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Top Chef NOLA - Ep. #9 - 12/04/13 (Spoilers)

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Let's Get Ready to Rummmmmble!!!! Yup - it's time for Restaurant Wars.

But before that, they're back in the house doing some cooking for themselves. Then they head off to the TC Kitchen - and only Padma is there. She tells them it's time for Restaurant Wars.

The guest judge is David Chang - he tells them not to plan on things going right; they should plan on everything going wrong. They draw knives to break into two teams of five.

Green Team - Sara, Carlos, Justin, Nina, and Shirley
Purple Team - Brian, Nicholas, Carrie, Stephanie and Travis

Stephanie whispers under her breath "I should have taken some Pepto!"

Each teams must choose an Executive Chef, and someone to be FOH. Padma also tells them that there will be a VIP table of Chase Sapphire Cardmembers (:::blah, blah, blah insert ad here:::). The VIP table and judges will be the only diners who will get to eat at both restaurants. Padma also notes that restaurateur, Danny Meyer, will be joining them, who will check with the diners and report back to the judges.

Each team breaks off to plan their restaurant. The Green Team goes with "modern American". Sara offers to make a brown butter financier as the dessert for her team, since no one else claims any pastry experience.

On the Purple Team, Travis said he served as FOH and restaurant manager at the last place he worked at, and when asked, he said he would be FOH for the Purple Team's restaurant. In the confessional, Travis said "Gays belong in the front of the house! Duh!" LOL They're going with a seafood theme.

The Green Team goes with Sara as their FOH, and Justin said he'll be the Executive Chef. Sara discusses what the style of the restaurant should be; how it should look. Carlos notes that they're spending way too much time on the style vs. the menu decisions.

They head off in the Toyotas to an open empty place called "The Foundry" - and it turns out there's no kitchen. They realize that they'll have to figure out the design of the entire place - including the kitchen. The Purple Team agrees to have Nicholas as the Executive Chef.

They they all go to an event rental place for tables, chairs, plates, everything needed. Justin and Carlos get into a bit of a dust-up, when Carlos notes again that they hadn't even discussed what everyone is making after Justin said he didn't want to make the same thing as Carlos. When Carlos said they haven't discussed dishes, Justin gets snippy and said "Well, we haven't discussed it yet, so drop it - we're going back to plates." He then got snippy with Sara as well about a type of bowl - silver rim or no silver rim? The Purple Team looks over and see what's going on with the Green Team.

Then the teams head off to shop for ingredients. The Purple Team splits up - Nick and Stephanie head to Restaurant Depot for bulk food items; Travis, Carrie and Brian were heading to Whole Foods "in their Toyota Rav 4" (WAY obvious voice-over). Carrie programs the GPS; Travis said "you'll be a soccer mom yet!" Carrie retorts "Shut your mouth! Do NOT make me pull this car over!" :-)

Shirley, Justin and Carlos and Nina are in Restaurant Depot, while Sara is in Whole Foods. Shirley notes that they hadn't planned their menu, but as long as every dish can link together using the modern America theme, it should be OK. (How the hell are they picking ingredient choices? This makes no sense whatsoever!) Sara's requested ring molds are unavailable at Restaurant Depot, so she's going to have to wing it.

Back at The Foundry, the Purple Team (now named "Fin") starts unloading their stuff from the event rental place. Nicholas starts planning out the kitchen with the equipment coming in. He notes as EC, if Fin loses, typically the EC goes home. So if he asks someone on his team to do something, he expects them to do it. Carrie asks him if he wants them to call him "Chef" - and he said yes.

The Green Team (now called "Found"), starts to unpack their restaurant equipment. Both teams start their prep. Travis reviews the menu for Fin; everyone seems to be working well together. Sara (Found) asks about the coffee service; Justin replies that they ordered a coffeemaker. Sara looks over and said "That little 12-cup is going to feed 125 people?" Justin said "Let's just be positive and turn out great food - my food is turning out great right now! Let's just focus on the food right now!" Nina notes that having a happy restaurant is like a happy marriage. The line cooks are like the kids; the GM and the Chef are the parents - if they're constantly fighting the kids will see it. She calls out "Leave the effin' egos at the door!"

Over at Fin, Nicholas tastes something of Brian's, and says "You're going to gel it, right?" Brian says yes.....but then realizes the gel he thought he was buying (agar-agar) ended up being xanthum gum. Major issue with the gel with flavor and texture.

They're done with prep - back to the house. The Purple Team find a King Cake in the kitchen and say they're not going to share with the Green Team. Meanwhile, the Green Team is elsewhere in the house, and Justin is telling everyone (mostly Sara) how he wants the tickets to be written up. He said he wants proper communication and executing. (RED FLAG! Sure sign there won't be proper communication!) He said if there are issues with the FOH, it can throw off everything.

The next morning, they arrive at The Foundry, and they have 4 hours to finish up. Prep, table numbers, demo plates up, staff informed and trained, steps of service in place - lots of stuff to finish in a very short time. Travis meets his staff up front - and they begin to set up their restaurant. Meanwhile, Sara goes up front to meet her staff, and their restaurant is already set up. She notes how tickets are to be written up, walks them through the tables, making sure they know which table is which. Anything can happen if they don't know what to do.

The demo plates are brought out for Fin, and Nicholas reviews the plates with the servers. Meanwhile, over at Found, Justin asks Nina what happened with the other smaller bowls with silver rims. Nina notes he said he wanted matching white bowls. He said "Yes! But also the smaller ones with silver rims!" His dish is going to look lost in the huge soup bowls.

Fifteen minutes to service. Guests show up at Fin, and staff begins to take orders. The Fin kitchen looks well ordered and starts serving. VIPs being arriving at Found: Tory McPhail (EC @ Commander's Palace - we've seen him before!), and some of the Chase Sapphire preferred diners, and restaurateur, Danny Meyer.

Over at Fin, the judges arrive: Tom, Padma, David Chang, and Gail Simmons. Tom C. notes that in this situation, ECs can find it hard to have control over people with whom they're competing; but David Chang said you can't run it like a democracy - you need to be a totalitarian state back there (the kitchen).

BRIAN - Scallop Crudo, Corn & Squash Relish with Purple Corn Gel. Gail said the gel isn't a good consistency; David said "it's just too snotty."

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Stephanie says that Nicholas has such a handle on expediting. "However he's doing it should never change for the rest of his life."

Over at Found, Danny Meyer asks the VIPs if anyone got a chance to study their menus. Nope, they didn't even get a menu. Meanwhile, the staff isn't filling out the tickets the way Justin needed them to be filled out. He talks with Sara, and she goes to discuss with the staff. At the VIP table, they tell Sara they didn't get a chance to see the menus. She apologizes and walks away....even as the person who asked about the menus starts to ask her something else. She continues to walk away. Danny Meyer looks a bit astonished.

Back at Fin:

CARRIE - Sauteed Gulf Shrimp, Chickpea Puree, Oregano & Lemon (and Shrimp Butter)
STEPHANIE - Linguini with Caviar, Oyster Cream & Fennel

Carrie's shrimp is a bit overcooked, and Tom said there was an oil slick underneath, but Gail liked the flavor. Stephanie's pasta is very well received - it was perfectly cooked. Padma said service has been great, and Tom sees that everyone is happy, and Travis is chatting with the customers.

