The group relay is really hard. You have to have a synergy amongst four people based totally on 10 minutes of work and nothing more. It’s also a lot of fun. You get to move as fast as you can and try to think about strategies and ideas, the whole while trying to make sure your next teammate is set up. The biggest part is the picking of the teams. It’s totally like being back in the schoolyard, and contrary to what anyone might say, you don’t want to be picked last. Also inevitably one team, usually the one that picks first, feels as if they have a tremendous advantage. Once you get cooking it’s a mad dash to put it all together. I think both teams did really well in this challenge, sans the red teams salting mistake. And the biggest problem was that was the nail in the coffin for the team. I personally think that was also a totally inexcusable mistake. Yeah, some chefs can make the argument for salting proteins ahead of time for any number of reasons, but as traditional cooking practices go, you season a piece of fish right before you cook it. Luckily due to her political background Nancy Pelosi was probably a little more diplomatic about it than most would have been. At the end it had to be a huge ego boost for the Blue Team to take that win, especially with the dollar signs attached to it. That really might have been one of their biggest downfalls later.
Restaurant Wars is a milestone for many on Top Chef. Many of the chefs have different points that they want to achieve for them to feel vindicated for going on the show. Stephen even said last week that just getting selected for the show was a win for him. For others it might be making the finals, the halfway point, or something like Restaurant Wars. A few of the chefs that remain will probably breathe a sigh of relief once they get here. And on a personal note, it is probably my favorite episode to watch each season. It’s a slight touch closer to a chef’s day-to-day reality than a lot of the other challenges on the show.
Now Frank Bruni, that’s a scary judge. His job for about five and a half years was to be the culinary critic for The New York Times. That is being the chief critical culinary voice for the main newspaper in the most food forward city in the country. Yikes. He is also considered a really good critic as well, one who has been reasonably fair and level. He is also such a cultural icon, one that I respect so much, that I had bought a t-shirt during his tenure reading “I Am Frank Bruni.” As foodie humor goes, that’s pretty good I think.
One of the things that really wowed me about the challenge was the close proximity of the two teams during the service. They were right on top of each other. Most professional kitchens are built to have purpose-built stations and don’t really duplicate each other. The reaction from when Angelo tried to stake claim on the place Kevin was working didn’t surprise me at all. It must have been really difficult on the whole just to get that all organized. I also was really taken by the team’s emphatic definition of their restaurant concepts. Unless you really have total control over a restaurant (ie. décor, every service detail) you will really have trouble portraying a concept. For example EVOO might have taken been a better route of saying how they were a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant as opposed to a proper one.
Now when it came down to it I feel some of the chefs from the Blue Team really lost the point of why they were on the bottom. Plain and simple the judges did not enjoy the dining experience in their restaurant as much. Trying to say that Alex didn’t do anything really is a moot point and it’s fairly outlandish to imply he should go home. At the end of the day if the Red Team had lost, specifically on the merits of his lamb dish, Alex would have gone home, whether or not he prepped it, he was responsible for it and its as simple as that. Kenny ended up going home for having two dishes that he was responsible for that the judges didn’t care for. It wasn’t about his leadership or decision making as the Executive Chef of the team, just for his two dishes. Similarly the reason for Ed’s win wasn’t his roll on the team as much as his really solid dish.
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