'Top Chef' goes to battle
August 12th, 2010
12:45 PM ET

'Top Chef' goes to battle

DEFCON 1 people! It was restaurant wars on “Top Chef" last night, also known as the best episode of the season.

But before we get to the cooking, the judging and the aforementioned cheftestant warring, let’s roll it back to the beginning.

After last week’s elimination, Amanda woke up glad to be with the "best of the best," and Kenny… well, you know Kenny. He's the “alpha male" and a “beast in the kitchen.”

But before anyone else could get a word in edgewise, Kenny and the rest of the chefs were back in the kitchen with Padma for the Quickfire challenge: A tag team cook-off.

On Team Red, we had Ed, Tiffany, Angelo and Alex, and on Team Blue, there was Kevin, Kenny, Amanda and Kelly.

All chefs were given ten minutes in this tag team event, so the first chefs gathered ingredients and made a game plan for the blindfolded chefs to follow. Tiffany and Kenny set the tone of the dishes, taking ingredients from the storage room and making well-laid plans.

Unfortunately for Tiffany, Alex was on her team. He decided to pre-season a fish that he had no intention of cooking. Fast-forward to judging, where we found out that wasn’t a very good idea.

Speaking of judging, self-proclaimed “foodie” and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was this episode’s “Top Chef” judge.

Team Red pulled together roasted red snapper, wilted greens & maitake mushrooms while Team Blue whipped up sautéed shrimp, angel hair pasta, mustard sauce & crispy basil.

It was Team Blue for the win! But it wasn’t a shocker. As it turns out, too much salt or too much Alex ruined Team Red’s chance for a Quickfire win, plus a lovely prize of $2,500 dollars each.

But there were bigger fish to fry, and Padma announced to all the chefs that “Restaurant Wars” was about to begin.

The teams were the same as the Quickfire, with Ed, Tiffany, Angelo and Alex on one team – under the restaurant name “Evoo”– and Kevin, Kenny, Amanda and Kelly were on the second team, working under the restaurant name “2121,” also known as the sure thing.

Team Evoo put Alex in the front of the house to avoid cooking disasters, which made sense. Unfortunately, the chefs at 2121 put Kelly in the front of the house and out of the kitchen. I say unfortunately because although her attitude can grate your nerves, the girl can cook.

The judges arrived at Evoo first, and as we see, the front of the house is a big deal. Alex missed the judges’ arrival but tried to quickly recover by whisking himself over to their table.

The courses were slow to come from Evoo. Acting executive chef Angelo was flying around the kitchen with an iron fist, trying to correct errors from either the servers or the pre-work that Alex botched.

Here’s the lineup of dishes at Evoo:

  • Confit of tomato soup, squash & olive crouton
  • Crudo of black bass & yellowtail snapper with meyer lemon-caper relish
  • Striped bass, stewed spinach, chorizo & clams
  • Slow-baked turbot, eggplant caviar & black olive jus
  • Pan-seared lamb chop, English pea puree, smoked bacon & parmesan foam
  • Seared rib eye steak, crushed walnut potatoes & balsamic fig reduction

Meanwhile, over at 2121, it was smooth sailing. As expected, Kelly had the front of the house under her complete control. In the back of the house, Kenny - who assumed the executive chef role - appeared to be cranking out the plates with Kevin and Amanda.

Here’s what they laid out at 2121:

  • Chilled sweet corn soup with Maryland blue crab salad
  • Beet salad with warm chorizo-citrus vinaigrette
  • Oakwood grilled strip steak with roasted sunchoke & maitake mushrooms
  • Pan-roasted halibut, fennel marmalade & tomato-fennel emulsion
  • Crispy aged goat cheese & strawberry-rhubarb relish
  • Dark chocolate ganache tart & blackberry-chocolate chunk ice cream

One major thread of criticism for both teams was that the menus over-promised their restaurants’ food themes. Like one chef questioned, “I guess the fig makes this Mediterranean?” Also, it’s never good when the words “goat cheese monstrosity” come up during dinner service.

After the judges left, the top and bottom teams seemed really up in the air. The “sure-thing” team of Kevin, Kenny, Kelly and Amanda didn’t dominate like I thought it would.

And then, in walked Padma to drop the axe – excuse me, the butcher’s knife.

Team Evoo - Ed, Tiffany, Angelo and Alex – ended up on top, while the cheftestants behind 2121, Kevin, Kenny, Amanda and Kelly, were on the bottom.

Ed was handed the elimination win, along with the largest bottle of wine I’ve ever seen.

But in a weird turn of events at judges’ table, the losing team threw a member from the wining team under the bus. Their argument, in brief, was that Alex didn’t do any cooking for Team Evoo.

While that sounds true, I’m not sure their argument had a foundation. I don’t remember each player being required to cook a dish from start-to-finish in restaurant wars.

So, after a futile attempt to drag Alex under the bus, through the gutter and around the block, Team 2121 returned to the kitchen to await their fate with the winners, Team Evoo.

And then the war part of “restaurant wars” came into play...

Kenny, Kevin and Kelly immediately laid into Alex as soon as they walked into the waiting room. (Did Amanda just… go get coffee? I expected her to yell something inane too.)

