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Top Chef Holiday Special - Chicago

I guess I'll kick this off. Did my DVR somehow get a magic preview version in error? Everywhere I look, it says it's airing tonight (December 6) but it was on last night from 11:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m. Central Time (I'm on Comcast Digital Cable in MSP).

Then I come on here to read people's thoughts on the glimpse into Chicago/Top Chef 4/etc. and there isn't even a word (granted, I'm still waking up and maybe glossed over the search function).

It was nice to soothe my Top Chef withdrawl and I honestly wasn't even aware this show was going on.

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  1. I was surprised as well to see it on Bravo last night at 12:30. I felt bad for the one's elminated not even being able to present their food. I won't say anymore to spoil the show, but I wonder why they put it on last night and advertise for tonight.

    1. I caught it late last night too. It was great to see old contestants and really nice to see them get to cook their hearts out. I think the winner has had a big win comming for a long time! Way to go ______!!


      1. I really liked this special TC but there were a couple of cheftestants that I thought had no business being there, Sandy and Betty. I would loved to have seen Cliff replaced either of them.

        12 Replies
        1. re: KTinNYC

          Agree that Sandy, and perhaps Josie, shouldn't have been there. I also would have liked to have seen Cliff.

          Overall, I liked this show. Everyone seemed relatively cool with each other - glad to see that Marcel and Betty seemed to have buried the hatchet. When I heard both of them were going to be on together, I was thinking "there's the drama", but they were completely civil and friendly with each other. Marcel seems to have toned down a LOT (for which I was thankful!). He's still very confident in his abilities, but not so damn cocky and arrogant in thinking he is best and everyone else sucks.

          Had to laugh at the "surprise ending" - Yes, you should have seen it coming, Final 2! LOL I think the person who won deserved it - although I would have been happy for either of them winning!

          1. re: LindaWhit

            DH, who hasn't watched TC as religiously as I have, made the same comment that Marcel wasn't nearly as annoying. I was already thinking, "Are we just not seeing enough of him, or is he really doing better?" But yeah, we didn't see him making digs at anyone else.

            I do have to wonder how many people they asked out of all the chefs before they got this lineup. Let's assume it's given that they couldn't pick the winners. I got the impression from Dave's appearance on the season 1 vs 2 that one return was enough for him -- judges' table and everything else were just too stressful and not that fun. LeeAnne is out because of her job at Bravo. Perhaps they thought it wasn't a good idea to bring Cliff back given the circumstances of his departure. But how about Brian, Casey, Mia, Elia, SaraM, Howie, or even Miguel?

            1. re: momjamin

              Agree on Dave not wanting to come back after the other "contest" between TC1 and TC2. But I think he also has just opened up a place in NYC, so he could very well have been busy with that.

              After watching the show, I had also wondered why not Miguel. The others? I'm kinda glad they didn't have Howie there, or Brian. Perhaps for Casey and/or Brian, the holiday special was happening too soon after their season. Plus they're both working at their restaurants; probably couldn't take the time away again?

              1. re: momjamin

                I imagine that a lot of people were unable to make it because they have jobs in restaurants. It seemed that a handful of the folks there said they could really use the money because they were in the process of opening their own restaurant. Meaning there is a chance they have thier own schedule and don't have the man a stove or run a kitchen on a nightly basis in someone else's business.

                Also Dave opened a restaurant in NYC? Any info on this? (Last I heard he has been spotted waiting tables in some restaurant in Manhatten...which seemed a little sad but I feel like we didn't have the whole story---like perhaps he was doing it for research purposes etc).

                1. re: Elyssa

                  Dave's restaurant is called Crave. Pics from opening night here:

                  The filet mignon dish on the homepage of Crave looks AWESOME:

                  1. re: kenito799

                    While I'm not a big Dave fan, I looked at the menu on Crave's website. (Thanks for the link.) Gosh, no wonder they include the prices. Crave must be the most reasonably-priced restaurant in Manhattan!

                    1. re: nosh

                      The prices were indeed very reasonable, probably because of it's out-of-the-way location. It's on 42nd Street, right by the West Side Highway.

                    2. re: kenito799

                      I think that menu looks really good. Certainly a place I would want in my neighborhood if I lived in NYC. Very Dave---lots of flavors and richness.

