“Top Chef: California” recap (13.9): Restaurant Wars – Part One

Previously on Top Chef, Beardy went home and some other stuff happened, but you don’t even care because it’s time for Restaurant Wars! The episode opens on some teaser shots of all the shit that’s about to go down in this two-week culinary showdown. One word: drama.

The chefs all know Restaurant Wars is happening, and they’re basically a bunch of little kids on Christmas Eve. They arrive at an empty space to meet up with my girl Padma and their guest judge Bill Chait, who owns a bunch of L.A. restaurants. The chefs break into song:

Apparently Kwame wrote that little ditty (awww), and obviously Padma fucking loves it.

img1Actual hearteyes

Padma tries to psych out the chefs for a second by telling them that they actually aren’t doing Restaurant Wars, before being like, “lol jk jk, I got you guys good!” Can’t you just imagine Padma practising that in the mirror? I can.

Anyway, they obviously are doing Restaurant Wars! Padma has them draw knives—Amar (first choice) and Karen (second choice) are team captains! Amar chooses Kwame and Karen picks Marjorie, because uteruses before duderuses. The teams round out to be Karen, Marjorie, Boston Carl, and Cajun; and Amar, Kwame, Baldy, and Bunhead. Amar basically only picks Bunhead because he knows Bunhead wants to do Front of House and Amar does not want to touch that shit with a 10-foot pole.

Padma drops the first drama bomb on the chefs: they have 24 hours to plan and execute for dinner AND lunch service. While the chefs are still reeling from that news, Padma drops drama bomb #2: Each chef has to take a turn at Front of House and Executive Chef.

The teams start to brainstorm on themes and names and menus and, shockingly, Amar’s team seems to actually work well together (even with Bunhead). On the other side, Karen, Marjorie, and Boston Carl are on the same page, but things are not vibing with Cajun. The teams go shopping for furniture and Kwame is a lot more ruthless than I expected. He shoots down Bunhead’s mason jars and tells Baldy that seats must have backs to them. Honestly, I’m into it. Kwame’s team lets him down at Whole Foods a little bit by not picking up any bacon for him and then Baldy is kind of a dick about it. Boo.

Food prep goes alright for both teams. Karen is trying to make about a billion tortellini, which seems like a miserable task. Bunhead is raving about some salad that’s “sure to be a hit,” so, obviously, I hope it fails spectacularly. (The worst parts of me come out during Top Chef recaps. I’m so sorry.) Boston Carl’s terrine meat isn’t cold enough (that’s… not what she said? IDK), so the texture is weird and I have a feeling that might come back to haunt him tomorrow. Baldy’s making a risotto, which has historically been kind of cursed on Top Chef. The chefs head back home for the night and Cajun is thanking his lucky stars that he’s not on the ego-packed bro team. So say we all, my friend.


The next day, the chefs have three hours to get their restaurants set up and their lunch service ready. It’s definitely a scramble. On Team Karen, Cajun is the first Exec Chef and Marjorie is Front of House, while on Team Amar, Baldy is Exec Chef and Kwame is Front of House (but really Bunhead seems to be trying to run things). Cajun seems pretty disorganized, which I’m very worried about (and so is Karen, I think).

The judges head to Team Amar’s spot, District L.A., first. Baldy decides to put the judges’ order ahead of all the other tables. Bunhead disagrees and I think this is the first time in the whole season that I found myself nodding along to something Bunhead said. The judges like District L.A.’s first course, but notice that a lot of other tables aren’t getting fed. The second course is just kind of meh, but nothing is bad.

Over at Team Karen’s restaurant, Palate, Marjorie is dealing with a lot of tables loitering post-meal. In a move that just might belong in a Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoon, Marjorie lures a table away with promises of free sparkling wine if they’ll just follow her. She leads them away from the table, gives them wine, thanks them for coming, and then just leaves them. It’s amazing!


Unfortunately, the judges arrive when she’s in the kitchen, so the first impression is not great. The judges, especially Tom, do not like Boston Carl’s terrine, and Marjorie’s beets are fine. The second course is a lot better, and Karen’s steak salad is probably the best dish they had all afternoon! (YAY!)

Back at District L.A., things are just straight up falling the fuck apart. Because they ignored all their other tables in favor of the judges, they now have a line out the door. Team Palate has finished service and can begin turning everything over for dinner service, but Team District is scrambling to feed people. They don’t even manage to serve all their diners, which is a very bad thing, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess. We’ll have to tune in next week to find out because Restaurant Wars is to be continued!