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.
Onto the Wars: first, let me start by saying thank god they didn't have to decorate this year! How many times do we have to see those same tacky furnishings from Pier One, I mean really. Way to give it a rest there, Bravo. I don't think the chefs realize how lucky they are that they didn't need to deal with the interior design aspect. At least all they had to focus on was the cooking, which is definitely the most important part. Now, this one is tough. Both teams are pretty strong, but I have to say that I would be a wee bit nervous about the brothers V. being together. Those guys are powerhouses and having them together definitely proved to be a challenge to the Mission team. Talk about intimidation! I was surprised to see Eli step up as the FOH manager, but also glad. I like that the boys didn't force Robin to be out there because they didn't like her or her abilities, which could have easily been done, and after watching Eli tonight I have to say I thought he did a pretty bang-up job as manager. He was personable, talkative, even likeable, and a lot less douchey then he usually appears to be. Michael definitely asserted his control in the kitchen, and I have to say I thought he came across as a bit of an ass in this episode. His cockiness came through and not in a good way. There's a difference between being cocky and being a jerk, and I thought he was a bit of a jerk, especially to his brother Bryan. I'm not sure if that's how they are together or it's just because it's a competition, but one would think they would be a little bit more supportive of one another, especially since they are both so talented. As I have been saying all season, I think the tension between them is going to make for a very interesting finale. One other thing regarding them: the name Revolt ... I agree with Padma ... kinda nauseating, but there was nothing revolting about their restaurant. Perhaps Mission should have chosen that name, because they certainly struggled.
Team Mission: also a strong group of players that included Kevin and Jen, but it didn't seem like they could get it together. Jen seemed behind from the beginning and the work load seemed like it wasn't evenly distributed. Also, the dishes actually looked and sounded rudimentary compared to Revolt's food, not to mention the fact that the judges ate at Revolt first. So, they probably were a little disappointed when they tried Mission's food, strictly comparatively speaking. Now the one thing that really sticks out for me was the fact that they decided to not serve dessert. Even if you aren't good at dessert and people always go home for dessert, a restaurant kind of needs to have something sweet to end on, right? If making a dessert wasn't something they wanted to do, then why not serve chocolate truffles, or some little candy at the end with the check? Something? I thought that was a pretty ballsy move, and not in a smart way. In addition to the long fire times, poor FOH communication and lackluster food, I think the lack of dessert was one of the reasons that they ended up the losers. Judging from the comments, I think the elimination is a toss up between Jen and Laurine, and if I had to pick I would go with Laurine because her lamb wasn't well received (though in her defense, it was Kevin cooking it, right?) and neither was her management style.
Now, a little note to finish on, which I believe I have said before ... I don't get to see the full episodes. I generally find out about it on line or something the next day, so everything I have been writing about who stays and who goes has been based on hunch. So I make stuff up and guess and just give my two cents on what I see ... that's all. I wish I could give you more than that, but it's all I have got.