For the second week in a row, Top Chef: Kentucky didn’t showcase a lot of Kentucky, but it’s okay because we were treated to the challenge of the season earlier than usual: Restaurant Wars. To the recap!
This week’s Quickfire Challenge is to create an “amuse bouche,” aka the perfect bite. The chefs are given 30 minutes and split into three groups based on the types of plates they’ll have to use: Chinese spoons, ramekins, or small plates. The guest judges are Top Chef alums and James Beard award winners Karen Akunowicz and Nina Compton, who reminisce about how stressful the show was.
Brandon’s chowder, Eric’s curry bisque, and Michelle’s halibut with compressed watermelon finish in the top three while Adrienne’s bell pepper-wrapped lamb, David’s pasta, and Kelsey’s shrimp and grits hush puppy land in the bottom three. Michelle’s halibut gets top marks, which means she wins immunity, and the coy smile she gives the camera reminds me her grandmother was a shaman for the cartel. Again, don’t mess with Michelle.
Elimination Challenge: Restaurant Wars!
If you’ve watched Top Chef before, you know the highlight of every season is Restaurant Wars, where the chefs are split into two teams to open pop up restaurants. This usually comes later in the season, but the judges surprised the chefs early this year and split the group into teams of three based on their plating choices from the Quickfire Challenge. Each team will have two days to conceptualize, design, and open their restaurant, with $3,500 for ingredients and 30 minutes to plan their menu.
The Orange Team consists of Eric, Eddie, Adrienne, and Brian, and since they’re all from the Northeast, they decide to call their restaurant — wait for it — North East. They elect Brian to run the front of the house and Adrienne executive chef, and the fact that Brian is so confident about his chicken ballotine (deboned chicken stuffed and rolled before being cooked) should be a clue that this might not work out so well; however, Brian is more confident than we’ve seen him all season and stays up all night working on a server’s manual. Go Brian!
The Grey Team is Sara, Pablo, Michelle, and Brandon, and decides to call their restaurant “Thistle” since it’ll be focused on vegetable dishes, BUT NOT VEGETARIAN (that part’s in caps because the concept Sara comes up with seems to really worry Pablo. I hear you, Pablo). Sara immediately assumes control, taking the front of house role, while Michelle offers to be executive chef to take the pressure off the others since she’s got immunity. Once again, Sara’s confidence seems to rub her teammates — in this case, Pablo — the wrong way, but she seems at ease organizing the servers and setting things up.
The Teal Team is made up of Kelsey, Nini, Justin, and David. Since the majority of them are from the South, they name their restaurant “Third Coast” with a modern antebellum theme, or, as Justin calls it, “Forrest Gump’s mom’s house 2.0.” Hilariously, they hold their team meeting in the giant jacuzzi at the mansion while drinking champagne, but the good vibes quickly wear off. Nini takes the role of front of house and immediately seems in over her head, which is even more worrisome since she’s also doing a complicated ice cream dessert that requires stirring before service. Cue the foreshadowing! Like a true Southern boss lady, Kelsey steps in and takes control when she realizes the servers have no idea what they’re doing, which annoys Justin and David because they need her in the kitchen.
With two minutes left until the restaurants open, Tom steps in and drops a bomb: this is a double elimination challenge, meaning two chefs will go home. EEEK. Of course, we’ll have to wait until next week to find out who. To be continued…
My Old Kentucky Home Takes
— The only parts of Kentucky we really got to see was the Lundy’s special event warehouse in Lexington where the chefs’ pop-up restaurants are set up and a short B-Roll montage of Lexington landmarks. The Kentucky Theater sign looks good, though.
— Did you notice several of the chefs drinking Ale-8-One at the beginning? Nice touch.
— Eddie managed not to spend the team’s entire budget while at Whole Food. PROGRESS, EDDIE!
Next: Restaurant Wars, Part II. Padma spits something out and two chefs are going home. Oh, the drama!