Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio elaborates on Team Sunset Lounge's win, and, once again, reacts to the fan response to Ariane's elimination.

on Jan 21, 2009

There are many factors that likely influenced the majority of the patrons. Remember that last impressions may color the overall experience: the desserts soared at Sunset and tanked at Sahana, and Fabio left each patron feeling cared for specially, while Radhika failed to even bid us farewell at the end of the evening. A restaurant is equal parts service and food. It has been shown that most people will return to a restaurant if the service is good, even if the food was merely OK. Fabio embraced his role at the front of the house; Radhika never did.

But it goes farther than that. A chef/owner of a restaurant must exhibit leadership and executive decision-making in all aspects of the restaurant from the kitchen stoves to the front door. Radhika completely turned the running of the kitchen over to Jamie, Jeff, and Carla. She did not assert her preferences while the other chefs shaped the dishes to be served in her restaurant, nor did she oversee their execution. She asked Carla if Carla wanted help when the desserts were failing, when she should have stepped in and asserted what she wanted Carla to do to remedy them. And while it might have been argued that a chef'testant in her position might have failed in the kitchen because she was so immersed in her responsibilities at the front of the house, this was not the case with Radhika, as she was not present and performing in that capacity either. Her nerves seem to have gotten the better of her, and she expended nervous energy in an unfocused way, letting down her kitchen staff and her patrons alike. As a result, while with the exception of dessert, the food may have been better at Sahana, the overall package was better at Sunset. We just felt better there. Factoring in all the variables, we all agreed that we had an overall more pleasant and pleasurable experience.

The ability to create great food is the first and most important ability a chef must have. But as I wrote in the on-air elimination challenge earlier this season, being a Top Chef requires more. That earlier challenge and Restaurant Wars this week gave our chefs an opportunity to learn about the other skill sets they need to hone to make it to and stay at the Top.