Top Chef recap: The Battle before the Restaurant War

Danny Meyer visits as the chefs get ready for Restaurant Wars
Ep. 10 | Aired Jan 9, 2013

THE IT GIRL Even the way Kristen's squeezing that produce is perfect.

David Moir/Bravo

Before getting into the challenge, though, cue the record scratch. Photos of Tom Colicchio with hair are few and far between, but we were treated to a new one I haven't seen before, taken around the time Danny Meyer met him for the first time at a restaurant showcase. Quick poll: Which do you prefer, chrome dome Tom or mop top Tom? Both have their charms.

I loved the idea for Brooke's Unkosher restaurant, which would combine Jewish foods that normally aren't meant to go together, like Challah bread and bacon. How deliciously sacrilegious. Gail called Brooke's matzo ball "offensive to [her] people" -- ouch -- and both Tom and Danny wished she'd pushed her concept further by making the ball out of rye. Stefan's German-Thai restaurant, Bangkok via Munich, excited Tom in theory but in execution it fell a little flat. His Thai lobster bisque with shrimp, dumplings, potatoes, and radishes tasted good, but where was the German part? Potatoes alone do not a German dish make. (That sentence gives me a headache). After the soup Stefan served the same mango ice cream lollipop that he did in the season five finale — that Padma forgets nothing — which Danny said was so ordinary it detracted from the soup.

Josh started the top group off. He dedicated his restaurant, Bistro George, to his recently deceased father. He went for simplicity and no fuss. His seared eye of rib eye with cauliflower puree and mushrooms with red wine sauce went over well, but it wasn't quite enough to make him one of the two winners this week.

Sheldon also dedicated his restaurant to a family member: Urbano, his grandfather. He took an untraditional take on a traditional Filipino dish: sour tamarind soup with pork belly, shrimp, and lobster (I don't know what sour tamarind tastes like, but this sounds incredible). Padma, who knew all about sour tamarind soup, noted that it's not typically a pretty dish, but Sheldon managed to make it both authentic and elegant. $10,000 for Sheldon, who turned 30 that day.

At this point, Kristen has won enough money in the competition to not only fund her dream trip to Korea, but to fly there first class and put a down payment on a loft in Gangnam. She co-won this challenge by being a fancy pants — her proposed French restaurant Atelier Kwan would require formal wear, which impressed the judges, who've had maybe a little too much down-home, casual food lately. Her Onsen egg (barely set white, creamier yolk) with camambert-mustard sauce and buttered radishes was a huge hit, as is often the case with Kristen.

Then came my favorite part of the episode. Without knowing who would be eliminated, Kristen and Sheldon had to pick their Restaurant War teams, which would guarantee that one of them would be one man short. Stefan thought he'd be on Kristen's team for sure, but she picked Brooke first. Ouch, Stefan! You've just been Friend-Zoned. Sheldon took Josh — which Kristen might have been relieved about — and then she once again passed Stefan over, choosing Lizzie instead. Kristen seemed disappointed that Sheldon took Stefan next. Of the remaining two chefs, it might have seemed wiser to take Micah, but maybe Kristen predicted that Micah had a good chance of going home when she picked Josie.

NEXT: Never fun being the last one picked

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