On week 11 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle...
It’s finally here. The most anticipated challenge for viewers and chefs.
Last week the chefs battled it out individually to determine which two got to lead the restaurants and turn their concept into reality.
Kristen came out on top with her upscale French with a twist, and Sheldon followed suit with his modern Filipino concept.
|The Magnificent 6. Yeah I only recognize 6.|
A war between these two concepts couldn’t have come at a better time. The culinary world is also debating between high-end 5-hour tasting menus (Per Se, Alinea...etc) and elevated soulful places (Momofuku, Mission Chinese...etc)
It will be interesting to see which one of our Restaurant War chefs’ concept will prevail. I’ll tell you one thing though, concept aside, it’ll all come down to execution and taste.
The twist here is that Sheldon’s team lost Micah last week, so they’re down to only 3 people: Sheldon, Josh and Stefan. If you’ve seen previous seasons, you’d know that going into this particular challenge with 3 people is borderline impossible. However, Kristen, in a surprising move, decided to pick Josie over Micah in the hopes of NOT having to go into Restaurant Wars short-handed. And from this season’s performance, it’ll be interesting to see if having Josie on a team is actually worse than having one less person.
Honestly the fact that we even have to ASK that question is kinda embarrassing for Josie. It’s a total “fool me once” situation. But I guess each week is different so we’ll see.
The teams get together the night before to strategize.
Brooke is slightly concerned that, while Kristen is a great cook, she doesn’t have the experience of “running the whole show and being in charge of a group of people.”
Over on the modern Filipino side, neither Josh or Stefan has ANY experience cooking Filipino food. So that’s going to be a challenge. On the plus side, Stefan has been through Restaurant Wars once before, not to mention the fact that he owns 5 or 6 places, so that experience is going to come in handy.
Time to check out the facility.
The chefs arrive at the Georgetown Ballroom to see what they have to work with space wise.
|I can't figure out how they split this place up?|
Oops. This place doesn’t have a kitchen!
By checking out the floor plan, they realize that the kitchen is going to be built from scratch in the courtyard.
Stefan is perturbed, “I don’t know who’s smart ass idea it was to build a kitchen from scratch and a restaurant from scratch. Who does that?!”
Kristen doesn’t like Josie’s personality, so she decides to send her away with Brooke to pick up the rental equipment. Ugh. Then why is she on your team!?
So here’s poor Brooke hanging out with Josie at the rental place and trying to pick out accent things like plates and napkins for their resto and it’s going...well, I’ll just let Brooke sum up the experience,
“I have a very different disposition than Josie. And the type of restaurant we’re opening takes maybe a little bit more...class?” *awkward giggle*”
Thank you Brooke.
Sheldon and Josh head to Uwajimaya, the Asian food store, while Stefan goes solo to shop for their “accent” items. See, Stefan doesn’t need supervision because all Europeans who like “flowers and pebbles and little vases” probably have class.
Sheldon emphasizes that since Filipino people are very hard working, their food is very soulful. I love it when people stereotype themselves. Like what, big fat lazy Americans eat nothing but soulless processed cheeseburgers? Um...wait. Damn!
Kristen’s place is called Atelier Kwan. Atelier means workshop, and is often used to describe an artist’s workshop. While there are many restaurants with the word Atelier attached to it, the most famous and revered is L’Atelier de Joel RoBuchon.
This is a concept she’s been thinking about since 5 years old. Growing up she’d watch French chefs on TV and she’d emulate them. She didn’t know what French cooking was but she would just pretend and copy what they were doing.
As if I couldn’t love her even more. I did the exact same thing growing up, only it was Japanese food for me.
Man, this MUST be stressful because I just spotted a gray hair on Kristen!
Ok, restaurant and kitchen equipments are coming in. They weren’t kidding about building the whole thing from scratch. There are hotboxes and fridges and ranges. Stefan’s taking over the arranging the equipment mis en place. This is where his experience comes in. You can tell he’s totally in charge and knows exactly what he’s doing.
On the other team’s side, Kristen wants things set up so she can touch and oversee every dish that goes out. Everything has to be perfect.