Back at Found, someone ordered the snapper, but received another dish. Justin notes that the tickets are still screwed up - including the VIP table - only half the dishes have been served? The dishes are going to the wrong tables. Sara said there are a few issues with the FOH, but that the BOH seems to be having some confusion as well.

Annnd we're back at Fin, serving the judges.

NICHOLAS - Roasted Black Drum, King Trumpet Mushrooms, Oxtail, Kale & Hibiscus Reduction. David Chang said it's a delicious dish, and Gail notes he took a chance and went bold, and paired the drum with a deep sauce.

Finally, dessert.

TRAVIS - Olive Oil Cake with Greek Yogurt, Cherries & Pistachios. Padma asks if it's the same purple gel - Tom said "No! Taste this gel!" David said it's tight. Gail said the cake wasn't as moist as it could be, but it tastes really nice.

And the judges are done and head over to Found.

Meanwhile, the VIP table service is being messed up. Runners are confused, Sara's running food and busing tables. The judges arrive, Sara schmoozes them. Sara said "No matter how much the house is burning down around you, you have to put on the FOH mask and smile." Padma goes over to the VIP table and asks how it's going. She asks what time their reservations are at the other restaurant - Danny Meyer replies "In 3 minutes, and we just got our main course!"

Sara seats the judges, and goes into the kitchen and asks Justin to fire 2 of each for the judges - he said he can but he needs tickets. Justin notes that the service is still a clusterf*ck. David Chang said the Found menu sounds better and reads better, but whether it will taste better is to be seen. Gail said service at Fin was excellent, but since they've been seated at Found, no one has come to their table to take their order or tell them that food is coming, the way Travis did at Fin...and now they're just sitting there. Tom said "I don't know what's going on with Found, but I'm about to be lost." Padma calls out to Sara to check on their first courses. She goes in to tell Justin that Padma just complained, and he said "You haven't given me tickets!" She notes privately that she had given him a verbal fire and it should have been done ASAP. Justin said "A verbal fire? Not having a ticket for the judges in Restaurant Wars is ridiculous!"

Sara gets the apps for the judges, and walks out to deliver them. She puts them down and walks away. She never explained the dishes! So the judges muddle through on their own.

CARLOS - Red Snapper Crudo, Avocado Mousse, Pickled Baby Carrots and Fried Plantano. Gail said it's not a beautifully sliced piece of fish.

JUSTIN - Roasted Parsnip Agnolotti, Mississippi Rabbit & Collard Greens Broth. Tom said it was really bad, and David Chang agreed. Tom said "it's overcooked and undercooked at the same time. And if you're going to serve consomme, you don't serve it on a flat plate." David Chang suggested that he and Tom go back there and tell them "all of you, stand in a corner....we're going to do this!"

Things are still very confused in the Found kitchen. Dishes are being brought out to diners who already have food.

Sara brings out the next dish to the judges and asks if she can get anyone anything else - Padma says "Why don't you describe the dish?"

SHIRLEY - Olive Oil Poached Cobia, Blanched Ong Choy (fried with shrimp paste) & Salsa Verde. David said the fish is delicious, and the shrimp paste is the star of the dish.

Meanwhile, the VIPs show up at Fin. Danny Meyer asks how many are banking on a slightly better experience, and they all say they are hoping for better service.

Back at Found, Sara serves the next dish - and AGAIN walks away without any description of the dish! So Gail reads it off the menu.

NINA - Pork Tenderloin with Sunchokes & Trumpet Royale Mushrooms. Tom likes the dish, and Gail said it's the best dish from this team so far. Back in the kitchen, the cream is broken because of the heat. Sara said missing the whole component just means "it's a piece of cake."

The desserts come out - and WHAT a surprise, Sara describes her own dish without any prompting!

SARA - Summer Nectarine Brown Butter Cake with Moscato Nectarine Salsa. Even Padma notes that being Sara's dish is probably the reason this was the only dish that got explained voluntarily. Gail said said it's like a weird greasy cookie. But both Gail and Padma see that it's supposed to have mascarpone and ask where it is - Sara explains the heat in the kitchen and the emulsion broke. Another diner said the dish was "so sour, and not in a good way." When Nina asks "How did it go, Sara?" she replies "As well as it could."

Back at Fin, the VIP table asks Travis if he did dessert and FOH, and he said yes, that he did all of the prep yesterday, so they just needed to plate it. When he walks back into the kitchen to tell them they're done, Nicholas asked "how'd it go?" and Travis said "Great!" I think he's right!

Padma said that the vibe at Fin was much better, and Gail said the service in general was fantastic. Tom notes that Found's poor service *could* be BOH issues. Sara notes that her team is not confident; there were many sins committed.

They're back in the Stew Room, and the TV comes on. Padma thinks both teams got psyched out by Restaurant Wars. Gail said it's a very difficult challenge. David Chang said they're cooks; that's why you have to be critical of what's on the plate. Padma said it was clear one team did do a much better job, and one failed. And the TV cuts out - very* brief!

Padma comes in and asks to see Restaurant Fin. They're the winners!

Tom said that Travis did a great job as FOH - and Padma said the BEST FOH in *all* of the Restaurant War competitions! Tom said the room felt right, and Travis said that's part of being a chef. He asked how they worked in the kitchen. Carrie said they knew they had to put egos aside, and Nicholas was their boss. Tom said "Good training!" Carrie's dish was well reviewed, Brian's gels were total opposites, Stephanie's pasta was well made, and Nicholas's fish was perfectly cooked, and Gail liked the combo of the oxtail and the black drum; Travis' dessert was well balanced.

Who is the winner overall? It's Nicholas!

Restaurant Found is asked to come in. Padma tells them their restaurant was a disaster. Sara said she didn't see a disaster...once they got rolling, she thought it went well. Padma said "So you didn't intend to explain any of the dishes to us." Sara said "I guess it didn't occur to me." Gail said "But you talked us through *your* dish!" and Shirley gave Sara a "WTF" look. Sara thought she was prompted by the judges at that point and Padma said "No, I purposely didn't ask you to do so at that point, but you did tell us about that one."

Tom asked if they thought service went well in the kitchen, and Nina said it didn't. There was a breakdown in communication. Justin said his plan of attack was entirely different than what actually happened. Justin said "perhaps I should have trained the servers" and Sara came back with "There was disorganization in the kitchen." Sara and Justin go back and forth with issues - food going out to the VIPs in stages; lags in fire times; tickets that weren't written properly. But eventually, David said the food was what went wrong. Gail said Carlos' dish should have taken just a little bit of time to get out to the table; they waited a half an hour. Justin said by the time they got a ticket for it, yes, it was a long time. Sara said "I gave you a verbal fire for it!" (Padma's mouth is open at the total mess.) Padma asks why a verbal fire, and Sara said that was her judgment call, and she apologized (yet again!).

The judges discuss the dishes. Justin's rabbit was dry; Shirley's cobia was very well received. Nina's pork tenderloin was the favorite of everyone. When Padma asked "Sara, you made dessert?" she just nods. Gail asks "Do you want to tell us about it?" and Sara replies "Apparently, it's the only thing I did tell you about already." David tells her she knew the kitchen was going to be hot; if a component of the dish wasn't going to be on the dish, she makes everyone looks bad. Tom asks Sara and Justin that as GM and Chef, should it be one of them going home? They both said yes, it should be one of them.

