Friday, January 20, 2017

Top Chef 1/19/17--"Restaurant Wars" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: there was a really dumb Quickfire involving astrological signs, which Jamie won, and then it was a Sudden Death Quickfire also. Jim, Sylva, and Emily had to compete to stay, and Jim lost. Kind of crap since Emily hasn't really distinguished herself for good cooking, but whatever. Then there was some dumb talk of pirates, and a “treasure hunt” for ingredients. Which is just like that terrible Texas season where they forced the contestants to do stupid tasks all the time. Anyway, teams again. Jamie's team (mainly Tesar) decided that since Jamie had immunity, if their team got crap ingredients he should get stuck with them, since having immunity meant he couldn't be sent home. Well, he DID get stuck with crap ingredients and his team DID end up on the bottom, not that Emily didn't also make a bad dish. But Jamie decided that it was his fault his team lost, so he offered to give up his immunity to be judged. Which is too bad because he went home instead of Emily. Oh, and Shirley won. (click for more)

On Last Chance Kitchen, first Jim and Silvia battled it out with the ingredients Jim had tried to save himself with in the Sudden Death Quickfire. Steak and potatoes. Jim wins this round. Then Jim and Jamie have the whole set of ingredients from the Elimination challenge, meaning they can use the good stuff Jamie was denied instead of the crap he was stuck with. Jamie wins, probably handily and I was in no way surprised.

Back at the house Katsuji decides to needle Emily by practically demanding she celebrate Jamie sacrificing himself so she wouldn't be eliminated. Tesar tells him to back off, and you really need to rethink your life when Tesar is the voice of reason. Emily tells Katsuji to fuck off on her way out of the room, which is what he deserves. Emily then whines in confessional that she looks like a jerk, and I would feel bad except for what happened to that Emily on the first day who WAS a jerk and was proud of it? At least when Tesar brags about being the most hated chef in Texas or whatever, he didn't seem to feel bad backing that claim up with actions. Currently Tesar is saying they were a team but they didn't mix well. Shirley interviews that her team worked together, and that's why they won, but it's so awkward in the house she doesn't really feel comfortable celebrating. So she goes to find Emily, who is crying in bed. Shirley basically sits down next to her and commands she talk about it, saying that people are going to talk shit. True. Emily starts waving her hands around and saying she's done, but you know she's not done.

See, now it's the next morning. Brooke and Tesar talk about how Jamie could have kept his immunity, but he would have felt terrible. Emily and Sylva are the last rookies left. Are they the best two rookies from this season? I would argue no. Emily interviews that it's hard to “wake up and have it be a new day.” What? She can't put it behind her. Whatever, Emily. Seriously, I feel like I wouldn't dislike her as much if she hadn't been such a brat that first episode.

Everyone goes to a restaurant space where everyone knows what's up because there's eight people left and eight people left means Restaurant Wars. No more immunity. Padma mutters “just as well, with people throwing it away left and right.” OK while only one person “threw it away” that was a good comment. Guest judges today are restaurant partners Daniel Humm and Will Guidara. Padma points out that Tesar is the one Veteran who actually hasn't done Restaurant Wars, having been eliminated one episode before. So there are actually three people who haven't done this before. But Sheldon won his season. They'll both take over the same space, so it'll be that situation where one team serves and then the second team serves the next night. They draw knives for captains, and Katsuji and Shirley will pick teams. Emily whines that the schoolyard pick model is a nightmare. Well, when you refuse to associate with the veterans and then there's two of them picking, you reap what you sow. Anyway, the teams are Katsuji, Sheldon, Casey, and Tesar; and Shirley, Brooke, Sylva, and Emily. You'll notice Tesar and Emily were last. Katsuji interviews that Tesar is difficult but he is a million times better than Emily. Plus I think he puts up with Katsuji's needling better. Katsuji's team will go second. They need to be cohesive.