Though early in the process, it’s important to get the food prep started. Josie chimes in that she needs to get her bones roasting to get the bouillabaisse stock started. Off she goes.
Sheldon’s doing the same thing. He’s browning up his chicken wings so they’ll be ready to go tomorrow. Actually, not quite the same thing because we’re seeing him cooking the damn thing. Meanwhile...
“Have you started roasting?” Kristen asks.
“I’m gonna do it now.” Josie.
You know that slacker in school who’s always behind during group projects? Yeah. That’s her.
Hey guess what? Lizzie roasting her bones! Can we guess what Josie’s doing?
Not roasting the bones.
|Hey you got a tv show I can be on? Rock 'n Roll!|
With the oven empty and ready to roast some bones, Josie says she’s just gonna do it tomorrow,
“Ideally I would have gotten that on today, but there’s just really no time. Doesn’t really matter. I feel confident that I can get it done. Tomorrow. That’s just how I cook. I don’t rush things. *Shrug*”
Exactly. That’s why we’ve seen you BEHIND in almost EVERY challenge. Argh!
Honestly, I don’t know why you’re here. Because it seems to be me you don’t really enjoy cooking. You rather stand around the stove, mugging to an audience while you push pans around and put on a show. There are plenty of other forums for that. This here, this is called Top Chef, not “Top Stand-Around-And-Be-Hungry-While-I-Tell-You-About-How-I-Played-Football.” So please be like Lebron James and take your “talents” back to Miami.
Kristen’s frustrated, you’re frustrated, we’re all frustrated.
Someone keep an eye out for an iceberg.
Both places are starting to look like a restaurant.
Sheldon’s tables are covered with, (er, is that taupe? kahki?) kinda brownish table cloths and Kristen, white, of course.
Day’s over. Time to unwind and gear up for tomorrow.
Stefan pops open a bottle of wine. It’s like the third or fourth time we’ve seen him do that throughout the season. Hey you know what, chef’s cook and drink. Well, not if you’re Tyler, hopefully. (Totally support you buddy!)
Brooke’s 4-year old made a drawing. Awww, that’s so cute! No wait, that’s Brooke’s drawing of their floor plan.
Team Atelier Kwan is discussing how to make tomorrow’s service go smoothly. Josie suggests pre-plating some items and Kristen shuts it down.
As an upscale restaurant, she wants things done a la minute. While I can see where she’s coming from, there are things you can pre plate to make things easier for yourselves during service rush.
Josie immediately runs outside and bitches to the other team about Kristen’s decision to not listen to her suggestion, “...I have to step back because you know, I’m not the executive chef tomorrow so...I’m a solider tomorrow. I’m a solider.”
|All the planning in the world...|
A solider in what army? France?
Stefan and Josh couldn’t care less.
Everyone’s busy prepping along.
Lizzie tells us about her dish. She’s going to take the charcuterie course and put a spin to it. Charcuterie was originally a way to preserve meat and vegetables, thus usually at restaurants they serve a charcuterie plate filled with different cuts of meats and pates and pickles. She’s going to turn that into a soup course with rabbit broth and pickled golden beets. Very interesting.
Josie’s making a bouillabaisse with bay scallops, halibut, Dungeness crab and duck confit potatoes in a seafood broth.
Kristen’s doing the third course, a beef bourguignon with braised short ribs and garlic puree.
Brooke’s doing a cheese course, and Kristen will finish off with dessert, her take on the American macaroon.
Let’s take a look at Sheldon’s menu.
Stefan’s doing kilawen, a type of Filipino ceviche with chili, spice, and white soy.
Josh will follow with the balut. Tradition balut is basically a chicken fetus. An egg with a half formed chick inside. Yeah, it’s got feathers and beaks and claws oh my!
No worries people. This updated version will feature a soft cooked egg in shell topped with tamarind braised duck leg and foie gras mousse.
Third course will be miki, a Filipino chicken noodle soup with fresh noodles.
Next up is adobo, a popular Philippine dish with pork belly, mung bean puree topped with pea shoot salad.
Josh will finish up with dessert, a halo halo. It’s basically fruits with shaved ice.
