Hello, my little freaks… and geeks! No Quickfire Challenge this week because it's time for the challenge that puts fear in the hearts and minds of chefs everywhere… Restaurant Wars! Restaurant Wars is especially interesting on Top Chef Masters (versus Top Chef) because most of the competitors are actually restaurateurs. They're not following someone's else's orders -- the buck stops with them.
So, actress and person who spells her last name with two P's instead of two L's, Busy Philipps, issues this season's Restaurant Wars challenge: to create a restaurant for Busy inspired by L.A. cuisine. It's a great time to be in L.A. for food -- just watch Eat, Drink, Love, and you'll see that! (shameless plug)
The chefs are split up into two teams based on their sous chefs' success in Battle of the Sous Chefs. So, Sue, Sang, Douglas, and David form one team; Jennifer, Bryan, Neal, and Lynn form the other. From the get-go, the two teams take very different approaches. Sue, Sang, Douglas, and David focus on modern L.A., the diversity of the different food now at an Angeleno's disposal. The other team goes for something a little more classic based not the foods Busy mentions -- Cobb salad, sundaes. But perhaps some of them took it a little too iterally. During the menu planning process, Bryan throws out a bunch of ideas to modernize his team's dishes, but he's quickly dismissed. I hadn't really noticed this dynamic before, but I'm starting to wonder if the other chefs dont trust Bryan because of his age, etc. I surely hope not. Not only has he been through this before, but he owns four of his own eateries. And let's not forget that his brother has one of the most successful restaurants in L.A. right now. Now, Bryan and Michael have very different styles, but I personally think they approach food in the same thoughtful, modern, way. They should probably listen to Bryan a little.
The differences between the two restaurants extend into pretty much every other aspect of the evening. Let's start with what ultimately becomes the winning restaurant, 72 & Sunny. I can't think of a more appropriate name to describe David Burke's front-of-house disposition. I mean, I can't get enough of this guy. What a charmer! I will say I was a little concerned about his putting a server in charge of expediting. Although this could have possibly blown up in his face, it also showed how much he trusts his employees. Another Bravo show, Below Deck, has had me thinking about being a leader vs. being a boss. David Burke is a leader. Not only did he trust a server to expedite so he could focus on his guests, but he wasn't above serving dishes himself. He would go in front, set the example, taking the first two dishes, and ask the rest of the servers to follow him. Just awesome. David did have some choice words for Sang Yoon this episode, calling his beef and broccoli dish selfish becuase it was something fairly complicated and a little out of sync with the rest of the menu. And while Sang's dish was apparently a star and he was right to look out for himself, I think David's impeccable front-of-house skills saved him a bit. David's calmness in the front hid an explosive Sang in the back. I don think any of us were surprised to see Sang's demeanor in the kitchen, especially with staff he isn't familiar with, but he was a little more frightening than usual. If a less skilled front-of-house person had been in front, the tempers in the back may have seeped into the dining room. Who knows? I think, though, ultimately, the diners were able to enjoy Sang's exceptional dish because David allowed them to. Would it have been a different story if Sang were on Jennifer's team? Maybe.And that brings us to Artisan -- a restaurant name I truly, truly despise. It's like an episode of Portlandia, with all the guests asking their servers for their ingredients' place of origin for 20 minutes. The term "artisan" may represent the craftsmanship of the chefs, but doesn't connote anything Los Angeles at all. Oh well. All of the chefs on the Artisan team spoke up at the beginning, saying they wanted to cook, but Jenn volunteered to do front-of-house. She also created two dishes. This seemed like too much to me, especially for a self-professed "control freak." Having two dishes -- and the first dishes at that -- had poor Jenn back in the kitchen quite often checking on Bryan and Lynn who were helping with her dishes. So, she was stressed, and the critics could feel it. Who wants to eat at a restaurant where the staff is making them nervous? Not me. While her dishes were fairly well-received, Bryan's riff on a Cobb salad was greatly lauded, with Curtis even declaring that it was his favorite dish of the night. Again, they should have listened to Bryan. So, when Artisan stood in front of the Critics' Table, it was really down to Jenn, Neal, and Lynn. Well, Neal had immunity and he can thank his sous chef for that because he made a NY strip for an L.A. challenge -- I mean, really?! So, I think it was fairly clear tha Lynn was going home. Because, although the critics didn't love Jenn's dish, they really didn't like Lynn's, and she only had one. I actually didn't reven realize that Lynn's brownie was her only dish until the team was done serving. But once I did realize that and saw the plate, I knew she was pretty dead in the water. Lynn thought the critics couldn't handle how decadent the brownie, but Mr. Chocolate himself, Curtis Stone (Sorry, Jacques Torres, Curtis stole your title for the evening), couldn't even take it. And that man has a sweet tooth! So, Lynn shuffles off to Canada. Frankly, Lynn was genuinely hilarious. I'll miss watching her every week.
Before I leave you this week, can we just talk about how no one mentions that the glorious Ms. Mae Whitman is a diner?! Sure, I love Arrested Development, but Parenthood is one of my favorite shows on television right now. That's the one where she gets to make out with Friday Night Lights' Matt Lauria.
In case you missed her...
Next week, Mindy Kaling and Yo Gabba Gabba are on! Watch a preview:
Until then, Have a Nosh!
P.S. As I mentioned previously, I had the absolute pleasure of celebrating my birthday by enjoying 21 courses -- yes, 21 -- at Bryan's restaurant Volt in Frederick, MD this past weekened, and all I have to say is that no matter what happens this season (this is a spoiler-free zone, people!), Bryan is indeed a master of his craft. I'm still thinking about the meal.