The Food and Wine Hedonist

leave your inhibitions at the door

Top Chef California Episodes 9 and 10: Restaurant Wars

This is my fifth season watching the Top Chef, thus it’s my fifth time watching Restaurant Wars.   And I still go back to what I thought the first time I saw it – I don’t get it.

In every episode they’re coming up with dishes, planning budget, shopping, prepping, and cooking. And many of the challenges have them coming up with a menu and cooking for the cast of Ben Hur.  Here the only added challenges are picking out décor and training servers.   But the thing is, these guys DO THIS FOR A LIVING.   They’ve all been through restaurant openings and cooked for said restaurants.   It shouldn’t be that big a deal for them.

It would be like me being on a show where they ask me to put together a spreadsheet in Excel.   You wouldn’t see me stressed out over column headers and pivot tables.   I’d be like “Ok, where’s my mouse?”

Excel Hey girl


Except, try as I might to make it sexy, it’d come across more like this –

Excel nerd


Elimination Challenge

OK, never mind what I said about it being easy as they’ve added some twists this year.  First, the restaurants had to serve both lunch and dinner.  So coming up with two different menus and all those different dishes in the same time period does make things tougher.   The other twist is that everyone on the team must take a turn at being executive chef or front-of-the-house manager.   Both of those positions are high-visibility and have often led to a contestant’s dismissal.   This means that no one can hide in the kitchen or coast.

They drew knives to determine who’s picking the teams. Amar and Karen got honors.


District LA – Amar, Kwame, Jeremy, Phillip


Jeremy (Exec Chef) – Asparagus salad with crispy egg & truffle vinaigrette

Kwame (Front) – corn and sage veloute

Amar – Roasted chicken breast with polenta

Phillip – roasted salmon with ratatouille


Kwame – beet-cured hamachi with avocado mousse

Amar (Exec Chef) – Avocado gazpacho with king crab salad

Phillip (Front)– strawberry salad

Jeremy – artichoke and lemon risotto

Kwame – Roasted chicken thighs with cauliflower

Amar – Slow-braised pork belly with BBQ sauce consommé

Jeremy – dry-age ribeye with celery root miso puree


Palate – Karen, Marjorie, Carl, Isaac


Marjorie (Front) -Marinated beets w baby greens, pepitas, garrotxa

Carl – pork and bacon terrine

Karen – steak salad with peanuts, herbs, and shallots

Isaac (Exec Chef) – seafood stew with braised fennel


Marjorie – Parmesan parsley garlic bread

Karen and Carl – oxtail consommé with tripe & tortellini

Carl (Exec chef) – snapper crudo with cucumber, ginger, & grapes

Isaac – Braised lamb with couscous

Karen (front) – Coconut rice stuffed trout

Marjorie – panna cotta with berry soup and cheese plate w compressed dates and pickled plums

Winning team: Palate

Winner: Isaac – because he was the anchor and they couldn’t find any fault with any of his food.

Losing team: District LA.  The judges said the teams were about even after lunch, but dinner made it a no-brainer.   District LA’s amateurish service, awful strawberry salad, “the worst risotto in Top Chef history,” and general lack of cohesiveness made it an easy decision.

Gone: Phillip


Random Thoughts

– Finally he’s gone. I thought he had some good ideas, but his cockiness and unwillingness to take any blame rubbed people the wrong way.   You can tell the judges were sick and tired of the guy’s schtick and would’ve booted him based on the bad service alone.   That strawberry salad made it a no-brainer.   As bad as Jeremy’s risotto was, the strawberry salad was a questionable concept that was poorly executed.

– Really happy for Isaac because he was picked last and all his ideas were shot down during planning. Classic underdog.

– I’m not sure I would’ve liked either restaurant. There wasn’t anything on any of the menus that sounded exciting to me except the oxtail consommé with tripe & tortellini.   That’s something I couldn’t make it home.   Mainly because tripe makes the kitchen smell nasty and I’ve been instructed to never make it again.

– Having them serve both lunch and dinner added a lot of intrigue because there were so many opportunities for a person to mess up. With all of those variables as inputs to the equation …. OK, I’m still in Excel mode.

– Jeremy made a strategic error during lunch service. He was so concerned with making sure the judges’ dishes were perfect that he decided that they needed to work on making the judges’ meals perfect and not work on other patrons’.   This resulted in lunch service was still going on when they should’ve been prepping for dinner.

– Surprised District LA wasn’t called out on not having a dessert

– Over at Last Chance Kitchen, Phillip was called out on how had a tendency to blame others for mistakes. Amen.   So in that challenge, he got to dictate what ingredients and time allotment to take away any excuses.   And they made SWEETBREADS!   If I haven’t mentioned that LCK rocks, consider it said now.   Phillip messed up his sauce and tried to say he meant to do it that way.   Jason wins easily.



About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

5 comments on “Top Chef California Episodes 9 and 10: Restaurant Wars

  1. Next Stop: TBD
    February 15, 2016

    Dude, Phillip is such a hot mess. Even when he was being booted and he was like Well I can’t help that they didn’t like my dish, but I’m not going home because I didn’t cook it right….Ummmmm yes that’s exactly why you are going home. PS Love the Excel references but you need to ditch that mouse – keyboard shortcuts are way faster.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      February 15, 2016

      Oh, I’m all over keyboard shortcuts… In last chance he said he got sent packing for a dish that a “Pulitzer prize winning food writer” loved. So full of himself.

  2. anotherfoodieblogger
    February 15, 2016

    I haven’t even watched this yet but Isaac has always been my favorite based on your descriptions.

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This entry was posted on February 15, 2016 by in Television and tagged , , , , , , .
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