Ok time to finish setting up the dining room, also called “front of the house.” And “back of the house” means kitchen. Savvy? Good.
Brooke and her husband have opened up 4 restaurants, so she’ll be taking over the “front of the house” duties.
Kristen confesses she’s never taken the role of an executive chef of a restaurant of this volume. She’s currently working at Stir, a place that holds tasting dinners for 10 people. That’s almost night and day from this type of restaurant mainly because of the rhythm is so completely different. With 10 people each night you know exactly what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it. There is no “rush.” And this lack of experience at an executive chef level is what Brooke was worried about.
Oh btw, Josie’s stock - not done.
In other shocking news. Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs. *roll eyes*
Stefan’s doing his “front of the house” final prep. Since they’re short handed, he immediate surveys the staff as to their previous experience and expertise.
Someone with expediting experience? Good, you’ll do that tonight.
Dishwasher? Go back to the kitchen and help with the prep.
Let me tell you. A good dishwasher can be one of the most useful and helpful positions in any restaurant. Because obviously the dude doesn’t just show up at the end of the night and do some dishes right? What do you think he’s doing the other 7 hours? He’s slicing carrots, breaking down chickens, peeling potatoes. Essentially, he’s helping the cooks cook. A good dishwasher is basically your utility man. He can do a little of everything.
Any chef knows this and Sheldon puts the aforementioned dishwasher to work right away. Also, Sheldon knows that this guy is his prep guy. How does Sheldon know this? He knows this because he started out as a dishwasher. See where hard work gets you? That’s right! On Top Chef!
Oh just in case you forgot? Josie’s still screwing up.
She’s supposed to mix the seafood broth with gelatin so later on they can foam it up with an iSi canister. But that can’t happen because the stock’s still not done. So they have to skip the gelatin and add cream and soy milk instead. Yup. I think I see an iceberg. Somebody warn Jack and Rose.
It’s about that time...
Stefan and Brooke go get their big girl clothes on. Brooke looks so cute in that dress!
Guests start to arrive and Stefan has a brain freeze on the name of his place. It’s Urbano dude. Urbano.
What he didn’t have a brain freeze on is to keep people boozed up. Buzzed customers are happy customers. #ProTip.
|10 Seasons of Restaurant Wars!|
Here comes the judges.
This week we have Restaurant God Danny Meyer, Food and Wine’s Gail Simmons, Head Judge Tom Colicchio and all around Good Guy Emeril Lagasse.
Well, so far the judges like the graphics and the scenery. For what that’s worth. Ha.
Here comes the food.
Lizzie. First Course.
Charcuterie: Rabbit, Pickled Turnips & Yellow Beets in Chicken & Rabbit Broth
Everyone raves about this dish. They’re completely taken by surprise with the soup presentation not to mention how flavorful it was. Unanimous kudos.
I gotta say it must be super delicious. Because can’t you just see Tom say, “This is just some shredded rabbit in chicken broth!” Apparently so. Good job.
Time for the bouillabaisse.
I’ll give you one guess how that turned out.
Josie hasn’t even tested the foam sauce with the iSi canister. They about to plate the damn thing and she hasn’t even see if the foam works.
So now they’re scrambling and pouring the sauce on while Brooke’s using a hand blender trying to thicken it up. Time to count up the lifeboats.
Yup. Kristen says she would have preferred one of the dishwashers instead of Josie. Guess Micah’s looking pretty good right about now huh?
Guests are waiting. Judges are waiting. Everybody’s waiting.
Finally, here it comes.
|Somebody cue Celin Deon|
Josie. Second Course.
Bouillabaisse: Halibut, Dungeness Crab, Bay Scallops with Shellfish Broth.
Houston. We’ve got problems.
Emeril’s halibut was overcooked, scallops practically raw. Gail’s dish had very little sauce. Nobody has enough broth. When I say nobody I’m including the surrounding tables. Now the judges can hear others bitch about this dish too. Great.
Hey apparently Tom used to plant diners and have them sit next to restaurant critics to audibly rave about the place?! Bravo Chef. Good trick! #ProTip
Now discount all good reviews about Colicchio places. (Just kidding Tom. I kid because I love.)
