12
Jan
2011
Top Chef: Season 9, Episode 10
Restaurant Wars
Michael Richardson
Top Chef, Season 9 Episode 10
Restaurant Wars

It's Restaurant Wars. The best part of any Top Chef season, restaurant wars is meant to be a microcosm of an actual dining experience, where the chefs are no longer just chefs. It requires organizational capacity as well as cooking ability, as the chefs have to design a restaurant from the ground up, from the name to the menu. With the help of a few servers, our contestants show what it's like to work under even more stress.

In order to accommodate the full grandeur of Restaurant Wars, the show decides to put away the Quick-Fire challenge. This is where the show begins to go awry. Top Chef's format has always been one of its strengths. The Quick-Fire manages to break the night up into smaller chunks, usually inserting a little levity to the main competition (or further stoking the fires of hatred, depending on the chef). Furthermore, the teams this week will be serving on different nights. That means that the first half of the show is dedicated the boys and the second night is dedicated to the girls. Yes, they split it up like that. For me, this episode felt very disjointed for that reason. Maybe Bravo thought it would be easier to keep track of, which it is, but one loses a bit of the urgency that comes as both teams of chefs' service come to a crescendo.

The restaurants the two teams make are almost diametrically opposed. Outside of some minor scuffles, the boys' service goes rather smoothly. Ed is surprisingly charming (I would have thought literally any of the other dudes would have made a better host), the food goes out on time, and the judges seem fairly even-handed on the dishes (no effusive praise, and no real hatred for the dishes). Perhaps the producers knew this would be so laid back to stick it all in the first half. The girls on the other hand were a mess. With Lindsey in front, service backs up for metaphorical miles. The judges come in and wait for over five minutes. "I'm gonna try some of this lemonade" Padma says with barely disguised rage as she waits to be seated. Meanwhile, in back, the ladies are yelling at each other in a perfect paraphrase of the suspicions of misogynists throughout the country. Unsurprisingly, everybody but Grayson hates Bev. Lindsey accuses her of treason, practically. Sarah joins in as well. Their service is a mess, but the food seems to be pleasing the judges at least. They seem to be enjoying watching the messes unfold though, so maybe their sadistic joy just overpowered their taste buds.

The girls end up on top, despite what the show has been showing us. The judges, they explain, simply enjoyed their food more, even if their service barely qualified as civilized. Bev takes home the win, validating her serviceable plan to just focus on her own dish so she can come out ahead. Lindsey smiles like she has a gun to her head. Then the boys are called in. While Ed's dish gets some limited praise (it's not as bad as the others), Ty-Lor under seasoned, Chris underperformed, and Paul's dish just fell flat. Chris seemed the most likely to leave - his dishes have often fell at the bottom of the pack, with more ambition than talent. But that's not the case this week. I'm very sad to see Ty-Lor go. He was one of the few contestants with any kind of perspective on the competition (watch as he deals with conflict in the dining room, or with Sarah's heat-stroke last week), but with the culinary imagination to back it up. He's heading back to Brooklyn, mustache in tow.

Grade: B-

Miscellaneous:

I'm going to say it: Bev is the Tim Tebow of Top Chef, in the sense that she earns way too much attention for mediocre contributions, and will probably make it to the final four despite herself. Also, she has weird psych-up rituals and is way too focused on pleasing her Father. DO THE SIMILARITIES NOT ASTOUND?!


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