Top Chef – Episode 10: “Restaurant Wars”
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It’s Restaurant Wars week! It’s that critical Top Chef challenge where teams have to create a new restaurant – from scratch! And serve to 100 people! That means having to come up with a new name, concept, menu – EVERYTHING! Because there’s a lot to do, there’s a lot of room for critical errors. Errors that can mean the demise of a really great chef! High Pressure! High Stakes! Toyota Siennas and Anolon cookware! Having never seen any of the previous seasons, this can only mean one thing for this viewer… It’s Wednesday.
I really don’t see what the big deal is. In previous weeks they’ve had to plan menus, cook, and serve to groups the size of the cast of Ben Hur. It seems the only difference is having to pick out décor and train staff. I’m no marine biologist, but I would think that this would be a no-brainer for people who spend their days doing this stuff.
There’s no Quickfire challenge this week as they went straight into the challenge. The two teams were divided by gender so we have some sort of Battle of the Sexes. It would have been intriguing if there were any hint of animosity between the sexes (beyond Sarah’s whining about Sonny Chiba). So far, all the animosity has been on the female side – and mostly against Beverly.
The teams had 24 hours to convert the Palm Door into a new restaurant. They were given 45 minutes to plan a three course meal with two choices per course. Each contestant had to produce one menu item entirely by themselves. In addition to the 100 guests, each team will serve dinner to the other team and the judges – Padma, Tom, Emeril, and Monobrow. Acheson’s been relatively quiet in his past few appearances. Maybe he’s been pre-occupied with how to be even more unfashionable. Sure he’s a Cyclops, but did you know his wife has a mullet?
Padma flipped a coin and the men went first. Sonny is selected to do the front of the house – in charge of seating, service, and is the face of the restaurant. The theme is a communal “quirky mess hall look with elegant touches” with simple, humble menu items that are elevated. On the menu:
- Kundun’s Ham and Eggs– Ham & Pork Pate with mushrooms, braised mustard seeds & duck fat crostini
- Ty’s Thai Style Crab & Shrimp Salad, Caramel fish sauce and peanuts
- Ty & Kundun’s Poached Salmon in warm tomato water, clams, salmon skin & tomatillo jam
- Kundun’s crispy skin pork belly with green apple & sweet potato puree
- Sonny’s Almond Joy Cake with malted chocolate mousse & banana coconut puree
- Ugly Chris – homemade Cracker Jack, cherries, & peanut butter ice cream (made by using liquid nitro)
The ladies opt for a farm-to-table, rustic, homey place with Penishead elected to be front of house.
- Grayson’s peach salad with pickled shallots, bacon vinaigrette & candied pistachios
- Sarah’s mozzarella filled arancino, sweet & sour eggplant & celery salad (Shocker #1- Sarah made something Italian.)
- Beverly’s brased short rib with Thai basil potato puree, apple slaw & Kimchi (Shocker #2)
- Penishead’s grilled halibut with Spanish chorizo, fennel & sherry salad
- Grayson’s Schaum torte with vanilla meringue & champagne berries
- Sarah’s hazelnut cream Italian doughnuts with banana sugar glaze
Winning restaurant – Half Bushel. Despite the service being an absolute trainwreck, the overall concept was pulled together better. And, as always, it came down to the food.
Winning chef – Beverly. Her short rib was a home run and it won her a 3-liter bottle of Episode plus a vacation and tour of the Terlato vineyard.
Losing Restaurant – Canteen. When the restaurant was open, they got generally great feedback on the food. However, at the judges table the food was described as not having a wow factor and the diners’ ratings were in agreement.
Sent packing – Ty. His Thai salad was too bland as was his contribution to the salmon dish. I’m going to miss him from a TV standpoint, but as a chef he was inconsistent. He’s had flashes of both greatness and WTF moments.
- Of all the meals, I would’ve wanted to try Bev’s short ribs and Kundun’s ham and eggs. The pork belly looked really good, but I’ve made it many times. It’s extremely tasty and easy to do. Here’s a great recipe for it.
- Yup, Sarah took over Heather’s role of official Beverly beater. Granted she’s not as brutal, but in the space of three minutes she managed to shoot down Bev’s idea for elegance, lamb ribs, beets, and shortribs with quick, terse dismissals. So while Jabba had quality, Sarah had quantity.
- I’ve said a million times that editing is done so that there’s some kind of conflict between chefs. So I wonder if Bravo’s decision to constantly show beatdowns of Beverly is reinforcing stereotypes about the meek Asian woman. Granted, Bev hasn’t done a great job of dispelling that image, but it is something for everyone to think about. But not by me. I’m a meek Asian man.
- I’m starting to wonder more whether there’s editing done to make a chef look particularly bad but, in reality, that chef is doing pretty damn well. Ugly (and winless) Chris could’ve gone home this week, if not much earlier. But he keeps surviving. Maybe that dessert and everything else was outstanding? Maybe not enough to win each time, but damn near the top? Has this happened in previous seasons?
- Although, let’s not forget that he was wholly responsible for executing Sonny Chiba’s dessert, which was deemed as fantastic.
- Some great lines by Sonny Chiba this week:
- “Sarah knows flavor – there’s no doubt about it. But we all know her weakness is barbecuing out in the sun”.
- (Returns to kitchen to see bottles of beer on each guy’s seat) “Are these for us to sit on?”
- As Sonny said the Sarah line, they show her having an “Oh God” overreacting moment. If you’ll recall last week, I suggested a drinking game where you take a shot every time she has one of those. I counted 5 shots last night. Other moments –
- When Padma announces “And you’ll each be dining at the other team’s restaurant”
- When Ty announces he got booted (OK, that wasn’t THAT much of an overreaction. But drink that shot anyway)
- During the preview of next week’s episode. There’s actually two OMG’s in that moment. This one wins because she uses both hands, thus less of her ugly mug showing.
- Is anyone surprised that Ugly Chris makes reference to Kobayashi Maru, the character test for potential officers in Star Trek?
- Penishead was prom queen? She’s ok looking, but must’ve been a small graduating class.