TOP CHEF SEASON 15 EPISODE 8 RECAP
If you didn’t already know, this week is the most anticipated episode in a season of Top Chef – Restaurant Wars. I think most viewers like it better than the finale. Two teams not only have to get along with each other, but they also have to conceive an entire restaurant from start to finish. This includes the name, the food, the decor, who is in charge, who runs the front of the house – everything. I have to say, this was the absolute smoothest Restaurant Wars I have ever seen. No fighting, no chaos, no absolute disasters, just a few small issues that were taken care of during the service. But the episode certainly wasn’t boring, and there was a lot of tension in the air after last week’s meltdown. Let’s get started.
The Cheftestants arrive at an empty restaurant space and are greeted by Padma and Guest Judges Eric & Bruce Bromberg. They learn that this week there will be no Quickfire and are immediately shown a knife block. Carrie and Chris draw the knives for Team Captain, with Carrie getting first choice. This is always the tricky situation in Restaurant Wars – who is going to be responsible. Everyone knows it’s a double edged sword because normally you either get all the glory or all the blame.
Carrie picks up Bruce first (he’s not on the kickball field anymore) while Chris heads for the “Stache” Joe Sasto. Next up for Carrie is Joe Flamm, and then Chris selects Fatima ” because she hasn’t been on the bottom”. Carrie’s final choice is Adrienne, who Carrie says is a “soldier” in the kitchen, and I think this was an excellent choice. She is technically brilliant and will be a great prep and line cook. She is also not Claudette, who is the last one left and placed on Team Chris. After last week’s Olympic themed Challenge & tense Judge’s Table, it’s no wonder Claudette is chosen last. None of the Cheftestants look to thrilled with her at this point.
The judges announce that this will be a three course menu, and each course needs to have three options. Nine dishes is quite a bit, but they are going to get some help. Each team gets to select a sous chef, and all of the previously eliminated chefs walk in. Carrie selects Tyler, officially bringing the Bear Den back together. It seems as though most people are over the Bear Den except the Bears, and Carrie even comments that she cannot believe she brought them back together, but she knows they are great, hard-working chefs. Honestly, it’s kind of hard to hate on those guys.
Unsurprisingly, Brother Luck is chosen by Chris. We are stoked to see him back in the kitchen, even if it is brief. Maybe it is foreshadowing his return to the competition….
Immediately both teams huddle up to discuss their concept and assign positions. Silky Chris, Fatima, Claudette & Mustache Joe choose the name Common Place. The thought is that they all come from different cooking backgrounds and are finding a “common place”. This quickly morphs into them saying the theme of their food will be “unexpected”. Right off the bat, they seem to be all over the place, and I am already worried about Chris. I feel like yelling at the Chefs “have you not seen other episodes of Top Chef?!? Don’t you know that not having a cohesive menu always leads to disaster?” But all we can do is sit back and watch the mistakes. Team Captain Chris opts to have Claudette be the Executive Chef, Fatima in the Front of the House, and Mustache and Silky will be running the Line. Claudette also calls out Chris saying that he “generally avoids responsibility.” I am not sure she is wrong on this one, at least in this particular challenge, however she could have easily said that she didn’t want to be Executive Chef.
Carrie, Bruce, Joe Flamm & Adrienne decide on the name Conifer. They quickly hone in on a specific concept – as Bruce says, “it’s ingredient-driven” with local flavors but Italian & Mediterranean inspired. I get the feeling that Bruce really just wanted an excuse to make his polenta and meatballs, but who can blame him? Restaurant Conifer is planning on doing lots of prep work to make their service run smoothly. Adrienne & Carrie are taking the role of Line Cooks, Bruce is running the Kitchen as Executive Chef, and Joe Flamm in the Front of the House.
Top Chef brings in Craftsy, who are there to help the Cheftestants realize their concept in the dining room. Although this is super nice, Sarah and I were missing the old episodes of Top Chef where the chefs were responsible for the decor as well. It made everything much more difficult, and almost comical to watch. How may times did teams completely change their concept while they were at the store? Or how about when one team in Restaurant Wars put scented candles on all of the tables? Now we are in Season 15 and I feel like Top Chef has grown up. I have to admit, the restaurant spaces looked beautiful. I don’t remember there being restaurants in the past that had decor like this.
Both teams cooked next to each other in the the same kitchen, so during both the prep day and the service, they were keeping an eye and an ear out for each other. Brother Luck, helping Common Place, immediately realizes that there is a problem with the concept. He doesn’t even really know what he is prepping for and can’t find any cohesion with the dishes. Claudette is throwing shade at the other team, talking about how unoriginal their dishes are. Conifer was even worried at one point because all of the members of Restaurant Common Place were getting along so well.
