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Stay Away From The Salmon

Harold Dieterle gives his take on Season 3's Restaurant Wars.

First, let's start with Restaurant Wars: Part I. They had Daniel Boulud as guest judge. Daniel is very, very charming. It's a lot of fun watching him. I got to hang out with him when I was in Aspen, and he just totally breaks the stereotypical snooty Frenchman mold. He's totally a gentleman, really, really knowledgeable, really smart. I could just sit there and listen to the guy talk for hours. And then he's also ridiculously talented, one of the greatest restaurateurs in the world -- he's on top of the world! The chefs had to make burgers for him in the Quickfire Challenge. I think it's one of those things where they give you the Red Robin menu for a reason. I think Daniel made a great point: It's called a burger because it's on a burger bun, and a lot of them didn't make burgers. A lot of them used slices of bread -- that's not really a burger.

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Overall though, I thought they did a pretty good job. I mean one of them was a crab cake sandwich. That's not that interesting. I thought Howie's burger looked good, but I thought it was kind of a riff on Daniel Boulud's burger at DB Bistro, so It wasn't that interesting. But I thought a lot of them did a nice job.

When Padma told them they would no longer get immunity...I know that feeling. It's like them telling you "You're going to get a sandwich at Witchcraft in San Francisco," and you're thinking "That's great, but I'll trade that for immunity right now." That's nice and that's cool, but it's not exactly what I'm looking for. But CJ got to choose his team, and that's pretty amazing. That's huge. It's a great opportunity when you're under the gun, and you get to choose who you're working with. I thought for certain CJ was going to pick Dale instead of Casey. I just never really saw CJ and Casey mesh, but it was a good point about having a woman's touch. I thought that was interesting, and it was very interesting to see who the other team was with. It just boiled down to the fact that Howie's going to be a tough guy to work with. He's very opinionated -- he says what's on his mind, and he'll do what he needs to do to get what he has to say done.

Let's talk about a couple things though: I don't have a problem if they wanted to call the first go-round a draw, but the way it was perceived, the way we saw it, it wasn't a draw. I thought it was absolute bullshit. I thought April won. I thought April absolutely won. So they say the table service sucked, but the food at The Garage was like they killed it -- they totally destroyed it. Yeah, it's Restaurant Wars, and it's about the whole experience -- points for service, the food, just totally creating this thing out of nothing in 24 hours. But at the end of the day they say this isn't Top Sous-chef, Top Sommelier, Top this, Top that -- this is Top Chef. It's about the food. And the food on April's team was clearly better than the food at The Garage. So there shouldn't have been a draw, unless there's something we're not seeing. So that being said, when I first saw the episode I thought it was kind of cool, but then when I saw who got eliminated in the second parter, I thought it was bullshit. I'm not gonna lie -- I had my arms up in the air.

The scented candles? You have to be kidding me. You're a chef -- where do your taste buds come from? If there's someone who walks by my kitchen, such as a guest, with an obscene amount of perfume on, I smell it, and it can totally ruin my taste buds. Why would you have scented candles? I don't get it. Howie's risotto? That was totally unacceptable. I'm Sicilian -- risotto's very sacred. That is not risotto. Tom's Italian too! What are you kidding me? That's not risotto. You don't put cream in risotto. You get your creaminess from activating the starch by beating the shit out of it with your spoon in the pot. That's how you make risotto. It's not by adding more dairy. He can say he makes his risotto different, but don't call it risotto. Want to call it creamy rice? By all means, go ahead.
I really thought making Sara M. head chef was brilliant. I really liked seeing it and I really enjoyed watching her put Howie in his place. It was highly entertaining. I hadn't been a Sara fan up to this point, but that kind of did it for me. The Quickfire was fun to watch too. That was painful watching Casey trying to cut onions. This is a Quickfire -- that's what it's called. It's not called "Let's perfectly dice onions." Let's get it done. Let's knock it out. I would have really enjoyed seeing it head-to-head, watching Hung and Tre knock down chickens, because I bet you Tre could've given Hung a run for his money. I thought that would have been pretty interesting.

I thought the designer guy [Christopher Ciccone] was kind of a prick. I wasn't really impressed. Basically creating a restaurant in 24 hours would be like going to him and telling him to go design a house in 24 hours and go have at it. I wasn't really that impressed with the improvements. It was kind of an afterthought. I'm not a bells-and-whistle type of guy. I'm not into design elements and yadda, yadda, yadda. I like understated designs. I thought April was really nice to begin with. I thought they did a really nice job. And Team Quatre did have an advantage with Stephen as sommelier. Stephen's brilliant. I thought it was a huge advantage. He likes to hear himself talk a little bit. He definitely enjoys the sound of his own tune. So, that was fun watching Dale tell him to calm down. I thought based on watching the food go out, Quatre did a great job. I thought the food looked really nice.

Tre screwed up. He really did. He was laid back. He was really relaxed. And you know it's just one of those things. Yeah, you can sit back and relax when you're the chef and you've cooked with some of these people and they've cooked your food numerous times, but not the first time out of the gate. CJ disappointed me -- I really just didn't' see him bring anything to the table. I think they all just seemed to have a super laid-back demeanor. Just specifically, I've been saying it from the get-go -- stay away from the salmon. I was just looking at the elements that Tre put there,and there was just nothing that I want to be eating in the summertime. I don't want to eat beets. I hate beets in the summertime. It was frustrating for me to watch because I think the guy is the most talented chef there. I think Tre and Hung were the front-runners to go all the way, and I just thought, "They can't be sending this guy home this early." He had a bad day. Thinking back, I don't' think there should have been a draw in the first round. I wasn't there, but this is what I'm saying.

Now that Tre's out, I'd like to see what Dale has up his sleeve. I think he brought a lot to the table. They weren't crazy about how he was dressed. Whatever. I don't care about that. For me it's about sitting down and enjoying the food. For me, that's what this competition is based around -- making the best food and the tastiest food. The guy goes out there and gives them a good dish and give good service, and put it all together. They had a lot of adjustments, and it was really really impressive. All of them together, I thought they worked well together. The momentum in the Quickfire Challenge just swung, and it was pretty impressive.

And as for Geoffrey Zakarian, I'm a big fan. I like Geoffrey a lot. I think he's a great chef. He has two three-star restaurants in New York City. The decor of his restaurants is fantastic. I'm not positive but I think that Geoffrey has an architectural background as well, so the architecture of his restaurants is really pristine. I think Geoffrey knows what he's doing. He's someone you hope to come in for a restaurant challenge. He's a chef and an amazing operator -- you can't do better than him. Restaurant Wars i's a hellish 24 hours. It's so entertaining to watch though. It always is. I have to say though that I would put Tiffani, Dave, and I against any of these guys any day of the week. Any day of the week.

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