So, it’s an hour television show, where two teams of chefs compete by operating pop-up restaurants, while pushing through the challenges that naturally unfold during an opening under the pressure of a quick ticking clock. From conceptually developing the philosophy to hanging the curtains, the participants have to create a real restaurant experience that actual guests will pay for!
It’s a spin-off show. The Laverne and Shirley to Top Chef’s Happy Days.
It’s Restaurant Wars.
And although I’m quite serious about getting Andy Cohen on the phone about this pitch, the main point is that this episode is in a class by itself. A self-sustainable challenge that is highly anticipated not only by the viewer, but by the contestants alike.
After all, this is what we do. We plan menus. We work within, or lead a team of people. We decide what artwork to hang, how to greet our guests. We decide whether they get flowers when they leave, how much they should pay, and how big the portions are.
It’s the only realistic, applicable challenge to our daily work, even if the time constraints are somewhat unrealistic.
I say somewhat because there is a new trend where chefs and aspiring restaurateurs are opening pop-up eateries. Either by renting space in existing establishments or organizing renegade dinners in secret locations, these pop-up dinners sometimes create a new restaurant in a few hours and fill it with guests before the night is over. Sound familiar?
From Ludo Lefebvre’s Ludo Bites, where I’ve had the pleasure of dining, to that apartment complex near my restaurant that serves arguably the most authentic beef tongue tacos around, more and more people are tackling the challenge of restaurant wars in a real-life setting.
And no other episode offers the viewer, especially those with industry experience, that warm, nostalgic feeling. Or sometimes that cold, queasy feeling, the feeling that says, “I’ve been there.”
I got nauseous when the doors were about to open and Jen had that mound of trout on her station waiting to be cleaned. I cringed when Laurine was in line-up and unknowingly had an army of guests beating down the door. My temper boiled when Michael had altercations with both Bryan and Robin. And when Padma asked for salt, my stomach sank.
I can relate. And not because I’ve been a contestant on Top Chef; I understand it because that’s our professional lives in a flash.
It’s not cooking out of a vending machine or prepping in a relay race format. It’s not “cooking the best meal of your life” off of a table of ingredients, either.
Restaurant Wars gives us the most honest snapshot of our real world. A passionate recipe that’s one part dream, one part nightmare, all blended ferociously to form one tasty treatment.
It’s a great show.
Great blog, Richard! I grew up in this business, cook in it now, and like you, have both the wonderful anticipatory feelings as well as the uneasiness that accompanies "Opening Night". I remember when my father opened one of our best restaurants, and the commercial dishwasher didn't come in until 2 WEEKS later. We were washing everything by hand, doing silverware until 3 a.m. It's all funny now, 25 years later, but you just DEAL with it. No excuses...just make it happen. As far as Michael is concerned, I don't care one bit what kind of skills he has...he is an arrogant punk that I wouldn't hire even if his last name was PUCK or BLAIS!! haha Seriously, I really see him as a kid who hasn't had his preverbial "chops" busted enough for him to think twice before he insults and humiliates others. TV makes cooks into rock stars, and it goes to the heads of some. You have to have a TEAM in the kitchen, guys...end of that story. I would rather hire Dave, the winner of Hell's Kitchen, simply because he is a true team player and never gives up. The Voltaggio brothers need a lesson in humility...BOTH of them. Hey, got to FLIP BURGER 2 weeks ago. Off the HOOK, my man! Be well, Richard. Mark
Well said, Richard.
You know, it's been several years since I worked in a restaurant.
I still remember..hell, I can almost feel... that anticipation knot you get in your stomach as the dinner rush is about to begin. And that feeling when you're in the midst of it. Not the panicked in-the-weeds one, but the high of when everything is going right and your whole body and mind is doing a symphony of movement and thought.
Ahh, those were the days.
I would love to see a Restaurant Wars spin-off too but NBC already ran with that concept with The Chopping Block (w/ Marco Pierre White) which failed miserably and BBC2 & BBC America has The Restaurant which has done well and is up for another season.