Tom and the Bromberg Brothers did a tour of the kitchen during prep. Tom has a reaction when he hears that Joe Flamm will be the front of the house, a kind of smirky laugh, but Conifer is standing behind their choice. The judges speak with Common Place as well, and Claudette lets them know that she is the Executive Chef. Tom asks why Chris didn’t take the responsibility, and Chris says that he knows what he is doing. He is “the Phil Jackson” of this team, putting everyone in positions they can succeed. As Sarah said, if you’re Phil Jackson, shouldn’t you be the front of the house. A part of me thinks he had a plan when he put Claudette as Executive Chef….
Conifer First Course
Joe Flamm – Hiramasa Crudo, Diced Cucumber, Pickled Green Almonds & Neonata Oil Tom says the oil is “flavorless” but he still likes the crudo.
Carrie- Local Kale Salad WIth Beets Three Ways (Raisined, Roasted & Pickled) Padma says the salad is seasoned perfectly and all the judges are loving the raisined beet.
Bruce – Braised Pork Meatball With Polenta, Amatriciana Sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano & House Giardiniera Bruce’s polenta is “ridiculous” & Tom thinks it’s a great choice for a restaurant that you want people to come back to. Ha!
Conifer Second Course
Joe Flamm – Roasted Duck Breast, Corn Puree, Roasted Apricots & Duck Jus The duck is a huge hit. It’s cooked well.
Bruce – Red Pepper Orecchiette With Lamb Sausage, Fava Beans & Fava Shoots This dish is a hit as well.
Adrienne – Colorado Sea Bass, Wheat Berries, Port Reduction, Chive Oil & Pickled Cauliflower Adrienne started with a plate that was too hot and it really affected her fish.
Conifer Third Course
Bruce – Apple Upside-Down Cake, Apricot & Apple Butter Bourbon Glaze Gail doesn’t think the cake is pretty, but Padma loves it and calls it “homey and not too sweet”.
Carrie – Lemon Curd, Sugar Cookie & Mint Gelee The judges were Into the deconstructed lemon bar.
Adrienne – Caramelized White Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Creme Fraiche Ice Cream This is Tom’s favorite dessert of the night.
Common Place First Course
Fatima- Top Round Tartare, Three Pepper Aioli & Sweet Potato Chips Tom says Fatimas’ Tartare needs more of everything, except the burnt sweet potato chips. Gail thinks the tartare is chopped well & has a nice texture.
Mustache Joe – Shigoku Oysters with Spring Pea Foam & Kombucha Pickled Rhubarb Gail describes the oysters as flavorless.
Mustache Joe – Chicken Purse With Charred Spring Onion in Chicken Broth Tom thinks the stuffing has some flavor, but the guest judges think he didn’t steam it enough & describes it as “tough”.
Common Place Second Course
Claudette – Bone Marrow With Blue Prawns, Avocado Puree, Tomatillos, Chili Peppers & Peanuts Padma loves the presentation of this dish. Tom thinks the bone marrow was overcooked and the guest judges agree with him.
Joe Sasto – Ricotta Dumplings With Mushrooms, Charred Broccoli & Broccoli Flowers Gail thinks the dumplings have a beautiful texture but thinks they are “so rich” & is getting a flavor of burnt mushrooms.
Chris – Braised Pork Shoulder & Cheek With Amaranth, Quinoa, Millet Grain Cake & Horseradish Cream Tom thinks the pork cheek is well cooked but “salty”. Gail loves the purple mustard greens.
Common Place Third Course
Chris – Beet Donut, Chocolate Cream Ganache With Beet Fennel Chutney Th judges think they are nice & light but they getting “zero” beet flavor.
Claudette – Sundae, Financier, Berry Sauce With Smoked & Toasted Almonds Gail likes the flavors in the sundae Tom thinks the financier is undercooked & the ice cream is overspun & the dish is “grainy”.
Claudette – Skyr With Miso Chickpeas, White Chocolate Caramelized Crumble & Pickled Cherries This dish was served “a little over room temperature” and the judges were not into it.
Overall, Tom doesn’t think Fatima is as present as Joe Flamm. She’s not interacting with guests and checking on them throughout the meal.
Conifer is an easy win at Judge’s Table. They loved the group’s cohesion, thought Bruce held great control of the kitchen, and loved that Joe Flamm made contact with every table. All the judges loved Carrie’s beet raisins, thought Adrienne executed Joe’s duck dish perfectly (since he was front of the house), and Adrienne’s cake was a winner. Tye didn’t love Adrienne’s sea bass. Joe Flamm is the winner of this challenge and it’s his first Elimination Win! Padma then tells the winning Cheftestants they won $40,000, courtesy of Craftsy.
