Top Chef Colorado Restaurant Wars: Taste the food before serving

When there are eight chefs left in the competition, it means one thing. This week was Top Chef Colorado Restaurant Wars.

One episode is always the most anticipated one of the season. Restaurant Wars has become both a fan and chef favorite. Can these venerable chefs pull off a pop-up restaurant in just a matter of days? Top Chef Colorado Restaurant Wars was better than most.

Even with all the amazing episode challenges, Restaurant Wars is always the most watched episode. Somehow fans crave the glimpse behind the kitchen door. Sure, the chefs can create amazing dishes based on a secret ingredient. But, watching how chefs produce that impeccable dinner service is memorizing.

For this version of Top Chef Colorado Restaurant Wars, the two teams of four had to create a 3 course dinner with three dishes per course. While the instructions weren’t explicit, it seems that a dessert course was a must. As Top Chef fans know, dessert courses can be the downfall for many of these savory chefs.

The teams were chosen via a school yard pick. Carrie and Chris drew the knives as the “team captain.” They were able to choose chefs on their team. Choosing wisely could put the team on the road to success.

Carrie, with first choice, picked Bruce. Who wouldn’t want Bruce on a team? He knows how to run a successful restaurant. He can make dishes that the judges love. It definitely set the grey team up for success.

Chris, picking second, had a harder road before the chefs even went to the market to shop. The team, Chris, mustache Joe, Claudette and Fatima, never seemed to have a vision or a plan. If a team can think of a culinary direction for the restaurant, how can the diners understand the concept? Would you go to a restaurant that said it serves food based on a common thread? What’s the common thread? Without that clear concept, the whole restaurant seemed to be slightly off.

With the teams set, names picked (Conifer and Common Place) and menus ready, the chefs got cooking. As part of a team, each chef had a specific role. Putting the right person in the right role is also key this challenge’s success. For example, don’t put a chef in front of house if they can’t talk to people.

For most people, walking into a restaurant and enjoying a meal doesn’t reveal all the time, effort and thought that goes into a restaurant. This fact might be why Top Chef fans love the Restaurant Wars episode. Drama in the kitchen could lead to an unsuccessful restaurant. Ever wonder why your dish was amazing one night and horrible on another? Life at a restaurant isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.

Unlike previous seasons, Top Chef Colorado Restaurant Wars was pretty good. Neither restaurant didn’t have huge mistakes. Sure, a dish or two was too cold, but there wasn’t a huge, noticeable mistake. Still, there was drama in the kitchen. Isn’t there always?

While all the chefs needed to execute their dishes, one decision on each team was pivot. The choice for executive chef was key. For team Conifer, Bruce was executive chef. For team Common Place, Claudette was executive chef. One team clearly had an edge.

Top Chef Restaurant Wars, photo from Bravo

Generally, an executive chef runs the kitchen. While he may not be on the line cooking, he moves the food in and out of the kitchen, inspects each plate and oversees everything. If a dish isn’t right, i.e. the plating is wrong, the temperature is wrong, the dish doesn’t taste right, he should send it back to the line to be redone. Without a strong executive, the restaurant can’t be at its best.

Bruce controlled the pass as executive chef for Conifer. He tasted every dish. Each plate was right. Diners got their food timely. It was a well-run kitchen.

Conifer had a smart plan. The chefs knew that they needed dishes that could be executed well in the short amount of time. While their dishes might not be culinary adventurous, the food was excellent. Even more important, the experience was superb.

Another key to Restaurant Wars is the front of the house. This role is the chef who goes from table to table and ensure that the diners are happy. Conifer excelled in front of the house, too. Joe, (clean shaven Joe), was the perfect choice for front of the house. He made the dining experience memorable.

With Common Place, the commonality was missing. Claudette was the executive chef. While she said that she wanted everyone to shine, her approach was too hands off. The executive chef is the leader. Without clear direction or a firm hand, the kitchen isn’t as strong as it could be.

The biggest mistake for Common Place was that Claudette didn’t taste any of the dishes leaving the kitchen. She assumed that each dish was just fine. She is in charge of the kitchen. If the dish was over salted or bland, she should have caught it. That choice was a big mistake.

Also, Common Place struggled a little with front of the house. Fatima was fine in this position, but her role paled in comparison to Joe. She needed to be a little more outgoing or personable. Again, it wasn’t bad, but it could have been better.

If it wasn’t obvious, Conifer clearly won Top Chef Colorado Restaurant Wars. The winning chef was Joe, in his role as front of house. Still, this team was clearly in sync. They had a plan, executed it and came out on top.

Unfortunately, Common Place was in the bottom. The discord between the chefs was apparent. Even though Chris was willing to fall on his sword for the team, the biggest problem was with Claudette. She decided to throw her teammates under the bus, again. Pointing fingers and blaming others showed the problems in the kitchen.

Claudette was sent home, again. Her exit interview was bad. She blamed everyone else. Still, Claudette failed in her position and she deserved to go home. Plus, she had two bad dishes that the judged hated.

Did anyone notice that the chefs are making dishes that they serve in their own restaurants? In this episode, the chefs were very clear that these dishes were ones that the chefs make or had made at their restaurants.

Of course, this competition is difficult. Coming up with a creative dish on the fly is almost impossible. But, why bust the illusion? Don’t viewers want to think that they chefs have limitless culinary imagination?

The doors of Top Chef Colorado Restaurant Wars have closed and another chef has packed her knives and left. Who will be next? Anyone have a prediction?

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