Top Chef: Restaurant Wars
May 8, 2020 9:28 AM - Season 17, Episode 8 - Subscribe

It's Restaurant Wars and this season Padma takes all the limitations off the table as the chefs can make as much food as they want and shop wherever they choose; two chefs are given 48 hours to pick their teams and create the restaurants.

When they overstack the deck like that against one team, you know there are going to be some twists...

Surely one of the top five classiest exits in Top Chef history for Kevin, though.
posted by praemunire (15 comments total)
I think Kann was well-served by having 3 out of 4 RW losers on the team. I bet they're much more likely to focus (maybe even dwell) on what could be done better. Maybe it's the edit but I think Gregory in particular learned from his loss and did what the judges wanted from Kevin-- pared it back, enforced his vision, and strategically didn't make a dish that could be a direct point of comparison.

Considering his exit and his performance throughout the season, I'm hoping to see Kevin prosper in LCK.
posted by supercres at 11:14 AM on May 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

It is definitely worth saying, though, that as much as I might not think of a restaurant called Middle Passage as a great backdrop for a party fun time, I would not set foot into a "plantation" restaurant. WTF, KEVIN!!!!
posted by praemunire at 12:56 PM on May 8, 2020 [5 favorites]

The previews definitely wanted to tee up preparation of real drama but I was kind of glad there wasn't actually a big blowup. I was surprised with Gregory picking Malarkey first, but in retrospect that was a rather smart move knowing how experience he has in the restaurant business. He did seem to do well as front of the house. Previous FoH have melted down and even in a bad situation he would have kept his cool and he knew it was an asset skill.

With Kevin though, it was so unfortunate to see him just not execute well. He really just had too many dishes that didn't always tie together like the judges mentioned. Family style with so many dishes is going to keep people seated longer. I really think Kevin did not think of the slowed turnover at all and his vision got in the way of that. Karen was dealt with a tricky situation and I'm glad she wasn't punished for it and the judges saw that. He did go overboard with the "I'm going to be the better man and not throw others under the bus!" but at least he did that. It's very ugly IMO when I see chefs do that on the show.
posted by xtine at 4:29 PM on May 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was saying to my partner that I expected Karen to go home cause it's bullshit how the front of house goes home more than they should. But yeah that was Kevin's knife to fall on, justified for sure.

For those who didn't see it, check out this article about what it's like to dine at the restaurant wars restaurants, more specifically Kevin's.
posted by Carillon at 9:32 PM on May 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

There were some really squicky parts to this episode starting with when Kevin told LeAnn that she "shanghaied" him. What even was that menu? It seemed very Russian in some respects with dill and caviar and mushrooms. Is that a real Georgia tradition that I don't know about? Did women his great grandmother's age who owned plantations even do their own cooking? At first I wondered how you could be a chef in 2020 and talk about Southern cuisine and omit any reference to African influences, but now I realize that they were bending over backwards not to, since it would mean talking about his family and how they owned a plantation.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:34 AM on May 9, 2020

What a satisfying episode. A very different Restaurant Wars, where the concept and menu is entirely determined by one person and the other chefs are basically line cooks. Voltaggio even acknowledged as much. I'm a little surprised the other egos went along with it but I have to think part of their calculation is "well, I'm clearly not the one whose head is on the chopping block if this goes bad". Kevin and Greg took on enormous risk. I admire Kevin owned up to his responsibility in the end.

As a former Southern boy Kevin's menu made perfect sense to me. It looked like what we would have had at the Confederate House (no really) in Houston in the 1980s. Southern fine dining, where the mashed potatoes are put in a cut crystal bowl and the gravy is served out of the family silver. I didn't even blink an eye at his using the word "plantation"; it's literally a style of architecture and design. (While also being rooted in a history of severe, vicious racism.) The canape was the highlight of the meal, IMHO. But there's a bunch of reasons family style fine dining that overwhelms you with courses is not a thing any more and it seemed very odd for Kevin to try a throwback with it. Also to use the wrong curry powder in his Country Captain. I mean come on, that's the backbone of the dish. Do it right or don't.

