'Rocco's Dinner Party' Recap: Padma Lakshmi Plays Hot Potato

Julie Ryan Evans

Padma LakshmiIt was back to Rocco DiSpirito’s loft tonight for week two of Rocco’s Dinner Party, which turned out to be one big real-life game of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

The two chefs (whittled down from three after the elimination challenge) were each given a list of things the guest liked and asked to cook a meal in his or her honor based on broad clues such as the guest likes spices, and she loves Bali and Italy.

After the preparations were made, in walked the stunning Padma Lakshmi. No pressure or anything for the two contestants -- King, a restaurant owner; and Joel a super nervous high school culinary teacher (is that what they call Home Ec. these days?). Cocky King thought he had it in the bag, but the teacher made some good marks.

Joel chose to focus on spices and served things like a borlotti bean stew with homemade sausage, which has totally inspired me to attempt to make my own sausage. (Note: use more mustard.) His steamed mussels and sourdough bread pudding were well received too, but I think his win was clinched with little touches.

For example, in setting the table, he included small chalkboards and asked that the guests share what subject they would teach if they were in fact a teacher. I love this idea and totally plan on stealing it or some version of it as a great dinner party conversation starter.

The guests also loved King's dinner of Bali, beach-inspired foods like spring rolls, curry, and fried rice. In fact, I thought they liked it better. Padma loved the real Vespa that was brought in for decoration to represent her love of Italy, and the slippers he offered to guests were a nice touch too. While the show inspires me to branch out more in my cooking for sure, it also makes me ache to do an elaborately decorated table beyond just some nice flowers and pretty napkins and to really embrace a theme.

In the end, Joel, the underdog, won the title and the $20K, which was nice to see, especially right after King declared his certain victory. Eat that!

As for Padma, talk about the perfect dinner guest -- gracious, funny, and lovely. She also turned up the heat by describing how she makes potato skins. No, it doesn't sound sexy, but we're talking Padma here, and those were some HOT potatoes she was describing. Guests were fanning themselves.

Next week it looks like some of the crew from The Real Housewives of New Jersey will be at the table. So far, there are no signs of table flipping.

Are watching Rocco's Dinner Party? What are your best tips for throwing a memorable dinner party?

Image via bravotv.com

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