The judges deliberate. David said Sara took on more responsibility, but Justin should have taken more of an authoritative role. Tom asks did Sara's lack of training cause chaos in the kitchen, and everyone said yes. But their food was also the worst in both restaurants. Back in the Stew Room - Sara thinks 100% it's her going home, and Justin thinks 100% it's him. Wouldn't it be interesting if both went home?

So who's being ask to PYKAG? It's Sara. As I think it should be. In her confessional as she packs up, she thinks the culinary side was what shot her in the ass, but as they walk out of Judges Table, Tom said the lack of effort in the front of the house contributed to the mess in the kitchen. So yet again, Sara doesn't realize what the issue really was.

OK, this was a LONG one! Previews for next week shows Hubert Keller! YAY! They're also "going home" - serving dishes from their own home? I hear "squirrel" is on one of the menus!

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  1. Excellent play-by-play by LW.

    Awhile back I took my wife to Daniel in Manhattan, Boulud's flagship. The meal was wonderful. We were invited to tour the kitchen. I was struck by how quiet things were. The calm and confidence in the kitchen was reflected in our dishes. Team Fin had a measure of that calm and confidence.

    1. I think Sara deserved the PPYKAAG for simply saying 'marscapone'.

      2 Replies
      1. re: John E.

        I agree. But she's not the only one.

        (Small spoiler alert)
        Tom also pronounces it like that in LCK.

        1. re: chefhound

          Everyone in LCK called it marscapone.

      2. I think they often try to cut the foh person some slack because they're chefs and had Sara put out a good dessert, it would have been Justin. She was a disaster out front and unfortunately for her it contrasted so greatly with Travis who has a lot of experience in foh. I will defend her on the verbal fire for the judges table. Justin "needing a ticket" to fire the first course for the judges? Really? The judges sit down and you're not firing their meal without a ticket? I don't get it.
        Nicholas did a great job - possibly one of the best EC's yet.

        11 Replies
        1. re: bobbert

          As soon as I saw Nick speaking about how much better the opposing team was, I was expecting what happened. The green team was not organized from the beginning.

          I think the reason the FOH worked out so well for the winning team was mostly about how well the BOH people were working together, and specifically Nick's expediting. Travis really stepped up however. I was impressised by his performance. He made Fabio look like Radhika.

          1. re: John E.

            That's what I thought of as well, John. Nicholas mentioned how many wins the other team had, and his was the underdogs. That's when I figured the Purple Team was going to win.

            1. re: John E.

              The Found team was not as organized, but Sara made it much worse by not making sure tickets were written up correctly and clearly. Total recipe for disaster.

              I didn't hear some of the talk as I was doing other things, but it appeared they focused on décor before food and I remember thinking they are toast.

              jb

              1. re: JuniorBalloon

                Yeah, when they kept talking about decor, I knew they were in trouble. I wish Carlos had been able to insist upon discussing the menu. But I don't think Justin was going to listen. Carlos mentioned the menu twice and was shut down both times.

                1. re: chefhound

                  I think that's the fault of the team as a whole. Justin's point is that they're shopping for decor and discussing menu at that time is too late, or something to that effect. They should've done their menu planning at the beginning but I think that as stronger individual chefs, no one was willing to bend. They simply decided to make their own food, loosely around the theme of modern American.

                  1. re: Worldwide Diner

                    That is the restaurant ethos. The whole idea of fin dining is to have the perfect experience, visually and sensually. An experience that I have no problems trying but it bothers me when the food even takes a slight back seat to the overall experience. To me food is supreme, I can sit in the most dire and unwelcoming room and take bad service but if the food is sublime, all is forgiven. So to me, the whole emphasis on decor in restaurant Found is the tail wagging the dog. And I think the judges agreed.

                    There are many ways to look at this, it could be that there are those in the team who are hedging their bets because they know they don't have the chops, so they focus on the extraneous. Or the idea of the overall dining experience is so ingrained that they took their eyes off the prize.

                    1. re: Phaedrus

                      Or, I wonder if having so many winning chefs on their team, they thought they'd have the food part in the bag so didn't even bother trying to put together a good concept. As long as each dish tasted good, would they lose if it weren't completely cohesive?

            2. re: bobbert

              Sara was terrible, but I thought the Green Team BOH was totally sabotaging her. The comment about getting the judge's meals fired as soon as they got a written ticket had to mean that they just said, ^*#@ it/her. Unless she does it the way I want her to, it just won't happen.

              I believe that's called cutting off your nose to spite your face.

              And it was just emblematic as to how they functioned throughout Restaurant Wars. The Green team totally deserved to lose.

              1. re: chicgail

                If it had been me in charge of BOH for Found and tickets were coming in wrong I'd have gotten together immediately, corrected the issue and gotten on with service. If I wanted tickets for everything and Sara had given me a "verbal fire" order I'd have asked her to please bring a ticket. If a minute went by and I still didn't have it I'd have followed up...Nicely, but firmly.

                I don't know about sabotage, that would be throwing themselves under the bus as well and you never know who will be packing the knives.

                jb

              2. re: bobbert

                Tom seemed dumbfounded that there was no ticket for the judges. He didn't appear to cut her any slack for that.

                1. re: JAB

                  I noticed that too. Since they were in throwing each other under the bus mode I was surprised Sara didn't throw the bs card.

              3. Still on here, but had to pop in and say holy cow! How about that red dress wearing Padma!?!

                ETA great job Linda! I am able to follow things better at this point and the recaps get more and more helpful. I don't quite get the importance of verbal vs written tickets. In medicine, it is much more worrisome to take a vetbal order when it is risky, than to take one that is routine.

                9 Replies
                1. re: Shrinkrap

                  There was one camera close up pan from Padmas plate to her face. 3 seconds on the plate. 3 seconds on her face and what felt like 10 glorious minutes getting from one to the other. Yes, that dress was indeed red.

                  1. re: bobbert

                    Yes I was surprised Linda didn't mention the gratuitous shot of Padma's boobs. They were out in full force.

                    I agree with Chefhound about Sara's shocking and fake FOH. I really thought she'd nail it, and she looked good, but she was so stiff and then all the times she never explained things and walked away too quickly. It almost was as if she was told to do that, it just seems natural to explain what's on the plate.

                    I think it's ridiculous they had to supply the kitchen for their restaurant. That hasn't been the case in other years has it? I know too much in too little time is always expected of them but that's over the top.

                    1. re: Joanie

                      They did it in Seattle. I agree that they are overcomplicating what is already a classic, and difficult challenge.

                      1. re: Wahooty

                        I must say that I truly enjoyed the celebration of cleavage as much if not more than the food porn.

                        1. re: Phaedrus

                          I didn't notice the cleavage. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

                          1. re: JAB

                            :::Scheduling an eye test for JAB:::

                            1. re: JAB

                              For the record, I don't think it was the cleavage I noticed; it was more a general observation of how.... closely, for lack of a better word, the dress fit her. It was not when she was seated at the table, but when she walked in to Fin.

                              Tis the season for formal wear, and I am well aware of what it must take to pull that off.

