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Top Chef S06E09: Restaurant Wars Is A Little Less Hell

It’s amazing that we are in season six of this show and they only just realized that Restaurant Wars is a ridiculous and outlandish test of absolutely nothing. “You have 45 minutes to make this abandoned warehouse look like an abandoned ‘Chinese’ warehouse in a test to see who is the best at a thing that would never happen under any other circumstances.” So, for the first time in Top Chef history, the teams in this year’s restaurant wars will not have to “decorate” their “restaurants,” which as a viewer is an incredible relief, and I can only imagine that it was a relief to the contestants as well. “Aw,” said Laurine, “but I wanted to go to Pier 1 Imports and spend two hours arguing over a pressed-tin giraffe sculpture and vanilla vs. cinnamon scented candles.” Get it? Because Laurine is terrible. (FORESHADOWING.) Anyway, this week is Restaurant Wars, which is historically my least favorite challenge on this silly show, and this time it is still my least favorite but at the very least it is a little less my least favorite. Math.

But first, the Quickfire Challenge!

The chefs draw knives, but almost all of the knives are blank. Kevin assumes there has been some kind of technical error, and they simply forgot to affix letters to the knives. Yes, Kevin. Your nephew produces this show for his high school’s A/V club. And once those cameras start rolling, they only have one tape, so they just have to go with what’s there. No. There are no words on the knives because there are words on two of the knives, and whoever draws those two knives will be the team captains: Jennifer and Michael V.

Each team will have 40 minutes to prepare a single dish, with each of them cooking for 10 minutes. But before it is a particular contestant’s turn to cook, he or she will be wearing a blindfold. And there is no talking. And they only have 30 seconds to decide what the cooking order will be. It is like the cooking class at the Milford Academy in here.

Eli and Jennifer both cook first for their teams. Eli starts searing some beef. Jennifer starts boiling some oil to poach fish. Other things happen. It is an interesting challenge, but like many challenges, one is at a loss as to how this really relates to finding an extremely talented chef who is good at preparing food a human being would like to eat. Especially since we at home cannot taste it, it’s just like, yes, you did a thing that was convoluted. This is more about which four chefs do the best job of not making Padma or guest judge Rick Moonen spit up into their napkin. “I took three bites before barfing, you are the most talented.” But OK! Anyway, Robin and Laurine cook second for their teams. They’re like the Highlander. If the Highlander is about two people biding their time out of their depth before being sent home. Mike and Bryan V. cook against each other, trying to figure out what everyone was even thinking before them. And then Kevin and Michael V. finish their teams’ dishes. Kevin sees that he was supposed to poach the fish in oil, but he sautees it in butter anyway. There is no Kevin in team. That doesn’t matter too much, though, because his team wins anyway. Good work everyone! You managed to work together to make terrible food (probably) that was slightly less terrible than the other team’s terrible food. AMERICAN HEROES.

It was a High Stakes Challenge, which means that the winning team gets $10,000 to split between the four of them. BUT, they can also “let it ride” and if they win Restaurant Wars they will each receive $10,000. Let it ride is a Las Vegas term that means “you have a gambling problem and you need to leave Las Vegas.” The blue team lets it ride.

So, guest judge Rick Moonen has graciously (“graciously”) donated the use of his sustainable Las Vegas seafood restaurant for Restaurant Wars. Which is nice of him because that means we don’t have to hear Eli and Robin bitching about who knows more about proper Chinese folding screens placement, or whatever (“They go behind the potted palm” “No! They go across from the wicker basket full of beads”) (seriously, Restaurant Wars was always the worst). There are two dining rooms. The upstairs dining room is for elegant fine dining, and the downstairs dining room is for disgusting casual dining, as an homage to the English Upstairs/Downstairs tradition of oppressive economic stratification. The winning team (Kevin, Jennifer, Mike, and Laurine) take the sumptuous (really it’s just OK) upstairs dining room, but the losing team (Robin, Eli, Voltaggios) wanted the crappy non-elegant-whatsoever dining room downstairs anyway, so WHATEVS.

