It's the time of the holidays, and this means it's time for giving. Top Chef decided to bring back a few of their chefs from the past three seasons and let them compete, or shall we say cook, for a prize of $20,000 to bring home.
From Season 1, Tiffani and Stephen returned. From Season 2, Josie, Betty, and Marcel returned. From Season 3, CJ, Tre, and Sandee returned.
Most of the chefs have gone places since they were eliminated from their respective seasons. Tiffani is opening her own restaurant in LA, and said she proves that Top Chef does change lives. Without this name, her restaurant wouldn't have been possible.
Tiffani also seemed a bit bitter about not winning Season 1. She was runner up, but didn't quite make it to the top. This was her time to shine.
Marcel went to Alaska after he was eliminated, and says he hasn't stopped traveling for the past five months. Not such a bad life.
Stephen is also opening his own restaurant and following his dream of becoming a restaurateur.
The first night of the reunion in Chicago they all gather round the dinner table. The feast they cooked was just a normal dinner for them, but for us common folk it would have been mouth watering. Don’t we all wish we knew someone on Top Chef.
The next day all the fun and games are over. It’s time to win that $20 grand.
The chefs arrive in the Top Chef kitchen and they see three things that stick out: a Christmas tree, Padma, and Santa Claus. Nobody knows who is under that costume, but as soon as he says the three famous words, “ho, ho, ho,” the chefs guess that it’s somebody with an accent.
The Quickfire Challenge was to create a delicious treat for Santa, who turned out to be renowned chef and owner of Le Bernardin restaurant in New York Eric Ripert.
The challenge is as follows. They are required to play “Dirty Santa,” which doesn’t sound much like a challenge at all. Here’s the catch, they had to pick a gift from under the Christmas tree, and the chef who picks after them can either steal that gift or pick a new one. Once they all had gifts, which were actually ingredients that had to be used in their dishes they were about to cook, they could begin their treat for Santa.
The chefs have 30 minutes, and the time is passing quickly. Josie begins to panic because she can’t find a can opener to open her caviar. She makes use of a knife and starts banging away at the top of the can, but doesn’t make in time to open it. She didn’t even use her gift from Santa.
“Everyone is just getting down and dirty running across the kitchen- it’s really fast pace,” said Stephen.
By the time the 30 minutes were up, some chefs were pleased and some were disappointed with their dishes. But this was only the Quickfire Challenge, so they knew they were all safe for now.
Chef Ripert’s least favorite dish was Stephen’s. He insulted it by saying it was too strong of an herb and tasted like a soap bar. Stephen was less than happy about Ripert’s remarks, as Steve thought his dish was excellent.
Marcel, Betty, and CJ’s dishes were Ripert’s favorites. CJ was announced winner of the Quickfire Challenge, and gained immunity for the first round of the Elimination Challenge.
The Elimination Challenge was fun and complicated at the same time. The chefs were to make three courses for nine special diners, a mix of judges and chefs from the past seasons of Top Chef. All courses had to be served head to head, and after the judges and diners tasted each course they would eliminate two chefs. After all the courses were done, there would only be two chefs standing.
The chefs had a budget of $350 to shop at Whole Foods and buy all the protein, produce, and ingredients they needed to make the most delicious three course meal they could make in order to take home $20,000. They would then go to the Washburn Institute for three hours to cook their meals.
“This is one of the best challenges ever,” Marcel said.
In the middle of her overwhelming rush and excitement, Betty forgot one vital ingredient to her dish: yeast. After yelling to her fellow chefs in the kitchen asking if anybody had yeast, the others now knew she was in trouble.
“If you screw up, it’s huge,” Sandee said.
Betty thought fast and decided to change her dish in order accommodate her missing ingredient. She was optimistic and thought it was just as good if not better than her old idea.
Tom Colicchio came in to check up on everyone and see how their progress was coming along. He asked about what they’ve been up to since Top Chef, and what they were cooking for tonight’s fancy meal.
“It’s like family coming back together,” Colicchio said.
As the diner and judges were seated at a beautiful dining table, they eagerly awaited their incredible three course meal. There was a wide range of talented chefs and judges at this table, and $20,000 at stake- it was time to step up their game.
The chefs came out and served their first course, and only had a total of 30 minutes to run back into the kitchen while the judges ate to prepare the second course.
Stephen’s gnocchi stood out as being one of the worst if not the worst dish at the table. The judges said it was hard and an odd choice for an appetizer since gnocchi is so heavy. Judge Ted Allen decided that showing Padma rather than telling her would be more effective, so he picked up a piece of Stephen’s gnocchi and dropped it on the plate. It made a fairly large bang. Not a sound that should be coming from food.
Betty left her lamb in four minutes longer than she had anticipated, which definitely put her at a disadvantage.
After tasting all the dishes, the judges decided that Sandee’s mushroom soup was too watery and Stephen’s gnocchi was just sub par, and they were both eliminated first.
The second course was better, but Betty’s overcooked lamb and Josie’s dry turkey just didn’t cut if for the judges’ palates. They were both eliminated next.
After she was eliminated, Josie was frustrated because she blew her opportunity to prove herself and her skills in front of these unique people sitting around the dining table. Tough luck, Josie.
Marcel and CJ’s third course didn’t make the cut either. Marcel’s lamb wasn’t seared properly and although CJ’s flavors were favored, the presentation was too sloppy.
And then there were two. Tiffani and Tre.
Of course the games weren’t over. The judges told Tiffani and Tre that they had 30 minutes to cook one last meal for them, the $20,000 meal. This was it.
Neither one happy about this curveball unexpectedly thrown at them, Tiffani and Tre ran into the kitchen demanding leftovers and help from the already eliminated chefs.
Stephen, Sandee and Josie helped Tiffani with her last minute puff pastry and Betty, Marcel and CJ contributed their efforts to Tre’s last minute dessert.
Everyone was hastily cooking until the last second, and then it was time to bring the last dish up to the judges.
When the table was finished eating, Tiffani and Tre met the judges at the judges table.
Though Tre’s dessert was a bold move for him since that is what got him eliminated during season three, Tiffani’s leftover beef puff pastry won over the judges and she was announced winner. She also got to take home $20,000, which she said she would put towards her restaurant.
The judges couldn’t leave Tre empty-handed, so they gave him a stack of books, all signed by the famous restaurateurs and judges.
“There have been so many woman chefs that have gone through the competition and not one of them has won a big prize,” Tiffani said, excited that she was the first woman to represent a big prize-winner on Top Chef.