                        2. re: Joanie

                          Believe me, the boobage was noticed; I figured I'd leave the mention to one of you. :-) It was pretty spectacular. If you've got it, flaunt it - and Padma does.

                          As for setting up their own kitchen - they had to do that last year, I believe - the kitchen was set up outside, IIRC, because I remember Tom (and maybe another judge?) walking around the tables and asking about having to set up the kitchen.

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            Every time they show her rocking a red dress I hear that song ...

                            "...Roxanne you don't have to put on the red light. Those days are over you don't have to sell your body to the night. Roxanne you don't have to wear that dress ..."

                            Not sure why.

                    2. I thought Sara's performance was shocking. She had a patently fake, robotic FOH face and I was sick of her telling the servers to smile. They all had fake grimaces as they approached the diners.

                      Also, it's unbelievable that she didn't stop to describe the dishes. Has she never seen Top Chef? Dishes are always described to the judges along with the chef's name.

                      A poor performance all around.

                      Starting to really like Nick.

                      25 Replies
                      1. re: chefhound

                        Sara seemed to really get the wind knocked out after the Vietnamese food fiasco, probably figuring she'd lost her only shot to show off her Asian cooking and had nothing left to offer.

                        Travis, the other half of the Vietnam disaster, somewhat redeemed himself by comparison tonight. Not by cooking unfortunately.

                        1. re: ennuisans

                          I thought the judges liked Travis' dessert. But he also did an outstanding job with foh.

                          1. re: ChefJune

                            Agreed, the judges definitely liked Travis' dessert.

                        2. re: chefhound

                          You would also think that after Padma *asked* Sara to describe the 2nd dish, she'd remember to do so with the third one - but nope, she walked away yet again.

                          I do love how they called Sara out on that at JT when she said "Oh, I must have been prompted" when she described her own dish.

                          Travis was really stellar with his FOH performance.

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            Not only did she walk away, she kind of SPED away, almost as if she didn't want to be asked.

                            1. re: roxlet

                              Which just makes her a moron for not realizing that's part of what her FOH role was.

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                I think she was just so stressed out about what was happening, she ran to the kitchen to keep food going out to the diners. She should have remembered that she was in a reality TV competition and not in a real restaurant.

                                Early on, I was sort of hoping Sara would do well in the competition. She's kind of a hometown chef because she's been in the Twin Cities for years (although she is really from Milwaukee), first working for Wolfgang Puck's 20.21 in Minneapolis. I think she is probably a good executive chef, but like many other contestants in the past, this Top Chef stuff is not really always about being the best restaurant chef.

                                1. re: John E.

                                  I agree that the competition got to her. She went from competent and likeable in the 1st couple of episodes to incompetent and really unlikeable. I for one am glad to be rid of her.

                                  1. re: John E.

                                    I, too, really wanted to like Sara, hometown gal, but I thought she came off as very aloof and disengaged in this episode and, I agree with whoever said (somewhere in this thread) that she seemed to lose her mojo (and get increasily less likeable*) after the lemongrass incident. I loved her quirkyness in the beginning and was totally rooting for her. By the end of restaurant wars, I was happy to see her go. Crap attitude. Not a team player.

                                    Funnily enough, there was an article in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune last week about how the viewers had not taken a liking to Sara.

                                    Maybe during restaurant wars she was really freaking out and overwhelmed and this aloof facade was her way of coping. Or maybe she's genuinely aloof and disengaged.

                                    And what was up with not describing the dishes? That was really odd. Or some kind of strange sabotage.

                                    I wish she had a blog or something and would explain herself.

                                    Sad to say, but she deserved to go home.

                                    I do not like Travis. All style and no substance and being crowned the best FOH ever just confirm that. He should have been sent home long ago.

                                    ~TDQ

                                    * or is that decreasingly likeable? Ha!

                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      I just read Gail's blog--she calls Sara "Smug and distracted" vs. my "aloof and disengaged." Yeah, that works, too.

                                      Linda, thanks, by the way, for the terrific recap!

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        I don't like Travis either and I'm not sure why, but he did do a great job as FOH. Although he didn't win, being called out as best FOH ever is a helluva compliment. I was happy for him.

                                        1. re: KrumTx

                                          I don't like Travis, either, and wanted to see him do poorly at FOH. he did do a great job. It was his comment about gotta put the gay guy in front of house...duh that made me cringe. Get over yourself. You're gay, we get it and no one cares (which is a good thing). Cook and do your job, that's what people care about.

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            I agree.

                                            Travis seems to think that being gay gets him extra points.

                                            I hate that.

                                            1. re: C. Hamster

                                              He also seems to think it's somehow unique. He said he wants to be the first gay Top Chef. I'd be surprised if many of the top winners haven't been.

                                            2. re: chowser

                                              That's it! Has there been a single episode where he hasn't mentioned he's gay? As you say, no one cares. I have yet to hear Nick tout his status as a straight chef and how that qualifies him for BOH.

                                              1. re: gaffk

                                                I wonder if it's that he hasn't come out to his dad that it's a big deal to him? Between mentioning it often and his Asian guy fetish, it's just TMI. It doesn't bother me but I don't care.

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  Funny. I had typed and then erased something along the lines of: He's young. He probably just came out (and not fully to his family). So he thinks his sexuality defines every aspect of his life.

                                                  (I erased it because I'm not young and not gay and don't want to be an internet psychologist ;)

                                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            This Minneapolitan completely agrees with The DQ. I can only add that it is sad she's the first Minnesotan on Top Chef. Hope she is not the last.

                                            Go Nina and Shirley. Would love to see an all gals fiinal.

                                            1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

                                              I like Nina and Shirley, but I want Nick in the finals.

                                              I think I'd like a final four of Nina, Shirley, Nick and Louis. Although I kinda' like Stephanie too.

                                              1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

                                                The women do seem to be stronger cooks in this competition. Nick really stood out this show and I like Carlos, though he has his missteps. But, the women seem to be cooking strong.

                                    2. re: chefhound

                                      Sara's been doing that fake robotic thing, IMO, for awhile now. When the whole thing about the tickets vs. verbal fire happened, I figured she was a goner.

                                      She never especially looked excited to be on TC, IMO. She's always had that "dont' touch me" attitude going on, at least to me.

                                      1. re: xo_kizzy_xo

                                        Not surprisingly, the poll on the screen as to why Sara went home - for her cooking or attitude - was overwhelmingly (93%?) her attitude.

                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          And my first thought is, why bother being part of TC if your heart really isn't in it? The feeling I got from her elimination comment at the end was that even though she said "it was the hardest thing I've ever done" (paraphrasing here), it was more like "I've never had to compete like this because I've always been the best and I'm a bit snippy because I now have to compete."

                                          Or least that's how she came across to me.

                                          1. re: xo_kizzy_xo

                                            Yeah, she said "none of it was easy" which just made me think she expected to come in and just sail through.

                                            I think smug describes her very well. Also the way she responds to criticism: her attitude usually comes across as "I don't think I did anything wrong, but you're the judges so I'm going to fake an apology."

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              Agreed. She never seemed to own any of her mistakes, her apologies always seemed to be "I'm sorry that you perceived/experienced it that way" rather than "I'm sorry I screwed that up".

