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Fin, Found, Floundering
Hugh imagines Justin as a child training for this exact scenario and distracting Travis with eagles.
We open with Carlos making his famous sealable plastic bag salad with positive affirmations. It is good for all occasions.
Restaurant Wars is meant to show you the very condensed version of opening a restaurant. Everything goes wrong when you open a restaurant. It just is a clusterfuck beyond compare. But in 42 minutes of television we bring you a very annotated version of that stress. They will break into two teams, shop and conceive a menu, they will build a kitchen and design the dining room, and they will nominate a GM and Exec Chef to fulfill the typical leadership roles of a restaurant. Usually you find the micromanagers with palpable egos running for the leadership positions, or sometimes it's just people vying for the Exec Chef role because that's what they feel most comfortable doing. This is a tale of the latter.
"What is going on right now?" You, dear chefs, are getting Chang'd. David walks in and war is declared.
The chefs schism into two groups, purple team naming theirs "Fin" and green team dubbing their concept "Found." Did the names have to begin with the letter F? How about fool, flounder, fossil, fester or fingerfud? I am also having a hard time diagnosing the meanings for the names. Travis says something about fin meaning dorsal fin, which is like explaining the your restaurant called Grass with, "You know, like wheatgrass." Sometimes I don't attempt to understand Travis, I just say, "Look at the eagle," point at nothing and walk away.
Sara is in favor of the wide spectrum idea of "Modern American" and none of them are pastry chefs.
Travis on the other team is proud to take the mantle of front of the house. He is awesome out there the entire night because they have not made their restaurant a Vietnamese concept that he would have to over-explain. Justin is the exec chef and he is coming prepared, what with his training regimen and all. He also drops Billy Reid's name in the design ideas. C'mon people, we are not on that type of budget.
Justin admits to enduro-training for Top Chef Restaurant Wars since the tender age of 16, which cannot be true, as the whole franchise was only birthed about eight years ago. The factual inaccuracy doesn't stop me from envisioning a whole mock stage that he has set up at home where he goes through drills each morning setting up a new restaurant every single day. "Tahitian Tiki Bar, GO!" "Korean BBQ, GO!"
Carrie is the coolest soccer mom chef ever. She drives the van to practice really well.
They shop and prepare the restaurants. In the shopping excursions they are seen using Star Trek-era communication devices to talk about the purple prawns of the planet Nola. The time find Carlos a big fish and that makes Carlos a happy man. Nina and Sara have a talk about ring molds.
Nicholas is taking this stuff pretty darned seriously. He is innit to winnit.
Sara and Justin have FOUND division. They are trying to start a war with each other. This is not a good portent for their team. This coffee maker fiasco is the equivalent of leaving the toilet seat up.
Nina explains the structure of restaurants, and how they can become pained relationships. Her theory is that if GM and the Chef are the battling parents then everyone else is a child watching mom and dad wage war. She may be onto something.
Brian spoon feeds Nicholas and Nicholas asks if "he be gelling," and then walks away looking all bossypants. The problem is that Brian has gelled with Xantham gum and not Agar. This is going to be way over most of America's heads but let me explain: Both are thickening agents but you use about 1/10 of the Xantham than you would Agar. He is going to have some weird goop on his hands.
This is like a game of Chef Clue and we find Justin in the pool room with a bad attitude. Oh wait, we do just that and we are still just in Top Chef.
Bowl ordering is causing the Found team some anxiety and as much as Justin wants to project an air of calm, chef diplomacy, he is kind of exacerbating the pressure cooker feeling in the room. Shirley is getting rubbed the wrong way by these Justin outbursts.
Service begins and Danny Meyer is escorting the Chase cardholders and David Chang is playing the role of judge with G, P, and C. in the house.
We are following along first to the food of Fin. Travis is finely tuned with a very personable service style. The very nice hipster guy from Food & Wine magazine thought Cmar's pasta was great, and he's "very specific about how he likes his pasta cooked." So there’s that. He also judges a "bespoke needle craft olympiad" in May that he is very persnickety about.
We hyperspeed over to the Found restaurant where we see how the other half lives. Sadly, the other half is lost. They are struggling with basics like ticket writing and service, and ruining Danny Meyer's meal. Danny did not come to Top Chef to have a crappy service and meal, even if his diners do have metal credit cards (the Chase Sapphire card I have is made of metal. It's pretty cool actually.). Get it together Foundlings. The menus were presented for a brief moment and then pulled away, like a game of menu memory that no one wants to play. Sara runs away fro the table a lot, and I don't think it's on purpose, she's just doing a chicken-with-head-cut-off thing. "Big smile babydoll."
Back at Fin, Travis is running a great service and Nicholas is running a smooth kitchen. They both are exhibiting very professional traits.
When the four judges eat at Fin there has been no noticeable betterment in systems. They wait a long time for food and Padma is fixated on Sara running away from her duties. They eat. They don't really enjoy much at all, but there are a couple of good moments.
Brian: Scallop Crudo, Corn, and Squash Relish with Purple Corn Gel. The purple corn gel is snooty or snotty, or both. Brian has gummed this up.
Carrie: Sauteed Gulf Shrimp, Chickpea Puree, Oregano, and Lemon. They like, except it’s greasy.
Stephanie: Linguini with Caviar, Oyster Cream, and Fennel. They think it’s great. Toothsome.
Nicholas: Black Drum, King Trumpet Mushrooms, Oxtail, Kale, Hibiscus Reduction. They like. Dish of the night?
Travis: Olive Oil Cake with Greek Yogurt, Cherries, and Pistachios. Blah but it works. Maybe dry.
Carlos: Red Snapper Crudo, Avocado Mousse, Pickled Baby Carrots, Fried Platano. Chang calls the fish hand torn. This is not a compliment.
Justin: Roasted Parsnip Agnolotti, Mississippi Rabbit, and Collard Greens Broth. Not loved.
Shirley: Olive Oil Poached Cobia, Blanched Ong Choy, and Salsa Verde They like the shrimp paste. When people say that it means that they are trying to find something nice to say?
Nina: Pork Tenderloin with Sunchokes and Trumpet Royale Mushrooms Looks nice.
Sara: Summer Nectarine Brown Butter Cake with Moscato Nectarine Salsa Not loved and the cream never made it onto the plates cause it broke, like the hearts of Found.
Fin is tops. Winner is Nicholas. He feels good about this.
Found is thus at the bottom. They look thrilled about this. Sara is taken down for not explaining the dishes and continually walking away from the situation. Justin throws Sara under the bus and then Sara tries to throw Justin under the bus. It is a busy bus. Chef wins. Sara loses. She's a little teary but is still taking this with class.