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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Smart and insightful analysis(since it agrees with mine). Kenny often seemed clueless at Judges Table and unable to accept criticism while blaming others. Alex (like Robyn last season) maybe a lesser chef, but just picking the least worth chef is not how the show is structured.
I'm sorry to disagree with you but I'm outraged! I am tired of the judges and the show rewarding bad behavior. The better person and chef was sent home. Alex should have been disqualified and I think you are missing the point. Kenny did a fabulous job as a leader.
I disagree. The challenge specifically stated that each chef is responsible for one dish. To me, that means conceptually and actually executing it. Kelly managed to execute two dishes while being in the front of the house. If Alex had of actually created the dish the results might have been different. Furthermore, if the blue team was allowed to let someone not create a dish their experience might have been different.
What does it mean for Alex to be "responsible" for the dish? He didn't create it, prep it, or execute it. So how was he responsible for the dish?
This marks the third week Alex has gotten away with arguably cheating. While the judges keep hiding behind "the nature and rules of the challenge" this proves there is a flaw in the system. If the system is allowing cheaters to win; the system should be altered.
Good blog. You put all in perspective. There will always be whiners. But even the press was surprised. Bad food is the deciding factor. And Kenny took big risks by making two dishes. His graceful leadership and the comraderie on the team was not enough to offset the less tasty meal.
Good points. I wish you would add some of your own experience and memories by this point in the season. I remember you where a very successful FoH. As the controversy is Alex not doing enough in the kitchen because he was "hidden" as FoH. What did you do for your dish in RW?
I am curious to know why my posts never make to the page on the TC blogs. There is no profanity, slander, or inappropriate content.
Anybody have any ideas?
You've made some excellent points, Eli. But, you've also made me laugh. I don't think Ed WAS "a roll on his team." :-)
Thank you. Good reflections on season 7's restaurant wards.
And I guess your restaurant war team from season 6, still stands as the best restaurant war team in all the seasons.
Look at Tom's blog. He's spoken with a number of the chefs, as well as Alex himself, and apparently Alex did not steal Ed's pea puree a few weeks ago. He's pretty dorky, but you have to feel kind of bad for him that he's come across as an out-and-out thief and cheater when he wasn't. He didn't cheat this week either. He cooperated with the team decision that he'd begin the prep for his dish and then take the floor. We may think that this indicates that he's a weak chef, but it's not cheating, and certainly not on his part. The other chefs re-did his work. So are they the cheaters who should be kicked off?
I agree completely. It was clear that all but the fish dish on the blue team failed. Someone had to go home - and Kenny failed at two dishes while Amanda only failed at one. This whole season Kenny has been claiming to be the best while they give Angelo the evil edit when I really think that Kenny has been the evil one all along. The judges have given him the same critique over and over and he refuses to listen while Angelo continues to put out good dish after good dish. I think they made the right decision, with sending Amanda home to be the only other alternative.
I think this "war" challenge was easier than those in the past that required the FoH rep to create an entire atmosphere and decor. That takes a special talent, skill, and vision.
Kenny produced two unacceptable dishes...and a salad and cheese course are not especially challenging. He has consistently ignored the judges' advice to edit his dishes. He could not live up to his own hype. He is a great prep cook, but not an impressive chef.
Eli, I appreciate your thoughtful and well-balanced perspective, made even more engaging because of the practical experience your opinion reflects. Thanks.
I completely agree with Converned Viewer. I also agree that EVOO appeared to overall better food.... BUT THEY CHEATED!!!!! I am so disappointed that by ignoring that fact you are encouraging it to continue! It tarnishes the title of TOP CHEF... it will become TOP CHEAT.
I agree with the premise that allowing the Blue team to prevent one chef from cooking might have changed things - specifically, had they kept KENNY out of the kitchen and his two mediocre dishes off the menu, they might not have lost.
I'm sorry, he's a good guy, but he deserved to go home for the dishes he presented.