Over at Urbano, Stefan’s trying to get the tables turned.
By “turning tables” I mean to get the diners paid up and out of their tables so the next group can sit down. Seems like people are having too good of a time and don’t really want to leave. See, that’s the downside of keep giving people wine.
Kristen’s in the weeds. (That means overwhelmed) By the amount of tickets in front of her you can tell that she’s kinda confused as to what dishes have gone out and what still needs to be done. Once you get lost like that it’s very hard to recover.
Kristen. Third Course.
Beef Bourguignon: Braised Short Rib, Garlic Puree, Mushrooms & Carrots.
Tom wishes the dish had more sauce and Gail’s missing that signature red wine bourguignon flavor. When a reinterpretation of a dish doesn’t take it far enough, the result is often just a smaller portion of the original. She didn’t take it far enough.
She’s so behind that instead of washing the dishes, her dishwasher’s plating them and making blue cheese quenelles.
Brooke. Fourth Course.
Baked Gougeres, St.Agur Blue Cheese, Roasted Radish & Stone Fruit Compote.
Poor Emeril’s having a hard time with the sticky pine nuts. Danny’s afraid it’s so sticky he’s gonna lose a molar filling on this one. Wait. Danny Meyer’s got cavities? He’s fallible? NO!!
Other than that Tom found it classic (read: boring) and thought it all works. *yawn*
Almond Cake Macaron with Coconut Custard & Caramel Buttercream.
Yeah. Though everything on the plate was tasty, they’re not getting the “macaron” concept. That especially offended Gail who said if she could come back as any one culinary item it would be the macaron. I can totally see that. She’s very much like a macaron. Little sweet vivacious thing. Adorable.
|Stink eye. Wonder who she's looking at.|
Dinner is over.
The general consensus is Kristen had set such high standard that it was hard to meet the expectation. I mean, imagine how many hundreds if not thousands of beef bourguignon has this table have made let alone tasted? So to say that you’re gonna reinterpret something like this you better bring something special to the table. It doesn’t seem like Kristen did.
People are still lounging around, taking their time to leave. And...here comes the judges.
During the interlude, diners are requesting to see the chef’s kitchen - during service. Ugh. Ok people, listen very carefully to what I’m about to tell you.
DO NOT ASK TO SEE THE KITCHEN DURING SERVICE.
While it’s exciting and fun to watch chefs working, cooking, plating...etc, it’s not cool and it’s distracting for them. Some restaurants have an open or partially open kitchen so diners and food enthusiasts can gawk and stare all they want. However, if a place doesn’t have an open kitchen, don’t bother EVERYONE involved on touring the kitchen. By everyone I mean the servers, the cooks, and your fellow diners. While I’m sure you’d enjoy visitors to come cheer you on at your cubicle or boring office, during service cooks are in a rhythm and the last thing they want is people interrupting them. If you’re the last table of the evening and the rush is over, maybe. That’s only if your “interest” gets you an invitation. But never during service let alone in the middle of rush. Plus, it’s an insurance risk. God forbid you slip and fall in the kitchen or something. So one more time with cherry on top, DON’T do it.
Ok lecture over. Back to the action.
Stefan’s reading the servers the riot act. No more water, no more sparkling wine, no more wine period. Judges are here and they need to be seated! Everybody out!
“Who would you rather upset? Judges or 40 other people who’ll never come back to your restaurant?” Words of wisdom from Stefan.
Tom tells us that before opening his first restaurant, he and Danny flew to Italy to eat and look for inspiration, and the whole concept of Gramercy Tavern was mapped out on an airplane napkin. Wow. #ProTip
Stefan. First Course.
Kilawen: Yellowtail with Cilantro, Spicy Chili & White Soy Sauce.
Everyone loved this dish. What’s not to like? Fresh delicious yellowtail paired with different contrasting sauces with some crunchy acidy radish. Refreshing. Good start.
Moving smoothly here.
|No beaks here.|
Josh. Second Course.
Balut: Poached Egg, Duck Confit & Foie Gras Mousse.