Meanwhile, “holla” is officially over.

Oh, also, the losing team calls their restaurant Revolt, which is a terrible name for a restaurant because sure, the word revolt does mean uprising, but it also means to disgust, and regardless of how many other interpretations or definitions of the word there are (the eskimos have 700 words that mean “whoops”) you just don’t want that. But to make matters worse, they came up with the name Revolt by combining Robin, Eli, and Voltaggio. NOW THAT IS REVOLTING.

The upstairs team knows that every team that has made a dessert in previous Restaurant Wars has gone home, so they are staying away from dessert. While the downstairs team is making two desserts. Go big or go home, I guess. Anyway, the judges arrive, and everything really goes smoothly for the downstairs team. They get their food out quickly. The judges seem to enjoy it. Padma’s wine glass is never empty. (They should make a reality show called Winezillas about women who get crazy when it comes to not having enough wine. Starring Padma.) Eli is scurrying around, manically managing the front of the house. He even tucked his shirt in, but not before asking his teammates if he should tuck his shirt in? Really, Eli? Yes, you should tuck your fucking shirt in. Otherwise you’ll never be Mr. Manager. But I guess we should just respect the fact that he asked a group of his peers rather than following what must have been his initial instinct and asking a group of his mom.

Upstairs, things do not go so well. Jennifer is in the weeds. Laurine looks like her face got hit by a Surprise Bus. She seriously does not know what to do. Padma’s wine glass only has half a glass of wine in it. The first dishes come out and the judges ask for salt. UH OH! It’s probably not a big deal, guys. Padma probably just brought some emergency margaritas in her purse in case the wine wasn’t coming fast enough. But really, the upstairs team is struggling. Kevin’s meat is undercoooked. There are no desserts and everyone wanted more dessert. Really? You guys just had two desserts downstairs. This is also your second dinner of the evening. Someone needs a nap.

So, in a surprise upset, Team REVOLTING wins Restaurant Wars. They loved the chicken and calamari pasta. They enjoyed the duo of beef and the cod. And they really loved dessert. MORE DESSERT IN THEIR MOUTHS PLEASE! Robin, who exchanged some words with Michael V. in the kitchen when it came time to plate her dessert, tries to throw him under the bus. Uh, Robin, you can’t throw someone under the bus when it’s a party bus full of prizes and congratulations. The judges are like, uh, what? Robin should seriously be thanking Michael for buying her one more week on this show, because how many does she really think she has left?

Anyway. Guest judge Rick Moonen pulls a Top Chef classic and gives everyone signed copies of his new book. Oh, you really shouldn’t have. Because of how silly it makes you look. But he does. Michael V. is named the overall winner and is given the blue team’s $10,000 High Stakes Quickfire reward. Whoops! Looks like someone should have not let it ride! Michael V. decides to share the $10k with his team, because although he is belligerent and arrogant, he is a belligerent and arrogant gentleman.

The downstairs team are on the chopping block (get it? cooking) and it actually looks like Jennifer might go home. Oh no! Did she BLAISE OUT? Is she going down in a BLAISE of non-glory? She was responsible for the trout that everyone hated, in the “broken” sauce that everyone is so proud of calling “broken” because of how serious about cooking it makes them sound. They refer to the sauce as being “broken” at least 1,000 times. We get it. You know stuff about the thing your show is about. But in the end it is not Jennifer who goes home, it is Laurine. Now, on the one hand, Laurine was not going to last much longer. She could have gone home on literally any episode. But this one seemed pretty close. And back in the Stew Room, Kevin says he doesn’t want to talk about what happened at Judges Table because he’s “actually really angry right now.” Did Kevin want Jennifer to go home? Is the world upside down? Will Jennifer’s face ever unpinch itself?

Laurine exit interviews that she likes to think of herself as a rock but she has never had her rock rocked this hard. Huh? She is going to do great on Top Metaphor. Or maybe not. Because she then explains that she doesn’t think she wants to be in any kind of competition with anybody for anything. Whoopsie!

Well, the good news is: you’re not anymore? BYE LAURINE!