Top Chef: Season 7, episode 9- War and Peas

Restaurant Wars is the Top Chef episode that everyone waits for each season. Those who can survive the grueling challenge of opening a “restaurant” in less than 24 hours usually go on to the top 3, while those who fail do so miserably. This time around, it wasn’t exactly clear who’d get the ax and the contestant who did was the biggest shock of the season.

But I digress, let’s start off with one of my favorite quick fires, the meal-making tag team challenge. Ed (Red Team) and Kevin (Blue Team)were selected to pick teams and of course, Amanda and Ed were the geeky kids picked last for dodgeball. Immediately, you could see that the blue team, with Kenny starting, would have the leg up, as they clearly left clues for each person to determine the outcome of the dish. Just as easy to tell was the red team’s loss, as Alex, who is becoming the equivalent of a sad trombone in every cooking situation, started messing with Tiffany’s fish too early and was first in a long line of chefs who oversalted the poor dish.

As far as the judging for the quickfire, I know, we’re in D.C., but what do I care what a politician thinks is delicious, even if that politician is Nancy Pelosi? In this case, anyone could see that the Blue team outclassed the Red team. The Blue team’s sauteed shrimp with mustard sauce and crispy basil looked bright, clean, and the pasta was perfectly el dente. The red team’s red snapper with wilted greens looked grey and tasted too salty.

On to Restaurant Wars! The quickfire teams were the same for the elimination challenge, so the red team was nonplussed (Tiffany, Ed, and Angelo looked sick that they’d be working with Alex) and the Blue Team looked smug (with heavy-hitters like Kelly and Kenny, middling Kevin, and cooking disaster Amanda). The news that Frank Bruni would be judging took everyone aback, since he’s notoriously tough. Angelo and Ed immediately schemed to make Alex solely front of the house and keep his contribution to the food a minimum, which Kevin took quick note of. Watching Alex try to butcher the meat made me kind of feel sorry for Angelo for once. Based on the scrambling of the red team and the cool collective calm of the blue, it almost seemed like the Blue team’s win was assured.

The frantic nature of team Red (who chose “Evoo” as their name, which made me cringe and have Rachael Ray nightmares) extended to the Restaurant kitchen too. Angelo barked out orders, Alex acted like a genuine ass to the waitstaff ( as a former waitress, I hope someone spit in his water that night), and Tiffany had to rescale the fish that Alex cut for her. Team 2121 (formerly Blue) started to fray too, who decided to put Amanda in charge of a wood-burning stove with their strip steak? Kenny as the executive chef should have stepped in to help when Amanda showed to be obviously over her head.

The front of the house is where Kelly shined. Although she noted that her husband usually takes that on in their restaurant, she had an awkward charm that was really warm, especially compared to Alex, who couldn’t even manage to say goodbye to the judges when they left. Plus, I like the fact they had a tasting for the waitstaff at 2121, while Evoo’s waiters had to rely on Alex’s “descriptions.”

Back to the food, Evoo focused on Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, while 2121 emphasized locally grown American dining. To start things off, Evoo offered Angelo’s confit of tomato soup (which Frank Bruni loved) and a crudo of black bass and yellowtail snapper, which the judges determined that Tiffany missed the boat on by overseasoning it (not my beloved Tiffany!). For the fish course, Ed shined with his turbot and eggplant caviar. Alex’s “dish,” the pan-seared lamb chop, was obviously constructed by Ed and Angelo from start to finish, but did feature that damned pea puree, which is this season’s ceviche in terms of overuse.

Over at 2121, we started to see the cracks in the team’s armor; Amanda could not cook her strip steak properly and overcooked her dish, which she blamed on it being grass-fed beef, a wood-burning stove, the temperature outside, the planets’ alignment, etc. At least the sauce with the steak was good, that alone was her saving grace I think. Meanwhile, Kelly’s corn soup didn’t taste like corn, which is kind of important. But, she made up for it with her dessert, a dark chocolate ganache tart. Kevin was going to be safe with his pan-roasted halibut, the tomato-fennel emulsion alone looked delicious.

The true weak link, as much as I hate to say it, was Kenny. His beet salad was everywhere, with chorizo dressing, endives, candied almonds, and pickled kumquats. It was a literal translation of his inability to keep things simple and to focus. His cheese dish, literally a chunk of fried goat cheese with a strawberry-rhubarb relish, may have played well at maybe a bar and grill (Tony literally groaned with envy when he watched the judges dig in), but it was really out of place in a fine dining experience. Someone called it a cheesestick on top of strawberries, not the best compliment for a cheese course.

In the end, the red team and in particular Ed walked away with the win and the biggest bottle of wine I have ever seen. The blue team was marked for elimination, which made Kevin furious since he believed that Alex did not work as part of the red team and deserved to go home. Regardless, Kenny has been over promising all season and this time, it caught up with him. Still, when compared to fellow bottom two Amanda, it was a shock that he was chosen. I would have though that based on his past performances, he would have been safe, but since he was the executive chef, Kenny showed he didn’t really lead his team and couldn’t keep track of his own failings with his dishes this round. It goes to show, it doesn’t matter what happens in the kitchen, what matters is what’s on the plate.  Such a shame, so much for the Angelo vs. Kenny showdown.

Next week: it’s WYLIE!!!!!!!!!



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