Stefan’s obviously in a “kick ass” zone mentally here. So much so he’s not playing the warm host to the judges. He introduced this dish assuming everyone here knows exactly what a balut is and he didn’t further sell the dish by explaining that instead of eating an unborn chick, it’s an updated version with duck confit and foie mousse.
With that said, it’s a delicious dish. C’mon, soft egg, duck and foie? Just make sure you season the damn thing and it’ll sing.
One problem though. Tom said there’s nothing remotely Filipino about this dish. Well, since Josh was the one who cooked it, I’m surprised there weren’t BBQ flavored bacon bits sprinkled on top. Of course it’s not gonna taste Filipino.
Um...Stefan? Wanna tell us what the third course is?
Apparently not. Stefan is in such a zone running roughshod over his servers he’s forgotten to tell the judges what the dish is at all! He waltzes on by, completely ignoring them!
|Tom doesn't like you right now|
Well let me help you out.
The third course is Sheldon’s Miki. An Filipino soup with Prawns, Tapioca Roll with Achiote.
Tom loves the tapioca noodles, the plate looks beautiful and everyone thought it was fantastic.
Oh hey here’s Johnny-Come-Lately.
“Everything good so far? Can I do anything for you?” Stefan asks.
When Padma asks him to explain the last dish, he first got confused with the “final” dish and then realized they wanted to know about the “previous” dish.
“Miki is a cellophane noodle with *mumbles something unintelligible*” and walks away!
|Don't ask Stefan about this dish|
Wow. The whole table felt like they just got scolded.
“The way that he made us feel, was worse than that (Josie’s) bouillabaisse.” sassed Emeril. Service is making the people at your tables feel comfortable and taken care of, dammit Stefan! #ProTip
That was probably, nay, THE most shockingly rude treatment by a host to the judges in 10 seasons of restaurant wars. Given who these judges are, I don’t think they’ve EVER been treated like this at a restaurant.
Sorry Stefan, I don’t think Danny Meyer will be calling you any time soon. WOMP.
Sheldon. Fourth Course.
Adobo: Pork Belly with Mung Been Puree & Pea Shoots Salad.
Ok. Tom says this is the best dish all night. Danny can’t stop eating it. I see a trend here, and it’s looking pretty good for Sheldon.
|Dish of the night|
Halo-Halo: Coconut Sorbet, Avocado Mousse, Banana & Shredded Coconut.
Dark Chocolate with Macadamia Nuts, Ginger & Peppermint Oil.
Ah dessert. The flavors were good and judges seem pleased with it. Seriously the dessert course is always an afterthought. Unless it really missed the mark or is really something special, it’s not going to sway things either way.
Despite the overall tasty foods, Tom’s so disgusted by the service and Stefan’s attitude that he’s not sure if he’d return to this restaurant:
“...it’s something I learned from Danny. People will go to a restaurant for food, and they’ll return for hospitality. So, I don’t know if I will return to this restaurant right now.”
Talk about a WOMP.
Well, service is over. Everyone’s exhausted.
Brooke feels like it’s a toss up. I don’t. It’s pretty clear who had the better food. The only caveat is whether or not Stefan’s rude service turned the judges off so badly that they throw the food out the window.
It’s Stefan’s service vs. Josie’s bouillabaisse.
Bye Danny! So long and thanks for all the advice!!
Line ‘em up!
All 7 chefs line up in front of Judges’ Table. Ready for their verdict.
|You don't need to be an expert in body language...|
Atelier Kwan is up first.
Kristen’s beef lacked bourguignon, dessert too overhanded. This is the first time she’s been chided for her food and her disappointment shows.
Brooke is being praised for her front of the house skills. As she should from someone we has opened 4 restaurants. Good job.
Lizzie’s charcuterie soup is a hit. Everyone love it. Winning dish contender.
...and here comes the bouillabaisse.
The first words out of Josie’s mouth are, “You know Kristen help me plate...your plates. So...um...you know. *looks over at Kristen*”
Here we go.
In one of the most shameful display of cowardice, Josie deflected all blame to Kristen.
