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  • In the eighth episode of Top Chef, the chefs give us the most anticipated episode of the season: Restaurant Wars.
By Luis Miguel Echegaray
January 25, 2018
Welcome to Talking Top Chef, a weekly blog where we review the latest episode from the best reality show on TV. I’m going to fill you in on a little secret: Shortly after the season premiere last month, I discovered Top Chef is extremely popular at Sports Illustrated. From Crossover writers to our very own managing editor, this show is loved by so many over here. (Even Rob Gronkowski's been on it!) 

And why shouldn’t it be? It has everything: Amazing food, intense competition, plus the chefs are insanely talented but more often than not they can also be erratic and unpredictable, which makes for great entertainment.

As for me? I’m obsessed. As a result, we decided the logical move would be to start reviewing the show here at SI Eats. So let’s get down to business.

Season 15, Episode Eight; “Restaurant Wars”

Ladies and Gentlemen.

It’s time.

[Drum roll……]

It’s RESTAURANT WARS!! I don’t need to remind you that this is by far the best and most anticipated episode of any season. For those of you who don’t know how it works, let me fill you in:

Split into two teams, the remaining chefs have to create and execute two new restaurant concepts from design to dishes in a matter of days. The wonderful thing about Restaurant Wars is that it pushes the contestants to the extreme because cooking is only one of a million problems they have to solve.

From table design to service of the food itself, they have to worry about every single detail of the restaurant. The other factor is that this episode is the ultimate judge of teamwork because contestants have to figure out what roles they will take on … and live with it. For starters, not everyone can be in the kitchen so someone has to play the role of front of house—it can make or break you because the judges pay close attention to how warm and receptive your restaurant’s service is. Some are fantastic, some crumble.

Anyways, this episode is fun as hell.

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Let me just say one thing: Whoever is on Claudette’s team should be worried, as last episode proved. Listen, if you know me, you know that I’m gonna be rooting for my Latina sisters every time but I really think she threw Tanya under the bus last week and it seems to be a recurring theme with her. Frankly, I don’t trust homegirl.

As the episode begins, the chefs walk into a huge, empty space knowing exactly what’s about to happen, but what they didn’t know was that Padma would be standing next to Eric and Bruce Bromberg, better known as the brothers behind Blue Ribbon.

“It’s time for Restaurant Wars,” says Padma.

No one is shocked.

Now, remember that Restaurant Wars means there is no quickfire challenge, no side scenes where we get to know the contestants better, there’s none of that. This is it.

Now comes my favorite part: The chefs have to select team captains by drawing knives. The captains select the teams—just like dodge ball—so it’s always great to see who gets picked first and last because as we all know, chefs have big sensitive egos.

I’m taking a wild guess here: Claudette is getting picked last.

And the team captains are: Chris and Carrie.

With the first pick, Carrie goes with Bruce.

“Wow,” says a shocked Bruce. “I used to be the last kid picked in Kickball.”

We believe you, Brucey.

Chris goes with Mustache Joe, a no-brainer from a cooking perspective but is he a team player for Restaurant Wars?

This is how the rest of the picks go: Carrie chooses clean-shaven Joe and Adrienne, while Chris chooses Fatima. So wiith the last pick … as I guessed it … he has to go with Claudette.

Now that the teams are set, the Bromberg brothers explain the rules in more detail. Each team has to prepare a three-course meal with three options per course—that’s a total of NINE DISHES.

The chefs freak out, and rightly so, because that’s a lot of food to create in two days. But Padma makes it more interesting by introducing additional help. Eliminated chefs enter the room! Each team is allowed the assistance of one of them … so now comes the tricky part of selecting the right one.

Carrie picks Tyler and the Bears are reunited.

“I can’t believe I just reunited the original bears,” says Carrie. “Because they’re kind of annoying, but culinary this is brilliant. We’re gonna do so good.”

Chris goes with Brother. Interesting.

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The first hour is all about concept and creating the restaurant’s identity.

Chris, Claudette, Fatima and Mustache Joe name their's COMMON PLACE. The thinking behind this name is that all of them have such different styles but this is the restaurant where they all find a common … I think you get it.

But right off the bat … they can’t agree on what type of food they should be serving. Yikes.

Meanwhile, Carrie, Bruce, Adrienne and Joe choose CONIFER, based on a tree.

