Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Restaurant WarGames

Josie and Kristen's relationship in the kitchen was a complicated one.

Hello, my little communal tables. (I would have bought them for you, Sheldon!) We all know this recap is going to get pretty bleak pretty quickly. I know you all feel lost, confused. You're so cold. You're so cold. But, we'll get to that shortly. Let's pretend for a moment that we don't know how this episode ends, k?

It's time for Restaurant Wars! (For real this time.) As a result of Micah's elimination last week, the men's team is down a chef. They do, however, have Stefan, a chef whose been through this challenge before, and Kristen admits that she's never led a kitchen with this much output. So, maybe it all comes out in the wash?

The chefs head to the Georgetown Ballroom where they discover that their kitchens aren't set up. Oof. They each select their spaces -- men are inside, ladies are outside -- and go shopping for decor and ingredients. Josie and Brooke debate napkin color, and Brooke questions Josie's level of class. Eek, Brooke. Eek. We learn that -- according to Stefan -- Europeans like flowers, pebbles, and little vases. Um, sure? We also learn that dried mung beans are in aisle 6. G-d, I wish every grocery store employee was as competent as that guy. I had a very hard time finding my natural hand soap this weekend due to poor advice from a grocery store employee. I want that mung bean guy everywhere! Yes, this is the type of stuff that stands out to me while watching an episode. Moving on...

Sheldon might have a tough time reining in Stefan when Stefan quickly puts the kabash on Sheldon's desire for communal tables. I'm not saying Stefan isn't right -- he has opened quite a few successful restaurants. But, presumably, Sheldon wanted a certain vibe in his space, so shutting him down completely was a little harsh. But, seems like Sheldon will lay his claim to Urbano where the food is concerned since neither Josh nor Stefan have cooked Filipino cuisine before.

And the painful prep begins...

Kristen explains that she wants to touch every dish that goes out. Mmm...

Josie says she's off to go roast her bones for her bouillabaisse stock. Sheldon actually goes off to roast his chicken wings for his dish.

A bit later -- honestly not sure how much later -- Kristen asks Josie, "Have you started roasting?" Josie responds, in a very soft voice, that she's about to, as if Kristen had just interupted her, um, looking into nothingness? This is when I realized that Josie was kind of checked out. There just seemed like there was a wall, that Josie lost interest, that she wasn't paying attention anymore. What happened in the time between Josie leaving the main room to go roast the bones and Kristen having to ask her if she started doing it? As we watch the ladies prep, it comes to light that Josie still hasn't started her bones, and now there's no time. She'll do it the next day and she's confident that she can get it done. Some people say if you believe something you can achieve it. I'm not sure sure Josie actually believes she can achieve it anymore. "That's how I cook -- I don't rush things." Oh man. Kristen, visibily red in the face, walks out of the kitchen. I would've screamed my head off, which isn't the correct response either, but neither is giving up.

Back at the house, we see adorable artwork from Brooke's daughter, but we also see less-than-adorable complaining from Josie to her competitors! She explains to Josh and Stefan that she doesn't agree that all the dishes should be created a la minute, but she's a soldier. She's just a soldier. Well, Josie, even if you don't help your chef by saying why cooking everything a la minute might be detrimental to the team, being a soldier is doing things when your chef wants them done. And you didn't do that. (You can tell when I start addressings chefs directly that I'm annoyed.) Josh says, "If they cook the fish to order, they are gonna go down." Oh, how right he ends up being."It's Game Day!" Thanks, Sheldon. The men's team is looking good -- like a group? gaggle? of menehune. The ladies' team not so much. The bouillabaisse stock still isn't done and won't be for quite some time. "Patience," Josie says. Grrr. Time is running out on the stock and the gelatin hasn't been added yet, so Kristen makes a last-minute call to skip the gelatin and add cream and soy instead. Kristen would prefer one of the dishwashers in place of Josie. To which the dishwashers yell back, "Hey! I'm pulling my weight!" Just kidding. That didn't happen. But it sure would've been funny. Stefan and Brooke prepare their front-of-house staffs, while Lizzie warns Kristen that she's going to get inundated with having to look at everything. 

The judges arrive at Atelier Kwan first. Danny Meyer comments on the menu graphics. First up is Lizzie's charcuterie and the judges love it. Then they wait for their next dish. And wait. Out comes the bouillabaisse and they see something's wrong -- broth is missing. Well, that's because the foamer wasn't tested early enough and isn't working correctly. Josie's sensing "just a little bit of attitude" from Kristen. Well, if she could see me she'd be sensing a lot. I'm boiling over at this point. Besides the sauce, the protein isn't cooked consistently. On to Kristen's Beef Bourguignon. Not enough sauce. Brooke's cheese course is OK, unoffensive... unlike Kristen's play on a macaron/macaroon which Gail found very offensive. Not to the entire Jewish people. Just to herself this week. Ha!

The ladies are done... for now. The real action is coming at Judges' Table shortly.