                                    3. Special round of applause for Linda- doing this after a condo meeting is above and beyond! Thank-you!

                                      I was so happy to see the back of Sara. Have disliked her (and Justin) since the lemongrass issue. In this episode her narcissistic behavior was way over the top and Justin's was a close second although he has been a way better chef up until now. I was hoping they'd send them both home. Happy that no one else on the team was targeted. My problem now will be that with the exception of Justin I like all the remaining chefs, or what I have seen of them so far.

                                      39 Replies
                                      1. re: Berheenia

                                        Sarah was really unlikeable in this episode. And I also had had enough of her 50s housewife hairdo. It's ok, if a bit eccentric, for casual wear, and in the kitchen, she can dress however she likes. But for FOH? To me that hairstyle reminds me of nothing other than what a suburban mom would wear to scrub her floors or clean her toilet back in the 50s or 60s. And that woman would certainly not wear the 'do for a nice dinner out.

                                        1. re: DGresh

                                          Sometimes I feel like people think they have to have a "schtick" to stand out from the crowd in TC. Like Marcel's hair. Side Show Bob's hair Or Janine's daisy dukes.
                                          I would have liked to see her switch it up and go more elegant. But maybe she was afraid she'd be lost in the crowd.

                                          1. re: Firegoat

                                            In TC 10, I am sure Josie was wearing her head band with her name on it, just so the viewers would remember her. I do not think that is the case with Sara, I think she wears that style in her real life all the time. I am also sure Michael and Marcel's hair styles were not a Top Chef affectation.

                                            1. re: John E.

                                              I do remember that headband. That was annoying as F

                                            2. re: Firegoat

                                              I like her look and thought it was good for front of house. It def has a bit of a cleaning lady feel with the headgear but overall, she looked put together and "cool" in some people's minds at least. Like I said, I'm surprised she failed so badly at that position.

                                              1. re: Joanie

                                                Should have borrowed Janine's daisy dukes

                                                1. re: Firegoat

                                                  Whatever, that obviously isn't FOT attire unless she's working a roadside BBQ in Georgia.

                                            3. re: DGresh

                                              Fifties? SIXTIES????? What is WRONG with you people???

                                              It's WORLD WAR TWO!!!!

                                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Can_D...!

                                              1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                Well I wasn't alive during WWII, but I do seem to remember my mom wearing something like that in the 60s when I was a youngster :)

                                                1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                  ...gen-u-wine "Rosie the Riveter!

                                                  1. re: ChefJune

                                                    Was it the previous episode when she showed her bicep ala Rosie the Riveter?

                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                      "Was it the previous episode when she showed her bicep ala Rosie the Riveter?"

                                                      Yep, and it was in answer to a prompt from someone else - meaning others caught that too.

                                                2. re: DGresh

                                                  I thought it was that war poster; Rosie The Riveter or some such.

                                                  http://i.imgur.com/wFfa7Vx.jpg

                                                  Ooops! Beat me to it.

                                                  1. re: DGresh

                                                    Me too on her hairdo, but I think it was more 40s style than 50s.

                                                    1. re: DGresh

                                                      I think she was trying to pull off a Rosie the Riveter look.

                                                      http://savvyseniorswork.com/wp-conten...

                                                      ETA: Oops. LOL!

                                                      1. re: DGresh

                                                        It seems that she's really bought into the entire vibe that hairstyle represents. What were her exiting comments; something about "kiddos" and some other comment that went with the hair style>

                                                        1. re: JAB

                                                          I agree that she fully bought into the entire vibe. When telling her servers to smile, she called them 'Hun' a couple of times.

                                                      2. re: Berheenia

                                                        I was really hoping they would send both of them home. Both seemed to think they were doing a good job when they were both failing. I kind of felt from the edit with Padma getting pissed off, that Sarah was a goner. Padma unlike the other judges often seems like she enjoys sending people home.

                                                        I would think at just the word "the judges are here", Justin would be on those plates, ticket or no ticket.

                                                        1. re: tjinsf

                                                          "I would think at just the word "the judges are here", Justin would be on those plates, ticket or no ticket."

                                                          IMO, mind boggling.

                                                          I think this was quite telling. I gotta believe that in Justin's restaurant, everything is smooth and organized and very rarely is a monkey wrench thrown in. He knows the judges are in the house and he's waiting for a ticket? OK, let's say he can't fire food without the ticket, he doesn't question Sara on why it's taking so long for the judges to order and "where's my ticket?" It's not like they don't know what the judges are going to order. I put that particular failure on Justin, not Sara (even though she still screwed up more than enough to be sent home).

                                                          Maybe to Carlos "the next four are for the judges, let's get some clean cuts on that crudo." I've never liked the idea of VIP's (maybe because I'm never one of them) getting special treatment but for this competition, you bet you ass they're getting the best looking plate of the evening. I'd be a little surprised if Justin had even tasted the other dishes.

                                                          And BTW, it's not unheard of for someone from the FOH verbally firing a dish even where they use tickets for everything. Plates are dropped, wine is spilled on a dish, the wrong dish was put in, whatever - we need a replacement fast - a foh manager or server comes back and says they need such and such fired right now. It gets done.

                                                          That Found team was a mess from the beginning - shopping without a menu? I mess that up on a regular basis and I'm usually cooking only for 2.
                                                          I think Nina and Shirley saw what a mess it was and simply hunkered down and made sure their dishes turned out good. Smart move.

                                                          1. re: bobbert

                                                            I agree with bobbert and kept yelling at the tv for him to just fire them for godsakes!

                                                            I blame Justin.

                                                            1. re: C. Hamster

                                                              I still think Sarah earned it by her completely awful FOH performance. She looked like she was bored and wanted to go home and take a bath and read a book.

                                                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                I was completely blown away when it was realized that the dish was not fired because he "did not have a ticket".

                                                                1. re: bobbert

                                                                  Yes, I almost thought he did that on purpose, though I'm sure he didn't. It was weird since she was talking about the judges.

                                                              2. re: bobbert

                                                                I thought Justin said he will fire the dishes but he wants a ticket.

                                                                1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                  OK, I'll buy that but he didn't fire the dish because he didn't have a ticket. Maybe in a real restaurant where the boh wants to make a point with the foh where the chef just says "no ticket, no food" - I actually get that. It's part of the dynamic of front vs. back of house but on this competition? Just stupid.

                                                                  1. re: bobbert

                                                                    I posted my thoughts above in greater detail. I really don't understand what transpired and why the dishes didn't go out.

                                                                    1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                      I think Justin was just completely confused by the tickets. Like I said in a post upthread, both he and Sara needed to remember they were in a reality TV show competition and not in a real restaurant.

                                                                    2. re: bobbert

                                                                      Can you imagine a chef in back not firing dishes for a critic if he's given a verbal ticket? You'd think he'd be on top of it immediately, written or not!

                                                                    3. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                      He did.

                                                                      I watched it again last night and he said something like "I will but I need a ticket."

                                                                      1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                        But did he end up not firing the dishes? That was confusing. That kitchen was a mess.

                                                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                          Yes, it was bizarre the way he said that. It was as if he had to write a bill for the diners afterwards and he wanted to make sure the charges were correct.

                                                                          1. re: roxlet

                                                                            As I noted before, Justin forgot he was in a reality TV competition and not in a real restaurant.

                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                              Well, he was under pressure doing something he has been doing all of his adult life. That is reality to him,not the show. So I don't blame him.In a way it shows that he was completed committed, which is laudable.

