Ah, Restaurant Wars — when Top Chef suddenly morphs into Hell’s Kitchen territory and our interest perks up. As guessed, Hosea and Leah sucked face on the futon and then, as the porno soundtrack played, Leah went ahead and blew … her entrée. Leah and Radhika did well in the Quickfire but choked during elimination, when guest judge Stephen Starr seemed to literally choke on Leah’s bony, undercooked cod. Also on the bottom was Carla, whose desserts were done in by a faulty fridge (GE probably wants its product-placement money back). We turned, as usual, to Adam Platt.
Maurer: What an episode. I felt so bad for Leah, who was exposed in such a humiliating manner. And I am talking about that shameful cod. She should’ve gotten a scarlet letter for it.
Platt: I want to know who was really on the couch with the Leah? It could have been any number of bald guys dressed in whites and blue jeans. It could have been Stefan. It could have been Don Colicchio. It could have been Toby Young.
Maurer: Judging by her acute remorse, I’m guessing it was Toby Young. Who mercifully treated us to just one clunker this episode: “It reminds me of Elvis’s career…”
Platt: Have you noticed he and the Don are morphing into the same person? He’s adopted the Don’s cock of the head — the trademark frown, the same judiciously sincere, faux menacing expression.
Maurer: I was more entranced by the “bash brothers” combo of Colicchio and Stephen Starr. Finally we saw someone lose patience with Carla’s “sending out some love” shtick.
Platt: Mr. Starr was a formidable, no-nonsense presence. I wouldn’t want to screw up the egg rolls in Mr. Starr’s kitchen. Carla’s desserts were dreck. She’s a menace in the kitchen. Radhika got jobbed.
Maurer: At the same time, she green-lighted those crap desserts. Carla was begging her to throw her a line.
Platt: Stefan’s must have tasted okay, even though that one dish looked like it had been shot with a radiation gun. We all know he’s going to win.
Maurer: But would the producers really let him be the face of their franchise?
Platt: Clearly he’s a jackass, but you might say that’s a prerequisite to being a great chef. He’s the only one who’s cooking on a consistently accomplished level.
Maurer: Personally, I think Fabio’s words were prophetic — this season might be the “monkey’s ass on an empty clamshell” and he may be the one chosen to make us swallow it.
Platt: Fabio can’t cook. He and Carla are surviving on charm, and their ability to do narrative sound bites between the long, tedious, generally lackluster stretches of cooking. That said, the absurd elimination did show you that the front of the house is crucial to a good restaurant, and that desserts are there to leave a lasting impression.
Maurer: And yet Toby Young admitted to forgoing dessert at Asian fusion restaurants?
Platt: I agree they tend to be disastrous. But I think as a critic you have to choke them down. I think he thinks that too.
Maurer: Have you been to a restaurant lately where the front of the house sunk the place, like it did here?
Platt: Most of the ambitious restaurants in New York are so practiced at giving people the Fabio treatment that it tends to be seamless. But restaurants are theater, and presentation is a huge part of the show. Radhika’s mistake, which she recognized, was putting herself up front. She was miscast in the role, and it showed.