|Top Chef: Chicago|
|Hosted by||Padma Lakshmi|
|No. of contestants||16|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||15|
|Original release||March 12 –|
June 18, 2008
Top Chef: Chicago is the fourth season of the American reality television series Top Chef. It was first filmed in Chicago, Illinois, before concluding in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The season premiered on Bravo on March 12, 2008 and ended on June 18, 2008. In the season finale, Stephanie Izard was declared the winner over runners-up Richard Blais and Lisa Fernandes. Izard was also voted Fan Favorite.
16 chefs were selected to compete in Top Chef: Chicago.
|Zoi Antonitsas||Seattle, Washington||San Francisco, California||30|
|Jennifer Biesty||Brooklyn, New York||San Francisco, California||35|
|Richard Blais||Uniondale, New York||Atlanta, Georgia||35|
|Valerie Bolon||Chicago, Illinois||Chicago, Illinois||32|
|Nikki Cascone||New York, New York||New York, New York||35|
|Andrew D'Ambrosi||Fort Lauderdale, Florida||New York, New York||30|
|Lisa Fernandes||Toronto, Ontario||New York, New York||27|
|Erik Hopfinger||Chappaqua, New York||San Francisco, California||38|
|Stephanie Izard||Stamford, Connecticut||Chicago, Illinois||31|
|Antonia Lofaso||Los Angeles, California||Los Angeles, California||31|
|Spike Mendelsohn||Clearwater Beach, Florida||Washington, D.C.||27|
|Nimma Osman||Peachtree City, Georgia||Atlanta, Georgia||26|
|Mark Simmons||Invercargill, New Zealand||New York, New York||29|
|Ryan Scott||Los Banos, California||San Francisco, California||28|
|Dale Talde||Chicago, Illinois||New York, New York||29|
|Manuel Trevino||Laredo, Texas||New York, New York||33|
Richard Blais, Antonia Lofaso, Spike Mendelsohn, and Dale Talde returned to compete in Top Chef: All-Stars. Blais, Lofaso, Talde and Stephanie Izard later competed in Top Chef Duels. Lisa Fernandes returned for Top Chef: All-Stars L.A.
|Contestant||Elimination Challenge Results|
^Note 1 : The chef(s) did not receive immunity for winning the Quickfire Challenge.
^Note 2 : Episode 1's Quickfire Challenge resulted in the 16 contestants being split into two groups of 8: the winners and losers. No immunity was given to the winners. This was done for the purpose of the head-to-head cook-off in the Elimination Challenge.
^Note 3 : Richard was originally awarded the win by the judges. Although he gave the win to Stephanie and she shared the prize, he is considered the sole winner of the challenge according to the Bravo website.
Main article: List of Top Chef episodes
|Title||Original air date|
|44||1||"Anything You Can Cook, I Can Cook Better"||March 12, 2008|
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs had to create a signature deep dish pizza and serve it to Rocco DiSpirito and Padma Lakshmi. Immunity from elimination was not awarded to the winners. Instead, the teams were separated into two groups, based on their performances, for the upcoming Elimination Challenge.
Elimination Challenge: The winners of the Quickfire cooked head-to-head against the losers, using one dish from a list of classic dishes. The winners drew numbered knives and chose one of the losers as their opponent. The opponent then selected which dish the pair would each prepare. Both dishes were served to the judges simultaneously, with decisions to follow immediately. Anthony Bourdain guest judges. The name of the winning chef for each dish is indicated below in bold.
|45||2||"Zoo Food"||March 19, 2008|
Quickfire Challenge: Each chef created a dish using no more than five ingredients (excluding salt, pepper, sugar, and oil), either purchased at Chicago's Green City Market or from the Top Chef pantry. The winner received immunity from elimination.
Elimination Challenge: Five teams of three were selected by drawing knives, each assigned a specific animal: bear, gorilla, lion, penguin, or vulture. The teams prepared a series of appetizers based around their animal's diet for a gathering of 200 guests at the Lincoln Park Zoo. They were given 30 minutes and $500 to shop at the Whole Foods Market, three hours to prep in the Top Chef kitchen, and one hour to set up on-site. Wylie Dufresne guest judges.
|46||3||"Block Party"||March 26, 2008|
Quickfire Challenge: Each chef had to create an upscale taco. In addition to receiving immunity, the winner's dish was put on the menu of Rick Bayless' restaurant Topolobampo.
