Top Chef: Episode 4.9 Predictions
This week on Top Chef 4, we have Wedding Wars! Previews also tell us that in order to meet their deadline, the chefs work for about 40 hours straight. Needless to say, the Bravo online preview also opens with a montage of yawning.

Like a cranky toddler who's missed his nap, the sleep-deprived cheftestants appear to be seriously grumpified by this challenge. Dale Talde is going to explosively lose his temper, and the preview notes there is a lot of “finger-pointing” going on in judging. Who could make it onto the chopping block this week?

Spike Mendelsohn and Nikki Cascone remain the two chefs without a Quickfire or Elimination win on Top Chef 4. Nikki's dish last week pleased the judges enough that she was called out as one of the best, but part of its appeal, according to judge Gail Simmons, was that it was “familiar.” But Lee Ann Wong noted Nikki's dish “certainly tasted OK, and she definitely gets props for putting the Brussels sprouts in the mix. I suppose it was just hard for me to look at the plate because there was so much going on. Cheap does not have to mean unrefined.”

So with her most recent success being with a simple and “unrefined” dish, and the struggle we've seen her have with previous catering challenges, will she be able to pull out a strong enough performance for a wedding event? Or will it not matter once again because someone else crashes and burns worse?

Although Spike, as well, also hasn't won a challenge, he still seems to me to be a bit of a wild card. Other than the pastry challenge, he doesn't appear to be the strongest conceptually or creatively. That said, he has been be able to hit the nail on the head under the right conditions. But if he hasn't excelled yet in the competition, is there still time to start now in a way that will convince the judges he deserves to win?

A similar thought for Andrew D'Ambrosi and Lisa Fernandes, for different reasons. Andrew has generally been trucking along in the high middle, often getting praise, but not getting an actual win since Episode 2. Andrew seems to have a good palate and good ideas, but one gets the sense that despite his bravado “This is my house!” talk, he seems somehow not completely ready to dominate in a way that might be necessary to break out of the middle of the pack.

Lisa Fernandes, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have the same hesitation to throw some weight around, but her performance has been spotty, and seemed to be sliding in recent episodes.

On the other hand, it kind of feels like Stephanie Izard has yet to be in the middle. She has yet to simply be “in” during an elimination challenge. She's either won (twice) or been in the group called out as best, or she's been in the group called out as worst, just not sent home. She seemed very rattled by the last challenge; was it just the parameters of the challenge or is the competition really getting to her?

Antonia Lofaso's performance has almost been as much of a roller coaster ride as Stephanie's, with three positive calls out, three negative and one win for the Elimination Challenges. She dominated the last episode, but the specifics of cooking for the family are very different from cooking for a wedding.

Dale has been doing very well lately, and has won two Elimination Challenges, but again, he appears to go a little batcrap crazy this episode. Then again, last time he had a screaming fit, he was on the winning team, so who knows what this means?

And Richard Blais, the ringer. He's been called out as one of the best or won six out of the eight Quickfires so far (two of those six were actual solo wins). But he's not just quick on his feet; he also has won two Elimination Challenges. That said, the issue with the scales on his fish in Episode 5 showed that when dealing with large-scale events, he might lose sight of details…but the judges don't and you're only as good as your last dish.

The Wedding Wars Top Chef episode will be airing on Wednesday at 10pm Eastern on Bravo.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Image courtesy of Bravo)