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.
I've never worked in a professional kitchen, but as much as a jerk as Michel was he did seem to take on the role of executive chef, something the other team desperately needed... and it seems that every team that has someone who does that, and does that well, wins the war each season. As for the name, I was surprised that the producers let to the brothers make that plug for Bryan's (read the Voltaggio family's) restaurant, Volt. More so, I was shocked that the other other contestants let them do it- Letting the brother's get away with subliminally being in the judges' minds from the minute they walked in the door and every time they said the name?
I agree with MylaBaby and jesh. Creating the dining ambiance through design is something a top chef absolutely should be skilled at. That should be tested. I loved the name REVolt. Their collective menu was far from conventional. Given the constraints of the competition it was even radical. All in all a pretty ballsy name to take. Points for that.
Awesome blog. Some of the other bloggers are really losing steam but yours continue to be awesome! Rock on.
Jamie, would Bravo let you add a P.S. to your blog once you've found out about the winner/loser? I know you see the episode early so you can write the blog but they should allow you to post an addendum! Still love reading it!
I love reading your weekly comments Jamie!
They always make me feel like Top Chef should be a 1.5 or 2 hours show. What's being shown is clearly not enough!!!
Especially seeing more of the dishes being made, the Chef commenting about it, and also what's being said at Judges table.
The show always seems too short! I want a second serving each time :)
Nice blog. You have chosen the loser (by hunch) consistently. You're pretty sharp. I'd forgotten about your own RW of last season. If memory serves, your own dish was well received. Laurine morphed into Rhadika in terms of discomfort with her role as FOH. In addition, she told Tom that she would make sure her dish (i.e. lamb) would be perfect. As for Michael's kitchen behavior, it was assertive and take charge. He really WANTED to win! Maybe more than anyone else on his team. As has been seen before, the team with no true leader loses. Case closed.
Jamie, Did Carla express an interest in front of the house? I thought Jeff did at one point. Probably either one of them could have done a better job expediting during your season's Restaurant Wars. I remember the guest judge, Stephen Starr I believe, liked your savory dishes better than the other restaurant's. The only issues he had were with dessert -- Sahana's by Carla failed that night due to yogurt soup etc. and he liked Stefan's desserts on the Sunset Lounge team better -- ginger and lemongrass panna cotta, some sorts of chocolate creations etc. -- and, of course, service was an issue. Fabio charmed him at the Lounge and was more attentive in the dining room than Rhadika at Sahana. Also I don't understand what the blog editors were trying to articulate you were saying about season 6's restaurant wars names of restaurants.
Hi Jamie, The name "Mission" reminded me of a soup kitchen kind of place, as in Salvation Army kind of connotation. However, the team members said they used that name thinking of historic Missions established in the early days of the old West. Ironically, they really needed the link to the decor of those days, terra cotta tiles, pottery etc. to get the concept across, and they did not get to do any decorating! Their food was not linked to that era either so I did not think it was a very successful name, especially in the middle of the neon lights of Vegas; it did not evoke the old Spanish ways at all. The only other thing the name reminded me of was that the team members were on a "mission" to produce good food, but they didn't say anything to that effect. They did not seem particularly inspired. You have to get enthusiastic when on a team challenge in order to win, correct? Jennifer especially seems very hard on herself. And at the end, Kevin said he was angry but it was not clear whether it was directed at the judges, his team members or himself. Were you able to figure that out? No wonder the other team won!
Jamie, while Kevin did cook the lamb for Laurine, Laurine made a point to say that she would send it back if it wasn't right. It wasn't right and she didn't send it back. That was a big strike against her.
Great blog as usual Jamie!!!
As much as I love Jen, she was the weakest link tonight, and I think even the judges knew it. I honestly think before the challenge began the judges knew that Laurine or Robin had to go (they've been in the bottom in both quickfires & elimination challenges far more than any contestant remaining) and since Robin's team won (not to mention the fact the judges seemed to like her dish) Laurine was eliminated by default. Even though Laurine prepped the lamb dish from what I could tell the issue with it came with how it was cooked, which Kevin was responsible for. As bad as I feel for Laurine I am glad to see Jen still around, because clearly she is the only female that has a shot at the finals (sorry Robin).
I find it shocking that Jenn didnt go home. And I'm saying this admitting she's my favorite contestant on the show. You having been on the inside of the show and saying its a toss-up makes it a bit more believable for me.
Jamie - Don't know if you really read these comments, but: you so totally rule! Love your commentary and think it's neat that you completely get it WITHOUT seeing the full episodes. I'm not a foodie or cookie or any such - the only thing I know how to make is squid bait for flounder fishing, but you're just so stand-up, I believe evrything you say! Best chefs ever: you (of course), Richard Blais, and Casey Thompson. Sad to see Ashley get the "Pak yer stinkin knives 'n go." Would make a baby with any of y'all! Wish you a good, full, happy life.
The name of the restaurant should mean something, and the name Revolt to me means resistance against the way things are. For that name to have worked, they needed a menu to be so out-there that no one would have imagined going in what they would be served. It's a hard thing to pull off in this environment, so the name was just a bad one. Revolt sounds like a club or an RPG. I really didn't think Mission was a hot name either, but at least it didn't make he go, "HUH?"
The decorating aspect may be painful at times, but it seems to me that that is what MAKES restaurant wars. If you were to say "this week's challenge was to create a menu and prepare dinner for fifty people", that sounds rather mundane. I'm sure it is tough, but it's not very creative. Yet when you throw in the design concept, suddenly you have a "restaurant war". In some ways, I missed that aspect. I felt that taking away the design element made the task a bit less challenging for the chefs- all they had to do was cook good food, and serve it in a timely manner. They have to do that in EVERY challenge, anyway.
I have to disagree with you on the name REVolt. I thought it was clever incorporating the initials/name of the team members. It didn't make me think of the word revolting in the least. I also have to disagree about Michael V coming across as an ass. Maybe once you've seen the show in its entirety you will change your opinion. Much as I love Jennifer, she lucked out yesterday. I would of sent her home instead of Laurine, but I also know (from reading the small printed disclaimer at the end of each episode), that the show's producers and even Bravo themselves, may have discussions with the judges and possibly can say yea or nay to who goes home or not. Everyone is expecting Bryan, Kevin, Jennifer & Michael V to be the Final Four, but I would love to see a true upset if the food is judged solely on flavor alone, and not on possible huge ratings & contestants popularity.