Top Chef Recap: The Story Behind Restaurant Wars


Courtesy of BravoTV

Sorry for the hair pun in the title, but if you didn’t like it you should probably stop reading.

This week on Top Chef, the cheftestants took on the highly anticipated Restaurant Wars. As everyone who watches Top Chef knows, this battle of  pop up restaurants is enough to give any chef grey hairs. This season’s installment was no different as the Green and Purple teams squared off at The Foundry in New Orleans. To throw a wrench into things, the teams had to build functional kitchens while still getting a dining room ready and preparing food.

The Purple team, of Brian, Carrie, Nicholas, Stephanie and Travis chose a seafood theme, backed up by the restaurant name Fin. Meanwhile, the Green team of Justin, Carlos, Nina, Shirley and Sara lost all of us when they chose the name Found. There was some kind of rambling about it representing the team’s different backgrounds, but I honestly didn’t follow.

Promotional ads leading up to the episode showed nothing but the Green Team bickering, which was something which became the dominant theme early on. Without a doubt the more talented team with my Nina and Carlos being my picks to make the finals. After the team quickly agreed Sara would run the Front of House, and Justin would play the role of Executive Chef, the team spent a lot of time on silly decisions, like plates. Even guest judge made mention, that at the end of the day, what goes on the plate is what matters, yet plates were first priority for this team. Even still, this came into play later, as they somehow were pulling their hair out about the size of bowls come plating time.

On a side note, there was a King Cake sighting in this episode! For those of you who don’t know, King Cake is some sugary, Technicolor cake with a creepy baby doll

Courtesy of WhydYouEatThat

or other plastic toy hidden inside. The tradition represents the Three Kings from the Bible. This particular cake managed to capture every color bandana Sara had worn on the show thus far. Amazing!

Meanwhile, the more organized, but seemingly less talented Purple Team was quick to make decisions, and came up with a cohesive seafood themed menu behind Executive Chef Nicholas. Travis, volunteered to run the FOH, insinuating that this was a job for a gay man, thus setting back the gay rights movement 20 years and increasing my dislike for him.

On the bright side, Travis rocked the front of the house and all of the judges, especially Padma, were raving about the service. Saying it was, “the best service we have ever had on Restaurant Wars.”  Thanks to his performance, Travis should have a bright future as Maitre’D at a 5-star Vietnamese restaurant should his cooking career not progress to his liking. He also, made a “dry” olive oil cake taste good according to the judges.

I won’t get into all of the hairy situations that the Green Team faced during their service, but those Chase Sapphire Preferred Customers sitting with Danny Meyer would have rather used their points to get a burger and a concrete over at Shake Shack. Not only did their courses come out disjointed, but they were late to their reservations at Fin due to poor service. I don’t know about you, but nothing ruffles my feathers more than having my second dinner reservation compromised. This was especially unfortunate given the naturally spoken concern Justin expressed for pleasing these “VIPs”.

The food wasn’t terrible at all, from the viewer’s perspective. Nina did what she normally did, and crushed her Pancetta-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin. While Shirley did a great job with some Olive Oil Poached Cobia. Carlos made a Red Snapper Crudo that on paper sounded fantastic with an Avocado Mousse, Pickled Carrots, and Fried Plantains. However, he was apparently rushed into plating after Sara gave a “verbal fire” on the judges first course. This confusion seemingly caused Carlos to present a inconsistently sliced fish.

As someone who has been on the line during a busy dinner service, I would personally want to knock someone’s wig off if they gave me a verbal fire and didn’t follow it up with some sort of ticket. Sara being an Executive Chef in everyday life, this made no sense to me.

The two weakest dishes came from the two people who had the most on the line. Historically, the Executive Chef and the General Manager have the most to lose in Restaurant Wars. This pressure may have gotten to Sara and Justin. Sara produced a Nectarine Brown Butter Cake with a Five Spice Mascarpone topping that never made it to the plate. The funniest, and perhaps saddest quote of this episode was from a customer at Found who, when speaking of the dessert, said, “it’s so sour” with the most bitter of bitter beer faces on.

Justin didn’t fare better as his Parsnip Agnolotti with Braised Rabbit underwhelmed the judges. I believe it was David Chang who said, the rabbit was “both undercooked and overcooked,” and thus boggling my mind. Another issue came as his dish was, in fact, overpowered by a dish. Well, a bowl to be exact. His consommé, literally swam in a giant bowl that was part of a long-winded plate discussion earlier in the episode.

The other biggest complaint from the judges about Found, was that Sara chose only to explain her own dish unless prompted, leading me to believe her bandana may have been tied too tight on this night.

At Fin, the Chase Sapphire crew and Danny Meyer were having a blast taking hand votes and talking smack about Found. The judges were having just as much fun as they enjoyed what seemed like a great meal minus a few technical flaws and a lot of yellow food.

Brian started things off with a Snapper Crudo two types of corn including a Purple Corn “Gel”. Unfortunately, Brian used xanthan gum as opposed to agar agar to thicken his purée. According to Gail Simmons, Chang said the substance was “snot like”. Perhaps someone needs to hang up their molecular gastronomy gloves for a bit.

Carrie produced some Gulf Shrimp with Chickpea Puree, which on television looked pretty greasy, but somehow nobody cared. Apparently the “shrimp butter” which glistened on the plate tasted awesome.

Stephanie made my pick for sexiest dish of the night as she plated up a Linguine with Caviar. Nicholas came up with a Black Drum, Oxtail, and Kale dish which everyone seemed to love. I have to admit, I have never tried Black Drum, but this dish looked pretty tasty. And as mentioned earlier, the FOH master Travis made an olive oil cake which everyone thought tasted great.

As for the results, if you can’t tell Fin (Purple Team) was victorious. In fact, it wasn’t even close and according to Twitter left a lot of viewers unsatisfied, including myself. That is until the Judges’ Table!

Courtesy of BravoTV

When the Green Team stepped in to the gauntlet that is Judges’ Table, the fireworks began. Sara was first interrogated about her less than stellar dining room and tried to deflect blame to the kitchen. Yet, every issue with a dish came back to the issues with service, or miscommunication within the team. Even the issues with Justin’s bowl could somewhat be placed at the


feet of Sara. The thing that really went over the head of the judges was her lack of attempt to present her teammates dishes in a favorable manner. By the end of Judges’ Table, it was obvious, Sara should have never let her hair or guard down during Restaurant Wars.

Sara, please pack your knives (and bandanas) and go…

Until next week Top Chef!

Spoiler Alert!!!

Sara was eliminated from Last Chance Kitchen by Louis. As part of the episode, they were both blindfolded which led Sara to complain about messing up her hair. This gave me quite the chuckle.