Your Top Chef: California Recap (OC Edition) – Week 8, Part 1

Disclaimer: While this is a Top Chef recap, this is also specific to OC. In other words, us Weeklings are rooting for Amar Santana!
Disclaimer #2: There are total spoilers in here. Do not read unless you want to know who won what this week, okay? Now, let’s DO this.

If you’ve watched enough Top Chef, you know that eight cheftestants remaining means Restaurant Wars! This season, the challenge they’ve worked their way to isn’t the same— it’s worse. But let’s lay the groundwork for those uninitiated. Two teams of four have to create a concept, menu and fully functioning dining space in time for service to actual customers. Where most establishments take six months to a year and longer, our teams have a day. Yes, a day.

As the gang draws knives, Amar pulls “First Choice”, while Karen has “Second Choice”. Then it becomes the proverbial sandbox of selecting teams. Isaac is last to be chosen, which is interesting when you see the thought process behind this strategy. Amar selects Philip over Isaac, with the idea that man bun wants to cover the dining room (and Amar does not want to). This is despite his belief that Issac is the better chef. Was that a smart move? Let’s see. 

This time around, they not only have to execute a dinner service, but lunch service. If that doesn’t make everybody’s veins pop out of their head, the next one will: All team members must either be the executive chef role or front-of-the-house manager at some point. It’s a double whammy our chefs have to suck up and deal with. Their guest judge is none other than Bill Chait, best known for some of the best dining in Los Angeles: Otium, Republique, Redbird, Bestia, etc. He was founder of Sprout Restaurant Group (but as of December left Sprout to pursue other projects).

Our teams are as follows: District LA is Amar, Kwame, Jeremy and Philip. Palate is Karen, Marjorie, Carl and Issac. Each team has $5,000 to shop for their non-food items; $6,500 for food. They’ve got until midnight to set up their spaces and prep, plus three hours the next morning before lunch service commences. Statements are flying from everyone, but the three that capture the heart of Restaurant Wars happen to come from District LA.
Amar,  “It’s gonna be hard. Can we do it? Fuck yeah!”
Philip, “I would hate to have had the idea, and then said, ‘Shit, I should’ve said something.'”
Jeremy, “Let’s hope egos don’t get involved.”

In previews, there’s a supposed exchange between Kwame and Amar about bacon not being purchased. This turns out to be true. However, the pancetta Kwame substitutes more than makes up for it. So there. No more drama. In fact, judges love his soup. They love the salad. Tom calls out Amar for another chicken dish [Editor’s Note: I can’t wait until they see dinner! #crudo].

At Palate, Isaac is taking names and kicking ass as executive chef. Marjorie steps away from the host stand while the judges approach, of course. She has trouble turning over tables due to folks lingering. The solution: serve them sparkling wine. Nice recovery, M. Unfortunately, Kwame has a different reason for not turning over tables. Jeremy decides to halt the other tickets to accommodate for the judges. This totally backs up service, forcing multiple tables to go without lunch altogether. What. The. Hell?

So far, District LA served excellent first courses, while Palate cooked better quality entrees. Dinner service and the flipping of chef/front-of-house duties is reserved for next week. We’ll be waiting with bated breath. 

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