Top Chef Recap – Season 13, Episode 9

Restaurant Wars, Part 1
Aired 4 February 2016

I’ve never understood why the cheftestants are excited when Restaurant Wars rolls around. The impossible task of opening a restaurant in a day typically results in stress, bleeped out screaming and someone getting cruelly tossed under the culinary bus. And the title indicates this Restaurant Wars will stretch over two episodes so you know some awful twist is coming.

To prove me right, as the episode opens we see Marjorie (who is my pick for the winner this season so I better stop calling her Sister Wife) saying “I worked so hard to get to Restaurant Wars and now all I wanna do is crawl in a hole and die”.

Restaurant Wars: it will make you want to crawl into a hole and die!

The guest Judge is Bill Chait who looks like someone inflated that nerd from the Wonder Years.

Not an exaggeration.

Not an exaggeration.

After the cheftestants perform a “Restaurant Wars” rap that literally makes me break out in an embarrassed sweat, they draw knives to see who gets to choose the teams. It’s Amar and Karen who get the honors, Amar getting first choice.

Orange Team – Amar, Kwame, Jeremy, Man Bun
Gray Team – Karen, Marjorie, Carl, Isaac

I thought for sure that Man Bun would be the unlucky last but he had previously mentioned he wanted to do front of house and Amar explains that’s why he chose him. Isaac is miffed at being picked last but he is kind of crazy and almost went home last episode so I can see why the others don’t see him as MVC. Still, getting selected after Man Bun has got to sting.

The awful twist this episode is that they must serve lunch AND dinner. Also, everyone on the team must take a turn at either being executive chef or front of house for one service. I had to replay the episode four times to understand that instruction – maybe I’m just slow but I assumed it meant they each had to do half a service in each position (otherwise not everyone has done either job).

Orange Team

Lunch Service
Executive Chef: Jeremy
Front of House: Kwame

Amar’s team start by choosing a name and Man Bun suggests The Advocate. That’s the name of a famous gay publication and also should be the name of a legal drama on CBS. It is not, however, the name of a restaurant. Man Bun then suggests District 16 which Kwame thinks that sounds like an alien movie. Man Bun’s next suggestion is District Los Angeles. What’s with his “District” obsession? But he’s clearly worn the other team members down because that’s what they end up calling their restaurant. District Los Angeles also should be the name of a legal drama on CBS AND of a science fiction movie.

The Menu:
Arugula Salad With Grilled Asparagus, Crispy Egg and Truffle Vinaigrette(!) (Jeremy)
Core and Sage Volouté With Pancetta (Kwame)
Roasted Salmon With Ratatouille and Greek Yogurt (Man Bun)
Roasted Chicken Breast With Polenta and Wild Mushroom Ragout (Amar)

The Orange team serve the judges first and when Padma, Wonder Years, Tom and Gail walk in Executive Chef Jeremy bumps other diners in order to serve them. Sure, that might look good but it ends up throwing off the flow in the entire restaurant and that will come to bite them later on.

Of note at the judge’s table is that Padma has on a dress that has a space-agey feel. Maybe it’s the sci fi-ness of their restaurants name. Or maybe she’s just wistful for when she was on Star Trek Enterprise.

Kwame’s soup is judged good, even though it looks exactly like custard. Jeremy’s salad is also given the thumbs up – and it certainly looks delicious.

Easily the best looking food of the episode.

I don’t understand why this isn’t in my mouth right now.

Man Bun’s salmon and Amar’s chicken, however, fail to impress. It doesn’t help that when the second two dishes come out the judges don’t even have silverware. Or maybe Kwame thought he was back in that nightmare Beefsteak from last episode where everyone just tore at live animals with their hands.

The Orange team’s service is very slow – like “twenty people lined up outside the restaurant waiting for a table” slow. At the end of the show, when the buzzer goes and the other team is cleaning up, the Orange team is still seating people! Not just serving, but seating!! Jeremy and Kwame seem baffled as to how this happened. Guys, as Exec Chef and Front of House it’s kinda your fault. We won’t get to see whether this counts against them next episode but I hope it does – in terms of successfully running a restaurant this is a huge fail.

Gray Team

Lunch Service
Executive Chef: Isaac
Front of House: Marjorie

As the Gray team plan there appears to be a disconnect between Isaac and the other three – Isaac complains that he isn’t “refined” enough, the others flat out ignore his suggestions. That said, when your suggestion is “chilled crab pasta with caviar and orange segments” it deserved to be shunned. That sounds like something off a vintage recipe card.

FishSticks

Almost not an exaggeration.

The Grays decide on Palate as a name. I can see their logic here but “palate” is one of those words that sounds culinary but is just a “cleft” away from sounding like a medical condition. But at least it couldn’t double as the name of a CBS crime series nor does it have the word “district” anywhere near it so overall, it’s a win.

The Menu:
Pork and Bacon Terrine With Haricot Vert, Gem Lettuces, Prosciutto, Salumi and Golden Raisins (Carl)
Marinated Beets With Pickled Cauliflower, Baby Greens and Shaved Garrotxa (Marjorie)
Flank Steak Salad With Carrots, Daikon, Jicama, Cabbage, Papaya, Peanuts and Herbs (Karen)
Seafood Stew With Cod, Shrimp, Clams and Mussels (Isaac)

Isaac makes an efficient Exec chef and unlike the Orange team there’s no slow service. In fact they have the opposite problem, people are lingering after eating. Marjorie has to literally lure them off the tables by offering them free alcohol. Did the producers ask the diners to do this because that seems awfully suspicious behaviour. It’s a competition, guests! Eat then get the fuck out of there.

When the judges arrive Marjorie happens to be out the back and they immediately start whining that there’s no one there. “Of course,” says Marjorie as she breezes back to the front “The infamous nobody at the host stand.” Marjorie knows your shit, judges, and she’s not having any of it!

Perhaps it was just the editing but Tom seemed far more critical towards the Gray team. The moment he sits down he starts slamming the menu, including Carl’s choice to do terrine. This time it’s Gail who isn’t standing for any of his shit “Let’s not judge it till we try it”.

It turns out Tom had reason to be worried – the terrine is compared to “spam” and Marjorie’s salad also underwhelms.

TC9Carl

#terrinefail

These fails only bolster Tom’s negativity – he truly was a Debbie Downer to the poor Grays – to which Gail answers that at least [they] have silverware.

But their dining experience improves from there. Karen’s steak salad elicits some “best of the day” comments and Isaac’s stew is described as “solid”.

All in all the judges were fairly happy with both teams, though they remark that they played it a little safe. Can you blame them? The teams have 24 hours to open a restaurant for two meals. I wouldn’t be doing anything inventive either.

Best Line of the Week: Kwame – “Phillip [Man Bun] wants to do mason jars and I think that’s so 10 years ago Brooklyn.” If we ever needed proof that the mason jar ship has sailed and sunk then here it is.

Worst Line of the Week: Man Bun – “Going into this next challenge, I’m just going to be myself.” That’s a literal recipe for disaster.

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