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Top Chef recap: The Battle before the Restaurant War

Danny Meyer visits as the chefs get ready for Restaurant Wars

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Top Chef
David Moir/Bravo

Top Chef

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

Breaking Top Chef news: Josh was not particularly upset about John’s elimination last week; Stefan finds Josie’s voice annoying.

With that out of the way, we began one of the most entertaining Top Chef episodes in recent memory. Things started off on a bright note with Wolfgang Puck on hand to judge the Quickfire Challenge, which was devoted to one of his favorite ingredients: ginger. Like one of the owners of Bubba Gump Ginger, he listed several of ginger’s virtues and ended with a simple, “I love ginger.” Plus, the fragrant spice provided Bravo with an opportunity to plug not only Wolfgang’s restaurant Chinois but also Canada Dry ginger ale.

The chefs only had 15 minutes to make Padma and Wolfgang’s tastebuds happy, but Sheldon didn’t think big enough. Given the absurdly short amount of time, he thought stir-fry was mostly a shortcut. The wok-fried skirt steak with ginger and oranges had good flavor, but it looked like something I’d order from Seamless and eat in bed while watching TV, which everyone knows is the best way to enjoy dinner. Josh’s white chocolate and ginger soup with fresh peaches and tarragon was too tentative with the ginger for the judges’ liking. “What’s the opposite of overwhelming?” Wolfgang asked. “Underwhelming?” said Josh. “Exactly.” Ooh, looks like Josh was the one to get an English lesson.

Has anyone noticed that there have been an abundance of fruit soups this season? Lizzie’s watermelon and ginger concoction impressed Wolfgang, as did Stefan’s ahi tuna with a vinaigrette of ginger and lemongrass, although he seemed even more pleased with Stefan’s German language skills. But the win went to Brooke, who spent her 17th birthday at Wolfgang’s restaurant Spago (that’s a sophisticated 17-year-old). Wolfgang said that her inventive ginger-caramel squid with fresh lime and chili powder was good enough to put on the menu at Chinois.

And once again, it’s time for Restaurant Wars … almost. The Elimination Challenge served as sort of a transition into next week’s Wars. Each chef-testant had to come up with a complete restaurant concept and present a dish that embodies the proposed restaurant at Bite of Seattle, a big food convention. The two winners would each receive $10,000, and they’d get to decide the menu and direction for Restaurant Wars. Guest judge and restaurateur Danny Meyer — a huge figure in the food world — would be tasting their dishes. He advised the chefs to cook from the heart because “you can’t fake soul.”

NEXT: More on Tom Colicchio’s hair