Those Tricky Holidays

Executive Producer Shauna Minoprio reveals the insider scoop.

The holidays are always a tricky time. Honestly -- I'm not sure why Mia did it. She just seemed to get caught up in a wave of some kind of emotion that is hard to quite define. I think perhaps a combination of exhaustion, frustration and resentment towards Cliff pushed her over the edge. In the end I think she didn't want it enough. She seemed to feel that she had achieved enough by getting that far and now she was tired and pissed-off and wanted to go home. I know I've said this before, but this competition is extremely stressful and requires a lot of stamina to stay the distance.... You have to want it really badly. I also suspect that Mia felt that she was not likely to win the competition and so would rather quit than eventually be fired -- she is clearly a very proud person. I think she made the wrong decision but at the time it was also good to know that she was going home to her family and a decent night's sleep.

Anyway -- the party! What a totally awesome and groovy event it was that the glamorous Warner Brothers Special Events crew threw on the WB lot. It was very Hollyweird watching their workmen in shorts and T-shirts setting up trees and spraying the fake show around. I think the street we were on is where Bill Cosby/Dr. Huxtable used to live which was rather exciting -- and we had the Gilmore Girls around the corner, too! Of course the chefs were more excited about their mobile film catering trucks -- they LOVED them. They weren't the only ones, when Tom saw them, his eyes lit up like the proverbial tree. Seriously -- I know what someone wants for Christmas!

These chefs -- they definitely do live in their own world, and it sure is an alternative universe. They did work incredibly hard throughout the party, even Monsieur Midgely who I had a premonition might slack off to the vodka bar, was doing his utmost to get food from Elia and Cliff and deliver it to the table. Unfortunately his utmost wasn't anywhere near enough to pull off that particular yuletide miracle.

Elia and Cliff sweating it as hard as they could but they had backed themselves into a corner with their cooking "a la minute" plan. By contrast the other team was a well-oiled machine churning out the gourmet snacks despite the fact that they had Marcel and everyone apparently hates him. Maybe they were touched by the holiday spirit -- peace on earth and goodwill to all men, even Marcel. From my point of view shooting at the party was great, the only problem was shooting around the party guests and making sure they didn't get elbowed by a cameraman or hit by a boom pole.

Of course there's always the nagging anxiety that the chefs might screw up under pressure and accidentally poison all 250 guests. There's not a lot I can do about that.... Except, of course, have everyone who eats the food sign a piece of paper absolving the production from all responsibility should they find themselves in hospital with a touch of botulism. Still, it would be rather embarrassing. I'm someone who generally thinks that all publicity is good publicity, but in the case of a Top Chef mass-poisoning, perhaps I would have to re-think that position. At the end of the night the guests were still healthy, if a little drunk, and all was well. My one regret is that we didn't persuade Midgely into a Santa Claus outfit on some spurious pretext -- Top Chef meets Bad Santa, now that's a show!

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