Restaurant Wars is almost always the signature challenge for Top Chef. The chefs always look forward to it and it often brings about the most drama of all the challenges. However, I feel as if the drama is really much more organic in the original Top Chef show. Having the hungry up and coming chefs – many of whom have never opened a restaurant – band together and have to open a restaurant in 24-36 hours is a gigantic and fun challenge for them. The masters? Well, this is easy for them. David Burke has opened about 1,000 restaurants in his career. The time challenge makes it tough, but they are essentially and literally pros at this.
Needless to say, the chefs are always stoked to get to Restaurant Wars. And this lot is no different. They are greeted by the very funny Busy Phillips – co-star of Cougar Town and Freaks And Geeks, two very underrated shows. She is very pregnant and is quite the foodie. She has a great idea for a restaurant and is pitching it to them as the challenge. LA has a wide range of food influences – the challenge is to develop a restaurant that incorporates all of these influences. To be honest – that’s not too bad, although it kind of reminds me of Babu’s restaurant in Seinfeld.
There is none. The Wars supercede them all. We do learn the results of the souses challenge. The second bananas essentially had to do a Chopped challenge as they were given a mystery basket and had to make something out of it. The sous chefs for Sue, Sang, Doug and Burke all wound up on the bottom. They will be one team. So the winning group of Neal, Jennifer, Bot and Canada are the other team. They also get two hours of prep time with their sous chefs as a reward. Neal’s sous won the challenge and so he gets immunity.
As they converse and develop a plan, all of Team Neal wants to cook and Jennifer eventually volunteers to work the front of the house. As a control freak, her words, this could be perfect or it could be a disaster. What it winds up being is very clinical. There was no warmth to the restaurant. Bot has tons of ideas, but the others seem resistant to them. Perhaps they should listen to the man who has actually done this challenge – and excelled at it. As it turns out, it would have been a good plan.
Team Burke has a disadvantage with fewer prep time, but they seem to have a more cohesive working arrangement. Burke volunteers to work the front because he’s an old pro at this. Burke is a natural. He has an easy-going nature and the restaurant is simply a lot warmer and pleasant than the other one. He assigned a server to be an expediter, which is risky, but not a bad idea. Surprisingly we learn that Sang is super rough on the servers. Note to all waiters who want to work for Sang.
Prep begins and the sous arrive – Superman’s father, Mohawk, Other Canada Woman and Neal’s Jason. Team Neal is calling their restaurant “Artisan” because they have a boring idea. Team Burke is calling theirs “72 and Sunny” because they are super clever. Great idea.
The challenge will be judged by Gail, Lam, Stone, Ruth, Busy and Dana Cowin of Food & Wine Magazine. Busy gets no wine – she jokes the baby only drinks tequila. Artisan gets the first visit from the critics.
Jen’s soup is more saucy than soupy and Lam thinks the pears are so overpowering that they are basically saying “What’s up, I’m here.” Her salad was beautiful, according to Gail, who liked the dressing. Dana thinks the elements are fighting each other. This salad may have saved Jennifer. Bot’s cobb salad got raves. Ruth said it made her fall in love with LA. Lam said that Neal’s NY strip was perfectly nice, but Dana said it wasn’t LA. Canada’s sundae was so rich it made Busy wince and say “Whoa!” Gail thought the sauce tasted like yogurt. Neal’s cake was moist, but Ruth wanted more flavors.
At 72 and Sunny, Doug’s salmon was “cool and jiggly,” according to Lam, and Ruth felt it worked. Sue’s salad was part of the “Year of Quinoa,” according to Dana and had layers of flavor as per Gail. Burke’s snapper was raw on top. Sang’s take on beef with broccoli takeout wowed them all. Busy said her craving was officially retired. Burke’s panna cotta was like a “French kiss” according to Lam. Stone thought it was a bit big. Sue’s malt was Busy’s favorite dessert and it felt like a deconstructed smore.
Clearly, 72 and Sunny kicked ass.
Our winners – 72 and Sunny. Sang earns another win and more money for the orphans.
As for Artisan, Neal is immune and Bot’s Cobb Salad was outstanding. So it is Jennifer or Canada leaving. Jennifer did a lot of work and had a decent salad. That trumped Canada’s one bad dish. Lynn was fun, but she consistently seemed to have issues and wound up on the bottom. I’ll miss her personality, but she was never going to win this season.
Meanwhile, Doug gets some bad news from his sous chef Drew. What it is? Next week. Cliffhanger!!!
• The purple shirt returns and found its way onto Burke.
• Sue is a Freaks and Geeks fan. Good to know that Sue has excellent taste in television programming.
• I am trying not to think about the Sang/Doug conversation about condoms. I didn’t expect any condom conversation to take place on Top Chef. Ever.
• I loved the fake bad connection from Bot to avoid Jennifer’s constant requests for unseasoned rice vinegar, regular Belgian endive and ripe avocados.
• Would you watch a Beavis and Butt-head reboot starring Doug and Sang? The condom conversation would work better there.
• I would have loved to see Busy stick her face in Canada’s chocolate like she threatened to do.
• Gotta love the boys club in the kitchen. The “Hey Sue” montage. You would never see them do a “Hey Bill” montage in the same way.
• Extra scene – Burke’s bad ass shoes.
Next week – Kids and Yo Gabba Gabba. And Mindy Kaling.