So the point of Restaurant Wars is to try and come as close as possible to compete in an area that's closest to the day to day life of a chef... a probable Top Chef at that since that is what this whole thing is about, right? Ok, so why was Kenny's leadership and smooth service a non-issue in judging? Don't you think that would entail running a Top Restuarant? I mean...this IS Restuarant Wars. Preeti went home the other season for running a poor front of the house service and not necessarily on the dish she was "responsible" for. The problem is the criteria for judging, especially on Restaurant Wars is out of whack and contradictory. Mike Isabella was on a winning team, yet had to face the music of the judges table for a poor dish, having to stay up there to stand next to the losing team. Amanda was did one dish and it should have been a slam dunk but she messed that up. 0-1 while kenny went 1-3 with his responsibilities. That's a better percentage regardless of how you look at it. It's not even really about Kenny. Personally I could care less who goes home as long as it's the poorest chef of the challenge. To say that they judge on the current challenge is pandering cos they don't. It's an individual competition. there is no Top Chef Team. Their criteria, integrity, rules need to be fixed so loopholes don't have the likes of Alex making it to the finals on someone else's dime. He reminds me of that kid in school who didn't do nothing for the group presentation in front of the class but took credit for it. That's what the fans don't like. We don't care for that kind of drama. If there's drama to be had, focus on what goes on at the house, but in the kitchen it should be as fair as possible. It clearly is not; on the producers end as well as the judges. They need to do right by their fans who buy their products and are dedicated to the show.
No Eli, YOU are missing the point.
Tom and his every shifting criteria are the problem. The viewers are only asking for some standards in the judging. Being as how this is supposedly a competition. Tom changes the rules on the fly. And he usually does it to send home one of the best Chef's midseason.... this is not the first time.
In 2006, Tom wrote an entire post called "Playing by the Rules" in order to justify why someone was NOT sent home. In 2010?... meh, rules schmules !!! If Chef Tom was as inconsistent a Chef as he is a judge... he would not be famous and successful. He would be a contestant on this show.
Eli you did great last season. Clearly a great chef. I think your mentor Richard Blais is great as well! You and Michael V. WOW!! This is the first season they had both teams working in the same kitchen. I think thats where the producers made there BIG mistake!!! Sincerely Maureen from Ma!! p.s. I am hoping Ed makes it all the way this season. He is from my home state!
All the complainers posting here still don't get the point.....NO ONE ON THE WINNING TEAM WAS GOING HOME. PERIOD. END OF STORY. Ed & Angelo's strategy worked. Quite frankly, I don't blame them for wanting Alex in the front of the house instead of the kitchen where he really could have cost his team the win. His prep of the protiens was horrible and had to be redone. His team stepped up and made the protiens right. Where was Kenny when Amanda's steaks were being returned to the kitchen for being overcooked. She even yelled at Kelli about her steaks not being overcooked. Where was Kenny (as exec chef)? He should have (for a lack of better words) put a Gordan Ramsey on her. No one on Kenny's team stepped up to correct their teammates mistakes. But Angelo & Ed & Tiffany (my fave!) stepped up when Alex was screwing up his prep work. Ed & Angelo could have sabotaged Alex's dish, but they didn't. & seriously people.....any cheftestant who is working front of the house will either have to do what Kelli did and make thier dish beforehand, or as true chefs do, rely on their team in the kitchen to cook it according to the chefs instructions. Alex was responsible for a dish, he relied on the kitchen staff to prepare it accordingly, and thus fulfilled his duties. Just because Kevin & Kenny state that Alex did nothing (which as we all know is not true) does not make them right in any sense of the word. I have never in all 7 seasons seen cheftestants do to any fellow competitor what Kenny & Kevin did at judges table. Its all just sour grapes.....
Curious.... this Eli looks JUST LIKE the Eli from Season 6 who was consistently outraged that quality talented Chefs were being sent home... and ROBIN was still there.
Just like 2006 Tom ( Rules are Important ) versus 2010 Tom ( i don't care about Rules, just get Kenny out of here )
Must be a side affect of appearing on the show.