I think this challenge was awful. Not really a better way to put it. What was the point? Why make the chefs stay up for more than 24 hours straight? It's like the producers just wanted to up the drama in the episode because they know when people are over-tired, they'll snap at each other. And that makes me sad. I want to see them cook food, not throw temper tantrums and make sucky food because of a lack of sleep. How is designing a wedding relevant to being a chef (unless you're Aunt Sandy, deluded as all eff, and think you are a chef AND decorator)? How is making a wedding cake relevant to being a Top Chef? How is doing another catering challenge relevant to being a Top Chef? Honestly, we all knew Nikki was going home. Why not just run the relay race, send Nikki home, and give the chefs the night off. I can get behind "Restaurant Wars" and restaurant design, as those are things a Top Chef would need to do or, at least, have some hand in when designing their own restaurants. "Wedding Wars," not so much.
Well, anyway, let's get to it.
The opening just makes me nostalgic for Season 1 and Harold. I can even picture him during this challenge, "I'm a cook, not a wedding planner. Let's just focus on the food." I really should go eat at his restaurant one of these days. Alright, Iko, focus on Season 4. Andrew and Spike appear to be making out, all the while comforting each other over the fact that Mark is gone. Antonia talks about how there are an equal number of men and women left at this point...which means a woman is going home tonight.
Tom's at the Quickfire Challenge! And Padma sounds marginally disappointed when she announces Tom's there. Why so sad, Padma? Are you upset there's no hot, young pastry chef to hit on? She announces there will no longer be immunity for the winner of the Quickfire, which seems like it's a little early this season, right? Maybe I'm not remembering it properly, but I feel like they normally do that when there are only 5 or 6 people left. Regardless, they chefs divide into teams, "spoon" and "fork" and compete in, wait for it....wait for it...the effing RELAY RACE!!! I LOVE this challenge! I love, LOVE, LOVE it! This, is, in my opinion, one of the most important Quickfire in the entire competition. Basic techniques are so important, and, even more important, is the ability to perform these basic tasks quickly and properly. Anyone can peel an artichoke, but can you do it correctly under time constraints? Now that is the mark of a Top Chef. Not making a wedding cake. Moving on. I think the best part of the whole Quickfire was Dale's interview, with the "why are you even here?" about Nikki. Ha! Spot on.
Orange supremes - I kind of felt bad for Lisa here, honestly, I can't believe I'm writing that. It's crazy how you can be so confident about your skills, then, you get in one, very minor, competition and totally lose control of your ability to perform the simplest tasks. She did well in the end, though, and gives her team an awesome lead, which douchey-Mc-doucherson promptly loses.
Artichokes - Andrew rocks out with his co** out (and a peeler). I'm actually impressed with Andrew here, too. Turning artichokes is a pain in the ass but he did a good job, and kept his crack-i-ness under control.
Monkfish - The Dale Richard match-up is awesome. They both rock it, no other way to say it. And, if I may, monkfish is one UGLY mofo.
Mayo - You know what, making mayo by hand sucks. I remember having arm pain for days after making a giant batch of hollandaise in cooking school. I don't envy those girls, but you power-through and do what you can. Stephanie pulls it out, which is great for her, I'm glad she could help her team win.
I was a little confused by the Dale freak-out, I'm not going to lie. I get that he's pissed he lost, especially because Spike and Nikki are useless and he did his best. But mangling the locker? Dale, I'm pulling for you and your extreme bitchiness, but violence is not the answer. Plus, you need those hands to, you know, CHOP stuff, so you may want to be more careful.
Well, here it is. "Wedding Wars" other wise known as "Stupidest Challenge Ever (SCE)." Each team gets $5000 to cook food and decorate for 125 guests. If you will indulge me here, just for second - what kind of moron-couple chooses to be on TV, rather than have a good wedding? For serious? There is no way a non-attention-whoring couple would choose to do this. Way too much left to chance. What if one side completely messes up and there's only enough food for half the guests? Do you really hate your family and friends that much? I get that they probably didn't have to pay for the food, but, come on. Didn't Padma say that they couple ran a wedding hall? Couldn't they have made their own food? WTF? SCE!
Alright, so the winning team gets the advantage of choosing bride or groom. Honestly, I don't even think this is that much of an advantage. If they could talk to the couple first, get a sense of what each one wanted, then choose, well, OK, there's the advantage. But just picking one, sight unseen? Not so much. Richard, Andrew, Stephanie, and Antonia pick the bride, who wants a "South meets Mid-West" theme. I'm guessing lots of meats. Sounds good. Andrew rocks the "culinary boner" line from the tag of last week's episode. I bet the editors will try to work that line in every chance they get. Dale, Nikki, Lisa, and Spike are "stuck"* with the groom, who wants Italian food. Seems like Nikki should take the lead here, right? Well, she does...
