Top Chef Season 7: Restaurant Wars, Episode 9

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Photo by David Giesbrecht/Bravo
Tom Colicchio and Kenny.
Each season of Top Chef, everyone looks forward to one episode in particular: "Restaurant Wars." Last night, the show celebrated the episode with a bang. And the result was kind of surprising.

Before "Restaurant Wars," however, we got a shot of frontrunner Kenny, who said, "It's time to unleash the beast." Then our cheftestants were presented with the Quickfire Challenge, the always-popular tag-team cook-off. The cheftestants had 40 minutes to prepare a meal, relay-style, with each team member getting ten minutes to assemble the group dish while the others were blindfolded. Though immunity was off the table, the winning team was awarded a $10,000 cash prize.

Kevin and Ed were made team captains (via the pick of the knife), and clear alliances were formed. Kevin chose Kenny, Kelly, and Amanda on the Blue team, while Ed went with Angelo, Tiffany, and Alex on the Red team. Well, actually, as Ed put it: "I was forced to take Alex."

Alex proved to be the weak link for the Red team, namely by salting the red snapper too early in the competition. Guest judge and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared the Blue team's sautéed shrimp over angel hair pasta with mustard sauce and crispy basil the winner. According to Tiffany, "Alex completely ruined it."

On to "Restaurant Wars": Each team had to prepare a three-course menu with two options. The Red team was clearly unhappy to be working with Alex, whom I'm fairly sure was nicknamed Skeletor. In fact, Angelo and Ed did everything in their power to keep Skeletor as far from the kitchen as possible.

In terms of the editing, the Blue team appeared much more organized than the Red team. Kenny assumed the role of executive chef, while Kelly was nominated for the front-of-the-house position. Even while working the restaurant, Kelly still prepared a chilled corn soup with crab salad and a chocolate ganache.

The Red team looked to be a hot mess, with the one task Alex was given, butchering the meat and filleting the fish, not done properly. His front-of-house skills left a lot to be desired, too, as Alex screamed at the waitstaff and treated them like stray animals to be snapped at. I guess all of the bullying he was receiving from Angelo, the Red team's executive chef, trickled down.

The Red team was visited first. We learned its name, Evoo, was meant to evoke the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, Alex further messed things up during service by not greeting Top Chef's panel of judges (including former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni) and by being visibly nervous around them. He even called the lamb chop a pork chop and didn't say goodbye to the judges when they departed. All of that being said, overall the judges loved the food from the Red team's kitchen, except for the overly salty crudo.

While the Blue team's service was more impressive under the stewardship of Kelly, the food was disappointing. Their restaurant was named 2121, after the address of the Top Chef house, and their cuisine was billed "American progressive." Still, the mistakes kept coming: Kelly's chilled corn soup was repeatedly called out for being too thin and lacking flavor, while Kenny's warm beet salad was a tangle of too many flavors and ingredients. For the second course, Amanda's steak was cut too thinly and overcooked, while the halibut was universally praised. The real stinker, however, was Kenny's crisp aged goat cheese, which Bruni pronounced, "awful. It's a real horror show."

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Photo by David Giesbrecht/Bravo
Does anyone like Alex?
At the judges' table, the Red team emerged victorious. And Ed was singled out for the win with his turbot. He was rewarded with a trip to Napa to visit the Terlato vineyard and, of course, bragging rights.

Here's when it got interesting, however: All season long, Top Chef has been pitting Kenny and Angelo against each other as the two contenders. It looked like they would make it to the Final Four, with possible slots for Ed and Kelly. After "Restaurant Wars," however, not so much. Despite his calm demeanor, Kenny did not do a great job running the kitchen. Not only were his dishes universally panned, but also so were Amanda's and Kelly's. Kevin was the only one commended for his halibut.

But the Blue team wasn't having any of it, accusing Alex of getting a free ride from Angelo, Tiffany, and Ed. They called out Alex in a major way, which continued into the stew room, where Kevin said point-blank to Alex: "You didn't do a thing. Your ass should be going home."

In the end, it was Kenny who was sent packing. I can't remember a time in Top Chef history when a supposed frontrunner and fan favorite was axed at this stage in the competition. Especially when Alex so clearly lacks talent. Nevertheless, Kenny took his failure like a man and noted, "The beast is gone. It's anybody's game." I can only imagine how insufferable Angelo will be now that his real competition has departed. How will the remaining episodes of Top Chef stack up now?
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