I wish they showed more about Gregory's fish, "Roasted red snapper marinated in scotch bonnets & cilantro with Caribbean root vegetables ". It was clearly the star of the menu but it barely got any airtime at all. I'd also love to read Gregory's whole text in the menu explaining what the Haitian food meant to him. Anyone have it?
posted by Nelson at 7:15 AM on May 9, 2020

Reading that history of the country captain, it seems like two classes of people made it. Army families, and upper class who would pick recipes out for their house staff to cook.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:37 AM on May 9, 2020

I didn't even blink an eye at his using the word "plantation"; it's literally a style of architecture and design. (While also being rooted in a history of severe, vicious racism.)

No attempt to evoke a "plantation" aesthetic as aspirational can escape racism, I'm sorry. There are some concepts with connotations that are unavoidable even if that's not your intent (and I'm sure Kevin wasn't setting out to wave any Confederate flags). Any time you're tempted to use the word "plantation" in some sort of recreational sense, substitute in "slave camp" and see if it still feels appropriate. If not, find something else. (Leave that language out, there's no problem with serving the food.)

I don't know that Kevin's family were slaveowners--I'm not sure the timeline works out for even his grandmother to have been. In fact, they probably weren't. It's the disconnect of the actual experience from a whitewashed aesthetic that makes its deployment in this context imaginable to the people using it.
posted by praemunire at 3:35 PM on May 9, 2020 [4 favorites]

Thank you praemunire.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:46 PM on May 9, 2020

This was a good episode, and I think the challenge last week when the concepts were chosen made for a far smoother, albeit drama-free, experience for chefs, judges and diners.

Like xtine,I was surprised when Malarkey was Gregory's first pick, but it was a wise move. It allowed him to channel all that energy into doing something other than annoying the shit out of everyone else. He has a lot of experience and it showed.

Kevin's exit was gracious and I too hope he comes through LKC, although not at the expense of Michelle, Karen or Stephanie.

The slow-burn I've enjoyed this season is Bryan Voltaggio's bewilderment that he is not running away with this competition. He can't understand why he hasn't won every challenge and it must have galled him this week to be relegated to the role of sous chef.
posted by essexjan at 3:01 AM on May 10, 2020 [5 favorites]

I can't figure out why Voltaggio is even there - he seems to just blend into the background. He hasn't done anything stunning so far, as far as I can remember.

I am SO SO glad that Gregory won, and I was also pleased with Stephanie and Gregory stepping in, gently, to let Leanne know she was being a bit much. She knew that's what they were saying, too, you could see her evaluating, and then she said, "Okay," and stepped back to cool off. Very well done all around.
posted by chainsofreedom at 1:41 PM on May 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

The more I watch this season, the more I hope that Gregory can get his own restaurant. And hopefully it will be in Portland. I will be happy to support it!
posted by hydra77 at 12:35 PM on May 13, 2020

Gregory Gourdet is working on his own restaurant, here's an article about it from Nov 2019. He's been a senior chef at Departure (the hipster bar at The Nines) for a decade now. Hopefully he got lucky with the timing and isn't already paying money on a now-closed restaurant.

He also has a cookbook coming, Everyone’s Table: Global Recipes for Modern Health. And looking at his Insta he just got a James Beard nomination, too.

(Why yes, I am a Gregory fan boy. I'm sure it's entirely out of respect for his fantastic cooking skills and compelling personal story and has nothing at all to do with the fact that he's also really cute.)
posted by Nelson at 1:45 PM on May 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Holy cow! I was in Portland a year ago for a conference, and one evening was a group dining event and I picked Departure, and had such a great experience I brought my wife there when she arrived a couple days later. (I never eat at the same place twice on a single trip somewhere -- there's always somewhere else interesting to try.) I never knew that there was a Top Chef connection until just now; we stopped watching after the New Orleans season travesty. Gregory was already a favourite at our household; this is exciting. (I may also have bought a cabbage today to try making pickliz on the weekend.)
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:08 PM on May 13, 2020

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