                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                There is some truth to what you say, but when you are firing 30 orders a ticket helps keep things clear. Something they were already struggling with. As I said earlier I would have also insisted on a ticket, but I would made sure I got the judges ticket within minutes of her giving the verbal orders.

                                                                                1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                                                  I'm evolving a bit on this as I have been struggling with Justin's need for the judge’s ticket before firing. Although I still believe he was at fault for this particular snafu, after much thought, I'm going tag Sara with at least half the error of the first course - not because of the lack of a ticket, I still pin that on Justin, but for not noticing that the judges had not received their first course. Sure, Justin should have been wondering why no ticket for the table but Sara? She doesn't notice that the judges do not have their first course? The course she herself should be bringing to the table? I know, I know, she's busy and, like Justin, she too might have inexplicably "forgotten" they were on a reality show and all that really matters are the judges. F%$k everyone else if you have to, never f&%k the judges to take care of anyone else.
                                                                                  In fact, when she verbally fired that particular course, which should have taken all of 1 to 2 minutes to plate, she should have just waited to bring the plates to the table and never left the kitchen to begin with.

                                                                                  1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                                                    Exactly. They were already having problems with getting the right dishes out to the right tables. I think it's perfectly reasonable to want a ticket for the judges' table.

                                                                                    I think it was mostly Sara's fault: sure Justin was in charge of getting the food out, but his job was being made harder by the fact that Sara was not handling the orders correctly -- he shouldn't have had to do his job and hers. He asked her for a ticket for the judges' table. All she had to do was whip one out and slap it down. Furthermore, most of the time for restaurant wars when the judges come in the whole team buckles down to make sure their dishes are the best they can be. Instead, Sara apparently disappeared.

                                                                                    Finally, WTF with the "the kitchen was hot"? Hasn't she ever heard of a refrigerator? Or stick it in an ice bucket!

                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                      Yes, it's reasonable that he'd want a ticket, but it's not like it's a real restaurant where there'd be dozens of choices of dishes. The menu was so limited that it would be different to make a mistake in the orders.

                                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                        I didn't see if the place had a fridge. But they had to put in an entire kitchen to start.

                                                                          2. re: tjinsf

                                                                            I think Justin knew they were failing. Sara seemed to be the delusional one.

                                                                        2. While I think it was horrible FOH behavior not to introduce the dishes to the judges (and really weird after the show has been on this long) . . . .

                                                                          I wish the one change they would make on this show is NOT telling the judges who made what before they eat it. (I was so happy the Project Runway made this change this year). Why do the judges need to know who made the dish before they eat it? I think it makes it that much harder for chef's who've had a mis-step to recover. Once they pick the bottom 3 dishes then of course tell them who made what but before seems unnecessary.

                                                                          PS - wish I could be happy about Keller on the show next week like Linda - but he's my least favorite chef and based on experiences in his restaurants I wish they would not have him on the show anymore, so I'm out next week.

                                                                          29 Replies
                                                                          1. re: thimes

                                                                            I've not had the good (or perhaps, bad, in your case) fortune to have ever dined at his restaurants, but I've enjoyed him every time he's been on Top Chef or Top Chef Masters.

                                                                            thimes, I'm sorry you had disappointing experiences at his restaurants. But hey - I've managed to get through two seasons with Paula Deen showing up on Top Chef. I like this show, obviously, and wouldn't want to miss an episode just because of a dislike of a guest judge.

                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                              I hear you on Paula Deen. My experience was beyond "disappointing" and had nothing to do with the food itself (the food was good) . . . it got personal and was handled so poorly . . . sometimes you just have to cut some people loose . . . in fact all 8 of us at the table have never been back to any of his restaurants.

                                                                              LOL - but come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one "hot enough" to carry my boycott to TV appearances too, maybe I should calm down a little.

                                                                              1. re: thimes

                                                                                Just look at it as a challenge. How hard would it be for you to cook for and appeal to a cook that you dislike?

                                                                                I think Linda is probably hot. Maybe not Nigella red dress hot, but you never know.

                                                                                1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                  Ohhhh, sweetie, you've been so sadly misinformed if you've been told I'm "hot", Firegoat. ;-)

                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                    Stop arguing about it, Linda, and just enjoy firegoat's personal fantasy.

                                                                                    1. re: chicgail

                                                                                      I'm a bit uncomfortable now.

                                                                                2. re: thimes

                                                                                  When you say it got personal, did your group have an interaction with Hubert Keller himself that went bad? Of course the only time I've seen him is on television. The only time I've seen him get annoyed/angry is on the first episode ever of Top Chef when a contestant stuck his finger in a pan of sauce to taste it. Keller kicked him out of his kitchen immediately.

                                                                                  1. re: thimes

                                                                                    Aww, I'm very sorry to hear that service was so poor, thimes.

                                                                                    1. re: thimes

                                                                                      How long ago was your visit to Keller's restaurant and which location?

                                                                                      1. re: JonDough

                                                                                        Fleur in Vegas. It has been a while now, maybe 10 years. I know, far too long to hold a grudge but it was bad.

                                                                                        But, how about changing Top Chef to "blind tastings" by the judges. Why do they have to know who cooked it to decide it they like it or not? I think it allows for too much personal bias in the judging! Go ahead, make the change, what do you have to lose?

                                                                                        1. re: thimes

                                                                                          I remember in TC5 they once had a blind judging. The judges picked out Stefan's dish right away. I would guess they could do the same after the numbers are whittled down a bit.

                                                                                          As to your experience at Fleur, without too many details, what was the problem?

                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                            And Tom C. has mentioned that in the past when he used to blog about the episodes. These are people who do this for a living - within 3-5 weeks, they'd figure out who made what anyway based on plating and/or taste/seasoning.

                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                              That's just what I was going to say too. They're doing blind judging on Project Runway now and it's equally pointless after the first couple of challenges. Only the guest judges are confused about who might have made what.

                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                We all like to think we aren't influenced by outside factors like our social biases but it just isn't how things work. Scientists (who do what they do for a living) always test blindly because they know they can be influenced by psych factors (even when we don't like admitting it).

                                                                                                I'd still like to see blind testing. But I do testing for a living, so it is kinda my thing.

                                                                                                1. re: thimes

                                                                                                  I don't disagree at all with you, thimes. The one time they did do a blind tasting, I found it interesting to hear the remarks made. But I still think that with trained palates such as theirs, the "regular judges" (at least Tom and Padma) would figure out who's who on a regular basis.

                                                                                                  1. re: thimes

                                                                                                    Agree that scientists do blind testing for good reasons. But TC isn't a scientific test. One reason Tom gave for not bothering with blind testing is that even though they rarely ever mention it on the show, as often as not the cheftestants are submitting dishes that are actually on the regular menu at the restaurants they run or work at - restaurants that the judges have almost certainly eaten at.

                                                                                                2. re: John E.

                                                                                                  It's hard to summarize without too many details . . . but since it was completely a FOH issue (which is relevant to this thread) I'll try . . .

                                                                                                  Essentially - we met Keller at a food event and he talked us into trying Fleur while we were in Vegas the next month (we were in no way his guests, just how we got there). So I convinced the group of 8 to make a reservation.

