Mixing Old Fashioneds
Top Chef 8/11: Restaurant Wars!
Weíre down to the top eight chefs and itís time for the fan and chef favorite challenge. Thatís right, Restaurant Wars is upon us. But before we can get to the challenge, the chefs must first face trial by Quick Fire and itís the relay challenge first seen last season. The chefs will be in two teams of four members and will have ten minutes each to cook the same dish with no consultation or game plan discussed before cooking commences, all the while the non-cooking team members are blindfolded. The chefs draw knives to see who will pick the teams. Kevin draws the first choice knife and Ed the second choice. They pick their teams: Kevinís Blue Team consists of Kenny, Kelly, and Amanda and Edís Red Team has Tiffany and Angelo and is stuck with Alex.
Pass the baton, and make it tasty.
They have only 45 minutes to choose the order in which the chefs will cook. Kenny and Tiffany get the first round. Kenny wants to lay out in pretty clear order what it is he has in mind. Tiffany does the same, even leaving the head of the fish so her team knows what kind of fish. Amanda and Alex have the second round. Kenny is pleased Amanda figured out she had to cook the pasta and Alex, with 30 minutes remaining, salts the fish to Tiffanyís dismay. In the third round, Ed luckily doesnít re-season the fish and Kevin furthers the sauces. On the final leg, Angelo pours a ton of kosher salt on the fish Alex already had seasoned. Kelly reads the landscape and puts it together just as Kevin had planned. Time ticks down to the last second, and time is called.
Tasting the dish today is Speaker of the House and botox aficionado Nancy Pelosi. She samples the Blue Teamís dish of sautťed shrimp, angel hair pasta, mustard sauce and crispy basil. Nancy really likes the dish as it reminds her of home. The Red Teamís offering is roasted red snapper, wilted greens and maitake mushrooms. Nancy likes it but finds it a bit salty, which is to be expected since Alex pre-salted the fish. Ultimately she picks the Blue Team as the winner. No one gets immunity, but they do get to split $10,000 amongst them. Amanda is thrilled at finally winning something, never mind the fact that her only win comes on the backs of three other people as well.
One giant bottle of wine appears on the scene.
And without further ado, it is time to man the battle stations and begin Restaurant Wars! The teams will stay the same for the Elimination Challenge. Each team will prepare a three-course meal, with two options for each course, and serve at an established restaurant, cutting out the business of wasting time with either Madonnaís brother or the sale bin at Pier One. Even though there will one front of house person, everyone must prepare a dish. And to top it off, Frank Bruni, notorious NYT food critic, will be the guest judge. Bill and John Terlato, of the Terlato Family Vineyards stop by the kitchen sporting a giant bottle of wine and inform the chefs that their wines will be used at the dinner service and they have some prizes for the winner.
The chefs head out in their Siennas (heavy product placement here) to Restaurant Depot and the grocery store. Alex refuses to make a list and he and Tiffany run around Restaurant Depot like maniacs. Meanwhile Amanda and Kenny are calm and composed sticking to their list. The shopping goes quickly and itís back to the kitchen for two hours to prep. Angelo is now in charge of the Red Team, a position which he claims just naturally came to him. The Blue Team has asked Kelly to do front of house, so she makes a cold soup and a dessert so she doesnít have to be in the kitchen at all during service. Angelo is fit to be tied because Alex canít butcher the meat or the fish and the Red Team is scrambling. The Blue Team, however, is so organized under Kennyís leadership, they get done early.
Itís off to the restaurant to actually engage in battle. They have four hours before service and all eight chefs are crammed into one narrow kitchen. Alex sasses Angelo and Tiffany finds Alex didnít butcher the fish rightóhe left bones and scales on it, which would be her downfall if she didnít re-do the fish. However, the Blue Team is humming along without any argument, except Amanda has issues with the wood-burning grill. Kenny marvels that heís finally head to head against Angelo and Angelo is finally losing his cool, having to fix everything Alex touches.
Alex, relegated to the front of house, and Kelly meet with their service folks. Kelly is mindful that she is not a front of house person and takes an easy approach to the staff. Alex is bitchy and demanding to all of the servers, which will not win him any fans. The Blue team brings out samples of each dish to sample and understand the dish. Alex, however, doesnít let the servers taste the food and just tells them what it is.
Let the battle begin!
