I'll come right out with it: wedding shows are my weakness. I'm not quite sure why, since I'm as single as they come, but I could zone out on those programs for hours, living vicariously through the bride-to-be and the trials and tribulations she overcomes on the road to a “perfect” wedding. It's not the fairytale that fascinates me; it's the attention to detail -- from the floral arrangements and the stationary to the menu and the music, down to the last note. So when I found out Top Chef Masters would be throwing a Vegas wedding, I was tickled pink. Of course, the main source of my excitement, as it usually is, was the food.
Normally, the culinary offerings at weddings are lackluster at best. (Well, unless you have Tom Colicchio doing your catering, like Kerry did for his wedding. Lucky guy.) But with a team of top notch chefs on the case, I knew the other judges and I were in for a real treat.
The poor Masters, on the other hand, had to jump through some hoops. They were given just a few moments to consult with Christine and Jay, the bride and groom, before sorting out the minutiae of their wedding day. The chefs even had to pick color schemes for their chargers and napkins! With just four hours of prep time the day before the wedding, and two hours before service, the Masters muscled through, creating a Filipino-inspired menu to suit the couple.
It was pretty incredible what they pulled off. Even David Tutera has more time to strategize, prep, and execute than they did -- and with far more hands on deck. And Tutera isn't working in Vegas in the dead of summer.
That's one thing I should emphasize. It was hot. I mean really hot. (And not just because I was sitting next to Curtis.) I honestly don't know how these chefs function in full whites, darting around from room to room, slaving over a hot stove in 114 degree weather. I remember those grueling days in culinary school, and I admire their work. Do I want to do it myself? Heck no. And especially not for a party of 200 with only a day's notice.
But these chefs handled it like champs. Some, like Patricia, really played to the weather and the environment. She created the perfect passed plate for the occasion -- a cold, Southeast Asian-style salad made with pickled mackerel, fresh coconut, and chilies. It reminded me of Thai som tam with its bright, fresh flavors. It was the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and spicy all in one small bite, and using sustainable seafood no less. Bonus points for that! Another bold move was Theirry's blood soup. It takes a lot of guts to go up against grandma's recipes, but he did so with conviction, and succeeded. Even though it wasn't piping hot when it arrived, it was a real crowd pleaser. And that's no minor feat considering our table. One thing that didn't really come through in the editing was what tough critics the guests were. They make me look tame!
We may have had dissenting views on some of the dishes, but we all felt for Art when he wheeled out that wedding cake, which he literally had to hold up for the couple, tears welling up in his eyes. All of the guests' hearts went out to him at that moment. Art is just a teddy bear with the kindest heart, and all he wanted was to add that special Smith sparkle to their special day. (And I do mean sparkle. We were still finding disco dust from the cake on our faces days later!)
Watching the episode, it was special to see the back story: Despite Chris and Art's bickering in this episode and throughout prep time, Chris and Patricia sprung into action when Art's pineapple (literally) upside-down cake went lost its balance.
Was the cake lacking the deep caramelized richness that James spoke about? Yes. But did that mean it suffered in flavor? No. It was a perfectly moist, springy cake with a luscious rum vanilla sauce. I give Art props for taking a risk in creating a wedding cake in such a short period of time. I have a feeling that the frosting didn't set quite as planned because of said heat. (Seriously, we were living in the underworld for a full month. Thank god for air conditioners!)
The bottom line here is this: Was it a bummer the cake didn't stand on it's own? Sure. Did it ruin the wedding? Absolutely not. The couple had a fabulous time, and they got their wedding catered by some of the best chefs in the country. They drank, they danced, they laughed, and we got to be there sharing it with their closest friends and family.
There's no such thing as a perfect wedding, just like there's no such thing as the perfect relationship. It's those very flaws that we find endearing. They build character, and make us smile -- just like Art's disco dust did for days to come.