restaurant wars

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i know i am a bit behind as usual, but i have been having my own top chef challenges in various cities as i continue to hop around the country so it took me a few days to catch up.  this week’s episode was a bit shocking.  i had already heard that laurine was asked to pack her knives, but i did not realize that two of my top picks had such a poor showing this week.  yikes.

i loved this quickfire challenge.  the fact that it took place this far in to the season was probably a good thing.  the chefs have gotten to know and understand each others’ styles and skill levels and were able to set up their teams accordingly.  laurine had no clue at first what the oil on the stove with thyme floating in it was for, but after thinking about jen’s style she could see it was for poaching the fish.  of course kevin decided to skip that and sauté it in butter (much tastier if you ask me).  the brother’s team was impressive as well, especially the two of them.  there were so many components created that were brought together in the end by mike.  i am sure both dishes were great, especially considering the circumstances in which they were created.

ok. on to restaurant wars.  revolt. creative fun play on the team names, but not really a good word for a restaurant name.  but that only mattered for the first few minutes after the judges sat down.  the food was creative, whimsical and tasty and the service was bold and organized.  the chicken dish that mike made with calamari noodles was most impressive to me… wish i could have had a bite or four.  all of the drama between mike and robin was not really a surprise.  mike is cocky.  no ifs and or buts about it.  thing is, i always feel that if a chef is cocky (there are a lot of them out there, believe me) it is ok as long as he has the skills to back it up.  this guy clearly does.  but during a team challenge he could probably tone it down a bit.

the mission. or shall we say, the train wreck.  wow. i was a little shocked at how poorly jen and kevin performed during this challenge.  i know everyone has their bad days on the show (everyone who has finished in the top three has had a couple of close calls over the past seasons), but they just have shown much better decision making and cooking in the past.  the setup of the line was the first mistake, which they obviously realized when service began and they could not keep up.  then kevin was sending out near raw lamb and jen was creating uninspired dishes and then executing them poorly.  i am sure they will both bounce back from this and be in the finals (will be very shocked if not), but i know the feeling of getting ripped up on the chopping block and it is just not fun.

as for laurine, i was surprised at her poor front of the house skills as well.  i know this part is not easy as i was the team member during my season with the most foh experience and therefore took the role.  it is not like running a real restaurant… you have about a half hour to train your staff and therefore can not really trust that they have any idea what is going on.  to top that off, all of the guests pile in at once which no restaurant would do to themselves on opening night.  you start off in quicksand and just have to try to dig yourself out the entire time.  then enter the judges and though you want to spend all of your time with them, you have a fake restaurant to run.  laurine, i felt your pain.

the thing is that she skipped some of the server basics when interacting with the judges.  you never just leave plates of food in front of guests without explaining what is in front of them.  i think they even did that at my last airport meal at chilis.  i know most chefs are not all that comfortable serving… i think it is a good idea for everyone in the back of the house to spend a week in front to have a better understanding of what goes on.  not that all chefs are going to be asked to open a restaurant in a few hours then manage, wait tables, and host at this imaginary place, but cross training helps everyone working in a restaurant understand each others’ roles and see that all positions present a number of challenges.

as for the mission, i think everyone on the team would wish to go back and take what they learned and try again.  but for the three that were allowed to stay another day, they just have to get passed this and get ready for the next challenge.

after cooking with chef bartolotta in milwaukee last week, i am excited to see him as the judge this week.  he brings in some amazing seafood (he has his own marine biologist) so i am hoping that is showcased.

it is getting close to the end!  i still keep my money on kevin, even if he had a rough week.