I love 4 a.m. wake-up calls. I didn't get too much sleep, probably because I was guilt-ridden by actually knowing that the contestants would be finding out that they were cooking Thanksgiving meal with only toasters, microwave ovens, and one hot plate. The funny thing about this challenge is that it was one that I had proposed to Shauna and Liz many seasons ago. I had done an episode of some cooking show for Fine Living in which I showed college students how to make a three-course meal using only a microwave and toaster oven. We all thought it was a great idea, but I more or less had it in mind for something like a fancy, multi-course meal for 20 people, not Thanksgiving for a roadie crew of 60. I actually laughingly told Shauna that I thought it was totally devious and mean that we'd put it upon them for a challenge like this (to which she responds, "I know, but this is Top Chef," which of course is the universal explanation for many of the crazy things we make them do).
There was a ton of discussion over culinary needs in setting this challenge up. How many microwaves and toaster ovens do we give them (one per contestant)? Should we give them a hot plate (yes, but only one)? I made sure each team had trays, platters, hot boxes, sterno, chafing dishes, the necessary equipment and electrical appliances to pull this off. We were outdoors so we had to buy a dozen coolers and order 300 lbs of ice. We built an outdoor pot washing area for each team, as there was no water source. We had to work with Grip and Electric to make sure the microwaves and toaster ovens wouldn't blow a fuse. And so on and so forth. So at 5 a.m., with my eyes still half shut, Team Culinary and the unionized roadie crew from the arena built an outdoor kitchen in less than 3 hours.