The chefs talk with their respective member of the couple for a bit, then head out to buy food and decorations. Not so much interesting here, mostly Richard confirming his gay tendencies, like wearing pink crocs and buying flowers. Spike asks what rapini is. How is he even alive? Then, it's back to the Top Chef kitchen to prep everything for the big day. Over the course of 14 straight hours.
Groom's side prep: Nikki takes the lead initially, then bails with no explanation. Dale tries to pick up everyone else's slack, does too much, and as a result, doesn't do anything well. Spike, sees this, and decides to be a douche and, instead of helping Dale, makes the sea bass dish. Lisa is preoccupied with the cake, which sounds delicious, but doesn't look too great. Although, to be fair, none of my cakes ever look that great either. In theory: they had an easy theme and a chef who's specialty is making Italian food. Win, meet silver platter. Bottom line: Nikki planned a menu with too many things on it and bailed out as leader. Spike acted like a douchebag and should have helped Dale. Dale acted like a bitchy, put-upon princess instead of asking for help or trying to edit the menu. Lisa was the only worthwhile person on the team.
Bride's side prep: Stephanie rocks the cake and it looks beautiful. Richard handles the meat (that's what she, maybe in his case, he said) and sauces. Andrew makes the creamed spinach (which takes him 7 hours) and makes some chicken that doesn't really sound that good (basil and almonds?). Antonia focuses on the appetizers. In theory: they had the harder time here, because the bride will be infinitely more pissy if the food isn't good. They also had a much more difficult task of "South meets Mid-West," what is that? Bottom line: Richard takes the lead and makes decisions. Andrew doesn't act too cracked out as he become more tired. Kind of an inverse relationship. Antonia and Stephanie rock their respective dishes. Team Bride FTW!
Sniff and Sneer - Tom tells team bride to not eff up the cake like Season 1 Wedding Challenge, which makes me laugh. God, do you remember that? That was awful. Seriously. Tom moves on to team groom and implies that they have it made because the groom wants Italian food and Nikki is all about Italian food. He interviews afterward that he thinks the groom's cake is ugly and that team bride needs to make sure their food is really, really good, since it's so simple.
The Wedding - At this point, all the chefs are extremely pissy. I really would be too, I'm not knocking them here. I probably would have stabbed Dale with my shucking knife by this point. I'm impressed they're all still marginally functional. Gale Gand is the guest judge, which basically means the cakes are going to get ripped apart. As far as the food, the guests seem to like the food pretty much equally, but the judges clearly like team bride's food more. Tom shovels a giant spoonful of cake into his mouth. Really, editors? That's what you left in?
Team bride wins the challenge and Gale anoints Richard the individual winner, as he was the team leader. Richard then does something non-douchey (are you watching Spike?) and gives the win to Stephanie because she rocked the cake. They decide to share the $2000 Crate and Barrel gift certificate - lucky.
Team groom comes in and the sh** goes down. I think the most shocking part of the entire SCE is that the two people we were sure were NOT going home were the two that made the cakes. Strong work, Lisa and Stephanie. Spike and Dale have it out at JT, mostly Dale being pissy and Spike egging him on so Dale will look worse. I can't believe the judges let the ranting go on for as long as it did. I can totally see Tom jumping in and being like, "Shut it, losers," only to have the producers step in and berate Tom for stopping the drama. The best part, however, was Dale saying the judges should like the sea bass, since it took Spike, "three hours to make it." Honestly, I think Dale should have just made the decision to remove some food from the menu and focus on a few dishes, but Spike is way more at fault. He knew he was screwing over the entire team by only making one thing (and cutting the vegetables, poorly at that), and that, to me, is worse than just trying to get sh** done and not having any help. I've been there and it's really frustrating. Dale was definitely warranted in his anger.
The judges deliberate to try to decide what the worst offense is; 1. doing one dish well, and nothing else 2. doing everything kind of poorly, or 3. not taking the lead when you have the most experience with catering and making Italian food. I chose option 3 and will stand by it, and not even just because I think Nikki should have gone home a long time ago.
Side note: Why did the camera dramatically zoom in on Lisa? Clearly she's not going home. Nikki gets sent home for not taking the lead. She looked like she was so tired she didn't even care. I almost feel bad, she seems like a good person, I just think she was out of her league at this point in the show.
Spike acts like a douchebag and intentionally screws people over - not shocking. Then, he fights with Tom about his opinion - a little more shocking. Andrew gets a new supply of crack.
*I say "stuck" because the groom should have been easier. Much easier.