Blessed Are The Cheesemakers

Blessed Are The Cheesemakers

Sam Talbot speaks to this season's Restaurant Wars.


So we're back where we left off with the Restaurant Mulligan, but first a little mise en place. Every now and then (back when I actually had a job) I used to jump on the line when we were in the weeds. The guys that worked my line had a real sense of pride about their skills. All lines do -- at least good ones. So to earn their respect, you have to really bring it. When I saw what Casey did (or was trying to do) with that onion, I could hear them in my head yelling "Pinche Gringa!"


Hung manhandled those chickens with cartoon-like speed. I think he's been waiting for this moment his whole life. No, you weren't mistaken -- that was pure joy you saw in his eyes. Too bad the Sopranos is over -- they may have written a scene just for Hung the Butcher. Seriously, Hung and Sara should open a prep shop for restaurants -- they put on a clinic. (Side bar: How great was it that they made Tom use a whistle for the relay race?) Gotta say that in the last few challenges, Hung's hung up the ego and become a contender. So the Team Formerly Known As Garage gets Stephen and extra money. I personally think wine is overrated in Restaurant Wars (kidding), but Stephen's help means one less thing for them to stress about. However for Dale it means one extra dress-to-impress-sommelier he has to wrangle. The prizes weren't the only things they got; they also "got" the whole point of the rematch. Ironically, it was their biggest weakness (their failure to work as a team) that allowed them to see their mistakes, get over them, and really take the comments to heart.

Team April suffered from the opposite situation. Their tragic flaw was that they thought were a great team. They thought they worked so well that they didn't need to change much to win. (If I know Tom, it probably irked him that Tre didn't rethink that beef dish altogether.) At last! The mystery of the "dinner guest" is finally solved and we learn that he actually has no food credentials whatsoever (shocker), but he's there to paint some quotes about food on the walls. Good for the Team Formerly Known As Garage to listen calmly to him bash (incorrectly, I might add) their vegetable medley. He seemed disappointed when Sara cut him mid-snark and asked him for solutions. Good for her -- she handled that MUCH better than I would have.

Speaking of Sara, she really impressed me this week and stepped it up. She also saved some members of her team (Howie) who, without her, surely would have been sent home. (Did he really need a temperature reading to know that veal was raw?) If Stephen and Dale had switched outfits they would have simultaneously satisfied the judges AND made the list of top Top Chef moments.

So they sent Tre home. I'm torn with this decision. So many times we've heard them say, "It's Top Chef, not Top Sous-Chef, "and sent the chef home because they were content to ride shotgun. So TC history tells us that CJ should have been sent home. He was the first to admit that he wasn't qualified to be April's Executive Chef. How then, is he qualified to be Top Chef? On the other hand, everything that comes out of the kitchen is the Executive Chef's responsibility. Thus, the Executive Chef of the winning restaurant should win, and the losing restaurant's chef should be sent packing. If they continue to force the chefs (like they did this year) to choose who is the Executive Chef and who is the decorator, then every season we'll know who should win and who should go home. Not very fun for us.

Here's why I say that: If you're the Executive Chef and your fellow cheftestant makes a crap dish, you can't serve it. If you do, you'll be the one going home, not them. Because that's the role of the Executive Chef -- to make sure everything is spot on. See the problem? If the producers keep to this format next season, I don't see how the weakest chef will ever be sent home (Unless of course their team nominates them as Executive Chef for the purpose of sending them to the Judges' Table like a lamb to the slaughter.) When we did Restaurant Wars, Mikey was told to pack it up. Love him, but at that stage of the contest (Ilan, Cliff, Elia, and Marcel), it was the right call. You can't say the same about Tre. No way was he the weak link in this group. Even the remaining chefs felt the same way. I could have sworn a saw a little look of relief in their eyes -- "Man, that just really sucks. I really like Tre -- never thought he'd be going home. I thought he was going to be around till the end. Hmm, wait a minute. Tre's gone? Now I have a better shot!"

You could tell that Tre let himself down. He wasn't shocked when they sent him packin' because he knew -- but he was stunned. So in the end, Tre went home because his team thought he was most qualified to be their Executive Chef and they trusted him implicitly. Not a bad reason to go home. Tre's the complete package. He's shown the most poise, dignity, professionalism, pride, and integrity of perhaps anyone on this show, ever. While I don't know him, he seems like the kind of guy you want to be around and work for. As it gets closer to the finale, there's something I can't quite put my finger on about this season -- something's just a little off. Or missing. Maybe the chefs don't care as much about the title of Top Chef as they care about the exposure? Maybe they like each other so much they're sorry to send people home? Maybe it's the hot tub and the mojitos. I'm not sure. I guess we'll see.

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