Tesar says he likes a woman to be front-of-house, “I'm not being sexist.” You are, though. Casey rolls her eyes since she's the only girl on the team, but she also thinks she'll do a good job. Sheldon says he can be executive chef, if that's cool, just putting it out there. Plus he won. But then somehow Tesar ends up executive chef and I'm not sure how that happened. Sheldon said he'd do it, and I think Katsuji was saying he would cook, and then suddenly Tesar is all “I'll expedite and make one solid dish” and he was in charge. Sigh. Shirley decided she was going to be executive chef when she ended up picking the team so that's already taken care of. Brooke takes FOH. Tesar wants to do low country family style. He shoots down Katsuji's suggestion of “low country Mexican”. Shirley's team goes with seafood and the name “Latitude”. Whatever. Tesar's group decides on “Southern Belle” and Katsuji interviews that it's the most famous strip club in South Carolina. This may be true. Now comes the decor part of the episode, which is never interesting. Sylva tells us this is the stage his own restaurant was at, but it burned down due to arson and he had a dark period. Sad.

Shopping happens, and they split them up as always. Emily wants to make some pasta with chorizo and Shirley says not to, because it's too heavy or there's too much meat in later courses or something. Emily, contrary to her bragging about her attitude, babbles and is not assertive about how she really wants to do her dish. I mean, Shirley is in charge, and she's not rude about it, so it's not like she's steamrolling Emily really. Emily bitches to Brooke that Sylva and Shirley are collaborating on her dish. They all meet up at Whole Foods where Emily runs her dish by Shirley to get approval. I think it's supposed to be edited like Shirley is taking over but she's supposed to be taking over. That's what executive chefs do, they have to make a cohesive menu. I don't see the problem here.

Three hours to prep. Brooke is doing a cold salmon dish. Sylva is doing a lot of prep. So the chyrons are saying everyone is doing one dish except Emily is doing two, and Brooke is doing FOH. Is that why Sylva is doing all the prep, because he is only doing one dish? Anyway, Emily is making pasta and also dessert. Oh, Shirley is making panna cotta too. She is helping Emily roll pasta. I like Shirley. Brooke says Shirley's bossy but in a good way, just by being the loudest.

So then it's morning, and Southern Belle is shopping and prepping, and then is Latitude is serving tonight? It's unclear. Anyway, now it's time for the other team to shop and have fights probably. Katsuji is making four things: some appetizers for the tables and then one dish per course. Why so many? Sheldon has one course, but he's still planning on leading. Tesar wants to make pimento cheese and crab, and no one has lump crab meat. So he is buying processed meat that supposedly he will hide in the cheese. Casey is making a dessert and FOH. She interviews that she opened a restaurant but the partnership was toxic and she had to walk away. Katsuji is very proud of how he's taking a risk but he's also complaining about how much work he has to do. He started out making no money because he was illegal and his boss knew he could get away with it. When he went to school and they found him they let it slide with a promise to be the best chef he can be.

Latitude. Four hours to service. Shirley immediately gets her panna cotta working. Sylva asks Brooke how her last Restaurant Wars went. You may remember that was the time Josie was useless and Kristen, instead of telling everyone how useless Josie was, took responsibility as executive chef and went home. Well, to Last Chance Kitchen. Tom Time! Immediately Tom rolls his eyes at their name. Then he asks if they'll listen to Shirley and how Brooke is making sure everyone executes her dish right. Well, it's a cold dish, so that makes things easier. That's all Tom wants to know, I guess. This whole team is working really well together, Emily is not complaining, they're collaborating. Shirley puts some gelatin sheets in her panna cotta to make sure it sets.

So everyone gets seated all at once and everyone goes into motion. Brooke is away from the front but quickly goes to meet the judges. Tom says the menu sounds good, nothing sounds crazy, so it will just depend on how it's executed. Brooke: cured king salmon with pickled kohlrabi, marcona almonds & tiger milk. Tiger milk I think is the liquid you use to cure ceviche? Emily: squid ink tagliatelle with calamari, lemon bread crumbs & shrimp butter. Brooke's dish is great, but Emily's pasta has a weird texture and isn't shrimpy enough. Shirley: snapper with bone broth, chile de arbol & wild mushrooms. Sylva: pan roasted halibut with fennel dust, mushroom rice & tomato chutney. Shirley's dish would be better braised but there's nothing wrong with it necessarily. They all love Sylva's dish. The judges notice Brooke is calm. Shirley's panna cotta is too firm but she has to serve it. Oh, Shirley. Emily: poppy seed buttermilk cake with miso butterscotch, pistachios & blackberries. Shirley: plum wine panna cotta with cherries, toasted cashews, tarragon, and freeze-dried lychee. Emily has redeemed herself with her dessert. The panna cotta is terrible. Overall the food was good, but they're expecting more tomorrow.