There were no admittance of the fact that the main reason the dish went down was because she didn’t start her stock early enough so that it could be thickened properly with gelatin. No mentioning of the fact that she didn’t test using the canister to sauce the plates. No mention of her turning her back on Kristen and that Lizzie had to come help plate. None.
There she is. Just trying to weasel her way out of another possible elimination.
In 10 seasons of watching this show, I can honestly say I have NEVER felt more disgusted by a cook than her. Hell, frankly I’m not even to honor her with the title of a cook, let alone chef.
Anthony Bourdain once wrote,
“Male, female, gay, straight, legal, illegal, country of origin—who cares? You can either cook an omelet or you can’t. You can either cook five hundred omelets in three hours—like you said you could, and like the job requires—or you can’t. There’s no lying in the kitchen.”
Josie’s behavior this entire season and especially this episode contradicts every letter in that paragraph. It’s amazing how some people can look in the mirror and live with themselves.
Moving along to Urbano.
Tom really liked Sheldon’s concept. He says that there aren’t that many places serving this type of food out there and perhaps the world’s been waiting for a chef like Sheldon to come along. That’s some praise from Tom!
But let’s talk about the service. Oh oh.
Emeril’s disappointed. Tom is really not happy that Stefan didn’t explain some of the dishes.
Stefan concedes that it was poor service, however he argues that it’s because he’s a chef and not a server. This oughta go over well.
Yeah. They’re not even going to dignify that with a response.
Moving on to Sheldon’s dishes.
All of his dishes hit the sweet spot. It was modern and still kept that Filipino flavor. He knocked it out of the park with every dish.
Josh’s egg dish had nothing Filipino about it, but it was good. Kudos.
It’s unanimous. Urbano wins.
|How am I gonna get that car back to Hawaii?!|
Yeah. The writing’s been pretty much on the wall all night. To turn that concept into reality and to successfully elevate Filipino comfort food to such a high level is quite a feat. Sheldon is the big winner and gets the Toyota Avalon!!
Congrats! Now you get to pay the freight and ship that baby back to Hawaii!! Doh!
Now the sad part. Somebody has to go home.
Tom just has one question. “What happened with the gelatin (and the sauce)?”
Well, I’m not going to further painstakingly describe Josie’s disgusting behavior but you get the idea by now. She’s throwing Kristen under the bus, hopping on the bus, driving Kristen over, and backing up for good measure.
Meanwhile Kristen’s standing there rocking, whispering “Bite my tongue. Bite my tongue.”
In an amazing display of honor that’s worthy of a Bushido Samurai, Kristen tells the judges that it was her responsibility, takes blame for the dish and essentially commits Top Chef seppuku.
THIS is what being a CHEF is all about. Taking responsibility in your actions and behaving honorably. This type of action and sense of moral code is what every chef and cook should strive to have. This is why no matter what happens, she will be infinitely more successful in whatever she does than that other sorry excuse of a television personality wannabe. #ProTipofthehat
|All the sadness|
So now what?
Gail is sad. Tom is sad. I’m sad. Hell, I think Emeril’s about to send himself home.
Everyone is torn.
Bye Kristen. You’ll always be my favorite of this season. Second only to Michael Voltaggio in the history of Top Chef. I get the feeling this won’t be that last of you.
Ok. Now we put our feelings aside and take a closer look at the facts.
The fact is that Atelier Kwan wasn’t very good. The concept was too lofty and thus what was delivered couldn’t match expectations. The only really good dish belonged to Lizzie. Kristen’s beef fell a bit short and her dessert much less refined than promised. Not to mention her BIGGEST mistake - she didn’t assemble the right team.
|Hey Girl. I'll see you soon!|
By picking Josie just to have an extra body, she doomed herself from the get-go. That plus the fact that she’s never managed a staff or a restaurant of this size killed her.
So with that said, it was the right call by the judges. Kristen had to pack her knives and go.
Now...go watch Last Chance Kitchen!!!
Phew. In the immortal words of Big Chris in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, “It’s been emotional.”
Thanks for stopping by and hopefully we’ll see you next week under more pleasant circumstances!!
As always, any feedback and a follow @Chez would be much appreciated!