Elimination Challenge: Divided into two teams of seven, the chefs catered a Chicago neighborhood's annual block party. The teams were required to only use ingredients that they could get from the residents of the block.
|47||4||"Film Food"||April 2, 2008|
Quickfire Challenge: Each chef created a vegetable platter using the various vegetables provided to them, in addition to all of the items from the entire Top Chef pantry. The chefs had to utilize at least three culinary techniques in their dish. The winner received immunity from elimination.
Elimination Challenge: The chefs drew knives to pair up into six teams of two. As the winner of the Quickfire, Dale was able to choose which pair to join to form a group of three. Then, they created a 6-course meal; each dish was inspired by the chefs' favorite films. The guest judges at the dinner included film critic Richard Roeper, chef Daniel Boulud, and actress Aisha Tyler.
|48||5||"The Elements"||April 9, 2008|
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs participated in a comparison taste test. For every comparison, each chef was blindfolded and tasted two variations of a certain food, one of which was of a lesser quality than the other. The chefs were scored for each high-end ingredient they correctly identified. The winner received immunity from elimination. Chef Ming Tsai guest judges.
Elimination Challenge: The chefs were split into four groups of three, based on the classical elements: earth, water, fire, and air. Each team had to create a meal based on their assigned element for 80 people of Chicago's Celebrity Chef-Meals on Wheels Fundraiser, held at the old Marshall Field & Co. Building. Survey cards were filled out by the patrons of the dinner that evening and used as part of the judging process. The winner received a five-day trip for two to Italy.
|49||6||"Tailgating"||April 16, 2008|
Quickfire Challenge: Each contestant was allowed to taste three beers from several different brands prior to selecting one. Each contestant was then challenged to create a dish that paired well with their beer choice. The winner received immunity from elimination.
Elimination Challenge: The contestants were asked to create meals for a tailgating party at Soldier Field prior to a Chicago Bears football game (Week 6 game versus the Minnesota Vikings). The chefs were given preparation time both at the Top Chef kitchen and at the field, prior to serving, on grills. The top and bottom three dishes were selected from the crowd participating in the tailgating party, including former Bears players Richard Dent, Gale Sayers and William "The Refrigerator" Perry. The final decision of the winner and eliminated chef was left to the judges. The winner received a Weber Summit 650 Gas Grill and a Chicago Bears jersey labeled "Top Chef". Chef Paul Kahan guest judges.
|50||7||"Improv"||April 23, 2008|
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs made desserts for the judges. In addition to receiving immunity from elimination, the winner had their Quickfire recipe placed in the Top Chef cookbook.
Elimination Challenge: The chefs attended a performance of the improvisational comedy troupe, The Second City. During the performance, the Second City actors obtained various combinations of colors, emotions, and ingredients from the audience, creating five descriptions for meals that the chefs then had to prepare. The chefs freely split into teams and selected the order for the courses. They discovered that were unable to use electric mixers or food processors during the challenge since they had been removed from the Top Chef kitchen. While cooking, the chefs also found out that, while an elaborate table was set up in the kitchen, they would be serving their meals at the Top Chef house. They only had 20 minutes to move to the house following this announcement. Each member of the winning team received $2,500 worth of Calphalon kitchenware. Pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini guest judges.
|51||8||"Common Threads"||April 30, 2008|
Quickfire Challenge: Each chef had to create an entrée in only 15 minutes, using Uncle Ben's Rice as a primary ingredient. The winner received immunity from elimination.
Elimination Challenge: The contestants were told to make a healthy, simple, and flavorful meal for a family of four, using only $10. Meal preparation would take place at the Washburn Culinary Institute. At the institute, each chef was paired with a child from the Common Threads program who participated in preparing the dish and was also responsible for explaining the dish to fellow children from the program during the tasting.
|52||9||"Wedding Wars"||May 7, 2008|
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs drew knives to split into two teams of four. In these teams, the chefs competed in a mise en place relay race. One person from each team had to perform a basic kitchen task, such as supreming oranges and filleting fish, and then receive approval from Tom Colicchio before the next person on their team could begin the next task. The first team to complete all the tasks won. From this point on, the winners of the Quickfire Challenge no longer received immunity from elimination.