                                                                                                  We were insulted (insanely insulted - as were other tables by this waiter) by one of our waiters in spanish (several of us speak spanish). We brought it to the managers attention, who handled it horribly and essentially said it didn't happen and the waiter is from Peru so we must have misunderstood. Impossible.

                                                                                                  So I wrote to Keller, copied Madalay Bay, the food event where I met Keller, the sponsor of the food event, pretty much everyone involved in the chain of events. I heard back from every single person except Keller. Madalay followed up several times over the following months to let us know how they were handling it with the restaurant and with the waiter. It was at that point that I just had to accept that fish rot from the head down.

                                                                                                  That was pretty short.

                                                                                                  1. re: thimes

                                                                                                    The one in SF doesn't get much love on the SF board so I was curious.

                                                                                                    Thank you for sharing below.

                                                                                                    1. re: thimes

                                                                                                      The waiter insulting you in Spanish and the manager denying it sounds like a sitcom episode. It's too bad you had a bad experience, I bet it wasn't cheap either.

                                                                                                      1. re: thimes

                                                                                                        I guess I would place blame in a lot of places here, but it would be heavier on the waiter and the manager, and would actually get smaller as one moves 'up the line'. After all, Keller wasn't even present, and the fact that he didn't answer my note (given that you apparently got lots of love otherwise) wouldn't put him on my hate list forever. I'd say-- wow, I got some good followup-- I'm good with this. I mean, if you are willing to blame him "all the way down" for the original event, why aren't you willing to give him credit "all the way down" for the followup you got? Just my two cents.

                                                                                                3. re: thimes

                                                                                                  I had a bad FOH experience at Keller's flagship (at the time, I believe his only) restaurant and would not go back. On the SF chowhound board it's always had an iffy reputation for service, which simply isn't acceptable for a restaurant in that price range. I can't remember the last time anyone recommended it on the SF board, either. There are at least a dozen restaurants in the city in its price point that are better.

                                                                                                  However, I do enjoy him on Top Chef. Sadly, I think that's where he's doing his best work right now.

                                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                    I've recommended it on the SF board and so have other people. It's funny how people base their opinion on a single experience at a place years ago. I always try to go back to place if the service is the issue and not the food. I've been going to Fleur de Lys for 10 years. Always had good food and service although the service is slower than most SF place which I find often a bit faster than European restaurants. The trick with a good meal at Keller's place (and many of these celeb chefs) is to go when the chef is actually at the location.

                                                                                                    As for Keller not responding at the Vegas location, not surprised, I'm more surprised that people go to celeb versions in LV. Like most of place in LV they are poor copies of the originals. it's a way for chefs to cash in, not present their best food.

                                                                                                    1. re: tjinsf

                                                                                                      The speed of the service was not the issue (although it was at another restaurant I won't go back to -- it's one thing to be leisurely and another to ignore your diners completely for half-hour stretches).

                                                                                                      Spending $100/person for a meal may be routine for you, but I can't afford to eat at restaurants in that price range often enough to go back to one where the service spoiled the evening. I'll give everyone else a crack at ruining a special occasion before I do that.

                                                                                                4. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                  I'm eagerly awaiting Sandra Les as a judge, with the chefs having to do matching tablescapes.

                                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                                    OK, you got me, chowser. :-P Someone else would have to do the recap. Because that I would boycott. I'd rather see them do another vending machine challenge like in TC1.

                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                      Add that to my boycott list too. Could you say "jumped the shark".

                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                        Although...PeeWee, the Wiggles (was it the Wiggles or another kid group) and housewives pretty much scrape the bottom of barrel. LOL, I'd like to see them update the kwanzaa cake!

                                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                                          Genius

                                                                                                      2. re: chowser

                                                                                                        The Kwanzaa cake, deconstructed. With foam.

                                                                                                  2. Did anyone else notice Stephanie's over-the-top reaction when David Chang walked into the kitchen? It made me think that the reaction shots are not always what they appear to be. The producers probably had several cameras in front of them and told the contestants to give them facial reactions such as 'surprise' and Stephanie decided to take it over-the-top. Other contestants just had pleasant smiles or slight grins.

                                                                                                    1. If Travis was the best front-of-house person in Top Chef history, he should have won the challenge.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: hal2010

                                                                                                        I think the judges believed a big factor in the success Travis had FOH, was because of how smooth things went in the kitchen. Plus, the food that Nick prepared apparently was better than the dessert Travis prepared (and was plated by others). Of course, apparently the servers were writing their tickets properly as well, maybe Travis trained them better than did Sara next door.

                                                                                                        1. re: hal2010

                                                                                                          It does go to show you how FOH can get you sent home but being amazing at it does nothing for you. I can't take away from Nick's performance, though. He was calm and collected. I was impressed.

                                                                                                        2. When I first head the name "Found" my first thought was "found what? Are they dumpster diving?" And then when they showed the menu, In the upper left hand corner there is a silhouette of a woman leaning over and reaching into what looks like a garbage can! I couldn't figure out what it was actually meant to be (a plant in a container?), but that' what it looked like.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                            "Found". looked lost.

                                                                                                          2. Great write-up (as always) LW.

                                                                                                            My random thoughts:
                                                                                                            Hooray! Nick finally won one. He's such a cutie. I can't wait to try out his new place, Laurel.

                                                                                                            I would love to work in Nick's kitchen--from the building of the kitchen itself through the expediting of the food he seems like a very calm and confident leader.

                                                                                                            Which brings me to Justin. I liked him earlier this season, but not so much now. And I definitely would not want to work in his kitchen: short-sighted, short-tempered and doesn't react well to questions/criticism. Really, design and plates before menu?? You implement an overly complex ticket system for an overnight pop-up?

                                                                                                            Very suprised by the FOH; both by how good Travis was and how utterly hopeless Sarah was. I won't miss Sarah's attitude or that bizarre hair.

                                                                                                            Both of Padma's dresses on this episode were ridiculous. And speaking of ridiculous, what's with that hat Tom's been wearing this season?

                                                                                                            Nina is still killing it. I liked how she seemingly stayed above the fray (except to tell them to check their egos) and just focused on putting out an excellent dish. Smart competitor.

                                                                                                            8 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: gaffk

                                                                                                              Having never worked in a pro kitchen, I did wonder "what's so complicated about a ticket?" Why did it have to be a certain way?

                                                                                                              1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                Ditto-it's been years since I worked as a waitress, but I would think if you had the table#, the amount of dishes ordered (& any special requests- 'no sauce'), you have it covered- it's up to the server to remember who ordered what.

                                                                                                                1. re: thistle5

                                                                                                                  When you have 20 chits in front of you and you can't tell which are the apps and which are the entrees it's very difficult to keep track of everything. Every time you look at the ticket, you have to decode it again.

                                                                                                                2. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                  Even though I've gone on quite a bit about the lack of needing a ticket for the judges table, I will say in a real life restaurant, the tickets are all important and can be fairly complex. Tom even pointed out in an aside that they had lost the ticket of a restaurant reviewer on one of his opening nights. It means the food doesn't get cooked. Servers (sometimes there's an auto-fire system) determine when to fire (cook) each course and usually communicate this to the kitchen via the ticket. Any modifications are on that ticket, i.e. sauce on the side or fries instead of mashed potatoes. Even who gets what at the table is on the ticket so the food isn't "auctioned off" as in the server saying "who ordered the lamb?" Yeah, it can be complicated and can easily sink a kitchen.

