TOP CHEF RECAP: Restaurant Wars And Fish Peace-es

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This is a Recap of Top Chef All-Stars (Season 8), Episode 7, entitled “Restaurant Wars: One Night only”, originally airing January 19th, 2011. It contains spoilers about penises, just FYI.

For the Quickfire, we head to Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin to meet the mythical folk hero Justo Thomas, the fish prepper who butchers “1000 pounds of fish every day” and when he’s out it takes “three trained sous chefs to do his job.” He also pulls crooked roads straight, drinks gasoline and farts Dom, and built the Empire State Building by hand as a life-sized replica of his d*ck.

After a bunch of hobos spin yarns about Justo’s superhuman filleting feats, Bourdain declares “I think we know what comes next. That’s right – guest judge Jimmy Breslin will give you a New York street number and you have to cook a dish that represents the essence of that number, because New York cuisine is all about knowing the number of the street the restaurant is on so you can go to it.”

Nah, it’s a fish filleting challenge:

The chefs each get 10 minutes to prep one cod and one fluke, even though it only took Chef John Henry over there eight minutes to do it. Most of the chefs accomplish this task without any difficulty, proving that the “it takes 3 sous chefs to do his job” comment was complete bullsh*t.

I guess that’s the whole Quickfire. Four way tie. PSYCHTWIST! The top four prepping chefs (Dale, Marcel, Mike, and Richard) have to cook a dish from the discarded remains of the fish they prepped. Cool challenge! Although, if the point is to prove that the fish heads and wings shouldn’t be discarded, that kind of undermines the fact that Le Bernardin completely discards them, right? NO TIME TO THINK MUST COOK.

Fortunately, Dale’s family “has been doing head and nose cooking before it was even cool.” Oh yeah? Well I saw head and nose cooking open for Television at CBGB’s in ’76 when it was just the two of them and a woodblock full of heroin and they passed out while trying to fight each other and that became their first EP. Who’s the cool now dawg?

Dale wins immunity for his two dishes, a Bacon Dashi with Salt Roasted Cod Collar and a Fluke Back Fin Sashimi with Cucumber and Fluke Liver Sauce, marking the first time ever someone did two dishes when asked for one and didn’t immediately get criticized for spreading themselves thin. I guess he was cooking heads before it was cool.

Onto the Elimination Challenge. It’s Restaurant Wars! Everyone’s like, “For MOI????” There’s 10 of you guys, it’s always Restaurant Wars when there’s a nice even number. Yeww knewwww thatttt. Little scamps.

Bravo brings back some painful Restaurant Wars footage from yesteryear – Tom: “Who cooked the chicken?” Marcel: “Me.” Tom: “We hated the chicken.” FLOLashback! Why is a little cartoon raincloud following Marcel around now? Hrm.

The guest judge is Ludo Lefevbre, the guy who really sucked in Masters and made a million excuses. Ludo is opening two “Pop Up Restaurants” in L.A., and explains that Pop-Up restaurants are restaurants that change their menu and staff “Every night, or sometimes every 2-3 months.” You know what other kind of restaurants change their menu every 2-3 months? Restaurants.

There’s another twist: This Restaurant Wars, the DINERS will pick the winner. And the winning chef will win $10,000, which absolutely shocks everyone:

Dale picks Marcel as his rival Captain, because he doesn’t want to work with him (which turns out to be an incredible move), and the Top Chef fantasy draft results in the following –

Team Marcel: Angelo, Mike Isabella, Antonia, Tiffany

Team Dale: Richard, Tre, Fabio, Carla, Brady Quinn (last pick)

Marcel explains, “It’s all about assembling a motherf***in’ team. I tried to assemble the most talent.” I disagree with that approach. But can Marcel actually work well with oth–never mind, he’s already yelling at people. I think he’s writing down yelling in his yellpad. This doesn’t bode well – although, I actually predicted that Bravo was editing this too obviously to set up Marcel’s team for a surprising win, but I predicted wronglike. Only this Restaurant Wars, the DINERS will pick the winner.