Elimination Challenge: Instead of the typical "Restaurant Wars" challenge, the teams were challenged to "Wedding Wars". In the same teams used for the Quickfire, the chefs catered a 250-guest wedding (125 guests to be served per team) for a couple who owned a restaurant and wedding facility. Each team prepared a different menu; one team was responsible for meeting the bride's requests, while the other for the groom. Team Fork, as the winner of the Quickfire, decided to cater for the bride. The teams were given 30 minutes to discuss the menu with the bride or groom, 30 minutes to plan, $3,000 to shop at a large food warehouse and $2,000 at Whole Foods Market, and 14 hours (through the night) of preparation time in the Top Chef kitchen, followed by additional preparation time at the banquet. The winner received a $2,000 gift certificate to Crate & Barrel.
|53||10||"Serve and Protect"||May 14, 2008|
|54||11||"Restaurant Wars"||May 21, 2008|
Quickfire Challenge: Taking turns, each chef spent the same amount of time manning the egg station during the busy breakfast hours at Lou Mitchell's Restaurant and Bakery. The chef's performance would be judged by both Tom Colicchio and the restaurant's owner, Heleen Thanas, based on who she'd be most likely to hire.
Elimination Challenge: For the standard "Restaurant Wars" challenge, the chefs had to open up a restaurant in teams of three for a dinner service, consisting of three courses with two selections each for approximately 35 guests the next day. The winner would be judged based on both the normal judges and comment cards filled out by the patrons. Each team had $1,500 to spend on food, and $5,000 from Pier 1 Imports for decor. As the winner of the Quickfire, Antonia was able to select her teammates for the challenge. One chef from each team was required to assist in front-of-house duties along with additional waitstaff. Midway through the challenge, each team's executive chef was allowed to select one additional assisting chef from the four most recently eliminated chefs: Andrew, Jennifer, Mark, and Nikki. Antonia chose Nikki and Dale chose Jennifer. The winner received a trip for two to Barcelona, Spain, including a guided wine tour. Chefs Anthony Bourdain and José Andrés guest judge.
|55||12||"High Steaks"||May 28, 2008|
Quickfire Challenge: At a meat packing warehouse, each chef was given twenty minutes to butcher and clean seven "tomahawk chops" from an aged side of beef. Then, at the Top Chef kitchen, they were given an additional thirty minutes to prepare two of the chops to the guest judge's preference: medium-rare.
Elimination Challenge: Each chef had to create an appetizer and entrée, in addition to working the line at Rick Tramonto's Steak & Seafood restaurant. Spike, as the Quickfire winner, was able to select two proteins to use for his dishes, preventing the other chefs from using those proteins. He chose frozen scallops to use for his appetizer, and tomahawk chops for his entrée. The winner received a cook book by Rick Tramonto and a suite of GE Monogram appliances. Previous Top Chef winners Harold Dieterle, Ilan Hall, and Hung Huynh are in attendance.
|56||13||"Puerto Rico"||June 4, 2008|
Elimination Challenge: The chefs were asked to prepare three dishes each for a reception held at La Fortaleza, the official residence of the governor of Puerto Rico. Each chef was given a pig to butcher, and had to use at least two different parts of it in two of their dishes. The last four previously eliminated chefs were brought back as sous chefs to assist the competitors. Stephanie, as the Quickfire winner, selected which sous chef would work with each contestant. She assigned Spike to Richard, Nikki to Antonia, Andrew to Lisa, and Dale to herself. While the chefs butchered the pig, the sous chefs shopped for ingredients at a local market. Then, the chefs had two hours of prep time on the day before the reception, followed by five hours of cooking time just prior to the reception. The winner received a 2009 Toyota Corolla S. Wilo Benet guest judges and First Lady of Puerto Rico Luisa Acevedo Vilá is in attendance.
|57||14||"Finale"||June 11, 2008|
Elimination Challenge: For their final challenge, each chef was asked to create a four-course meal for nine guests, consisting of a fish course, a poultry course, a red meat course, and a dessert, in that order. Before they started to cook, the chefs had to select one of three famous New York chefs to act as their sous chef for the challenge. Additionally, each famous chef came paired with an array of proteins for the contestant to use in their first three dishes. The order for picking the sous chefs and proteins was determined by the number of previous elimination round wins, with ties broken by knife pulling. Stephanie chose celebrity chef, author, and restaurateur Eric Ripert, of Le Bernardin. Richard chose chef and restaurateur Dan Barber, of Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Lisa chose April Bloomfield, also a chef and restaurateur, from The Spotted Pig. On the second and final day of cooking, the chefs had to finish the meal preparation alone.
|58||15||"Reunion"||June 18, 2008|