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Top Chef recap: Sustainable Sustenance

The highly anticipated restaurant wars stir up the brothers’ rivalry again, while one confident chef takes the hit and goes home

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Top Chef Michael V
Trae Patton/Bravo

Top Chef

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons
Reality TV

Last night we got the episode most of us wait all season for — restaurant wars. I had predicted it’d be a complete snooze this year, due to the clear divide that separates the good chefs (Kevin, Jen and the Voltaggios) from the so-so (Eli, Laurine and Mike I.) and the just plain bad (Robin). But with the teams split in a less obvious way, along with a really fun, albeit difficult, quickfire challenge, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself not itching to change the channel.

At the quickfire, eco-conscious chef Rick Moonen announced that the eight remaining cheftestants would be split into teams of four, each of which would make one dish, assembly line style. But the catch was that while the one person had their 10 minutes to work on the dish, the rest of the teammates were blindfolded and no one could talk. So essentially, the first person could start the dish and the last person could finish off a completely different one — kind of like a foodie version of telephone.

On the blue team was Jen, who had first teammate dibs, Laurine, Mike I. and Kevin. On the opposing side was the red team, made up of leader Michael V., Robin, Eli and Bryan. It was actually kind of sad when Robin had to go to the red side out of process of elimination — like the kid who gets picked last at dodgeball. But as much as Robin seems like a pushover, she doesn’t give up without a fight, which we’ll get to later.

It seemed like no brainers to put Jen at the front (she’s fast and organized) and Michael V. on the end of the other team (”I can put the period on the end of any sentence Bryan starts,” he says), but unfortunately for Jen, Michael V. actually knew what his team’s dish was; Jen had to guess.

And of course, like any successful game of telephone, she flubbed the explanation of the dish and called the sablefish a trout, but lucky for her, sablefish is a sustainable breed, which gave them a brownie point with Moonen.

Fish-naming gaffe aside, Jen’s team managed to pull through for the win with their pan-seared sablefish and sautéed mushrooms. In particular it was their well-made stock with shrimp and ginger that pushed their dish above the red team’s pan-roasted New York strip, which was a tad rare.

The win meant glory for Laurine, who was beeming with pride at having won her first challenge of the competition. Not so fast, Laurine. First of all, this wasn’t an individual challenge. Second of all, you were the second chef in line. You know who was second on the other team? Robin. So as you see, the other chefs know to put the weakest links in the middle, preferably at the beginning, so there’s time for repair.

The blue team’s win also meant a high stakes prize of $10,000 split amongst them, which they confidently forfeited for the chance to win $10,000 each, should they win restaurant wars.

NEXT: Frontman (and woman)