‘Top Chef’ Recap: “Restaurant Wars”
Restaurant Wars is like the Super Bowl of Top Chef: they make way too much food, there’s more product placement than usual, and one of the teams usually chokes around the third quarter. This season’s Restaurant Wars was more than a little disappointing, despite its promising men vs. women setup. Kristen headed up her classical-French-with-a-twist-themed restaurant, while Sheldon took on modern Filipino cuisine in honor of his grandfather. Both teams had 48 hours to create their restaurant from scratch—including building a kitchen, since the spaces they were given didn’t come with kitchens. I think Stefan said it best when he asked, “Who does that?!” Sadists, Stefan. That’s who. (He should know; he’s done this before.)
My favorite part was probably watching Stefan shop for tablecloths and flowers to decorate the restaurant with. He talked about European men often being thought of as gay, but really it’s just that they like flowers and interior decorating. How long until Bravo gives Stefan his own Gordon Ramsay-style show where he flips restaurants and makes them over—starting with the floral arrangements? (I would watch the crap out of that show.)
Somehow Stefan was appointed to the dreaded position of front of the house. I guess it was his natural charm and stellar people skills. This turned out to be a predictably terrible idea, as Stefan became overwhelmed and couldn’t spare a minute to explain to the judges what they were being served. It could have been in part because he didn’t really know what the dishes were himself, considering he was about as familiar with Filipino cuisine as I am. When the judges enquired about the dish they had just eaten (ugh, the nerve!) Stefan mumbled something about Maki with a tone of, “duh,” and then fled. He probably had some old drunk ladies to chase away from their table so he could seat some of the dozens of people waiting to eat. I think it was actually pretty clever of him to start bribing people with alcohol to leave their tables.
I know he messed up royally, but I have to say I can see where Stefan was coming from. Front of the house is never fun. They were swamped, no one would leave their tables, and Stefan didn’t have a strong enough grasp on Filipino cuisine to be able to describe the dishes to diners and judges. Also, who puts Stefan at the front of the house? No one who has ever met Stefan, that’s for sure. Even his magical velour dinner jacket couldn’t charm the judges past the point of realizing the lack of service at Urbano.
Lucky for Stefan, things weren’t going any better over at the ladies’ restaurant. Despite numerous reminders from Kristen, Josie fell behind on her dish. Later on, when it came time to add the sauce, the special foamer dispenser thing wasn’t working. (I’m sure there’s some culinary term for that thing, but I have no idea what it is.) Forced to abandon their gelatin-infused foamy sauce, Kristen and Josie settled for a sparse amount of creamy sauce instead, which did not sit well with the judges.
In the end, the great food at Urbano was enough to overcome the horrendous service, and Sheldon won Restaurant Wars. He brought honor to his grandfather’s name, and, more importantly, he won a Toyota Avalon! Congratulations, Sheldon. I can honestly say, I did not see that coming.
Judges’ Table was painful. Josie basically said that she thought the dish could have used more sauce, but she never told Kristen that. Kristen successfully managed to bite her tongue, and instead took full responsibility for most of what had gone wrong. Although it seemed obvious to everyone except Padma that Josie should be the one to go home, there was some heated debate about who deserved to take the fall for the dish, and shockingly, it was Kristen. If you ask me, that was total B.S. Gail was right when she said that Josie has been skating by while other people took the blame for her mistakes. Kristen was the most promising chef this season and I was rooting for her to go all the way, but that’s the thing about Top Chef: all it takes is one bad week and you’re gone. And Restaurant Wars is always a bad week for someone.
Don’t forget to vote to save your favorite chef! This week it’s Kuniko vs. Micah. You can also tweet using the hashtag #savechefkuniko or #savechefmicah.