Top Chef

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Mai Buddha Sucks
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

It's morning in Chicago -- and this time it's really morning, as it isn't even starting to get light out yet. 5:45 A.M., to be exact, and Colicchio walks through the front door of Chez Chef, no doubt bearing wonderful news, and summons six surprised, sleepy people downstairs. It looks like Spike, taking advantage of vacancies, has pushed two beds together to create a larger bed. Schemer. Once the group has assembled in the kitchen, Colicchio informs them that the reason for the early morning visit is a field trip to a Chicago breakfast institution,where they'll all be cooking. For Quickfire, they'll man the short-order egg station, which translates into one of the worst wake-up calls ever. Spike points out that cooking eggs requires incredible precision, and that any chef will tell you that a short-order egg station is one of the most difficult jobs around.

Getting to the final four is the immediate goal, at least for Antonia and Stephanie -- winning would be nice, but after working hard (with difficult competition where there's no room for error, yes, thank you, Stephanie) a slot in the final four would feel really good. With that, and Spike's "Let's get the egg out of here," they're off. The early morning reveille precludes any discussion of missing Andrew, and what a fine chef and solid guy he is, and how his absence will be felt, so this is me pouring some beer on the ground in his memory.

Lou Mitchell's, self-proclaimed servers of the world's best coffee (is it?), is packed -- it's a decades-old institution, everybody loves it, it's massive, and, admits Dale, it's intimidating. Owner Helene, a solid woman who looks like she takes no guff, will be judging the Quickfire, which will see each of the six remaining chef-testants take a turn individually staffing the egg station. The winner will be the individual Helene would hire, were someone pointing a gun at her head. Spike's got years of short-order cook experience, but it's been a long time since he's cooked a copious amount of eggs.

Helene introduces the chefs to "the hole," "where a lot of the action takes place," and to Martine, whom they can watch to get a sense of the flow. She will be joining Helene to scrutinize the chefs' performances. Spike senses a general nervousness based on Helene's sales pitch -- calling her "hardcore," he does a decent impression of her smoker's growl and her take on the challenge: "It's hell, you're gonna die, you're gonna hate that you came here, and you're never gonna cook again." Sounds like disaster awaits. Antonia and her YO BIOTCH t-shirt are up first -- she's psyched to jump into a line because she likes to test herself. She concentrates on remaining calm, moving as fast as she can, and repeating orders. She's flipping potatoes, she's flipping eggs, and as Helene waves her out to make way for the next victim, it appears she's done a fine job.

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Top Chef

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