Well friends, it's been awhile! But I'm back. There's a big roundup of my favorite November eats is on the way, but tonight I had to comment on the Top Chef Holiday Special which primered tonight on Bravo! (Spolier alert ahead.)
We have known this one was coming for a while, but it was still a thrill to get the first glimpse at Top Chef in Chicago! I suspect this special was filmed in late September, right before the Season 4 contestants arrived. Reports indicated that for several days at the end of the month, the exterior of the Top Chef house was decked out with Christmas decorations, so it makes sense.
Amid classic shots of the L, the Chicago Theater marquee, and the Chicago skyline at night, there were some solid shots of the new season's living, shopping, and cooking digs.
Show opened on the Chicago Top Chef house - a graystone, which we know to be on Paulina St. just south of Diversey. Interior looks cozy - a typical Lincoln Park "single family home". In this case, it's just a really big "family"! It was endearing that each contestant gave a hearty "brrrr!" as they stepped out of their cherry red Rav4s, because I'm pretty sure it WASN'T cold at all during September. Could they have been pretending? Hmmm...
Two of my Season 3 faves are back -- CJ and Tre. We've also got Tiffani and Marcel, who were spotted waiting for lunch at Frontera Grill back in September... so now we know why they were in town.
The challenge is revealed: cook a gourmet, three-course holiday meal. Winner gets $20K. And it doesn't go to charity this time. (That's a little dissappointing for me - I liked how they did that last time... but oh well.) The contestants are given $350 and the customary 30 minutes to shop at Whole Foods ... and we see the Whole Foods on Halsted for the first time! In all of it's georgeous glory. I think a few of the contestants even commented on how wide the meat and fish selection was. The section is HUGE!
The chefs finish shopping and the Chicago Top Chef Kitchen is revealed -- and it is a SHOT out of the blue: the Washburne Culinary Institute. I've never heard of it. It's part of the City Colleges of Chicago, and its wayyyy on the South Side. Probably a smart choice by the Bravo producers, because they knew no one would find them there!
As for the meal - the food looked great, the commentary was entertaining. Great to hear CJ's swagger again. And I'm pretty sure by the end of the meal (and at the Judges' Table) that Padma was a little tipsy. Or perhaps a lot tipsy. Well, word is she does love to drink!
All in all, it was a great look into what's ahead for Chicago. Even if the promo for the Chicago season (which ran during tonight's commercial breaks) was incredibly lame and unrevealing, I'm no less excited for it to come on the air. Can't wait!