                      1. re: Elyssa

                        i'm just happy to see that he finally got his place...it's well-deserved...he worked his ass off for it.

                        the menu is smart in the sense that a majority of the ingredients appear in numerous dishes, which should make things easier in the kitchen. i don't know that i'm so crazy about some of the flavor combos, though...i.e. the jumbo sea scallops. serving them with smoked tomato butter sounds perfect to me, but the idea of adding vanilla cream to the mix sort of makes me want to gag.

                2. re: LindaWhit

                  And Marcel seems to have chilled out on the foam and other chemical stuff--which was nice to see since all that stuff always kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

                  1. re: Elyssa

                    Had to laugh at Tom asking him if he was going to foam anything. :-)

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      With the beard and a couple years of maturity, Marcel doesn't even look like wolverine-boy anymore. And his "aw, shucks" kind of reaction to his dismissal would have been unthinkable in Season 2.

              2. Bravo indeed gave a late-night sneak preview of the 1.5(!) special last night but, promo was heavy for tonight's prime time encore. I won't act as a spoiler but, it was a very entertaining and a nice gift for those among us who have TOP CHEF withdrawal pains and can't wait for next season's TOP CHEF Chicago.

                The end result ... ah, let's talk about it after more Chowhounders have had a chance to see it.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Kris P Pata

                  OK, so we've 4 hours until the show airs here. On a related note we were in Chicago last month and ate at sola & lucky to have Dale Levitski as our server. It was great catching up with Dale and hearing some of his stories especially all the fun he had with Eric Ripert in the Cayman Islands. He is still working through the permit process and hopes to open early next year. BTW, the food at sola was really really good!

                  1. re: manomin

                    Is Dale waiting tables at Sola or cooking there?

                    1. re: Elyssa

                      Dale is working the front of the house at Sola. Interview here:

                      And he is dating Jack from Project Runway S4. I saw Dale at a bar in Manhattan recently...Jack was not with him.

                      1. re: kenito799

                        Is he really???? Oh I sooooooo love that! Bravo bringing folks together one reality show at a time.

                2. The show just ended here, but seeing as there's a time lag, I'll reserve my comments until other people have seen it.

                  *points out that she's fuming a bit here*

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: xo_kizzy_xo

                    i'm with you kizzy.

                    particularly since the judes said they didn't "understand" tiffani's first course AND would have liked to see it cooked more, yet they loved tre's scallops and his lamb.


                    NOT happy with the outcome. i also thought padma was unreasonably excited about tre's prize. yes, i know they were signed by some incredibly talented & respected chefs, but her segue into the announcement made it seem like she expected him to jump up & down with glee over it. cookbooks as consolation for losing out on 20 grand? whoop-dee-freakin-doo.

                    but overall, it was enjoyable to watch, although i, too, would have liked to see cliff participate.

                    btw, is it just me, or is norman van aken always an ass when he appears on TC?

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      Actually, I was thinking that the female judge (don't know her name, but she looks like Switch from the movie, "The Matrix") was being her rude self. Also, wasn't she the one that didn't get Mac and Cheese as holiday food?

                      1. re: dave_c

                        <Also, wasn't she the one that didn't get Mac and Cheese as holiday food?> That was Elizabeth Falkner from Citizen Cake.

                        1. re: ChefJune

                          Brings a tear to my eye that she doesn't get Mac and Cheese. lol.
                          I sure hope she doesn't think she's above such low-brow, country folk food.

                          Reminds me of Cheftestant Sara Nguyen making milkshakes, stating that they should be watered down (with ice?) so that they aren't so thick and rich. What! That's why we love milkshakes!

                          Some people just don't get it I guess... lol.

                          1. re: dave_c

                            Haha, I got into an argument over this on imdb. I actually sometimes put ice in my milkshakes and I guess I never thought it was weird until I saw that episode of Top Chef. Though it does suck for her for being eliminated for putting ice in her milk shake.

                            1. re: digkv

                              She was eliminated more for her whiny attitude rather than the milkshakes. But she is moving to Chicago to work at Dale's new restaurant so it's all in the past!

                        2. re: dave_c

                          Yes - She was like "We wouldn't eat this in my family!" Gimme a break. Pass the crescent rolls and margarine, honey.

                          ee gad.