I won't go through every course at Urbano, but will say that Sheldon led a team, and kept his cool while giving constructive criticism. His servers were fudging things up a bit, but he didn't yell. I wonder, though, what would have happened had Stefan had told him how annoyed the judges were with the hospitality bit. Although Stefan said he cared more about the judges' table than the other customers, he seemed to be way more hospitable to the diners -- who wouldn't leave -- than he was to the judges. And while it might be true that diners return to restaurants for service, not food, this is Top Chef. The food matters, and Stefan's dish was good. It was obvious that the men's meal was better. Every dish got a good review. So, we head to Judges' Table. The men's team wins! Sheldon wins a car! "We won Restaurant Wars witha Filipino concept -- that's aweomse." Sheldon's pride is infectious. 

And on to the women, where the judges really try to figure out what the chef happened. The dynamic between Josie and Kristen in that moment was an interesting one. Yes, Josie threw Kristen under the bus. When asked about her bouillabaisse and why there wasn't enough sauce she said, exasperated, that Kristen plated the judges' dishes. All she had to say was that she was sorry they didn't get more, since Gail had already complimented the flavor.

But Kristen does fall on her sword, and takes responsiblity for everything, alluding to a lot of changes that would have been made in "hindsight," that crazy bitch. I will say that while Kristen taking responsibility was commendable, I also got the sense that she was waiting for either Josie or the judges to save her from herself.

Also, and I think this is worth noting, the judges had issues with both of Kristen's dishes. I think -- and this is pure speculation -- that if both of her dishes had been flawless, or near-flawless, more information about what really happened with the bouillabaisse specifially would have emerged because it would have been the only dish that truly fell short.So, the judges are left with the hardest decision so far this season. And Padma and Gail get into it! Back in the Stew Room Josie moans that she's an easy target. Oh brother. 

As the ladies stand before the judges, Tom says "Padma?" as he usually does, waiting for the host to read the verdict, but this week he sounds a little somber. And Padma tells Josie she's safe, that Kristen is going home. Sigh.

We'll see if Stefan says "Kristen who?" next week as he has done after every elmination. Doubtful he'll forget Wifey that quickly.

I'm assuming many of you are quite frustred with this week's decision but hopefully reading Tom and Gail's blogs will shed a little more light on the decision than I'm able to. And remember, ther's still Last Chance Kitchen, so make sure you watch and root Kristen on!

Until next week, Have a Nosh! Also, look at these fun photos of Hugh eating wings in Koreatown -- they're sure to make you feel a little bit better.

Richard: "Winning Is Overrated"

Richard Blais congratulates Doug Adams on his admirable run and knows (from experience) this is just the beginning for this talented chef.

Doug Adams is not Top Chef.

Doug Adams is, however, the poster chef for what this competition is all about. A jumping off point for unrecognized or yet truly discovered talent.

Mr. Adams, yes I'm saying Mister because it pays respect to the man, and also because that's how The New York Times goes about things, came on to this season touting his resume of being a working class sous chef from Portland.

Doug Adams is not Top Chef. Doug Adams is, however, the poster chef for what this competition is all about.

Richard Blais

Sous chefs are on the line everyday (sous chefs from Portland I imagine are also butchering whole animals and foraging for botanicals, buts that's for a different blog). They are hands-on, blue collar grinders and early on Doug uses this statement to separate himself from the contestants who maybe are clipboard surfing, or worse, not even really in a restaurant at this stage of their careers. And although this is a part of his strategy or drive, and a very honest personal understanding and awareness of self, I have news for you...

Doug Adams is no longer a sous chef.

Sure, he may actually, technically still carry the title tonight, I'm not certain to be honest, but by his performance this season on Top Chef, he is now ready for the next stage in his career, and this is what can happen and should happen after Top Chef.

I can't imagine someone not taking a chance with giving Doug the opportunity to run a small restaurant. I can't imagine that someone out there tonight, hearing about Doug's goal of operating a Montana restaurant, connected in some way to hunting and fishing won't contact him. I can't imagine it; because it happened to me... My restaurant Juniper & Ivy in San Diego is a direct connection from my performance on Top Chef, and my gut tells me it had very little to do with "winning."

The fact is, winning is overrated.

Winning is fun. It may get you some cash or secure your ego, yes, but really, six months after this thing runs out on television, we are all just "that guy or girl from Top Chef.

Throughout this season, Doug has demonstrated everything one looks for in a great business partner. He cooks delicious, relatable, soulful food. He does it with a smile on his face. He cooks with a sense of authorship and knowledge of place and time. And perhaps most importantly (no, not his epic beard), most importantly, he communicates with his colleagues professionally and with integrity. I'd guess every cheftestant likes him. I know every judge likes him. He takes risks, like roasting a whole lobe of Foie gras, or say, blending up an aioli of ant eggs. Which, by the way, are you kidding me? Maybe he takes these chances because it's part of the game, but I think more so because Doug is a curious cook, which is a sure tell sign of a chef ready to do their own thing.

Doug, it may seem like I never had anything positive to say about your food, and maybe indeed that's how it played out on television, but it's not the case, Chef.

Congrats on an amazing run, one for all future contestants to take note of. And when rooms become available at your resort in Montana, I'm booking...

Blais
@RichardBlais (Instagram & Twitter)

Read more about: