Top Chef

Top Chef: Restaurant Wars!

The producers spared us the usual five minutes of nonsense at the start of Top Chef last night to save space for everyone’s favorite challenge: Restaurant Wars! But first, the Quickfire, which featured the classic blindfolded tag-team cook-off. Kevin picked Kenny, Kelly, and Amanda to join him on the blue team, while Ed picked Tiffany (duh), Angelo, and last-man-left Alex for red. For a second we thought it was weird that Kevin would pick Kelly before Angelo, but then we remembered how much the producers love the Battle of Kenny and Angelo and realized he was probably forced to.

The blue team killed it during cooking, with each successive chef understanding exactly what to do next, while the red team struggled, oversalting their roasted red snapper after Alex seasoned it too early. The brief appearance from actual-big-D.C.-name Nancy Pelosi brought out excitement in all the chefs, but none as much as Kelly, who has her same haircut. Nancy, after explaining that Congress’s motto for every meeting is “first, we eat,” gave the win to the blue team’s sautéed shrimp with angel-hair pasta in mustard sauce with marinated tomatoes and basil. Cue interviews of everyone on the red team complaining about Alex. We’d feel bad, but based on his performance we’re going to have to agree with the other cheftestants that he needs to leave.

For the elimination challenge, standard Restaurant Wars rules applied: three courses, with two options available for each course, and everyone had to be responsible for at least one dish. The red team devolved into chaos as soon as they hit Restaurant Depot and stayed that way through both kitchens. As in the Quickfire, most of the blame fell on Alex, whose kitchen work was mostly made up of prep. Angelo tried to run around fixing his mistakes, which included gaffes like leaving scales and bones on pieces of fish, getting so worked up that even Kenny was concerned. “You don’t want to see me mad,” warned Angelo. The blue team, meanwhile, stayed cool as cucumbers, though Angelo pointed out/foreshadowed that it’s dangerous to be too confident.

The red team’s distrust of Alex put him at the front of house, where he proceeded to introduce himself to the servers by saying, “I’m the chef here. You guys are helping me out today.” His rudeness stood out even more when contrasted with Kelly’s kind, quiet manner with her team’s servers. This behavior extended into service, with Alex not even noticing when the judges, including guest judge Frank Bruni, arrived at “Mediterranean inspired” EVOO (Rachael Ray would be so pleased). From the first course, they loved Angelo’s confit tomato soup with olive crouton and squash, but found Tiffany’s crudo of black bass and yellow-tail snapper too salty. Tiffany’s second course of seared striped bass with clams, chorizo, and spinach also fell a bit flat, but Frank was a huge fan of Ed’s baked turbot with eggplant caviar and black olive jus. And while they found the third course’s seared lamb with Parmesan foam and pea purée well cooked, they didn’t think the sautéed rib eye with crushed walnut potatoes was very Mediterranean-y. Needless to say, Alex did not see them out.

Kelly (who pronounced Frank’s last name as Bru-NI, like he was French) definitely provided much better service at “progressive American” 2121, but the food didn’t quite please the judges’ palates. Kelly’s first-course corn soup didn’t have corn flavor, while Kenny’s beet salad with endives and chroizo-citrus vinaigrette had too much going on, and everyone hated Amanda’s New York strip steak with Swiss chard, maitake mushrooms, and sunchokes (though perhaps not as much as they hated Kenny’s “monstrosity” of fried goat cheese on strawberry-rhubarb relish). The only dish they seemed to all love was Kevin’s pan-roasted halibut with fennel marmalade, tomato-fennel emulsion, and white beans.

Despite the team’s disorganization and Alex’s incompetence, the red team managed to pull off a win thanks to Ed’s perfectly cooked turbot, which grabbed the individual win. [Side note: Queens represent!]. The losing blue team was shocked, though Gail pointed out that diners don’t judge a restaurant based on what happens in the kitchen, but what comes out of it. This was a fair point, but Kenny and Kevin found it absurd, letting the judges know that Alex barely did anything in the kitchen (see clip below). Frank made some great metaphors, comparing the sauce on Amanda’s terrible steak to a great pair of shoes with a mediocre suit, but, very surprisingly, Kenny went home, marking the first time we’ve been surprised by a decision. You’d rather keep Amanda over Kenny, judges? Really? We’ll let this one slide, but we expect Alex in the bottom next episode.

Next week: We’re going to see the inside of the CIA! Angelo uses store-bought puff pastry! Angelo feels lost! Wylie Dufresne!

Restaurant Wars