In the morning Southern Belle tries to get info and hints. They do seem confident though. Katsuji has taken on so much that he absolutely needs everyone else to help him. Apparently they said they would and now everyone has their own stuff to do. That was pretty risky. It's one thing when you're FOH and you have no choice, but to deliberately decide to take on more work than you could possibly do is not a very smart decision. Mostly Katsuji has focused on nagging Tesar to help him. They fight like an old married couple. It's also a disaster zone. I'm not sure why they're so messy but there's stuff everywhere and the floor has shit all over it. Sheldon is unhappy they look like asses right now because of course Tom has appeared with the guest judges. Casey tries to explain to Katsuji how to plate her dish, but I think she should have roped one of the other two into it. Katsuji has too many other things to do. Casey has escaped to the front of house to train the waiters. Katsuji complains in interview that Tesar should be cooking if he's executive chef. OK but you're demanding he cook YOUR food, not his own. Whatever. I'd recap all the fighting but it's mostly muttering and whining. Eventually Tesar starts fighting back, and Sheldon wisely stops them to point out the only way they'll make it is if they work together and cut this shit out.

As service starts, Sheldon notices that Tesar has set up the pass like ten feet away from the stove. He thought Tesar would be cooking back there with them but it looks like Tesar wasn't planning on it. The judges arrive and Casey does manage to greet them. They like the decor, anyway. For some reason they get a regular waiter, who is very chatty but at least likes the menu, saying it's “wonderfully diversified” and the tastes are “all over the place.” The look on Tom's face is perfect. He does not see that as the compliment the server does. Back in the kitchen Tesar says things are falling apart because there are some servers who can't get anything right. But Latitude didn't have any problems with servers, and they implied it's the same people. Casey comes back to investigate and Tesar is so far in the weeds he wants Casey to go look at tables and see what course they're on. He also hasn't fired the judges' food yet, and Casey has to tell him to do it.

The servers bring out pimento crab cheese and a sweet potato tamale, but Casey is not there. Also they've done that obnoxious thing that happens sometimes where the number of things on the plate is not the same as the number of people at the table. But in this situation, you can put five tamales on the plate. Come on, guys. Katsuji: sweet potato tamale with charred chili onion relish. It's burnt somewhere. It also doesn't go with “southern belle”. Tesar: crab “pimento cheese” with benne seed cracker. It's slimy and terrible. Out front people are missing courses and no one knows what is happening. Katsuji: fried green tomato and almond gravy beef tongue with green olives & tomatoes. Once again Casey is gone so Gail is reading the menu descriptions. The tongue is good though. Sheldon: acorn squash stew with sorghum cod & eggplant crumble. And there are flowers on it for no reason. The whole thing is too soft. Casey is stuck in the kitchen plating her dessert instead of being out front because it's such a disaster. But she had told the servers she would seat everyone, so it's backfiring because people are just standing around and there are open tables. Katsuji: blackberry cobbler with Patron whipped cream. The dough is raw and why is there tequila? Casey: strawberry lemon sorbet with buttermilk curd, meringue & roasted strawberry. Casey's dish is maybe the only dish that's even vaguely southern. The judges know there are problems in the kitchen. When Casey finally finds time to talk to them they accuse her of having been stuck in the kitchen. She is very good at pretending everything is fine. Casey is down on herself, and the cameraman captures one of the Southern Belle menus, on the floor of the kitchen, all trampled and dirty. Fitting.

Judges' Table. Obviously Latitude won. Shirley's freaking out because unlike previous seasons the contestants didn't eat in each other's restaurants, and since Southern Belle just finished service, they had no idea how it went. Sylva's halibut was delicious and beautiful. Shirley and Brooke had fantastic dishes, and they praise Emily's cake. Shirley knows her panna cotta was bad. The winner had the best dish of the whole challenge, and that's Brooke.

