Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Go Team?

Hugh Acheson comments on the friction among the female chefs competing in Restaurant Wars.


If restaurants have a 50% failure rate in the first year, then they have a 98% failure rate when the idea is conceived amongst four tired chefs with five hours to plan, cook, and serve. One will take failure as a time to pack knives and return to the real world. As an aside, I have a real hope that someday a team of chefs will do one of those “dining in the complete dark” restaurants on Top Chef. Chris Jones would be killa at that. 

Alas, we find ourselves at an event space in Austin. Palm Door, evidently named by someone with less time on their creative schedule than the chefs. Herein we find the pitfalls of underseasoning, the pratfalls encountered when you don’t have an expeditor, the illogic of giving your emotionally unstable co-chef both main courses to cook and plate, the perils of not defending yourself when the hordes attack, and the sanctity of pacifism. 

The episode starts out with no Quickfire. Just Beauty and the Beast, and I am not the Beauty. Battle of the sexes, Restaurant Wars-style. 

Ed takes some pokes right off the bat at Sarah, still quietly reeling from Sarah’s need to take a medical break from barbecue cookery and suck down oxygen like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet. 911 ain’t no joke in this town. 

Sarah is concerned about Beverly, something really justifiable at this point, as it has become abundantly clear that Beverly comes from a happy place where everyone moves in a slow way, where there is no malevolent force, just clouds shaped like smiley faces, and chirping birds of encouragement. Every time I watch her I wonder how the hell she gets through a day in a professional kitchen, but then again, she often pulls out pretty darn fine dishes out of her dime bag of tricks. The pacifist tortoise may win this race yet, against some eager bunnies.

When we are talking about creating a restaurant on the fly, you have to cover some bases. I would deem getting the food out in a timely manner paramount in that organization. The importance of the expeditor cannot be underestimated in all of this. But the catch 22 is that each team only has four people, with one of them playing the role of maître d’. Crazy times are in store, as both teams leave it to the team of temp waiters to make sure food gets out on time…. Bad move. 

Poor Beverly. Is she the pacifist tortoise in this competition or the ugly duckling? Either way the chefs should watch out cause that duckling may turn out to be a beautiful swan, which pecks out the eyes of the other swans that gave it a hard time, and then eats their babies. The condescension from Lindsay and Sarah is by the platter full in this episode, and it’s all shoveled at Beverly. This girl needs to stop capitulating to these taunts and start fighting back, cobra-style. I have compared Bev to three animals in one paragraph.“We are chefs, we cook.” Ed explains why no rational human wants to be the maitre d’. Don’t worry -- he’s taking the reigns and has brought a suit. 

I really wanted the guys to let Chris Jones name the restaurant The Romulan Rib Shack and have the waiters all dress like Vulcans. Oh well. Instead Paul has an idea: “I have a name. It’s Canteen… it’s a communal place to eat.” True dat, Cracker Jack. 

Beets, beets, beets, beets beets beets. Sarah is making Beverly ride the short bus on the way to Whole Foods and Sur La Table. Beverly, that means “on the table” in French. How Grayson has jumped out to be the most professional and mature chef in the women’s group is not what I expected after her bullfrog song from last week. She is attempting to bring civility to the situation, but not really succeeding. Beverly gets admonished a lot while shopping. They make her use one of the little kid’s carts. 

Chris Jones and the Kobayashi Maru. Am I surprised that he’s crazy for the Star Trek? Not at all. The Kobayashi Maru is a test for cadets to see if they will save the passengers and crew of a ship in enemy territory, risking all out war, or let the ship go and abandon the passengers and crew. I just love the editing with him proudly putting on his fighting uniform, music and all, before going out to make deconstructed Cracker Jack ice cream. Chris abandons the other three chefs to freeze stuff in the corner, failing the test, and the Tribbles take over.  

Canteen is going for a dorm look/mess hall. It actually looks pretty good. Remember, you had more time to style your hair this morning than these chefs had to decorate, cook, serve, clear, etc….

