team go to the Restaurant Depot for supplies. The other two go to Whole Foods. They have to get flowers AND make a wedding cake ??!! Okay, you will never hear me say this again, but… shhhhh…what about Duncan Hines?

Lisa says she’s relying on Nikki…wow, she’s usually fairly strong-minded.

Antonia is doing the majority of the hors d’oeuvres for her team. She’s confident that everyone knows what he or she is doing. Steph is doing the cake. Oh, listen, she actually says that she’s sure that the bride doesn’t want her to make some kind of Susie Homemaker Duncan Hines cake. That’s funny.

Nikki doesn’t want to be the leader, so when people ask her questions she doesn’t take a stand.

They cook through the night. I’m feeling a little exhausted myself. Lisa thinks Dale is doing a poor job, because he’s doing so many things. Well, who gave him so many dishes? His teammates.

Nikki is making fresh pasta. She’s worried about Dale’s ragu because they have different philosophies for making it. Huh?!? Dale says she wants control over things, but doesn’t want to take responsibility for any decisions. I agree. They’re all tired. Andrew stops talking. Spike starts blathering.

Tom comes in with a smirk on his face. He’s told it will be meat and potatoes for the bride’s team and Italian food for the groom’s. Tom asks Dale what dishes he’s working on and he’s so tired he can’t think of the name of any of them.

Tom says that the Italian side is easier. He’s worried about the cake that Lisa is making, going so far as to call it almost ugly. He says the meat and potatoes menu needs to be seasoned really well.

Richard remarks that they have all the food done, he just hopes they’re going to be able to stay awake to serve it.

Wedding guests arrive. Bride goes down the aisle. Seriously, what kind of people would have a wedding like this? I guess ones that want a free reception. But didn’t they ever hear that you get what you pay for?

Padma comes and introduces the judges they already know (as if they’ve never seen them before) and Gale Gand. She’s cool.

They cut to the vows. They cut to the weddding cake being carefully set up. The champagne is being served. Tom is eating up all the attention. The hors d’oeuvres go out. The mother of the bride is happy. Why shouldn’t she be? She didn’t have to give up her retirement for a wedding.

Yowza! What is Padma wearing? A red, rather low-cleavaged dress, with a flower in her hair.

Dale cut the bread for the bruschetta and it’s too thick and too hard. That is why I hate bruschetta for hors d’oeuvres, no matter the occasion. It’s impossible to eat. I would rather cut the bread into croutons and throw it in a bowl with whatever the topping is and call it panzanella.

They introduce the couple to the dining room. Oh, I forgot it’s a buffet. Andrew is staying in the kitchen, because Antonia says he’s not allowed to talk to the guests.

Dale is cooking all the hot food himself. That’s probably not a great idea. Now he can be blamed for more things.

The bride tries the food. Richard wants to know if she likes it. Someone or other likes the spinach with star anise.

Richard is talking to the guests too much. Padma says the brisket is delicious. Tom LOVES the horseradish sauce. He says the chicken is the worst thing on the plate.

The groom serves himself antipasto.

Okay this is getting really confusing. Here are the dishes:

Bride’s Appetizers
Pulled Pork Sandwich
Short Ribs & Blue Cheese in Phyllo
Bride’s Buffet
Crispy Chicken
Filet Mignon
Creamed Spinach
Potato Gratin
Bride’s Cake
Dark Chocolate & Lemon

Groom’s Appetizers
Assorted Flatbreads
Groom’s Buffet
Mixed Vegetables & Cheeses
Filet Mignon
Chilean Sea Bass
Orecchiette with Ragu
Groom’s Cake
Chocolate Hazelnut

Padma says the tortellini are too sweet. Tom likes the ragu. Someone said the bride’s team is better. Even the bride told the groom that she was sure he likes her side better. They cut the cakes…already?

The groom’s cake IS kinda ugly. They like the taste of the groom’s cake. Guests like the bride’s cake.

Based on scenes of what’s coming up, they want us to believe that Dale is in danger. I absolutely refuse to believe that Dale is going home because of the bruschetta. I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

Nikki just may be it, because she was the defacto leader and several of her dishes stank.

They wait for the judges to call them in. All are yawning.

They call in the bride’s team. Tom wonders WHY they picked that team. Me too. Richard says because it’s all about keeping the bride happy. DUH! That’s WHY you shouldn’t have picked the bride. Brides are notoriously difficult to please, especially a bride in the biz.

The judges hated the chicken and the spinach. Andrew made it. Even with that, they preferred the bride’s team's catering. The judges were impressed with the wedding cake which Stephanie made. Richard made the brisket, which was perfect. The winner is...RICHARD. He said he’d like to give his prize to Stephanie. Stephanie said let’s share it, so they split a gift certificate to Crate and Barrel for $2000. That is really sweet of Richard.