Padma’s main issue with Common Place is she can’t describe the type of food they serve to a friend because they are all over the place. Tom points out he wants to see Fatima go to every table as front of the house. She says she did and they leave it at that. Padma tells the Stache that ALL OF HIS DISHES were not up to par. This is scary because he made 3 of the 9 dishes served.
Claudette cops to being the Executive Chef and not tasting everything as it went out of the kitchen. This is a big one that I know Tom will not get over- you have to taste the food that you serve! Her reasoning is that her role as the Executive Chef “on Chris’s team” was just to execute service. Tom is not having it. Basically, he says to Claudette, you’re an Executive Chef at your restaurant back home & you know what the role means. Being an Executive Chef doesn’t mean you just expedite the food. He questions why she didn’t take more responsibility. Silky Chris then steps in & says it’s his team & he should have done more.
The best part was when Bruce called her out. When she was throwing Tanya under the bus last week, she told her that she “should have said something” if she didn’t want to do the technical challenge. Right. Then Claudette should have said something when she didn’t want to be Executive Chef. We have actually been more on board with Claudette than others, but this week I lost my respect for her. This has by far and away been the most cohesive group of Cheftestants, and they just don’t have any room for her attitude. Even sweet Fatima was over it.
Back at Judge’s Table, Claudette is eliminated. She walks off the set without any comments, hugs or acknowledgments.
Claudette took no responsibility for her role in this loss. She didn’t taste the food? There is no way she would have done that in her own kitchen. The biggest problem is that she will never learn if she never able to accept criticism. She made two comments after her exit. First, she said she hopes the judges look back and are upset about their decision to let her go. Claudette, this is the second time. You cannot work well with others, and once again, if you had watched past episodes of Top Chef, you would know that this was not going to bode well for you. Trust me when I say Tom, Gail and Padma are not going to lose any sleep over this. Second, she said Top Chef just wanted a “vanilla Top Chef.” The judges adore food that is outside the box, but it has to be executed well, and there has to be a concept. Only the Cheesecake Factory can get away with the menu Common Place put out. Also, you cannot come on Top Chef and expect to only cook your type of food. That is not how this works.
RANDOM OBSERVATIONS AND QUOTES
- “The hardest part about Claudette is watching her throw people under the bus when she is on the bottom.” – Fatima
- “It’s like a fern bar.” Tom Describing the aesthetic of Common Place.
- Chris wearing overalls is my obsession. This guy.
- “The judge’s table was a s*** show.” Adrienne, referring to the Olympic episode.
- “I can’t believe I just reunited the original bears because they’re kind of annoying, but culinarily this is brilliant. We’re gonna do so good.” – Carrie
- Mustache Joe is a plant guy? Of course he is.
- I think Terlato Wines has sponsored every season of Top Chef. Sarah, come visit me and let’s get some!
- “I’m going to make pasta, because that’s what I do.” – Bruce
- Chris has been on the bottom for these last two team challenges I am waiting for him to get his groove back.
- I was impressed with Carrie remaking her lemon curd – and it looked delicious.
- Another sweet moment with Bruce and the new baby. Sarah and I were worried he was going home after that sentimental clip!
- Common Place was dead on arrival. They were never going to win with no concept.
- How do I make beet raisins? I need to find out because I have never seen so many people get that excited about any kind of raisins.
- Padma took over for Tom and his punny dad jokes this episode.
- Did you catch the quick impersonation Bruce did of Joe Flamm? It made me laugh out loud.
- Fatima was frustrated with her servers from the get-go, and I don’t think she ever got out of that head space.
- I like everyone that is left! It’s so hard to watch them go now.
Last Last Chance Kitchen
Another week, another Last Chance Kitchen episode with Claudette. She comes out swinging in her talking head interview saying, “I’m never going to create those bonds with these people. Sometimes you just have to light those bitches on fire.” But this is the Last Last Chance Kitchen. When Tom asks her who she thinks she is cooking against, she said “it doesn’t matter.” Man, she just can’t stop herself. Out comes Brother Luck, and it is interesting that he was helping her team in the actual challenge. Both Brother and Claudette are tough.
Because Claudette is on her “last legs,” they must cook with ingredients that are on their “last legs.” There are those puns we have been missing! Both chefs cooked with ingredients that were past their prime, and both had experience with that. I think Claudette and Brother have both had to fight their way through life, and using some old veggies wasn’t going to phase them one bit. Brother made Grilled Artichoke and Charred Eggplant Puree, and Claudette made Plantain Molotes with an Heirloom Tomato Caldillo. Tom likes both dishes, but ultimately it is Brother who moves on. Claudette will have to watch from the sidelines as the rest of the eliminated Cheftestants battle it out.
We always read the Uproxx Top Chef Rankings for a laugh and a recap.
We have also been listening to the Pack Your Knives podcast. They draft their Top Chef teams!