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Top Chef 5: Teaming Up For Wedding Wars

Although chefs are ultimately judged on the execution of their dishes, a professional kitchen is a well orchestrated team environment and as the Top Chef Masters winnowed down to the field of the Elite Eight in the Championship Round, team work was on display.

For Episode Five, the chefs who survived their opening round challenges were hit with the Top Chef classic Wedding Wars for elimination; but opened with another Top Chef classic in the Quick Fire: Tag Team Cooking.

The Chefs were split into two teams of four and given 40 minutes to prepare a dish. The Top Chef twists? None of the chefs can speak to one another, and when its not their turn to cook for 10 minutes-they are blindfolded.

This was the Quick Fire Chef Rick Moonen judged in season six of Top Chef, so he understood the challenge, and the importance of the anchor for the team. For team Blue, Moonen picked out the "Yoda" of the kitchen, Chef Jonathan Waxman.

This was an interesting challenge for Waxman, who admitted to being claustrophobic. He pulled off his blindfold after 30 minutes to finish a mussel and shrimp stew and help his team win the Quick Fire.

The win gave the blue team chance to pick out who they would cook for in the Wedding War, the bride or the groom.

In Wedding Wars on Top Chef, the chefs are teamed up and have 12 hours over two days to prep and cook a wedding meal, including a cake. The meal is served buffet style and for the Top Chef Masters, there were 150 guests to please.

The bride told the chefs she preferred French and Asian cuisine-but not shellfish or lamb. Her favorite desert is bananas foster. The groom told the chefs he is a steak and potatoes kind of guy and wanted a carrot cake for his father. For winning the Quick Fire the blue team chose the bride, and to the market went the chefs.

Chef Jody Adams from the Blue Team presented a lamb dish, even though the bride told the team she was not a fan of lamb. "I'm going to make her a lamb dish she loves," Adams says. It's a risky move with elimination on the front.

Blue Team Menu:

Hors D'Oevers: Chef Waxman-Red Pepper Pancakes; Chef Susan Feninger-Spicy Potato Fritters; Chef Adams-Raclette Tarts.

Entrees: Chef Moonen-Seafood Mixed Grill; Chef Waxman-Roast Chicken; Chef Adams-Rack of Lamb.

Desert: Chef Feninger-Egyptian Semolina Cake; Chef Adams-Bananas Foster.

Red Team Menu:

Hors D'Oevers: Chef Carmen Gonzalez-Crab Cakes; Chef Marcus Samuelsson-Lobster Roll and Cured Tuna.

Entrees: Chef Tony Mantuano-Ouzo Shrimp and Pasta with Feta Cheese; Chef Samuelsson-Roast Beef Tenderloin.

Side Dishes: Chef Gonzalez-Roasted Corn Relish; Chef Mantuano-Potatoes Au Gratin.

Desert: Chef Suser Lee-wedding cake (carrot cake)

In prepping for the wedding the chefs learned that the groom really likes simple food, something Chef Mantuano wondered about as he watched Samuelsson prep the tenderloin, "You have to cook for the client," Mantuano laments.
The requirements of simple flavors would also handcuff Chef Gonzalez as she stepped out of prepping a savory dish, instead focusing on desert, preparing two simple dishes and to keep her team on schedule. She would not have a lot to be judged on at Critics Table, so for her execution would have to be perfect.

Chef Waxman watched Chef Samuelsson grilling his filet, "I am not sure I would go with fillet at a wedding, it's just too easy to overcook or undercook." Could it be foreboding from the Yoda?

At the Critics Table review a split decision with the bride's team presenting better main dishes, but the groom's team winning the desert battle. Ultimately though it was a win for the bride's team-meaning all four move on in the competition. Chef Adams is the big winner, getting rave reviews for her risky lamb dish and great execution of bananas foster.

From the grooms team, Chef Gonzalez was eliminated. She could not overcome the lack of a savory dish to be judged on and there was some question about the desert she offered-which prompted the Quote of the Day:

Chef Moonen, "Susan's cake is the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree of wedding cakes." Chef Feninger admits, "It does not look good, but it tastes great."

Check out pics from the Wedding Wars here.