“Blew My Mind!”: Top Chef All Stars LA, Restaurant Wars

TOP CHEF -- "Restaurant Wars" Episode 1708 -- Pictured: (l-r) Brian Malarkey, Gregory Gourdet -- (Photo by: Nicole Weingart/Bravo)
TOP CHEF -- "Restaurant Wars" Episode 1708 -- Pictured: (l-r) Brian Malarkey, Gregory Gourdet -- (Photo by: Nicole Weingart/Bravo) /

This week’s episode of Top Chef All Stars LA featured the popular Restaurant Wars, with the added bonus of a $40,000 prize awaiting the winning team.

We interrupt our weekly Top Chef All Stars LA recap to share a disclaimer. We’ve made no secret of the fact that we’ve been faithful Top Chef viewers through 17 seasons and that we continue to consider the show to be the gold standard for tv competition shows, but our loyalty isn’t blind. Even Eric Ripert has an off-night in the kitchen every so often, right? Okay, maybe not him, but most top chefs, both lowercase and uppercase. Having said that, we found this week’s Restaurant Wars, an episode that’s usually a highlight of the season for us, to be clunky, slow, disjointed, and basically disappointing.

Since we found it difficult to engage and in light of the fact that Restaurant Wars is a team-based competition, we’re giving our normal recap template the week off and doing a simple overview instead.


As a result of last week’s EC, Restaurant Wars featured the two winners’ concepts; Gregory’s Kann and Kevin’s The Country Captain vied for supremacy. Picking their teams, Gregory shocked everyone by choosing Brian instead of Melissa, and added Lee Anne and Stephanie to Team Kann, while Kevin’s first choice was Bryan, followed by the surprisingly-available Melissa and Karen to round out The Country Captain squad.

Our good friend Brian Malarkey commented that “we are a funky team. We are the underdog team”, while Lee Anne observed that “the other team right now is a solid, bad-assed, focused team.” From our vantage point, we couldn’t have agreed more.

Despite being the self-declared underdogs, Kann was clearly more effective throughout their service. The Country Captain struggled with straggling diners, mixed up tickets in the kitchen, and from all appearances, food that looked better than it tasted.

Top Chef All Stars LA
TOP CHEF — “Restaurant Wars” Episode 1708 — Pictured: Brian Malarkey — (Photo by: Nicole Weingart/Bravo) /


As is the norm on a Top Chef episode, there was a lot of foreshadowing done throughout the show. Whether it was Lee Anne FaceTiming her husband and son while sounding homesick or Karen not only dropping food, but knocking a diner’s drink over, and even projecting by observing that “often times front of the house gets thrown under the bus”, producers dangled a couple red herrings. And yes, Karen filled the FOH role at The Country Captain.

In the end, Padma, Gail, and Tom, along with Guest Judge and former Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard, declared Kann as the winner of Restaurant Wars. While dining at Kann, Tom Colicchio said “I like what Gregory’s doing here. He’s really giving us authentic food from the heart. He’s not trying to chef it up”, a sentiment he repeated at Judges’ Table.

Top Chef All Stars LA
TOP CHEF — “Restaurant Wars” Episode 1708 — Pictured: (l-r) Stehpanie Izard, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons — (Photo by: Nicole Weingart/Bravo) /

Not only did Gregory, Brian, Lee Anne and Stephanie win Restaurant Wars, but they also split $40,000 courtesy of OpenTable.com. Better yet, they survived another episode of Brian Malarkey’s over-the-top presence, including him doing more dancing than the Rockettes while running front of house for Kann.

Once hearing the outcome, we awaited the inevitable dismissal of Karen for the reasons cited above, but in a Top Chef shocker, Kevin fell on his proverbial knife and offered himself up for elimination as the de facto leader of The Country Captain. Sharing that “I was raised to stand in front of your mistakes and you own them for what they are”, Kevin offered himself up as his team’s sacrificial lamb and headed to Last Chance Kitchen.

MALARKEY SMARM-O-METER PLACEHOLDER: Instead of detailing Brian’s weekly exploits and awarding a score accordingly, we’ll simply share a quote, his reaction to being picked by Gregory instead of Melissa for Kann, “blew my mind!”. Ditto!

Restaurant Wars really let us down this season, so we eagerly await next week’s episode and rekindling our Top Chef All Stars LA fire.

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What did you think of this week’s Top Chef All Stars LA? Would you eat at either of these Restaurant Wars concepts?