I've watched both shows but and there's definitely room for improvement. A Bravo version would be great but what differences would set it apart from other shows with the same concept and make it a companion series to Top Chef?
So glad you got rid of that Kenneth Brown-like hairdo from your blog photo. The faux-hawk is so much more the Blais we know and love! Keep up the interesting perspective
My favorite part of the restaurant wars episode is the insight it gives. It shows the work we put in our food,it shows the passion, stress and all out balls to the wall kitchen life.
Last night my gf and i were watching the episode and she said "wow it sees so stress full", and i said "yea its my life" I love that she got to see a glimpse of my day to day life.
I think Michael V is an amazing chef and iv seen my tempers flare at times as well. I think it comes with the territory, Bryan V is a rare breed always calm and very quiet. But what i do think is surfacing is that they dont mesh in a kitchen there styles kind of clash, but at the end of the day i think they are the most talented.
We shall see what happens.
Richard, A couple weeks ago while visiting my daughter in Atlanta, she took me to your restaurant Flip. I flipped out! Each bite of my food was perfect, service was wonderful and the decor was great. The shake made me want to move back to Atlanta. Your restaurant wins any restaurant war in my view.
Will it be like rock star Inxs? Where the fans can call in and Vote. Can you take the restaurants on tour to different cities. Will restaurants be open for more than one Night. Can they produce revenue. What are the ground rules....??? This could be the ultimate camp experiment.\ Can't wait would love to lead a team.
You are the best writer/blogger for this show, etc. You have such a great way with your thoughts/insights/experience and know how to exhume the thoughts of the viewers and, I am sure, even all of those on the show....as to what is really going on in theirs and our heads about the food business and this show and the correlations between the two. That is what makes this show so good. It does seem more real than the other fake reality shows. We..as viewers are mesmerized, as it is all new to us and the details involved in your foodie world, yet, you give insight to both worlds when you write.. Your take on things and style of writing makes both the viewers and "experts" (judges, cast members on the show, and the millions of others out there in your field) relate to the reality of what happens and the set backs and it makes it all more real to watch. Thanks for always creating a great take on the shows and the real world behind the show. It makes the show that much more interesting !!
Great top Chef last night.I don't really think Michael was as much being rude as he was concentrating and trying to keep everyone getting their jobs done.
Phreddie, I saw that too! I looked it up, and yes, that's the same Eli from our very own season six. Very cool to see two great chefs before they were on Top Chef.
Hey Mr. Blais. I recently saw you challenge Mario Batali on ICA. Was that really Eli from this season of Top Chef there with you?
I think you are right about "Restaurant Wars" being a great format for a new show. It could be fantastic. It's always a highlight of each season of TC.
This episode was especially fascinating because we saw two of the strongest chefs in Jen and Kevin show their weak points.
I felt Michael deserved to win, and he was gracious in sharing the prize. But, I'm uncomfortable seeing how rude and cruel the chefs are to Robin. They imply she is an incompetent chef and doesn't deserve to be there, but, luck only gets you so far. She has to have some talent to keep surviving. Maybe she annoys them, but, it's awful the way they talk about her, and talk down to her, putting her down behind her back, to her face, without caring how they look.
Great insight, but as a Chicagoan, I still think Warehouse Kitchen was the best ever. And of course of the 4 judges last evening, only Padma was at your "opening? best of luck in all your endeavors
Great blog Richard!!!
I was glad to read that you seemed to think Michael V's altercations with his brother and Robin were uncalled for. I was a little shocked when I read Tom C's blog and he thought Mike was just being assertive and not disrepectful. I disagreed.
I also like your idea of a Restaurant Wars spinoff!!! As long as it its not "Joey" to Top Chef's "Friends."
Richard-I'm glad to see that your still watching the show and can enjoy it as much as the rest of us. I do love your blog too! I always enjoy hearing what you think about the present season and how the competition is going. Keep blogging and I'll keep reading!