The best chef on “Top Chef” will not win the competition. As in sports, the man who was supposed to coach the team rather than the man who assembled the team was sent packing. And in a competition that had no single person to clearly blame for a loss, it seems that the “Top Chef” judges made their show a little less interesting on Wednesday.
OK, now we can get to the spoilers. Tre was sent home after the second edition of “restaurant wars,” mainly for serving an inedible marinated salmon appetizer and, overall, for not guiding a cohesive effort in the kitchen. Personally, it seemed like the loss could be attributed to C.J., who picked the team and then absolved himself of any responsibility, or Brian, who lackadaisically ran the front of the house and provided no help to the kitchen.
LYFORD: Man, I struggled with this one. To me, Brian was the clear choice to pack his knives. He did nothing but run the front of the house and didn’t even do that particularly well. I hate to see Tre offed; I’ve been calling him the front-runner since the beginning. But anyone who creates a dish so awful that it forces Ted Allen to chug wine and do everything short of scrape the offensive ingredients off his tongue — ala Tom Hanks in “Big” — maybe deserves to go.
GALLO: The team of rejects — Sara, Hung, Howie and Dale — dubbed themselves the Bad News Bears, which I loved. This week’s episode did a great job of showing how a chef’s team takes criticism and uses it to their advantage. This was about as close as this show has ever gotten in revealing how chefs think — to paraphrase top judge Tom Colicchio’s fine book — and then execute.
LYFORD: I also loved the BNB designation — very apt. Last week the judges finally gave some constructive criticism. (Well, Padma didn’t but don’t expect miracles.) And, although Christopher Ciccone came off as a total blowhard, he did have plenty to offer in the design realm. It was nice to see at least one team run with that and learn from its errors. In retrospect, I’m glad they did a week two of Restaurant Wars because the one-day make-or-break challenge was really asking a lot of the chefs. Although I enjoyed watching the teamwork among clashing personalities, I really hope that at this point in the game we’re done with team challenges. Individual challenges are the only way to make sure the least competent contestant leaves. Side note: Am I the only one who thought it was hilarious that the openly gay male contestant was the one who mentioned the fact that Ciccone is Madonna’s brother? Just sayin’.
GALLO: The two rounds of “Restaurant Wars” also demonstrate how tough it is to cook and serve in a restaurant setting. Inventing dishes and executing the ideas floating around your head is one thing; getting dishes prepared in a timely fashion and meeting a chef’s expectations is no easy task. It suddenly elevates the respect I have for the “Hell’s Kitchen” contestants who enter with specific or marginal skills and then have to work as a team.
LYFORD: That’s what’s great about all these competition shows. You may bring the skills, but do you have the maturity, management acumen and demeanor to make those skills work for you in the real world? Tre seemed to have the total package. It’ll be interesting to see who emerges now. And does anyone think Rock from “HK” could have held his own among the “TC” group? I think he would have been sent packing within the first three weeks.
GALLO: In the first “wars” segment, Colicchio did a great play by play and by sitting in the kitchen for the second round, it seemed like he was setting himself up to do it again. But he didn’t. Yet at the end of the night he gave astute and accurate assessments of what we saw — or at least the editors felt compelled to include his comments at length. As a home chef, that’s where you learn.
LYFORD: I guess the point of having him in the kitchen was to put him in a fly-on-the-wall position to assess how the teams worked together and observe their problem solving skills. I had to laugh when he tasted Tre’s dish, clearly hated it, but said nothing. It certainly gave him a different perspective than the front-of-the-house group. Sara most likely won this challenge based on what Tom saw in the trenches — she was organized, calm and, after being a mouse all season, has finally located her backbone.
GALLO: Bringing back that pesky Steven from season 1 was a solid piece of casting. Funny how he learns nothing: He went overboard with the wine service, overwhelming the guests with information and tasting notes. Wine pros know to tell the diner what they are serving, perhaps noting one small fact why it was chosen to go with a dish and be done with it. If a patron asks, fill them in. There’s not going to be a test after dinner in which the varietals in the red wine have to be identified.
LYFORD: Leopards don’t change their spots and the producers had to be keenly aware of that when they chose to bring Steven back. Dale did a lot of things wrong as host, including the misguided sartorial choice of jeans and a polo shirt, but he did do one thing right; he attempted to rein in the chatty sommelier.