Top Chef

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Chuck: C+ | Grade It Now!
Mai Buddha Sucks

Two teams of three will take possession of one end of the raw space, and will share a kitchen, to create two one-night-only restaurants that will each welcome about 35 guests, using $1500 for food and a whopping $5000 for d├ęcor, courtesy of Pier 1 Imports. Antonia's Quickfire win enables her to choose the two chefs with whom she will work -- in a move that surprises no one, she selects Stephanie and Richard, based on common temperament and level professionalism, leaving Dale, Lisa and Spike to work together (and recreating the teams from Wedding Wars, minus Andrew and Nikki). It's like a rematch, thinks Stephanie, albeit one that, short of a crazy upset, breaks no new ground on the inter-personal front and promises a boring competition with a predictable ending.

Dale admits that he'd have chosen the same people Antonia did, but expresses optimism that this time, the team will do better -- Nikki didn't suck too badly, but at least it's one less loser personality to deal with, he says convincingly. Padma wishes them luck and leaves them with an hour to plan. As Richard shifts into executive chef mode, he tells the camera that it took him four months to open his eponymous restaurant (and how long did it take to close?). They only have twenty-four hours to create what will be a gastro pub -- "fine-dining food but in a very relaxed atmosphere." Dale, Lisa and Spike select the name Mai Buddha and Asian fusion cuisine (shocker) for what Lisa hopes will be a place with a "good vibe, good energy, Asian feel." Both she and Dale want to be executive chef (has Spike even vied for the title once yet?), so they flip a coin and Dale wins. Dale thinks that "Asian guy, Asian chef, Asian restaurant" adds credibility, but only if things are done well, and Lisa expresses concern that they won't be, since Dale's pissed off his share of people, not least of whom are the two that he's now got to supervise. Their planning discussion looks tense, as they bicker about soup and spice, but Spike wants them all to come together, act like adults, and work to send one of the top competitors home. "That's gonna make me very happy." Really, it's no wonder he hasn't been sent home -- who would fill all the interview time?

Turns out the $1500 (and an hour at Whole Foods) must go toward stocking a completely bare larder -- ah, no Top Chef kitchen, no Top Chef pantry. Mai Buddha finds some of what they need unavailable, and settle on a substitute for their sticky rice. They leave Whole Foods with two dollars, and on the way to Pier 1 Imports, Lisa, who's kind of like and angry Buddha, says that Mai Buddha got officially excited. Spike and Stephanie take front of house duties, with Spike focusing on all things long, red, and Buddha, and Stephanie zeroing in on simple and white. They return to the space with only five hours until service. Stephanie's ready to rumble, but Mai Buddha has beat her to the punch -- Dale and Lisa are already arguing, as Spike looks exasperated but pleased to be out of the kitchen, decorating the dining room. Setting up all that furniture looks like a huge pain in the ass.

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Top Chef




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