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Eat, Drink, and Be (Not So) Merry: An Advance Review of "Top Chef Reunion Dinner"

It's hard to believe at times that we're nearly almost done with the sixth season of Bravo's addictive culinary competition series Top Chef.

What better time then to take a look back than just before we anoint another new Top Chef to join the ranks of the blessed few?

Tomorrow night, Bravo will take a break from the current competition for the Top Chef Reunion Dinner, which will offer audiences a chance to see cast members from previous seasons of Top Chef come together for an evening of conversation, competition, and confrontation.

And, yes, those three things play an equal weight in the unfolding of the evening, which is hosted by Top Chef: New York competitor Fabio Viviani at Social Hollywood. Joining Fabio for the reunion are such noteworthy former competitors as Harold Dieterle, Tiffany Faison, Marcel Vigneron, Ilan Hall, Dale Levitski, Casey Thompson, Hung Huynh, Richard Blais, Lisa Fernandes, Carla Hall, and Stefan Richter.

I had the opportunity to watch the reunion dinner episode and have to say that I was not only completely captivated by what these accomplished chefs created in the kitchen but also the way that they interacted. Tensions run high as do emotions and this episode showcases both haute cuisine as much as hot tempers.

Yes, there are certain tough topics from Top Chef history that are dredged up rather uncomfortably for all involved. The head-shaving incident that ensnared Marcel, Ilan, Elia, and Cliff back in Season Two comes to mind. Tiffany's interactions with, well, everyone. Heated stew room arguments. Marcel getting hit over the head with a bottle by a detractor. Carla's decision to listen to Casey's advice to sous-vide her beef, a decision that cost her a shot at the grand prize last season.

These are all touched upon over the course of the alcohol-fueled evening, which features the chefs teaming up with their competitors from their individual season to produce a five-course meal for themselves. There are no judges, no dietary restrictions, no vending machine challenges, and a $500 per course budget. Just good, honest, and delicious food cooked without the added pressure of elimination. Given that no one is going to pack their knives for their performance, each of the chefs wants to dazzle their peers and produce dishes that impress, engage, and tantalize.

Which is a nice change from the rigors and stress of the competition, really. Richard Blais, for example, says that he misses the energy and thrill of competing but when that knife block comes out, there are groans all around. (What did they expect, after all? That the producers would let them just sit back and drink all night?) Others are more keen to cook in the kitchen than dish about the past. (Look for Fabio to make a rather stunning declaration during the dinner about this fact.)

Ultimately, Top Chef Reunion Dinner is a fantastic glimpse at where the former competitors are now, which wounds still sting years later, and which contestants can rise above the fray and attempt to make the evening about camaraderie rather than reheating old vendettas. It's a reminder of the passion, dedication, and vision of the contestants that have come before as well as a delicious offering of drama, served piping hot.

Top Chef Preview: An Angry Dinner:

Top Chef Preview: Marcel vs. Everyone:

Top Chef Reunion Dinner airs Wednesday night at 10 pm ET/PT on Bravo.


foodie2d said…
While I'm sad that the competition won't be on this week, this looks like it will be pretty entertaining. What a mix of personalities!

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