About 30 F-bombs later, some most excellent finger pointing and more bleeps over Kenny and Kevin’s dialogue, it was commercial time.

Immediately, I wondered if the judges could can Alex. (At least my favorite chef, Tiffany, was safe from elimination.) Ultimately, the judges decided it was Kenny’s time to go. Alex lives another day!

Do you think Kenny should have gotten the boot? Who do you think is next? And is it finally Alex’s time to go?

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Filed under: television • Top Chef • TV recaps

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Mike

    I'd recommend everyone to stop tuning to Top Chef, I've watched all seasons, but this did it for me, I'm not watching again. The decision to send Kenny home showed how little respect the judges actually have for food and how much they care about the chef's personalities. I've been watching the first season of MasterChef US and it beats top chef easily in many ways, specially objectivity.

    August 19, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. sher

    the decision to send Kenny home feels arbitrary and capricious; notwithstanding the judge's assertions that they are abiding by the rules....with Amanda and Alex remaining how can this show e truly a quest for "top chef".....I am done after seven seasons!

    August 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Paul

    I was shocked that they decided to send Kenny home, as I've always found his dishes appetizing and innovative, whereas Angelo seems to stick to Asian interpretations, even though they are tasty and well-executed, they are safe. Kenny was always pushing the envelope and that's how true innovation happens. I'll miss you Kenny, I wish you every success.

    August 14, 2010 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  4. fader

    Online TV

    August 13, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lizz Brown

    I will no longer watch the show and I have been a fan for at least 7 seasons–a very very loyal fan. But the decision to send Kenny home was so absurd and contrary to logic and rules and past decisions the show no longer seems committed to keeping the contestants who have followed the rules. Since the red team cheated--by not allowing Alex to participate and doing his work for him they did not deserve to win. Why have rules?

    There is no written or verbal rule that the person in charge during restaurant wars is the first to go home if his crew screws up and yet that is the rule that had been followed. So please do not try and argue rules because you sent Kenny home and he was one of the best Chief Chefs in restaurant wars--if it is important enough to send other chefs home for not running a good restaurant then it is enough to keep a chef for running a great restaurant. Top Chef sucks I will not return.

    August 12, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Julia

    What the F? Kenny? Really. First of all having worked with chefs good luck finding one without an ego. Like Dr.s if you can produce that is all that matters and Kenny produced. I agree his ego go in his way a few times, but overall to have Kenny leaving and ALEX staying?!?!??!? The Peas Were Stolen!!!! :O)

    August 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Gretta

    Last night was a total fiasco....I won't be watching any longer. Without Kenny vs. Angelo it's boring.

    August 12, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Kennyfan

    So sorry to see Kenny leave....he was one of the main reasons why I watched the show, now who will challenge Angelou..viewership will absolutely suffer!....Good Luck Kenny!...you Alpha male ...

    August 12, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chickenhawk

    Usually, I don't weigh in on these things, but I'm so tired of "reality" shows making decisions based on what is "good TV". Kenny is one of the reasons I watched (note past tense) Top Chef - because he's a good chef I enjoy the cooking element of the show! If I want to see seedy throwdowns, I can always tune in to Springer. Sure, Kenny's two dishes were weak, and he has an ego. But many a good chef has been spared after one bad night. Want to change the vibe of the show? Then call it Top Personality. Many will miss you Kenny.

    August 12, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lynne

    Though I do not think Alex deserves to be there, he was on the winning team, like it or not. Kenny's ego is too big for his head and that's what got him sent home. In addition to the fact that the judges didn't like either dish he made last night. What Kenny and his team did last night was nothing but poor sportsmanship! I could not believe what they said to the judges about Alex. That behavior is not the kind role models I want to see on TV.

    August 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Natalie

    What I want to know is how in the world did Alex even make it on the show in the first place? He's already shown he cannot cook, he is a thief and now, after last night, that he doesn't even know how to butcher meat and clean fish properly. I mean what chef doesn't know how to butcher/prepare/clean meat? Where did this guy go to culinary school? Did he even go to culinary school? It's a shame Top Chef can't put together a better set of chefs for the show at one time. Every single season we get some nimrod who doesn't know what they're doing, yet slides by week in and week out just because they add a dramatic effect to the show(Robin anyone?). That's not what the viewers want. We want top notch chefs competing against other top notch chefs without producers input.
    Now, did Kenny deserve to go home last night based on who he was in the bottom with? Yes. He was ultimately the 'executive chef' in that kitchen. He took on that role and couldn't deliver. The judges felt his food was awful to boot, so yeah he deserved the boot. Who's the most deserving chef to go home on the show period? Alex beyond a doubt.

    August 12, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Denise

    Alex should have gone very early on and he just got extremely lucky this week. Don't mean to be hurtful, but the guy can't design and execute good food to save his life! You will recall he stole the pea puree a few weeks ago too. Something is just not kosher with Alex and I'm hoping his time comes next week because I really don't want to see him attempt to cook something edible any more.

    August 12, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Eyedbaby

    Kenny is such a baby....I hate when people dont accept that they failed. I didnt like Kenny anyways since I started watching this season he was too arrogant......I think that he was intimidated by angelou. Alex is sucks he cant cook I wonder why he still in the show. Im so glad that Kenny is not there anymore.

    August 12, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |

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