                    2. Can we actually talk about it now? West coast finished already. Let me just say that salted butterscotch pudding looked absolutely amazing: I want to try it so badly and there is a recipe online so I actually may. I was definitely rooting for Marcel and as for people who had no business of being there: Sandee and Betty. You could tell that Sandee was not on par at all with the other chefs and for all the BS at the beginning of S3 where they said in the initial episodes that "this is the best group ever" and said there wasn't a bad dish.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: digkv

                        Regarding Marcel, I am sure the vast majority of the drama between Marcel and Cliff etal. was manufactured by the producers and directors. I always found it extremely suspicious that for some reason the only time that the cheftestants had a cam to record themselves was when they attacked Marcel and shaved their heads.

                        1. re: digkv

                          Strange mix of former contestants, defintely a mixed bag and not the cream of the crop so to speak...that being said..Marcel and Stephen both seemed to have mellowed a bit and were actually very decent...none of the attitudes they displayed in the past....and is it just me or is there just something about Colicchio that gets under your skin a little?

                          1. re: jvish

                            I think Marcel has toned it down after interacting more with some better chefs: the cheftestants from seasons 1 and 3!

                            I am sure the group who was there was a mix of who was available and wanted to do it as well as who they thought were the best. Personally, I was psyched that Josie was there and able to mention her horrible gay-bashing incident--publicity is what helps make those crimes less accepted. While she and Sandee may not have been as strong as the likes of Tiffani and Tre, I was still happy to see them. Every chef produced some nice looking dishes.

                            I was very glad Tiffani won! Her last minute creation was a great idea. Also happy to hear that she has a restaurant in the works.

                        2. i thought that both tiffani and trey did great and while Tiffani's final dish probably was better does anyone else seem to think that Trey actually did more for his dish? Tiffani's veal wasn't cooked by her at all and the puff pastry was also a leftover. i know that it was in the rules they could use other people's leftovers but I thought that Trey should have been rewarded for using almost all new things (except for betty's marscapone)

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: cambridgeMike

                            I think Tiffani also made a jus sauce to go with the "leftover sandwich." If you think about it the only extra Tre did was make the crepes and make the balsamic reduction. I think it ended up being about equal amount of work and Tiffani did credit Stephen for a majority of the food.

                            1. re: cambridgeMike

                              I was also thinking about this -- Tre wanted to use Stephen's veal, too. Would he have won if he had? Seems to me that the competition was kind of decided on what was available. Tre backed down immediately when Tiffani claimed the osso bucco -- but what if he hadn't? It might have been more interesting if both of them had used the veal for their last course.

                              1. re: cambridgeMike

                                I agree with you. It seems Tiffani just put Stephen's leftover braised lamb on a puff pastry and he did all the cooking! I was sad Tre didn't win because I've always liked him.

                                I do have to say thought that I LOVED getting my Top Chef fix and being a Chicagoan, I'm sooo excited for the Chicago season. I wish I was at that Whole Foods when they were!!!

                                1. re: Chew on That

                                  I'm pretty sure that the 4th course was decided upon even before the show and it wasn't a tie. I think Tiffani's dishes were better than Tre's. Her dessert was called "the best thing we ate all night," by Collichio.

                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                    I agree that they liked her pudding, but she admitted herself that was something out of the ordinary and not typical of her regular cooking style. She usually does things like her bacon wrapped apple or whatever...I don't know, I'm not thrilled with her all the time.

                                  2. re: Chew on That

                                    That's what ruffled my feathers. Nothing against Tiffani's talent --and she IS talented -- but there's something about her that's always annoyed me. Tre, on the other hand, is a gentleman, very talented, and never was swept up with the drama. I was hoping he'd win just for the redemption factor.

                                    1. re: xo_kizzy_xo

                                      Tiffani has an abrasive personality, and Tre is very appealing. However, Tre's food has never seemed very original to me...sort of standard upscale comfort food dishes. Tiffani pushes the envelope more. Of course, if I could taste their food I would actually be able to state a valid opinion.

                                      Note that Colicchio has raved about a few of Tiffani's dishes as being truly special--that butterscotch pudding and her artichoke risotto, for instance.

                                      1. re: kenito799

                                        I know what you mean about Tre. Everyone always loved him but I always thought he was boring: personality wise and food wise. I'm not saying I can cook better or that I even go to restaurants with better food but in comparison to other chefs his food didn't seem crave-worthy. He just made standards with a twist and I'm sure they were executed really well but they weren't as appealing as the food and innovativeness of other chefs.

