This week’s Top Chef: Kentucky picks up where last week’s left off: Restaurant Wars. Just before the doors to their pop-up restaurants opened, the chefs were informed that this is a double elimination, meaning two of them are going home. But, you know, no pressure or anything. To the recap!
Guests start to file in to each of the three restaurants, and to my surprise, look who it is: TERRY MEINERS! Being the Kentucky royalty that they are, Terry and his wife Mary were invited to the taping and ate at North East, the restaurant run by Eric, Eddie, Adrienne, and Brian. This ended up being a blessing. More on Terry later.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how each restaurant fared when the judges hit the floor:
North East: Eric, Eddie, Adrienne (Executive Chef), and Brian (Front of House)
Apparently assigning numbers to tables and getting the correct dishes to them is really hard because each team struggled with it; however, Adrienne and Brian seem to tackle this issue better than the rest. I had to laugh when the hostess didn’t recognize Padma and her power suit when the judges walked in, but hey, that’s probably good for Padma. Humbling.
The judges worry the rest of the patrons’ food is coming out too slowly, so Brian and Adrienne kick it in to gear and get the food out. Tom says Brian’s chicken ballotine is perfectly cooked, which is surprising given the attention to it in last week’s episode (usually a death knell). Eddie’s striped bass crudo was dubbed “the forgotten crudo” by a patron because it was so bland, but his NY strip is great and his puree “eats like magic” (whatever that means). The pork in Eric’s scallops dish is way too salty, which you could have guessed when Adrienne admits it was the one dish she didn’t have time to taste. The judges love Adrienne’s cheese course and the peach dessert. Bland crudo and salty pork aside, North East did great, and Adrienne and Brian worked together well. Watching Terry Meiners sneak glances at the judges in the background is an added bonus.
Thistle: Sara (Front of House), Pablo, Michelle (Executive Chef), and Brandon
As mentioned, table numbers are an issue! Shoutout to Kentucky girl Sara for trying her hardest to help the serving staff and treat them right, unlike Kelsey, who (uncharacteristically?) screams at them to stop talking in the kitchen. I’ve been a little hard on Sara so far because she comes off as cocky sometimes but she was great this episode, even if she took too long to explain the menu. Unfortunately, the judges didn’t enjoy the candied ginger in her gazpacho. They love Michelle’s sweet pea pasta but dislike the side items of Pablo’s scallop dish and the ribs, which one of the guest judges and Padma joke would bounce off the cement if you dropped it off a building they were so rubbery. Ouch! Brandon’s custard and goat cheese roulade are fine.
Third Coast: Kelsey, Nini (Front of House), Justin (Executive Chef), and David
Oh boy. For as great as Nini is in the kitchen, she is horrible at the front of the house stuff. Predictably, she’s so scrambled and rattled she forgets to stir her ice cream, which means it’s basically soup, so Kelsey doesn’t serve it. When Nini finds out, she goes into the kitchen and tells Kelsey she feels “betrayed”…well, maybe you should have remembered to stir? Or just made something less complicated? Be competent in one area, please!
With people waiting over 90 minutes for a table and dishes going to the wrong tables left and right, Third Coast is sinking just as the judges show up. They can’t help but notice the number of people waiting around and Padma calls Nini over to ask about it. She replies they’re trying to “squeeze people in” which earns an eye roll from Tom. Justin’s crawfish bisque is way too thick and bland, just as he feared, and the oysters take too long coming out, a giveaway that the kitchen is behind. All the while, more plates are going to the wrong tables and Justin starts to lose his cool in the kitchen. The judges like the red snapper dish, a team effort, and David’s Creole-spiced duck, although there was nothing Creole about it. Kelsey’s buttermilk panna cotta gets high marks, with Padma calling it “one of the most beautiful desserts” she’s ever seen on the show. On the flip side, Nini’s dessert is a flop.
Even though Tom claims there were no runaway favorites, it’s pretty easy to guess the winners and losers in this one. North East is declared the most successful restaurant, with Brian getting the top mark for handling the front of house like a pro and turning in an impressive dish. See what happens when you stay up all night writing a server’s manual? Well done, Brian! Everyone on North East gets $10,000. Sweet!
Nini’s front of house failure and Pablo’s scallops and rubbery ribs send them to the chopping block. It feels like Pablo’s been on the decline for a few weeks, so it was probably his time anyways, but Nini had just won two straight challenges. It’s a cruel world, this Top Chef!
My Old Kentucky Home Takes
Again, nothing outside of the Lundy’s warehouse to feast our eyes on, but it was good to see a familiar face in Terry Meiners. After the episode, Terry tweeted that he enjoyed the experience but took his friends out for some real food afterwards:
Thanks to all who've contacted Mary and me to tell us we were on tonight's @BravoTopChef show. It was fun but we were still hungry after the taping in Lexington. Our 20+ group all went to Tolly Ho for burgers and fries. Now THAT'S some serious grill work! ?? pic.twitter.com/QpMXYtilIe
— Terry Meiners (@terrymeiners) January 4, 2019
Next week: 1920’s theme party. I bet they go to a speakeasy in Louisville, don’t you?