Top Chef Episode 9: Two Wedding Caterers And A Funeral

Weddings are all well and good, but we’re just as disappointed as the cheftestants about the substitution of a Wedding Wars for the traditional Restaurant Wars of seasons past. Why? Because it’s another catering job. How many have there been now, five? When Dale says he hasn’t catered since he was 18, that’s a goddamn lie; more like two days.

ANYWAY, the challenge turned out to be mildly interesting. But first, the Quickfire! It’s a skills relay, and anyone who didn’t know what a monkfish looked like certainly got schooled. Fortunately, we feel the same about eating ugly things and cute things — and smart things and dumb things — more please! Richard and Dale skin and slice the creature with equal aplomb (by the way, when Richard said “I’m up against the dragon,” did he mean the fish, or Dale? If the latter, we call racism! Also, will Dale have to pay for that locker he dented? Or did the producers tell him to do that…) and it all comes down to Stephanie whipping up a quart of mayo a little faster than Nikki, who took a BREAK in the middle of it! Where’s your drive, Nik? When it’s down to an immunity-less eight people, neutral doesn’t cut it. But she will learn soon enough.

So JP and Corey come out of the wings and are introduced as wedding caterers who need their wedding catered, and pronto. Moments later, the internet told us their entire life story, including how they completely scrapped their planned ceremony in Kansas, and instead, threw new plans together for a ‘ding in Chicago in the space of 27 days. Why? Because TV!!!

The structure of the challenge involved the Quickfire teams choosing a pre-spouse and making a buffet to their specifications. Team Functional (Richard, Steph, Andrew and Antonia) chose the bride, who wanted fancy meat and potatoes (remember: Kansas), while Team I Hate You (Dale, Lisa, Spike, Nikki) were assigned the Italophilic groom. Nikki and groom hit it off immediately, and so they chose to make an Italian feast! Which would be easy enough if 1) Nikki took a leadership role and actually planned the menu 2) Dale wasn’t a selfish control freak. But neither of those things were the case!

In fact, much of the middle of the episode was spent chronicling the collapse of Team I Hate You. Lisa’s worried that Dale is stretched too thin and his quality is dropping. Spike is pulling back and saying, if our quality is going down, I’m going to find me a raft. In the form of a Chilean sea bass. Nikki’s like, weeeeeeel, I’m making a pasta. Even though I should be running the show and the judges will eventually kick me off for not being in charge! Instead, she’s busy mumbling about her differences in ragout philosophy with Dale. If there’s one thing you don’t want at a wedding, it’s philosophy.

Meanwhile, the highlight of Team Functional’s prep phase is when Andrew starts waxing psychosexual, with his 18-hour “culinary boner” (if you’re cooking with fat, does that mean you have a “lard-on”? Does making a salad give you a “Swiss chard-on”?) and the ways in which his spinach resembles “Popeye’s wet dream.” First of all, wouldn’t that be Olive Oyl, actually? And second, it really brings a whole new meaning to “creamed spinach.”

During the wedding, which was very nice, it became clear that Functional was besting I Hate You by some measure. Everyone from guests to judges to the newlyweds were oohing and ahhing over the brisket, while rock-hard bruschettas and awkward pastas were politely passed over. The profound visual disparity between the cakes — Stephanie’s soaring and splendid lemon vs. Lisa’s stolid, Brutalist German Chocolate — turned out to be mostly symbolic since the judges ultimately liked the chocolate better, but still. (By the way, when a lady on the buffet line responded to Dale’s comment about his exhaustion by saying “you’re like a med student,” we call racism!)

Functional’s win was no surprise, but the episode’s (maybe even the series’?!) nicest moment was when Richard bestowed his win on Stephanie, and in return, she gave him half of her $2000 Crate and Barrel prize. Awww! You can’t manufacture love like that, or ceremonialize it.

Finally, what we’ve been waiting seventy-five long minutes for: the kill. Lisa gets a pass for her tasty cake, and while Spike and Dale fall into a little exhaustion-induced hissy fit, you can’t lose on decent Chilean Sea Bass. It practically sautées itself into extinction it’s so good! No, it came down to Nikki the Lazy and Dale the Overeager. But trouble is, the judges have been wanting to kick Nikki off since she squeaked by in episode 5 when Zoi got booted instead. Also, it would be hard to make the case that Nikki’s a better chef than Dale, even though she’s clearly a better person.

Will next week’s episode right the balance of boys vs. girls? Not if Season 2’s Sam Talbot (who The Stew, MP:Boston and we all agree is the “tall, dark and handsome” guest chef in the previews) has anything to say about it!

[Photo: Hello Clarice (butsugiri/flickr)]


Top Chef Episode 9: Two Wedding Caterers And A Funeral