                                                                                                                  Having written all that, with the exception of one course, everyone was getting the same dish, no modifications, no choice of med. rare, etc. All the tickets were hand written (no computer help) but it could hardly be simpler considering that everyone in the restaurant was basically getting the same meal. I still think, "...the judges are here, fire their first course" should be pretty easy to do without the all-important ticket.

                                                                                                                  1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                    And in contrast to Justin and his complex ticket system, I noticed Nick was calmly calling out "table 23, position 3, position 4." I was pretty impressed he knew not only the table, but the seat position as well. He and Travis obviously had the far superior system and trained the servers well.

                                                                                                                    If I recall from long-ago experience, items are crossed off the ticket as they are handed through the pass to avoid things like a table being served twice, as happened in Found.

                                                                                                                    1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                      I don't know anything about serving or tickets, but it did seem to me that Justin developed some overly complicated ticket system while Sara got the brunt of the criticism for not implementing it properly. Did the wheel really need to be reinvented for this event?

                                                                                                                    2. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                      tickets are super important and really the only way a kitchen can work. but they were only doing service for 125 people with a very limited menu so it's odd that even aside from the judges they were making so many mistakes. Justin as the expeditor should have been checking off each dish from the ticket, making sure the plating was right and not letting any dishes go out until the entire table was ready. If the dish is fired too soon, sometimes you have to make another.

                                                                                                                      I think with having servers you don't know, you better to just have them make notations on the ticket as to who get what just with table and chair numbers.

                                                                                                                      But for VIPs it's not uncommon for the chef or owner to do a verbal order to the cook or for them to do that order first. Happens all the time.

                                                                                                                    3. re: gaffk

                                                                                                                      Nine is killing it, and so is Shirley. I think it's smart for them to recognize what a mess the team is and to focus on their own dishes.

                                                                                                                      Justin seemed so promising early on but the last couple of weeks he's been on the bottom. I don't have a problem with the ticket system since it was discussed and agreed to by Sara. If the FOH then screwed up the tickets, it's Sara's fault for not training the servers properly.

                                                                                                                      The judge's table ticket seems strange. I remember Sara saying to Justin that the judges are there, and Justin responding that he will fire the dishes, but he wants the ticket afterwards. It seems like he's saying he will fire the dishes without the ticket but he wants the ticket anyway.

                                                                                                                      Later, Justin was definitely blaming Sara for the problems but he has no excuse for executing the worst dish on his team. Overall, I think Justin is more promising as a chef than Sara. For that reason, I was happy he stayed but to have sent him home would not be injustice.

                                                                                                                    4. If gays belong in the front of the house, why is Travis trying to be a chef? In his case, he obviously should be in front of the house.

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                        I liked how his outfit matched the purple aprons. Go purple team!

                                                                                                                        1. re: seamunky

                                                                                                                          I have been annoyed by Travis in past episodes, but other than the 'gays belong in the FOH' I thought Travis performed well in this episode.

                                                                                                                      2. I was just reading Hugh's blog, and he opens with

                                                                                                                        "We open with Carlos making his famous sealable plastic bag salad with positive affirmations. It is good for all occasions."

                                                                                                                        I was just noticing that; anybody know what that's about?

                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                          In the very beginning, when Carlos was giving his "human interest story", he was cleaning up, apparently, their home cooked dinner, and putting various leftover veggies in a single ziplock bag. One was a half avocado, and I thought, no way that's going to stay nice. I immediately saw it as product placement, but of a unusually subtle nature.

                                                                                                                          1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                            Ah! Subtle indeed!

                                                                                                                            Am I to understand that a ziploc bag will keep a cut avocado looking nice in storage?

                                                                                                                        2. Oh yeah, AGAIN, no money, trip, knife set, year supply of wine, etc, etc. for the winner.
                                                                                                                          Which makes me wonder why on earth would you volunteer to be the executive chef. You probably double (at least) your chances of packing your knives and this year you increase your chances of winning something worth while (like money) by...let me do some quick math here, ok, carry the one, add the two together and the answer is... you don't win JACK!!!
                                                                                                                          Maybe you get some bragging rights but why risk it just to stroke your ego? Nina, Shirley, etc. - very smart.

                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                            Yes, after the give away free for alls of the last few seasons, the lack of prizes this season is really puzzling.

                                                                                                                            1. re: gaffk

                                                                                                                              No sponsor (Healthy Choice!) to foot the bill but one would think they could cut back by about 20% on Padma's wardrobe and they could easily throw the winner $5000 each week.

                                                                                                                              1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                20% wardrobe cutbacks, I hope this means 20% less coverage.....

                                                                                                                                :)

                                                                                                                                1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                                                  I was going to say, did you see the cleavage on that dress - already cut the fabric budget by 20%. ;)

                                                                                                                          2. Poor Nicholas. It was a well-deserved win but nothing to show for it at the end. Come on Chase Sapphire...couldn't even throw in $10,000 for the winner? I know the lack of prizes has been mentioned before but it still surprised me. Restaurant Wars always gets a lot of exposure and there was obvious sponsorship. In comparison, Paul Qui really made out like a bandit!

                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: seamunky

                                                                                                                              Oh yeah, speaking of the product placement. "Your guests are Chase Sapphire preferred customers...." and the chefs "we know those guests are Sapphire preferred, we better impress them". I'm pretty sure it's just another d&*m credit card!

                                                                                                                            2. Out of curiosity, does anyone posting here have access to Restaurant Depot? I went there a couple of years ago and was impressed most by the meat.

                                                                                                                              I understand that it is possible to shop at Restaurant Depot if you are a member of the Kansas City BBQ Society. I'll have to look into that.

                                                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                I'm there almost daily for our restaurant but anyone with a business license can join. They'll also let you come in and look around and even buy some stuff if you tell them you're thinking of joining.

                                                                                                                                They're not our main supplier because they don't deliver but they do have some great stuff and very good prices (and they're five minutes from us). Even though they're a huge chain, the guys at our local unit treat me like they're a small-town grocer and always track me down whenever I'm there and find things they think I'll be interested in.

                                                                                                                                1. re: acgold7

                                                                                                                                  ANY kind of business? Like a private medical practice?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                                    Yeah, as far as I know, any business. Their website should have the details.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: acgold7

                                                                                                                                      It just says "business license".

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                                        That's what it says on the front door, too. So I take them at their word. In fact, I'm pretty sure I joined before I opened the restaurant, under a different business license, when the restaurant was just in the planning stages and I was doing early shopping.

                                                                                                                                        Not really OT as this place was featured in the episode, but wondering if this subthread might be better off in Chains.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: acgold7

                                                                                                                                    That's the problem, you need a business license with a tax number to resell items or for items consumed by a business. I'll have a better chance either joining the KCBS or talking a guy I know who runs a 501-3C into letting me use his tax number.

                                                                                                                                2. As a Philly girl, I'm a bit biased towards Nick, so I was so thrilled he won! I don't ever remember seeing a Restaurant Wars kitchen run as smoothly as his did. The editors couldn't even find some minor error to focus on. He should be very proud. And, btw, Laurel is an excellent restaurant :)