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Top Chef's CJ and Antonia Cook at The Grove

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Photos by Kevin Weis/LAist

Fans of Bravo's highly successful reality program "Top Chef" were in for quite the treat last Thursday evening, when two contestants from previous seasons, CJ and Antonia, participated in a friendly cook-off at The Grove. The event was sponsored by the Sherry Council of America, and featured sherry tastings and gourmet bites from a few of The Grove's top restaurants.

The evening began with demonstrations from chefs representing The Whisper Lounge, Maggiano's Little Italy, The Farm of Beverly Hills, and Morels. The audience got little bites of each entree: short ribs from Whisper Lounge, butternut squash ravioli from Maggiano's, sesame-seed-crusted salmon from The Farm, and poached halibut from Morels. The audience also got to sample three types of sherry: Fino (light, nutty, and a pale yellow color), Amontillado (amber-colored and tasting of hazelnuts), and Ximinez (very dark and sweet like molasses).

The real fun began with the appearances of CJ and Antonia, both of whom incorporated sherry into their dishes. Far from the high-pressured frenzy of most Top Chef competitions, this cook-off was relaxed, fun, and instructive. Unfortunately, the audience did not get to sample their creations, and instead settled for tantalizing whiffs of sauteed foie gras and rack of lamb.

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The winner of this casual cook-off? It was a tie, natch. But we did get to hear what each chef's future plans will be: Antonia will be moving on from Foxtail, which is transforming itself into a more nightclub-loungey concept, and will explore her options with the SBE group (Eater LA has more).

CJ will be starting a restaurant in Chicago called Town & Country, with none other than previous Top Chef contestant Dale -- the concept is "updated diner" food. And a little tidbit of gossip -- CJ's (very pretty) girlfriend was front and center at the event, and when CJ gave a shout-out to EaterLA, she gave a giggle and looked back at the rest of the audience as if that reference were meant for her. Hmm!