Time for the losers. The system they had was set up in such a way that when it failed, they couldn't recover. Tesar's crab thing was slimy and terrible. It was also dated, but Tesar wanted it to be pimento cheese and he wanted that retro thing, I guess. Tom asks why he would take crab and force it to be cheese in the first place, and Tesar claims that the team wanted the menu to be more southern, and that's why he went with the crab. OK but crab isn't inherently southern, pimento cheese is. As he says this, Casey makes a face. Sheldon is a great cook but he only made one thing. He's made better stews, and he knows and admits that. There was a lot of tension in the kitchen and his cooking suffered. Casey wasn't out front where she should have been, and she responds that she had to plate. Someone has to plate. And Tesar basically said “I need 17 desserts” so she had to stay in the kitchen. If Tesar was the executive chef, then the expediting problems are his fault. He does own that. Then they call Katsuji out on having the chance to be the leader and refusing to be the leader. He claims he worked so well with Tesar before that he deserved to win. Tesar has opened the most restaurants and so he deserves to win Restaurant Wars. Tom immediately nails him and says when they asked why Katsuji was making so many dishes, he said it was because he wanted to win. But now he's saying Tesar deserves to win. They know Katsuji didn't want to be responsible. Tesar, wasn't it your job to make sure there was an even distribution of workload? If Katsuji fails, half the menu goes down with him. Tesar just blames “pushback”. But there were only two other people there? Katsuji loses it and says Tesar didn't cook, didn't help, didn't plate. All he did was demand food for tickets. This degenerates into Tesar listing all the prep work he did and Casey making faces. Katsuji, did you make a bad decision? You mean the decision to make four dishes, or the decision to pick Tesar over Emily? At first Katsuji says he gave himself too much work but then he says he expected Tesar to cook and expedite and something about “sometimes you hire the wrong people”. Tesar throws him under the bus and says Katsuji forced him to be executive chef and he was so nice to let him make three dishes and now he's throwing Tesar under the bus. Padma kicks them out finally.

In the Stew Room, Katsuji just sits down with a drink as Tesar hovers over him and is all “you got nothing to say?” Katsuji tells him to sit down and Tesar starts bragging that he's mature enough to drop it or whatever. They continue their stupid argument. Mostly about who can dish it out and who is messy. Casey is safe because her dish was the best and she tried. Katsuji took on too much work and didn't do southern food, but his tongue was the best protein. Tesar's crab dish was terrible and he failed at expediting. Tesar is now claiming he was executive chef because Katsuji set him up and he was trying to be nice. They're both annoying.

Tom says something about coming back to win or something, and then Katsuji is sent home. Cool. I don't mind Katsuji, but he also isn't going to win, so whatever. He claims to have no hard feelings. He never plays it safe, which is true.

Next time: Michael Voltaggio, blind taste test, cooking outside.

Last Chance Kitchen: Katsuji admits he is the worst loser. He also feels he screwed up by letting Tesar be executive chef, and clearly Tesar was not up for the job. The peanut gallery wheels in a giant cart, with all the ingredients Katsuji used in Restaurant Wars. The challenge is to only use five of these ingredients to make something. But Jamie gets to pick for both of them. Jamie wisely decides to stay away from the tamale stuff, since that's what Katsuji does all day. Sweet potatoes, onions, shishito peppers, sorghum, limes.

30 minutes to cook. Katsuji is still going to make something Mexican. He also says he shines more when he uses few ingredients as opposed to a lot. When would he have cooked with only a few ingredients to find that out? Everyone hoots at Katsuji chopping an onion quickly for some reason. Both chefs are making shishito sauce for some spice. The peanut gallery breaks open the tequila. Hee. Silvia announces the time left in Italian and they all giggle.

Tom Time! Jamie looks like he's on top of things. He says he's the vegetable guy so he thought he'd claim that advantage. Katsuji has some stuff, but he might not use it, or something. Katsuji tastes something and makes a face. But he has time to shittalk Jamie's plating.

Jamie: sorghum sweet potatoes, charred shishito & grilled onion salad with shishito vinaigrette & lime sorghum gastrique. Potato stack. Katsuji: sauteed onions and sweet potatoes with sorghum & charred shishito salsa with lime. It's a line of chopped up bits. Tom says the two dishes are very different, even though they have the same ingredients. Katsuji's hash was good, maybe more roasted flavor. Jamie's potatoes were cooked nicely. Jamie wins again. He did better than his first dish and he seems much calmer.

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