Top Chef recap: Shocker of the Season

A heated Restaurant Wars leads to one of the most inexplicable eliminations ever. Has the show lost credibility?
Ep. 11 | Aired Jan 16, 2013

SABOTEUR?? No, I don't think Josie purposely messed up her Restaurant Wars dish, but I do think that knowing Kristen's head was on the chopping block made her take an overly leisurely approach to the challenge.

David Moir/Bravo

The first major point of contention on Kwan Atelier: Kristen planned on cooking fish to order on the day of service, while Josie thought that was a bad idea. It didn't look like she made any kind of effort to assert her opinion otherwise; I think Tom was right when he later suggested that Josie was all too aware that there was someone else who'd take responsibility for her errors. I'm far from an expert, but isn't it a bad idea to pre-plate all that fish?

What turned out to be a crucial moment occurred 30 minutes before service. Josie hadn't yet added the gelatin to her dish. Because time was running out, Kristen made the executive decision to add cream instead.

The judges entered Atelier Kwan sufficiently impressed by the decor, which looked held together with fishing line and chewing gum, sort of like the wham-bam remodeling jobs on Kitchen Nightmares. The first dish was Lizzie's take on charcuterie, which really was French food with a huge, exciting twist. She took pulled rabbit to mimic a riette, accompanied by roasted chicken and rabbit broth with yellow beets and pickled turnips. Gail never thought a charcuterie could be a hot soup but thought Lizzie pulled it off beautifully.

A lot of drama went into plating Josie's bouillabaisse, thanks mostly to her total lack of urgency in getting it done. Kristen made a really cutting comment about Josie's performance: "I would prefer one of the dishwashers in place of Josie." The strife around putting the dish together showed in the final product, which included halibut, Dungeness crab, and scallops in a broth. The plates were inconsistent across the table. Emeril's seafood — which Josie was entirely responsible for preparing — was both undercooked and overcooked. And then there was that overly thin broth that everyone noticed.

Kristen's beef Bourguignon went over better. It was cooked perfectly, but it was the victim of misleading expectations. The lack of red wine, in the judges' minds, made it not a Bourguignon. That's a tough one, though, because it's supposed to be French food with a twist. But I guess the omission of red wine wasn't all that intentional on Kristen's part. But it's as if the judges would have loved it if she didn't call it a Bourguignon, which I feel is sort of B.S. (It's like one of my pet peeves: I hate it when I recommend a book strongly to someone, and after they read it they tell me, "I would have loved this book if you hadn't told me it was good in the first place. I would have liked it if I had no expectations." And I think, "Are you so weak-minded that any little prior notion you have about something can totally warp your experience of it?" ... Okay, this example isn't as relevant to the present situation as I thought it would be, but I had to vent).

Brooke's cheese course looked beautiful, and for the most part, tasted great too. Danny had a bit of trouble biting into the sticky-sweet pine nut, but the baked Gougere (best bread ever) and St. Agur Blue looked spectacular. The meal ended with Kristen's very deconstructed macarons, which were hardly recognizable as macarons. Again, couldn't this just be Kristen taking a particularly bold leap with her concept? Gail seemed especially adamant that what she was eating was not a macaron, saying she'd die and "come back as a macaron." Umm, maybe if you mean because no one would eat you? I know this makes me crazy, but I hate macarons. At weddings I've been to, the macarons go untouched because they're not all that enjoyable. So Kristen, if your dessert is nothing like a macaron, I'd probably like it.

NEXT: Customer service is not Stefan's specialty ...

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