                                  3. re: cambridgeMike

                                    I agree. I was disappointed Tiffani won by repackaging food that other people cooked. At least Tre went out on the limb and did well with his dessert. Too bad he didn't come back with an apple bread pudding as his final dish.

                                    1. re: dave_c

                                      heheheheheheh well, I wouldn't go THAT far, but I think Tre felt vindicated at last, being in the final. and I agree that he was my preference for the winner, but I didn't like Tiffani from jump.

                                  4. Just finished watching, so disappointed that Tre could not bring home the cash. I think most of us were really rooting for him and knew he had a great chance, but from the comments after the 4th course (how could they not see it coming?) it was pretty obvious that Tiffany was going to win. Hats off to her, watching her again during the quickfire and what she made reminded me of how talented she is, and I knew she would be in the final 2 or winning team whatever the challenge was.

                                    I just really wanted Tre to win.

                                    1. I also wanted to see Tre win. I found it strange that one of the judges "didn't understand" macaroni and cheese for the holidays. Really? I can't remember ever having a holiday dinner without baked macaroni and cheese.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: amethiste

                                        Yes, I noticed that too she seemed somewhat condescending when she said she liked the mac and cheese but it wasn't a part of her holiday meal. Gail gave her a look and a nod but I believe was thinking the comment was a throwaway. Same judge did seem to ok the spaetzle on the menu for the holidays.

                                        1. re: amethiste

                                          Ya that was weird. It showed a totaly disregard or lack of knowledge about regional fare. I'm from New England so I never had mac and cheese growing up (although I wish I did) but all my friends from the south had it at their holiday meals (mostly Christmas but also Easter etc).

                                          In my humble opinion, mac and cheese is perfect for any occasion! :)

                                          1. re: amethiste

                                            If you are from the south..they always have mac n cheese for the holidays!!

                                            1. re: melly

                                              This is what I'm saying. :-) Elizabeth Faukner seems to not know much about regional cuisine outside of her own region

                                              1. re: amethiste

                                                she can have her overpriced SF pastry! yeesh

                                          2. I have always thought that Tiffany was a talented chef, but like another poster mentioned, there is something about her that irritates me. I really wanted to see Tre win and I believe that he deserved to win over Tiffany.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Gingerleen

                                              Haha, this has been a topic of contention among me and my TC watching friends. Most of us have landed on the idea that Tiffany just seems a little "fake." It's probably not what she actually is, but just her demeaner, tone of voice, and facial expressions tend to seem like she's always hiding something. It makes it harder to connect with her than with a Harold or Dave or even Hung. I mean, you always knew Hung spoke and meant whatever he said, even when he was being a huge ass.

                                            2. Did anybody see it last night? If not, I'm sure they will run it again. I laughed until I cried when Stephen, the guy with the windsor knot tie was judged for his Quick Fire "masterpiece." First of all, if you know Stephen, you know that he has an ego the size of Donald Trump. He's very arrogant and thinks he know's it all. It was announced that his was the least favorite. They cut to him and his face just has a look of anger, embarrassment, humiliation and disbelief. That's when I started laughing. He then starts to slightly shake his head and act like the judge is talking about someone else's dish, not his. When my tears started to roll was the final straw from the judge. He said that Stephen's dish tasted like a "soap bar." Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh it was soooooo funny!!!!

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: CLucas

                                                I thought it was strange for a chef to wear a tie in the kitchen. It seems to me it would be uncomfortable and hot. I didn't watch that season of TC. Did he wear a tie for his entire run or is this his new look as restauranteur? He mentioned he had not cooked in a year.

                                                1. re: amethiste

                                                  Clearly you don't know Stephen then! lol He pretty dresses in full business attire regardless of the situation.

                                                    1. re: Elyssa

                                                      I wonder how big his "tie closet" is...wait, he probably wears each one only once so he can keep current with tie fashion...

                                                      1. re: Elyssa

                                                        Hahaha so true! Stephen has that "air" about him.

                                                        1. re: Chew on That

                                                          Don't you remember the scenes in the house from his season? He even sleeps with a tie! And wow, the knots are always as big as softballs.