Thursday, August 16, 2007

Top Chef: Restaurant Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Incense

Finally, it has arrived! One of the most hotly anticipated (by Brian) episodes of the Top Chef season: Restaurant Wars! Convert a garage into a slapdash restaurant, whip up a gourmet meal, and don't forget to serve the judges with a smile, because if you're not happy, they'll complain about that, too! It's a real-world version of Diner Dash, but much less fun. For them. It's still lots of fun for us.

At the Quickfire, Padma dropped a bomb on the unsuspecting chefs: no more immunity for a QF win. Of course, it was bound to happen, but there were still eight chefs left and I thought that immunity was usually taken away later than this. Either the competition is extremely cutthroat or the judges just want to be able to strike the fear of elimination into everyone. Knowing Tom, it's probably the latter. This Quickfire challenged the chefs to create interesting new burgers, which six of the eight chefs interpreted to mean, "burgers with some form of seafood in them." The winner out of this bunch of conforming nonconformists was CJ, who earned the right to choose his own restaurant staff.

CJ, no dummy, chose himself a great team: Tre, Brian, and Casey. They would open up Restaurant April. This left Dale, Hung, Howie, and Sara M. as the operators of The Garage. Poor Dale. Bravo had set me up for all kinds of fireworks between Sara M. (oh, actually, we can just call her Sara now, huh?) and Howie by showing snippets of their dysfunctional work together during the pasta challenge in the previouslies. Not only that, but making Sara the executive chef and Howie her sous chef was sure to be a disaster, I thought. But there was nothing. Way to psych me up for nothing, Bravo editors.

Both teams chose a form of "contemporary American" cuisine for their restaurants, which I assume is the culinary equivalent of "eclectic" interior design. You create the dishes that you want, and then you say, "Eh, I'm an American living in the present day, it's contemporary American." And, standard procedure for Restaurant Wars, the judges grumbled about everything, right down to the dusty bread plates. First you don't get plates. Now your plates are dusty. Will you never be happy, judges?

To assist them in their deliberations, the judges enlisted the services of an "undercover blogger" to give her reviews of both restaurants. Well, of course she's undercover, she's a blogger. If I ran up to you on the street and kicked you in the shins, would you know who I am? No, because I'm a blogger. We are like anonymous, snarky ninjas. But aside from hating the black tablecloths at one of the restaurants because they gave her Billy Idol flashbacks, the blogger made pretty much the same points as the judges.

The judges' myriad complaints boiled down to a few key grievances. The heavy food at The Garage. Howie's bad risotto. Tre's potatoes, left in the smoker too long. The overpowering scented candles, unchecked by Dale and his weak sense of smell. Brian's flustered, sweaty service. Neither team looked like a winner, so when the judges brought out the two servers, Brian and Dale, for the final deliberation, it seemed like both would be asked to leave.

But in the end, this entire episode was useless – useless! – because the judges decided not to send anyone home. Instead, they'd be redoing the challenge the next night, and that will be next week's episode. Useless! Oh, all right, I suppose that we, and the chefs, did learn a few things from this week. Don't use scented candles. Don't oversmoke potatoes. No one likes a sweaty crazy guy. And the most important lesson of all: if everyone sucks together, no one sucks all the way home.


Colleen said...

Uh no, lori, you are not *like* a snarky blog ninja, you *ARE* a ninja. Who also happens to write snarky blogs.