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Top Chef recap: 'Restaurant Wars'

After six weeks of battles, the chefs are ready for “war.”

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Top Chef Recap
David Moir/Bravo

Top Chef

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

The last six weeks were just battles—opening skirmishes in a conflict that would stretch onward for weeks to come. The lesser players were eliminated. Only the strong remain. Now it’s “war.”

Restaurant Wars is a favorite Top Chef tradition because of its absurd conceit: Open a restaurant in 24 hours. In the real world, chefs invest thousands and thousands of dollars and hours and hours of time in planning, preparing, and conceptualizing before opening a restaurant. In reality TV-land, chefs get one day.

For the cheftestants, Restaurant Wars always serves as a checkpoint of sorts. It’s halfway through the competition and, like we concluded last week, the personality-fueled drama has given way to actual drama—someone’s actually going to have to win this thing.

After doing some number crunching, it turns out that winning Restaurant Wars is a fairly decent predictor of what’s to come: Of the 10 seasons with a Restaurant Wars winner, the eventual Top Chef has been on the victorious team seven times, with Harold, Hung, Stephanie, Hosea, Michael, Richard, and Nicholas all helping their teams to victory before moving on to individual glory later.

By the same token, many perceived top competitors have been tripped up by the breadth of the challenge, taking on either front-of-house or executive chef roles that can doom them before the first plates even make it to the judges’ table. Tre, Dale, Kenny, Marcel, and, of course, Kristen all saw their campaigns cut prematurely short after crashing and burning as executive chefs. It’s ironic: They failed at doing the very thing they were competing to be called the best at.

Given how much the competing chefs and viewers alike look forward to Restaurant Wars, the producers have acknowledged the hype and dispatched with quickfires in recent seasons. Why engage in a skirmish when there’s a war to be won?

There’s still a knife-drawing, though, as Melissa and Katie win the ability to draft teams to join them in the kitchen at the Revere Hotel on Boston Common. Melissa makes a surprising first choice, picking her “buddy” Dougie to join her, leaving Katie to take Gregory, the obvious choice despite almost having his goose cooked last week for cooking goose. That leaves Mei for Melissa, splitting up the favorites again and consolidating the fairness of this fight. Mei and Gregory on the same team would probably have been unstoppable.

The next pick winds up becoming the pivotal one—with Adam, Katsuji, and Keriann remaining, Katie chooses Katsuji. He’s riding high after his win last week, but it’s still a curious choice given how up-and-down his performance and personality have been. All three of the remaining chefs have their warts, but if anyone was going to wind up sabotaging a kitchen, it’d be him. Melissa takes Adam (another hugely important decision), Katie takes Keriann, and Katsuji almost immediately affirms my suspicion, stating frankly, “The truth is I only care about myself.”

NEXT: Gearing up for battle