Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

A Real Challenge

Gail: Mei's Menu Was Almost Flawless

Make Top Chef Mei Lin's Winning Dessert!

Richard: "Gregory Had the Better Ideas"

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Hugh: Mei's a Chef's Chef

Richard: "Winning Is Overrated"

Make Mei's Sushi Style Guac!

Gail: I Wasn't Surprised Doug Stayed on Top

Get Doug's Masterpiece Brisket Recipe

Gail on Innovation (and George's Failure to Push It)

Make Melissa's Seared Duck Breast Dish

Make Melissa's Mom's Egg Custard

Hugh Worries About Scurvy and Foie Gras

Make Mei's Inspired Duck a l'Orange

Gail Has No Problem With Blood

Make George's Cravable Breakfast Sausage

Gail Simmons Won't Be Pushed Around

Make Doug's Winning Mussels

Tom Colicchio Answers Your Restaurant Wars Qs

Gail: It Wasn't Keriann's Day

Make Doug's Winning Braised Pork!

Gail: We Had a Tough Job This Week

Make Katsuji's Authentically Delicious Stuffing

Hugh: The Demise of Cornwallis and Aaron

Make Gregory's Winning Dumplings

Richard: Chefs Please Follow Instructions

Richard Tries Money Ball Soup

Make a Home Run-Worthy Popcorn Crème Brule

Hugh: Where There's a Will There's a Fenway

Gail: Keriann and Aaron Were Being ---holes

Make the Winning Surf and Turf

Gail: We're Taking No Prisoners

Richard Goes From Player to Announcer

Tom Talks Boston

Gail: There Was No Season 11 Underdog

Hugh Wants Nick to Be Kind to Himself

Gail: It Was Difficult to Let Go of Shirley

Big Easy to Ocean Breezy

Gail: The Final Four Are Like Our Children

Emeril Is Proud to Serve Shirley's Dish

Hugh: Enough With the Mexican Food Hate

A Real Challenge

Restaurant Wars is the most realistic challenge during the season.

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.