The doors open at Evoo (Red Team) and Twenty One 21 (Blue Team) and diners enter quickly. At Evoo, Alexís staff is already screwing up the tickets but heís a being an ass to them. He also was not there to meet the judges when they came in, and when he shows up he stumbles over the description of the restaurant theme. They order two of everything to sample. The first course is Angeloís confit of tomato soup, squash, and olive crouton and Tiffanyís crudo of black bass and yellowtail snapper with meyer lemon-caper relish. Gail finds Tiffanyís dish too salty and lacks subtlety but Frank finds Angeloís dish interesting and wants to taste more. There is some drag in time before the second course is delivery, but finally Tiffanyís pan seared striped bass, stewed spinach, chorizo and clams and Edís slow-baked turbot, eggplant caviar, and black olive jus. The judges really like Edís dish and Tiffanyís may have been a bit over-cooked but it is very tasty. The final course comes out in a more timely fashion and is made of Alexís pan seared lamb chop (which Alex misidentifies as a pork chop at first), English pea puree (probably still stolen), smoked bacon, and parmesan foam and Angelo and Edís seared rib eye steak, crushed walnut potatoes and balsamic fig reduction. Frank likes the lamb but thinks Alex should have considered texture. Tom seems to have liked the steak but I rewound three times and have no idea what he said. Frank thought the service was spotty and the chefs focused more on what was going on in the back.
The judges depart and head to Twenty One 21 to see what the Blue Team is cooking. Amanda is struggling with cooking grass-fed beef on the wood burning grill and has had at least one plate sent back for a re-fire. Kelly makes the rounds to check on the diners and is at the door to greet the judges. She seats them and goes in to call the order. Kenny is calm and collected in the kitchen and thinks things are going well. The first course served is Kellyís chilled sweet corn soup with Maryland blue crab salad and Kennyísbeet salad with warm chorizo-citrus vinaigrette. Tom finds the soup lacking in flavor and too thin. The table agrees there was too much going on with Kennyís saladóat least three ingredients should have been taken off the plate. The second course brings Amandaís oakwood grilled strip steak with roasted sunchoke and maitake mushrooms and Kevinís pan-roasted halibut, fennel marmalade and tomato-fennel emulsion, which Frank finds beautiful to look at. Tom finds the steak cut too thin, but the sauce was good. Frank still thinks Kevinís dish is a work of art and Tom loves the fennel flavoring. The final course is a dessert course with Kennyís take on a cheese plate that is made of a fried crispy aged goat cheese and strawberry-rhubarb relish and Kellyís dark chocolate ganache tart and blackberry-chocolate chunk ice cream. Gail loves the tart all around but Frank thought the ice cream was flavorless. Gail finds the cheese soapy and salty and Frank makes a face. The judges chat a bit, rehashing the dishes and come out that Kellyís service was better than Alexís and Frank points out both restaurants made it a point to say what kind of restaurant they were but didnít really stick to the theme.
Itís off to the stew room for a spell; Padma arrives to collect Angelo, Alex, Ed and Tiffany to face the judges. When theyíre informed they are the winning team, Angelo nearly falls to the floor. Alex is called out on being nervous by Frank. Gail liked Angeloís soup and Frank loved Tiffanyís bass. Padma and Frank like Edís turbot. Tom asks who was responsible for the lamb; Angelo says Alex came up with it but he and Ed prepared it in the kitchen. Tom really enjoyed the lamb, being perfectly cooked and having nice sauces. Frank then gives the win and a giant bottle of wine to Ed. He also gets at trip to the Terlato Family Vineyards.
Kenny, Kevin, Amanda, and Kelly face the judges as the bottom team. Kenny is surprised they are in the bottom, given the chaos that ruled the other teamís kitchen work. Gail says what goes on in the kitchen is not their concernójust how the food tastes and how the service runs. Frank found Kelly to have had a clumsy charisma in the service but her corn soup was too thin. Kevinís beat salad had too much going on. Kevinís halibut was loved by all. Amandaís beef was overcooked and couldnít be saved by the sauce. She looks defeated. Kennyís cheese dish is panned and he shoots back that Ed and Angelo took control of the kitchen and even came up with the lamb dish, not Alex. Kevin agrees that Alex didnít make or conceive of the lamb dish, his team didnít trust him to cook and concludes Alex should be the one going home. Back in the stew room, Kevin goes off on Alex for doing nothing. Kenny chimes in that Alex didnít do any prep either, or it had to be re-done by others.
The judges deliberate, noting Kellyís soup was too thin and lacked flavor. They didnít find Amandaís one dish to be appealing. While Kevin did only one dish, it was good and he wonít go home for it. Kennyís two dishes were bad, but Gail points out he did work well as a leader and theyíve sent people home for being bad leaders. Frank mentions Alexís lack of effort, but the losing team has to realize that because Alexís team won, he is safe by default. They reach their decision and call the bottom four back in. Tom rehashes the problems with the dishes (or lack thereof as to Kevin) and Padma sends Kenny home. Kenny is in shock and wants more dialog about Alex not preparing his food. Frankly, so am I and amazed no one brought up the pea puree thing again. I bet if Alexís team had been in the bottom, they would have been all over him about it.
Re: Top Chef 8/11: Restaurant Wars!
Nearly fell over when I saw the pea puree on Alex's dish.
Great job on the recap, PhoneGrrrl!
I understand the judges' point about Alex being safe because he was on the winning team. But then how do you enforce the requirement that each chef must prepare a dish?
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