Top Chef: Kentucky: Surprise...It's Restaurant Wars
December 29, 2018 7:10 AM - Season 16, Episode 4 - Subscribe

In a massive twist, Padma's favorite challenge Restaurant Wars comes early this year, but before the chefs gear up for battle, they must first duke it out in an amuse bouche-based Quickfire for Top Chef alum turned James Beard Award winning chefs: Karen Akunowicz and Nina Compton. Then, the gauntlet has been thrown and with twelve chefs remaining, three restaurants will be battling for victory. James Beard Award winning restaurateur Caroline Styne joins as the guest judge along with Nilou Motamed. And if this unexpected chaos isn't enough, Tom leaves the Chefs breathless with an announcement that will change the course of the competition.
posted by nightrecordings (9 comments total)
Brandon surprised me! He seemed like a real team player. I was impressed how he gave helpful feedback to his teammates but not in a bossy way.

I was very surprised the teal team was struggling but I guess after they spent the evening drinking in the hot tub, I shouldn't be.

My spouse and I agreed those restaurants will probably smell like fresh paint.

My girl Nina came back!!!!! She has won a James Beard!!!!! She got to judge an amuse bouche, the thing she should have gotten credit for in her finale!!!!!!
posted by Emmy Rae at 3:36 PM on December 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

Has Nick been back on the show since he won? I wouldn't be surprised if he had and I've missed it, but definitely odd and telling if he hasn't been invited back.
posted by Carillon at 5:18 PM on December 29, 2018

A little annoyed by this episode. Why do they set the chefs up for failure? My favorite thing about Top Chef vs other kitchen competitions is the chefs are not only very good, but they're generally given space to succeed. They make amazing things. But Restaurant Wars every year is a mess and this one seemed triply so. Not having the table arrangement done early so no one could plan service is just ridiculous.

I do like seeing front of house taken seriously. But then so few of the contestants on Top Chef are equipped to do it.

Clearly seems to me on Restaurant Wars that the best strategy is to lay low. Be one of the two line cooks, bang out two dishes, done.
posted by Nelson at 12:59 AM on December 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

It's hard to tell how much of this was deliberate sabotage by the producers and how much of it is just that it's really hard to create a restaurant overnight.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:38 AM on December 30, 2018

The Top Chef producers have set up restaurants overnight 16 times now. You'd think they'd have some vague idea of what works and what doesn't. I mean I get that it really must be difficult, particularly hiring service workers who can come in for one night and do that job well. But I'd still rather watch the contestants in an environment where success is likely and failure is from their mistakes, not because no one showed up with tables until 2 hours before dinner.
posted by Nelson at 7:43 AM on December 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

I couldn’t tell if the restaurants were being set up especially late or if we were just seeing much more front-of-house frenzy as a result of this being a two-part episode. It seemed like one restaurant—the team of Pablo and Brandon, maybe—was noticeably more together FOH-wise than the other two.

I’d really like to see them set more things up for the chefs as far as physical space and make them do both lunch and dinner service again so everyone has to take a leadership role and nobody can hide. That may be my favorite Restaurant Wars of all.
posted by epj at 4:29 PM on December 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Mr. Freedom and I were wondering where they get the staff - local culinary schools? It seemed that they had a lot more people who were clueless this time around.

I absolutely hated that this was a two-parter and they didn't let us know until the final 10 minutes. Ugh, I was really annoyed at not getting the catharsis of judging, especially since with this many people, it is hard to keep track of who is in charge of what and which team is which.
posted by chainsofreedom at 9:36 AM on January 1, 2019

I echo the sentiments about setting contestants up for success versus failure. It's why I don't watch Food Network series like Chopped. "All three dishes will be gross, but which will be the worst?" I don't find that fun. The servers' lack of experience was apparent and annoying. Top Chef is lucky enough to attract real talent, and I want to see them compete at higher levels. This show should have graduated beyond the traditional reality TV recipe of getting people drunk and watching them train-wreck.

I also hate two-part episodes. If you want to film a soap opera, then go film a soap opera. This is supposed to be a competition. If every episode doesn't feature an elimination, then you're misunderstanding your job as producers.

And yeah, these shows are often unwieldy toward the beginning with so many contestants. Survivor does a good job navigating that, in part because of the tribe divisions. It's one of the few things that I think Top Chef—which is, overall, well produced—really struggles with every season.
posted by cribcage at 8:30 AM on January 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ha, I love Chopped! The curveball they throw contestants there is the basket of 4 ingredients, one of which is nearly guaranteed to be either something bizarre and unknown, something gross, or something difficult to cook in 30 minutes. But that's it, and it's right up front, and in the past few years the curveballs have been more towards the interesting challenge (goose breast) than the gross challenge (canned chicken). They are given a failure, it's true, but no one's sabotaging them or adding surprises along the way. The more recent seasons have also been attracting better chefs which helps a lot; I didn't much care for the episodes that feature 4 grandmas who are adorable but have no idea how to turn out a restaurant meal in 30 minutes.

While I'm off topic I can't say enough nice things about Lords and Ladles, a fantasy cooking show set in Irish castles. It's not a contest at all and everyone cooperates and is labelled a winner at the end of every episode. It's also charming and historically interesting.
posted by Nelson at 2:58 AM on January 9, 2019

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