The groom’s team goes in. Please pick Nikki, please pick Nikki, not Dale.

They ask who did each dish and who was driving the bus? Nikki rushes to answer (a little too quickly) “Definitely, not me”. Then she puts the idea of the poorly executed antipasto bar squarely on the groom.

They go through all the dishes that were bad. Spike, I think, says, “Dale you’re such a little bitch, bro”, after Dale accurately reports that most of the cooking was put on him. Oh goodness, just because Dale picked up all the slack, don’t make him leave.

The judges discuss that Spike didn’t seem to do too much. And they agree that Dale had too much to do. Nikki was a major disappointment because she didn’t take the lead. RIGHT! Go with her. I think they will. Lisa seems safe, because they liked the taste of that cake. It’s gotta be Nikki…not Dale, not Dale, not Dale.

Ok, back from commercial and it’s…NIKKI. The boys hug. Nikki says she's proud of herself. She has a restaurant to go home to. She hugs various of them and actually doesn’t seem that sad to go.

And what about the bride and groom? I thought their input was going to factor into this whole thing. Obviously, they were involved in other things, but we shouldn’t have been promised feedback from them and have it not happen.

Plus, there was so much to cover in the episode that I felt like nothing was covered that well. Frankly, I think the Bridezilla type shows do a better job of showing the chaos and behind the scenes stuff. It should be easier on Top Chef, because we mostly care about the food, not all the other issues.

At the end of the day, Dale showed his mettle
and, I believe, he’s cemented his place (with Richard) in the final. Yes, THAT is what I am predicting at this incredibly early (well, not that early, but at least not 3 minutes before the end) date. Dale will triumph over Richard, because if he doesn’t, he’ll punch his lights out…


Emiline said...

Ahhh, another great review.

This episode was sweet, because it was an extra 15 minutes long.
Just a few thoughts.

-Stephanie's cake was beautiful, and she did a really good job, but I'm not convinved about the chocolate/lemon combo. I've always been against that.

-Don't get mad at me, but...Dale made me kind of mad in this episode. I don't like how he threw a fit in the quickfire. I don't like how he whined and complained throughout this whole episode. It could have been how the Top Chef people edited this episode, though. He came across really negative.
I'm trying to decide who I like. I like Stephanie. I like Richard, too, but I almost don't want him to win, because everyone expects him to. Andrew can be funny at times. I thought the boner thing was kind of funny.

I agree that Nikki should have been sent home.

Imma said...

GReat review!
I've just discovered you blog. I love the idea behind it! I'll visit you often!

Tracy said...

I agree with you that Dale didn't deserve to go home. I was really gunning for Nikki to go. I admire Dale's skills but I'm hoping it comes down to Richard and Stephanie (the latter is admittedly a long shot).

CommonDialog said...

Couple of comments.

First, I am shocked to see this subject on Food Network Musings... When did Bravo become the Food Network... :P

Pretty much I think you're spot on with thinking that Nikki was the weak link. I thought she should have been booted ever since her "lovely mac and cheese" turned out dry like an old boot. She kept saying how worried she was that it would turn out add more liquid???

And the mayo thing was a bit odd...

Andrew: “I have a culinary boner right now.” I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole.

Did you mean that to be a really bad pun?? :)

Good review. But I was wondering, which did you think was worse?

Sue said...

Hey, Em,
How come when they repeated the episode it was only an hour long? How did they do that?

I’ve never considered the chocolate lemon issue before, but I have to agree with you. I hate chocolate with orange. I can stand it with raspberry, if I have to, but the lemon would not be good. I prefer chocolate with coffee, caramel, brandy, scotch, peanut butter or white chocolate…Warm flavors, not fresh ones like fruit.

I can’t agree about Dale!!! Geniuses are allowed to live by a different standard than the rest of us and he’s just fed up with everyone’s mediocrity. I’m surprised he doesn’t throw MORE fits. Stephanie is ok, but she’s no Dale. Richard’s got game and Andrew is kind of a putz. Maybe next time, I’ll tell you how I really feel.

Hi Imma,
Welcome! Please come back anytime.

Hi CD,
Sometimes the pickings on the FN are a little slim and I have to look elsewhere for foodtainment.

Nikki was definitely ready to go. I like that she was satisfied with herself and she had a nice life to go back to.

Honestly, neither menu appealed to me. They were so far from any wedding I would plan that I couldn’t even get into it. The Italian didn’t interest me (it would have if it had been good) and the other menu was a yawn. I like fusion cuisine, which is probably why I love Dale. I think it has so many great flavors and it really sparks your appetite. Plus you always need to consider dishes that can hold up to being made for a huge crowd.