Restaurant Wars is one of Top Chef’s biggest season challenges, and this season’s battle was the toughest yet, with two contestants getting sent home by the end of the episode.
In last week’s episode, we saw the contestants split into three teams to create their own pop-up restaurants. They had two days to design a restaurant concept and menu and prepare food (three courses, two options per course) for 100 guests.
While they all started out with gusto, by the end of the episode cracks were starting to form among the teams in terms of stress, delegating and executing tasks, and time management.
And the restaurants are open for business! At the start of the episode Brian is greeting guests for his team’s eatery, North East, while Sara is serving as head of house for Thistle and Nini is greeting diners for Third Coast.
Right off the bat in the North East kitchen, Adrienne is on edge. She doesn’t like how the servers are writing up the order tickets, and notes some table number confusion.
Food starts arriving at tables and right from the get-go, half an order is missing. Not the best start. Adrienne’s mood doesn’t improve from there, either.
Over at Thistle, Sara is cool, calm, and collected (what Adrienne swore she’d be last week, but so much for that), filling wine glasses and chatting up diners with ease.
In the kitchen, Brandon tells Michelle she needs to speak up because she’s too soft-spoken, and once it gets very busy, that’s going to be a big issue.
Third Coast is scrambling to train the servers at the last minute in the front of the house, while in the kitchen, the chefs frantically scramble to shuck oysters, as their original plan to preshuck oysters didn’t happen, so they’re shucking and cooking at the same time.
Padma and crew start up at North East. Karen and Nina are back, too! It’s a party! A very judgmental party, but a party nonetheless! The team hustles to make sure their food is perfect. Padma likes the clean look. Caroline thinks the color scheme is calming.
Tom notes there is no food coming out and no one is eating, while Padma orders one of everything. No one else orders at all, so hopefully Padma shares!
Adrienne is running around like crazy. So much for her promise last week to be able to calmly execute under any circumstances.
Time to dig in! The judges love Brian’s chicken ballotine and like Eric’s scallops, but his pork is super salty. Eddie’s New York strip with braised cabbage gets praise for presentation and taste.
Over to Thistle! There’s some struggles to get the right food to the right tables. At Third Coast, Kelsey notices the tickets aren’t coming in correctly. That’s going to be a big red flag for this team throughout the evening.
Back at North East, it’s time to serve desserts. Adrienne has prepared a marsala-roasted peach and yogurt mousse and a triple cream cheese course.
Tom and Karen love the cheese plate, and Caroline digs the peach, though Nilou felt she played it safe. Check, please, as it’s time to head over to another restaurant.
As the judges arrive at Thistle, Sara greets them and then explains the menu in pretty intricate detail. Padma looks like she’s about to fall asleep, and then politely cuts Sara off since they still have another restaurant to visit.
The servers at all three restaurants are pretty inept. One server didn’t know which one was Padma. That’s concerning for all sorts of reasons. The first courses arrive, and they like Michelle’s pasta, but weren’t fans of Sara’s soup.
For the second course, they try Pablo’s scallops with sunchokes, as well as short ribs, which was a collaborative effort from the entire team.
It doesn’t go well. Padma spits out an artichoke, and while everyone else swallows their bites, no one has anything positive to say.
Time for dessert, which will hopefully erase the taste of the sad second courses. Brandon made soy milk custard with strawberries and almond streusel and a goat crème roulade with blueberries and candy corn (candy corn?).
Judges love the texture of the custard, but other diners weren’t fans, with one noting it’s bland. No one understands the candy corn.
Padma and company dine and dash as they head over to Third Coast. People have been waiting a long time for food, and servers are mixing up tables left and right.
Food is going out to wrong tables, and servers are coming back with the dishes and not knowing which table should receive said dishes. Who hired the servers for these three restaurants? Yikes!
Nini runs out to greet the judges, who note the restaurant’s bright colors and homey atmosphere. Most common mistake for restaurants, according to Caroline, is a poorly trained staff. You don’t say, Caroline!
Kelsey is livid with the servers, who are just taking random plates to random tables and then bringing the food back. David worries they’ll run out of food, and notes Nini isn’t communicating with the kitchen at all.
Padma alerts Nini to the fact that people are waiting to be seated, while the kitchen is back to shucking oysters.
Out comes the first courses — well, one first course: Justin’s crawfish bisque. Where is the second dish? Finally, the oysters come out. Nina notes they’re very acidic. Other diners felt they were lacking.
Servers continue to wander aimlessly around with plates of food. Maybe next season the casting call should be for experienced servers, or at least people who have stepped foot in restaurants before?
Third Coast’s second course arrives at the judges’ table: A team effort red snapper with corn and crab salad and fried green tomatoes.
The judges enjoy it well enough. Other tables like it, too! A win for Third Coast! David made creole-spiced duck for the second option. The duck is cooked perfectly, but Tom thinks the Cajun spices were a bit lost.
Apparently there’s a table still waiting on apps, but Kelsey is prepping their desserts. There is major confusion and Justin is starting to seriously (and understandably) lose his cool.
He’s not used to seeing most of his food come back into the kitchen immediately because no one’s sure what table it belongs to, and Nini doesn’t seem to have a clue what’s going on. A fight ensues.
Another problem for poor Nini: Her ice cream never hardened. Kelsey doesn’t have time to fix it. Nini notices desserts going out without her ice cream and begs Kelsey to try and fix it.
Padma notes to Nini, who can’t seem to catch a break, that a 10:15 reservation is still waiting for a table and it’s past 11.
Can Third Coast end on a sweet note with its desserts? Yes and no. Kelsey’s buttermilk panna cotta and biscuits gets three cheers, but Nini’s chocolate dessert is a bust.
A patron is tired of waiting for food and starts eating a banana that he’d apparently brought with him. That might be officially rock bottom for poor Third Coast.
And with that, the restaurants close their doors.
Shortly thereafter, the teams head to the judges’ table for feedback and elimination.
The winner of Restaurant Wars is announced … and it’s North East! Yay! Caroline was impressed with Brian’s ability to write a training manual. Everybody loved the chicken ballotine. Brian managed to pull off his ambitious dish, and it paid off big time.
And then the winning chef is announced: Brian! He says he didn’t see it coming. He’s too humble! And best of all, each chef on the team has won $10,000!
With that, it’s time to deal out some harsh truths for Thistle and Third Coast.
Padma starts with Thistle. Michelle admits she didn’t have a chance to taste everything that went out because of time constraints. Sara’s soup gets called out, as does Pablo’s dish.
Last but certainly not least is the feedback for Third Coast. Justin said the staff was a mess because they had no training, and Nini admitted she was in charge of training but felt like she was being pulled in different directions.
As for the food, the oysters left much to be desired, but the entrees were good. Everyone agrees that Kelsey rocked her dessert. Kelsey tries to take responsibility for Nini’s poorly executed dessert, saying she was in charge of plating, though Nini says it mostly came out how she envisioned.
But two chefs need to pack up their knives and go, and after much deliberation (well, some deliberation, since most of us had an idea of who was heading home), it was Pablo and Nini who were eliminated. Can one of them make a comeback in Last Chance Kitchen? You’ll have to head to Bravo’s website to find out.