Recap: Top Chef: Seattle, Episode 11

Restaurant Wars kicks into high gear

Top Chef: Seattle

This week’s episode brought us Part Two of Restaurant Wars, as seven chefs remained to build two restaurants, with two fully realized concepts, from scratch:  Sheldon’s team included Josh and Stefan (his third chosen assistant, Micah, got kicked off last week), and Kristen led Brooke, Josie, and Lizzie in team two.

In last week’s setup episode, Sheldon’s winning restaurant concept was Filipino, and Kristen’s was fine dining. While Kristen’s team all had background in classical French cooking, neither Josh nor Stefan had any experience cooking Filipino food. With fingers crossed that this wouldn’t set them back, they forged ahead.

As they toured the space, they realized that there was one additional game changer thrown their way: there was no kitchen! It had to be built from scratch, yet another major difference from previous years’ Restaurant Wars.

The chefs went shopping for ingredients and supplies and then got to work prepping for the next day, keeping in mind that the winner had the keys to a car coming their way. As they worked on strategy while drinking wine chain smoking, it was obvious that they knew what challenges lay ahead.

The big day started off at full throttle, as prep gave way to full-on cooking as their planned dishes were fully realized. Brooke and Stefan organized their front of house, and as the sun lowered, guests (and judges, including Danny Meyer and Emeril Lagasse) finally arrived.

Here were the final dishes:

Atelier Kwan:
Lizzie: Charcuterie: rabbit, pickled turnips & yellow beets in chicken and rabbit broth
Josie: Bouillabaisse: Halibut, Dungeness crab, bay scallops with shellfish broth
Kristen: Beef Bourguignon: Braised short rib, garlic puree, mushrooms, and carrots
Brooke: Gougeres, St. Agur blue cheese, roasted radish & stone fruit compote and sticky sweet pine nut
Kristen: Almond cake deconstructed macaron with coconut custard and caramel buttercream

“There were some amazing moments in what Kristen’s team produced today,” said Gail, “but because the concept was a reinvention on French dishes they set such high standards by what to judge each dish.” Meyer and Lagasse both agreed that Lizzie’s charcuterie soup was the highlight of the meal.

Stefan: Kilawen: Yellowtail with cilantro, spicy chily & white soy sauces
Josh: Balut: Poached egg, duck confit & foie gras mousse
Sheldon: Miki: Prawns, tapioca roll with achiote
Sheldon: Adobo: Pork belly with mung bean puree & pea shoots salad
Josh: Halo-Halo: Coconut sorbet, avocado mousse, banana, and shredded coconut
Stefan: Dark chocolate with macadamia nuts, ginger, and peppermint oil

“People will go to restaurants for food, but they’ll return for the hospitality,” said Tom after a meal that left the judges underwhelmed by the service. “So I don’t know if I’d return to this restaurant right now.” While the food was good, Meyer found that there were major flaws in the service and hospitality. Lagasse called Stefan’s service “awful.”

The Judging Table:

While Gail loved Kristen’s beef, there was much less sauce than expected on the plate. The judges also thought that her cake was dry and not macaron-like at all. Brooke truly led, and the judges loved Lizzie’s soup. Josie’s Bouillabaisse also was lacking in the sauce department, and the knives came out as her and Kristen passed blame for who ruined it, with Kristen ultimately taking responsibility as she was in charge.

Tom liked Urbano’s concept, but they were all disappointed by Stefan’s service (dishes were presented with no explanation and guests were kept waiting). Gail thought the prawn dish had a ton of flavor, and Tom thought that the miki was delicious. They ended up taking the win (even though Josh’s balut had no Filipino influence), as Sheldon’s team and concept simply worked better than Kristen’s. Padma made sure to let Stefan know that he was “very lucky.”

Tom let Lizzie and Brooke know right away that they were safe, and then got down to brass tacks with Kristen and Josie. The lack of gelatin in the Bouillabaisse was a major sticking point, and Kristen ultimately took blame for it along with all of her team’s other flaws. Gail called it “falling on your sword.”

Simmons was against blaming the failure of Josie’s dish on Kristen, but Padma argued that Kristen ultimately was the one who wasn’t able to execute the dish. Gail countered that Josie had simply skated by to this point in the season, and that while Kristen might have taken on too much responsibility Josie was simply the inferior chef.

In a major shocker, Kristen ended up getting the boot as Josie got to skate by for another week.

“She took responsibility; you sleep in the bed you make,” Gail said after all was said and done. “And that’s why she went home.”


Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.