I’ll give you one guess to figure out who selected that one.

They seem like a tighter unit as they already know what kind of food they want to serve, Italian-Mediterranean with Colorado-forward concept.

On the other side, COMMON PLACE seem to be getting along better, creating a restaurant with unexpected flavors. Given the fact that these chefs are so different in terms of style, it’s probably a safe way to go.

Now come the roles. Chris selects Claudette as the executive chef, Fatima as front of house and Joe and Chris on the line in the kitchen. The thinking here is that Chris doesn’t want to deal with the stress of leading the kitchen in a tight environment but my initial thoughts are that if they lose, this is going to come back and bite him.

Meanwhile, over at CONIFER (I’m sorry, I hate the name. It sounds like a foot injury as opposed to a restaurant name) Joe goes with front of house, Bruce as executive chef and Adrienne and Carrie as line cooks.

Adrienne, by the way, is very quiet at this point. I love her and I think she’s a great team player but I want to hear more of her opinion.

The next 30 minutes are all about designing the restaurant with the Craftsy team. They’re throwing everything at them and Mustache Joe wants a lot of plants.

Of course he does.

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 “The thing about Restaurant Wars is if you can’t execute it, it’s not worth a damn,” says Bruce. “So our idea is to create dishes that are kinda more prep intensive so they are faster to put out at service.”

This to me is the right philosophy because essentially this isn’t just about creating a restaurant, it’s about making good food in a really short space of time for a lot of people, which is basically the overall goal of Top Chef.

We’ll see how they do.

P.S I’m not gonna give you every single dish right now cause that’s a lot, so I’ll focus on the main ones that stood out within the judges’ table.

A quick check on Bruce’s new baby as he decides to FaceTime with the bubba before the mayhem. He’s pretty darn cute.

Alright, enough chit-chat. Let’s see how they do.

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The restaurants look great. Nice job, Craftsy. CONIFER looks like a modern, getaway cabin and COMMON PLACE goes with a casual, open, wine cellar vibe.

And … here come the judges.

The starters went down well, especially Bruce’s meatball polenta. Clean-shaven Joe is killing it as front of house.

The main is also a killer, aside from Adrienne’s Colorado Sea Bass, wheat berries, port reduction, chive oil and pickled cauliflower. It did not do well with the judges.

A quick look at COMMON PLACE and Fatima is struggling, as there’s already a long wait for the table.

Back at CONIFER and the desserts are well received. Carrie’s deconstructing lemon bar killed it and Adrienne redeemed herself with her caramelized white chocolate buttermilk cake.

Overall, CONIFER did very well.

Now, the judges move to COMMON PLACE.

Not a great start, as the judges are so-so in regards to the starters. Mustache Joe made oysters, for example, and it did not go well with Gail.

The seconds are a little better, with Chris’s braised pork shoulders and cheek with amaranth, quinoa, millet grain cake and horseradish cream receiving high praise.

The biggest issue for the judges is the lack of identity and we all knew this was coming.

The desserts are once again, so-so, with nothing spectacular. All in all, the judges conclude that this lack of identity really faulted the concept and the execution of the dishes.

In the end, the judges pick CONIFER as the winner.  The concept, cohesion, everything just made sense. Bruce was a great executive chef, Joe was fantastic as front of house.

“I think Danny Meyer once said to me,” says Padma. “’People come to a restaurant for the food, but they come back for the hospitality.’”

“I actually said that,” interrupts Tom.

AMAZING.

Anyways, CONIFER killed it and the overall winner was ... Joe!!! His first elimination win. But guess what? The team just won $40,000.

[CHRIS IS ALMOST CRYING WITH FRUSTRATION ON THE OTHER SIDE]

Now, on to COMMON PLACE. There was no identity, no execution, no concept.

But here we go, Claudette places the blame on Chris and he takes it.

Urghhhhhhh.

But, the judges don’t fall for this and guess who goes home? Yup, Claudette. And guess what, she doesn’t even hug anyone goodbye and proceeds to blame the judges and the show.

“If Top Chef wants another Vanilla Top Chef,” she says. “You’re doing a good job.”

Ugh. Peace out.  

All in all, another great episode as I think this was one of the toughest Restaurant Wars we have seen.

See you all next week!

My favorite contestants:

  • Chris
  • Adrienne
  • Clean-shaven Joe

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)