‘Top Chef’ New Orleans Recap: ‘Restaurant Wars’


“Top Chef” returned from the Thanksgiving holiday with their much hyped “Restaurant Wars” challenge. The last time we saw a new episode of the show, the chefs were making hot sauce for Dr. John and breaking down a 300 lb. pig. Louis got sent home for having too many ideas in his popcorn and pork dish. With only 10 chefs left to fight it out for the title of “Top Chef”, now’s is the perfect time for a 5 vs. 5 “Restaurant Wars”.

Before the Quickfire, Carlos is quietly celebrating his victory in the last challenge. He promises to fight till the end. The chefs arrive in the kitchen where Padma announces that there will not be a Quickfire challenge this week because “it’s time for Restaurant Wars”. The guest judge for this year’s battle is David Chang. His advice to the chefs is to plan for things to go wrong, and not right. The chefs draw knives to see which team they will be assigned for the challenge.

The green team seems like the early favorite in this challenge with Nina, Carlos, Shirley, Justin, and Sara. The purple team of Nick, Stephanie, Brian, Travis, and Carrie only has two wins between all five chefs. Of course this also could put extra pressure on the green team because the judges might expect that much more out of their restaurant. Padma also announces that Danny Meyer, a man who knows how to open restaurants, will also be apart of the judges table.

The green team decides to incorporate all of their different styles into one menu. The purple team has an easier time on their theme. They decide to go in a Seafood only direction. The teams both go shopping for furniture and plates for their new spaces. Immediately cracks in the green team show up with Justin snapping at his teammates over their thoughts on the menu. The so called green “dream team” is already breaking apart, and the cooking hasn’t even started.

Now is a good time to discuss the copious amounts of product placement on display this week. “Top Chef” isn’t shy about using products in challenges, but the combo of the Toyota and Chase Sapphire mentions almost reached ridiculous levels. It might be too late to complain after we’ve already watched challenges involving Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Reynolds Wrap. I’m going to need to wash out these bad vibes with a cold can of Coke Zero. Coke Zero, the darkest soda on the market and the official soda of Hidden Remote “Top Chef” recaps. See how easy that is?

The green team names its restaurant “Found”, and the menu will look to showcase the different backgrounds on the group. The purple team name their place “Fin”, as in the dorsal fin of a fish. That makes sense because the place is a seafood themed place. Both names are good for Tom and the judges to rip on, especially because “Fin” could also mean “End”. Don’t let me down with the good jokes Tom.

The chefs arrive the next day with only four hours to go before guests start arriving. Travis and Sara go to work as the front of the house chefs, and work with the staff on setting up the dining rooms. Back in the kitchen Justin is pissed because the appetizer bowls he wanted aren’t there, and now he has to use an over-sized bowl. There’s no time to waste thought as the Chase Sapphire guests, Danny Meyer, and the rest of the judges are arriving.

“Found” seats Danny Meyer first, while “Fin” takes Padma, Tom, Gail and David Chang for their first seating. Gail likes the name “Fin” because it is simple and easy to get. Nick is doing a superb job expediting the food for “Fin”, but Brian’s corn has to much of a “snotty” consistency. Back at “Found” Danny Meyer’s menu was taken away before he could read it, and Sara didn’t do a great job with her hospitality in response.

While everything is going great at “Fin”, the wheels are coming off over at “Found”. Food is being delivered to the wrong tables, morale is gone from the back of the house, and Danny Meyer keeps finding flaws. Justin is pissed that no one is following the protocols they decided on earlier. Sara stands next to him, but looks utterly lost. “Found” is hitting all of the classic problems that doom teams on “Restaurant Wars”.

Mass confusion continues as Tom and his group now arrive at “Found”. They find out from Danny Meyer that service has been way behind, and no one at Danny’s table looks enthused. With the judges now seated, the back of the house at “Found” makes an attempt to pull things together. Things are going so bad that Tom makes a bad joke about being “Lost at Found”. There’s that Catskills comedy we’ve come to love from “Top Chef’s” head judge. While the food has troubles at “Found”, Sara seems to be in an even worse space. She’s ignoring the judges, and not even describing the food to the judges before fleeing in panic.

“We’re all dying a bit” is not something you want people to say when eating at your restaurant, but that’s just what Gail says while waiting for her entree. Sara once again drops off dishes at the judges table without even describing the plates. She’s probably having a tough time focusing on the front of the house because her dessert is falling apart as well. Basically, anything Sara touches this episode turns to crap.

In a shock to no one, “Fin” won this season’s “Restaurant Wars”. The judges think Travis was one of the best front of the house chefs they’ve ever had on “Top Chef”. The menu gets praised for the brightness and flavor, and Nick gets special mention for taking on the role of Executive Chef. The one major ding went to Brian for his snotty corn mixture. Even with that problem the team was still head and shoulders above “Found”. David Chang awards Nick as the winner of the challenge for having both the best dish and for taking care of the team.

“Found” is then sent in for elimination. With troubles all around, no one can feel safe. Sara is obviously in the most danger for her poor front of the house work and unfinished dessert. Sara denies there were problems, but Padma points out that she only explained her dish to the table. Instead of admitting the problems, Sara decides to deny there were any problems. Sara points the finger at the kitchen for all of the problems. Justin seems to think Sara’s poor order taking was responsible for the issues.

The only chefs on team “Found” that seem safe are Nina and Shirley. Everyone else could find themselves packing their knives. Tom places the blame on Sara for her work in the front of the house, and she’s sent home. She isn’t surprised by being sent home because she took her eye off the culinary aspect of the challenge. Sara now leaves for home with all of her solid colored bandanas in tow.

Next week on “Top Chef”, the cheftestants cook home style for their Elimination Challenge which features a star studded judges table.

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