Things are going a little rough for the guys. Warm wine, whiny invited guests, grumpy judges (not me -- I was wearing my white bucks, which give me a honey badger attitude in life). Here comes the food:

Ham and Eggs, Paul. It is like a rillette. It was good, but the toast was greasy. The whole thing needed something. Nice presentation though.

Thai crab cup with caramel sauce, Ty-Lor. Flatness. Needed lime. It was boring, absolutely no pun intended. It failed to evoke really anything Thai. It could have been a Minnesota crab cup for all intents and purposes. 

Salmon, TyLor and Paul. Needs salt. Why has Paul taken on three dishes with Chris Jones taking on just one? The salmon looks great, but lacked cohesion… and mushrooms. Ty-Lor kind of flubbed pickup.

Roasted Pork Belly, Paul. It’s a pretty simple pork belly. Tasty but lacking something to push it over the top. Not Paul’s best day. But his worst day is still better than most people’s. His worst days put him in the middle of the pack. 

Cracker Jack, Moto Chris. I thought it was a mess, but Tom and Padma kind of liked it. Each to their own. Chris does not feel as I do, and says “This is what we do: prep, serve, kick ass and go home.” His Vulcan logic is on that green tinged planet where everyday is opposite day and thus cannot realize the complete shit-show of a service that has just occurred. 

Almond Joy, Ed. It had a minute coconut component, which makes the name an issue. But Ed ran the floor pretty well. Chefragette City time. 

Lindsay is building Half Bushel. We do not know yet if its half-empty or half-full philosophy. Her décor looks good. Lindsay chooses to explain her dish to Beverly in the fastest speech ever seen. Beverly understands none of it. Beverly begins to fight back at Sarah and then says, “I’m sorry,” like a sad puppy. 

We really did spend some time waiting at the front door, which would confuse you at most restaurants, but was a real lapse in the Bushel. I wasn’t irritated though, but then again, I was not in my White Bucks Honey Badger positive place. Luckily, the women chefs did not have an exposed kitchen because the sight of them screaming at each other would have made for many poor Yelp reviews. Sarah is freaking out. Lindsay is calling Bev “f--king retarded.” This is getting restless. 

“She f--ked my fish.” “You were f--king up my dish.” Yikes. I have to have a mental break and wash my brain out with soap. 

Peach and Bacon vinaigrette, Grayson. Nice. Really clean and good. Could have been killed by the bacon vin, but it was great. 

Risotto balls. Arancini. I was not a fan of the pureed caponata. Tom was. I did like the risotto. Great stuff overall. 

Bev, Shortribs with Red Curry. Plate of the night. It’s about the food, people. Grilled Halibut, Spanish-style, Lindsay. Dry. Overdone. Pickup was a disaster because both mains were on Bev. I know, I know, but it really did rock.

Chaum torte, Grayson. Also very good, but lacked a bit for me versus all; the other judges. A solid shout-out to her family roots in food though. She is a really good chef. Rock on, Bullfrog. 

Italian Doughnuts. Rich. Leaden. Not my thing. 

Chris Jones is voting for the girls. “This is the nicest dinner we have had since we’ve been here.” Then he realizes that sounds bad and recants. Edward demotes him to swabbing the decks of the USS Canteen. 

Half Bushel wins the best of the much-maligned restaurants in the wars. Beverly stuns with the win. No matter what you think the key was to present a better restaurant and then individually present the best food for your dish, Bev did that while being chewed up with insults. Does she work in a way that I think is correct in the world of restaurants? Hell no. She’s a strange bird, but she really can cook. And she’s plodded past the majority to get this far. If you asked me to wager on her longevity at the beginning, I would have said, “No way she lasts.” But her food pushes her through. 

She wins a trip to Napa and a bigass bottle of wine. Sarah openly tells the chefs that Lindsay deserves a win more. Go team. 

Alas, Ty-Lor goes home. He was never boring. He will be missed.


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...

@RichardBlais (Instagram & Twitter)

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