Fabio takes front of the house duties again so he can charm people with his accent and go down on Dana Cowin. He explains “Food will be 50%, I will provide the other 50%” He is then shown telling a waiter to put a tablecloth on the table. They’re 50% of the way there! Only this Restaurant Wars, the DINERS will pick the winner.

Dale’s Team names its restaurant “Bodega”, in a whimsical homage to New York street shops, and decides to cook every dish using 7-year old Goya cans on top of Airheads. Tom says he doesn’t quite understand the “Bodega” concept — really, Tom? It’s the exact kind of lame-ass “whimsy” that you food people find hilarious, even though you probably all scoff at Dumb and Dumber because it’s too lowbrow for you. I hate all of you. If you actually think that. Which I decide that you definitely do.

Marcel’s Team names its restaurant “Etch”, because they are going to lose:

Here’s a sign that makes even less sense:

The diners arrive. Too bad Top Chef scrapped the “design the interior” aspect of Restaurant Wars last season — I really enjoyed the contestchefs walking into Pier One and seeing a Buddha and being like “we’re gonna buy that Buddha” then putting the Buddha in their restaurant. CLASSIC television. That and Dick Van Dyke.

Team Bodega is cooking food and serving it to people and they enjoy it. Team Etch is fighting about eggs, then Mike fights with Marcel about lamb being too raw, then Antonia fights with both of them about fighting and Marcel fights with her for doing that. At this point, I’m thinking that things don’t look so good for Team Etch, but I am also a detective with a bloodhound pointing my giant magnifying glass at the screen so I can really detect things.

Bodega is having fake problems too, so it’s not over yet. Dale’s like, “If I can’t get this food out, I’ll be totally in the juice.” Not the losing juice, because you have immunity. Also, you’re doing fine. Nice to see that with Jennifer off the show, Dale and Richard are picking up the fake “I think I’m losing!” slack.

Anyone notice that the diners, who will be deciding the winner this time, are exceptionally young?

The judges love Team Bodega’s dishes and their whimsy, obviously. See? Highbrow cultural people insulate themselves so far from actual humor, they’re forced to laugh at dumb little highbrow-seeming playful BS like a fancy tuna dish that is kind of served in a can, or like, a classical pianist playing three seconds of the Flintstones theme mid-concerto. I seriously hate you all so much.

(When I say “actual humor,” of course, I’m referring to Photoshopping speech bubbles onto reality show screengrabs. Pissing art here, people.)

Hey, there’s Not Toby Young!

The Judges aren’t so high on Etch from the getgo. Tom seems skeptical of Baldo over here:

Front-of-house-failin’ Tiffany asks the Judges if they need anything, and Padma says “we’re hungry!” No you’re not, you just ate five meals and your stomach is literally the size of a bouillon cube. The judges hate the food at Etch. But will it be enough to cause them to lose? Hard to say – depends on if the judges or the diners are picking the winner this week. This was not clear.

Team Etch gets called to Judges Table first. Padma’s like, “Congratulations, the diners picked you…for BADNESS!” Turns out, they got completely blown out. Guess the tension wasn’t just a big wrongly-filleted red herring.

Richard, who’s all fake “I’m gonna lose!” is voted the winner for his Chicken Fried Codfish, ‘Brussels Kraut’ and Ginger Beer in Whimsy Sauce. If that sh*t got any more whimsical, it’d turn into a leprechaun and steal a kiss from Padma then escape to its rainbow garden.

On Etch — once again, ETCH — Captain Marcel is asked to pack his knives and go get zinged by the Bravo website:

On his way out, Marcel declares “I didn’t really make any mistakes, per se, the only mistake I made was picking the wrong team.” Relax, Marcel, you don’t have to be a caricature of a reality show villain anymore, you’re back to just being a dude.

Next week on Top Chef: Tiffany or Tre goes home, and Lorraine Bracco’s boyfriend isn’t getting laid tonight. Time to warm up the Sopranofellas references!

Restaurant Wars episode thoughts? Favorite / least favorite parts? Stuff we missed? Updated predictions? Comment away, you goodfellas! (Ooop, saving it for next week).

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