Even in what some consider to be a "down" year for Top Chef, restaurant wars—the most enduring and popular challenge on the show—didn't cease to entertain. Restaurateur Stephen Starr embraced the guest judge role quite well (he even cut off Toby Young's only extended metaphor; something about Elvis...), Stefan relished his role as the most despised/talented chef, Carla continued her streak of awe-inspiring quotes, and once again, Absinthe's Jamie Lauren proved herself to be one of the power players. Let's hop along to the recap, shall we?
1) The only things worse than the actual HosLeah hookup storyline were the producers' continued reminders of said storyline throughout the episode. We get it: they feel bad and are now awkward together.
2) Quickfire: The challenge is to create a signature dish for a prospective restaurant concept. Fabio's idea is a restaurant that serves lunch. Really.
3) Smartest move of the episode comes from Jamie, who has clearly done her Top Chef homework (or is just a superfan). She notes that the leader who loses Restaurant Wars often goes home, so she doesn't even try to win the Quickfire. Radhika and Leah, however, do win, and thus get to take the lead for Restaurant Wars.
4) Team Radhika: The concept: Sahana, featuring global cuisine from the Middle East/India.
The staff: Jeff, Carla and JL.
The good: JL and Jeff carry the load on the food sans any serious miscues.
The bad: Radhika does her best Daria impression and is a predictable trainwreck as the FOH person and team leader. Carla—the self-proclaimed "hot mess"—serves soupy, non-frozen yogurt.
5) Team Leah: The concept: the unfortunately-named Sunset Lounge, featuring Asian fusion cuisine.
The staff: HosLeah, Fabio, and Stefan, who is picked last because he's a big fat jerk.
The good: Fabio is an obvious charmer in the FOH. Stefan single-handedly wins over the judges with his desserts.
The bad: Leah serves bony, raw cod to the judges. They anoint it the single-worst dish of the night.
6) Sidenote: When did modifiers like "nicely" and "gorgeous" become so common in chefs' explanation of the dishes? It's not only on the show either; we've noticed servers do this more often in local restaurants too. Is it really necessary to note that the microgreens next to the potato are "beautifully plated"?
7) Judgment: The four judges are split on whose food was better, but ultimately decide that thanks to Fabio's attention in the dining room and Stefan's desserts' lasting impressions, Sunset Lounge was the better "restaurant experience." Thankfully, Toby Young's screentime is minimal.
8) Elimination comes down to Carla and Radhika. Carla has an epic, epic explanation of her dessert disaster—which somehow included the exclamation "That is my belief Tom!"—and we'll let guest recapper Max Silvestri do the honors. Writes he: "Carla gives a completely infuriating and nonsensical explanation for why she thinks she did a great job despite her terrible desserts. 'Yeah, my food was a mess, but I had fun out there. It's important I had fun. I am sending out smile vibes, and I know that the fact that I'm smiling in the kitchen can be tested in my yogurt soup. That's my belief. If I just put a little dash of fun and smiles into everything I cook horribly, the people out there can tell how those vibes they are tasting are happy smile vibes. I keep my pee in jars in a fridge I hide in my mind and I can smell ghosts. I'm so crazy.'"
9) Unfortunately, poor Radhika gets the boot. Considering Sunset Lounge's undercooked fish disaster and the fact that Radhika got chopped not for her cooking, but for her failures as a hostess, Leah probably deserved to go home. As for Carla, well, we can't wait to hear what she says next week. Oooo have mercy.
· All Top Chef Coverage [~ESF~]