Jamie Lauren

Jamie Lauren thinks maybe the two restaurants should have swapped names.

on Oct 22, 2009

Well, we all knew this episode was on the horizon. Ah, Restaurant  Wars ... the most highly anticipated episode of the season, for most, the episode most contestants aspire to make it to, the top eight (or six in some cases), the holy grail of Top Chef.... If you're on the  winning team for Restaurant Wars then you rule. It's something that stays with you forever (not that I would know), unless on the other hand you are on the losing team and you go home, then you probably would like to forget Restaurant Wars ever happened. For me, last year, losing sucked, and  it sucked because we probably could have won, if we made the right  decision and forced Carla to work the front of the house and put Radhika in the kitchen where she belonged as executive chef and owner. In retrospect it's easier to say "shoulda, woulda, coulda" and under the time constraints everyone makes quick judgment calls, but I really don't know what the hell we were thinking by having Radhika run the dining room. Restaurant Wars is definitely the most taxing and time-consuming challenge of the season. You have roughly three hours to 
open a concepted restaurant: design menus, put together a dining room, train staff, play host, type menus ... three hours to do something that normally takes months and months of planning and conceptualizing. Put yourselves in that position and really think about it. After all that 
work, Restaurant Wars is not something you want to lose.

Now, before I continue about this episode's elimination let's have a word about the Quickfire ... a tag-team cooking challenge! That was pretty brilliant and I can imagine it must have been quite difficult. A challenge like that really forces the chefs to focus on their technique and common sense. It forces you to really think about what dish would be easiest for someone to execute when there is absolutely no communication about it whatsoever —not an easy 
task as cooking is not a tag team sport. I very rarely will ask a cook or sous-chef to take over for me unless it's something super-easy that cannot be screwed up. Cooking is egotistical and it can be very solitary. It's an expression of something within each chef and that is not an easy thing to relinquish control of. However, working on a team is a completely different concept. Professional kitchens run as a team and without the key players in place, a well-executed service wouldn't be possible, but it's possible because of an amazingly strong chain of communication. Take that away and the entire kitchen could go down in flames. That being said, I am very impressed with the way the chefs tag-teamed it for the challenge. I thought the two dishes actually came out quite well considering they were missing one of the most important links in the chain — the ability to talk to one another. It shows how skilled this group of chefs is when they can take time to think and really figure out what needed to be done in 10  minute intervals. For me, I could have gone with either team as the winner, but I was leaning towards the red team. I thought the plating looked beautiful (Michael, of course) and I loved the idea of a foamed miso with avocado. It just sounded delicious. Perhaps they would have nabbed the win if they had used seafood. It's obvious Rick Moonen is a big fish guy. Seems like he'd be more inclined to go with a seafood dish.